Happy International Women's Day 2020!
So I know IWD was actually yesterday, but I didn't get round to writing a blog post as planned due to Sunday being the day I do an entire week's worth of laundry, scrub the bathroom, hoover the stairs, breastfeed baby, feed toddler etc, etc, etc.
Essentially to quote a phrase from the hit BBC show "Motherland" I was tackling my Mother's load.
In the interest of full transparency, my Husband was batch cooking a weeks worth of meals whilst making a Sunday Roast and being Chase from Rescue Bots Academy.
To sum up Sundays are not a day of rest in my household and by the time I slumped on the sofa at 9:30pm I didn't have a blog post in me.
I was originally going to write about garment manufacturing through the lens of International women's day after seeing this meme on fash_rev, which I thought illustrated the point perfectly, using a legal blonde meme which we can all enjoy.
However then I saw this post from amazing poet and author Holly McNish and started to ponder the physical act of breastfeeding through the eyes of the patriarchy.
When exactly were women made to feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding their babies in public spaces?When did it become taboo to carry out a natural (and beautiful) act and at times feel so humiliated and self conscious?
Was it a marketing trick of accelerated capitalism to impose feelings of shame packaged as convenience to encourage us to buy formula?
Please don't get me wrong, I have no problems what so ever with Mother's choosing to feed their babies with formula.
I last week heard a pregnant lady with Autism and sensory issues talking about how difficult breastfeeding would be given that she doesn't like to be touched.
Feeding decisions are complex and I would never hand down judgment to a fellow, individual women.
However I do take issue with the way formula milk is marketed.
Take Aptamil Formula, "A Breastmilk substitute with a unique blend of ingredients" manufactured by the French company Danone.Danone’s ceo is White French businessman Emmanuel Faber.
Danone was present in 130 markets and generated sales of US$25.7 billion in 2016, with more than half in emerging countries.
In 2016 the Medical Nutrition segment saw the highest net sales growth for Danone alongside water with saw an increase of 5.3% both in the “Rest of the World” markets.
It’s striking that what should be two of the worlds most natural resources water and breast milk, are controlled in a way that makes both inaccessible to some and highly profitable for a few.
The WHO states that “nearly 2 out of 3 infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months—a rate that has not improved in 2 decades. Inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes continues to undermine efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and duration worldwide. “
Imagine if the profit Danone alone made from the “ Medical Nutrition” market was actually used towards educating and supporting women to breastfeed?Or making sure that they have access to clean and safe water?
Danone do state that they provide breastfeeding education;
“We believe that educating mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as supporting them in their choice to breastfeed, will lead to prolonged breastfeeding and higher awareness about their subsequent feeding decisions. Our goal is to install good feeding habits and reduce the incidence of inappropriate, unsafe or unhealthy nutrition options such as the feeding of young children with ‘adult’ food.”
I couldn’t find any details of the education schemes Danone provides or where they are carried out, however I could find much information about funds being used towards research for infant formula compounds.
This can all be seen in Danone’s proposition paper on their website;
Not to single out Danone exclusively, other powerful food companies Nestle and Kraft Heinz all sight similar ethics around empowering women to make “their own feeding choices” and providing education.
It seems all the right words are typed out on websites or publications yet these companies make a profit from babies not being breastfed through their first 1000 days or even first 1000 hours.
Much like the current “green washing” of the fashion industry where brands say all of the right things on social media yet very little is done to change their practices, both are a female issue.
Opinions from real women featured in an article on www.womenshealth.com
Making women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public so that they eventually switch to formula is not being pro choice or empowerment, it’s a double standard that capitalism needs you to buy into so that every choice you make feels wrong and only their products can will fix it.
On international women’s day let’s actively support each other’s choices and ask for real transparency in the products we buy, be that infant formula or a new dress both are a feminist issue.