The Cover of TIME…and Friday Links

May 11, 2012

TIME Cover of Jamie

My friend Jamie made the cover of TIME, and it’s causing quite a stir.

It’s certainly an image that provokes a response. And I must admit, I kind of appreciate the shock value of it: Maybe it’s the actress in me, but sometimes I think it has a place. In this case, the photo throws a topic like breastfeeding out there for mass discussion and challenges the viewer to consider his or her own comfort zones and cultural assumptions. It has sparked discussions in groups that would otherwise never give a subject like nursing the time of day. I’ve been reading various criticisms — one of which is that a photo like this does more harm than good for the breastfeeding cause, but I’m not sure that’s true. And expecting TIME to put her in a rocker with a blanket around her shoulders and a half-hidden child nursing away is just…unrealistic.

The photo of Jamie is provocative — designed to sell magazines. Anyone who’s worked with mainstream media knows you don’t have a say in what photos or quotes get chosen. TIME wanted to stir the pot, and that’s exactly what they did, choosing an edgy shot of a gorgeous young mom in a bold pose with a toddler hooked to her boob.

Jamie — like many moms out there — practices attachment parenting, a philosophy of child-rearing promoted in recent years by Dr. William Sears, who’s work is discussed in this issue of TIME as part of the extended feature. Attachment parenting is focused on building the bond between mother and child through things like baby-wearing, co-sleeping, and breastfeeding. Jamie’s been an advocate of extended nursing since before she became a mom: Her own mother nursed her until she was six after learning the nutritional benefits of breast milk for young children. It’s certainly common for women in developing countries to nurse their children well into toddlerhood and beyond. Interestingly, the World Health Organization recently changed its guidelines and now advocates exclusive breastfeeding for children up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding (along with appropriate complementary foods) up to two years of age or beyond. North Americans don’t find this acceptable. We’re barely comfortable with seeing a newborn breastfed in public, so the very idea of nursing a child beyond one or two years weirds a lot of people out.

What do you think of extended breastfeeding? How did you react to the photo? (Please keep the comments constructive; Jamie’s a friend, and I’m not going to tolerate meanness or personal attacks.)

It’s appropriate that we’re talking about breastfeeding right now, since it’s Mother’s Day weekend! I refuse to be depressed. If you’re a mom, I hope somebody spoils you on Sunday, the way you deserve. Here are some interesting items I found to take you into the weekend:

Have a slow weekend, and see you back here on Monday!

Image: TIME magazine

UPDATE: Jamie appeared on The Today Show and on ABC last week. I think it’s easier to put the cover photo in context when you hear her speak. And here’s the Q&A with her in TIME.

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1 Agnes May 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

I don’t think I totally understand how breastfeeding became a lifestyle choice or form of parenting. To me, it is what it is; a time in the early stages of life to feed and nourish your child. Given our current culture, breastfeeding a child at this age feels inappropriate because they are so able to feed and care for themselves. But perhaps I don’t understand the bond that feeding a child at this age creates that is different or better than other forms of parental bonding, like snuggle time or rocking. I do applaud her for standing strong in her opinions, even if they might be controversial but I don’t necessarily understand this photo shoot either.

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2 Zoe Saint-Paul May 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Beginning in the late 50′s/early 60′s, breastfeeding became unfashionable. When I was born in the late 60′s, and siblings followed in the 70s, my mother was considered very old-fashioned and strange for breastfeeding her children. Women were told formula was better. I have many friends whose moms were told that – and so that’s what they did.

Dr. William Sears’ attachment parenting philosophy (which is really just basic stuff and the way mothers in primitive cultures still nurture their young ones) put breastfeeding back on the map. Other breast-feeding movements were also beginning, a few of which came out of the hippie/granola/natural living subcultures. I’m surprised breastfeeding is still such a touchy subject in our culture, but it is.

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3 MaryG May 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

To quote your friend: “There seems to be a war going on between conventional parenting and attachment parenting, and that’s what I want to avoid,” she added. “I want everyone to be encouraging. We’re not on opposing teams. We all need to be encouraging to each other, and I don’t think we’re doing a very good job at that.”
Unfortunately, she allowed Time to use her to fan the flames of war. The pose and caption make it clear that the Time editors were not interested in “encouraging” others but in drawing lines and emphasizing “opposing teams”.
I’m afraid that this picture will harm the breastfeeding movement by provoking a visceral reaction in people who are indifferent (even more so in people who are uncomfortable with it already) and/or haven’t even considered extended breastfeeding. With this as their introduction, they can’t help but feel that there must be something wrong with it.
And I say all this as a supporter of public breastfeeding (preferably without bothering with a cover) and extended breastfeeding. I wish they had chosen the other picture of your friend from the article as the cover. It offers enough shock value for our public without making it into a war.

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4 Zoe Saint-Paul May 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm

I agree that the other photos is closer to what breastfeeding is really like — more nurturing, not provocative. But that’s exactly why TIME editors chose the other one, of course. :-)

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5 Therese May 11, 2012 at 9:49 am

Hi Zoe! Interesting questions! I admire her courage. I nursed my oldest until she was two; my youngest was done at 11 months, so I definitely consider myself a breastfeeding advocate. I also feel very strongly about not judging parents, especially moms. That said, I have to admit that the photo makes me uncomfortable. NOT as criticism of Jaime, but in a way that reveals the limitations of my own perspectives, cultural and otherwise.

For me, the photo raises not a pro or anti nursing perspective, but a “for HOW long?” thought. You mentioned image… as someone who doesn’t know her, the child doesn’t look like a toddler; he looks like a kindergardener. And somehow, the appropriateness of nursing toddlers feels like a very different question and raises very different cultural discomforts than does nursing a first or second grader (per the synopsis, to age six).

Nursing publicly also tend to bring out issues of modesty and comfort with nudity. Going through childbirth and then nursing can make moms feel like we’ve lost all modesty, that our bodies are loving commodities and thus we can forget how a naked breast in public can make others feel uncomfortable. Yesterday, I watched a nursing mom let her boob hang out well after her daughter detached and while she put something (else) away. We were in a City Council meeting and while no one reacted, I can see why such sudden views of full breasts could make people uncomfortable. (My husband is uncomfortable just being around her because of the frequent likelihood of sudden full-on breast views.) Coupling immodesty with a nursing six year old could REALLY start some cultural understanding conversations… and challenge the acceptance of breast feeding more generally.

On the other end of the cultural comfort perspective, I have a funny story: When my oldest was a few months old, we visited my husband’s grandparents, who were in their late 80s and are African Americans from the south. When my daughter got fussy and I started nursing, his grandmother almost came off the couch. “LORD HAVE MERCY!,” she said. “Are you nursing that child?” So embarrased and thinking that maybe I wasn’t being modest enough, I mutely nodded. She then said, “I’ve heard that people are doing that these days, but I’ve never seen anyone actually do it!” Then her husband walked into the room and without missing a beat said, “that old lady had nine children but she never had anything but water in her titties!”

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6 Zoe Saint-Paul May 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Love that story! Really great points and observations, Therese. Aram does look older than a toddler there, which contributes to the shock-value of the photo. And I agree that modesty and comfort with nudity is a huge part of this issue. Breasts are primarily sexual in our culture, and not connected to children and nursing. Even for those who know this, it’s hard to suddenly re-wire your sensibilities. I can see why many men are just not comfortable with the breasts of women they don’t don’t hanging out in front of them.

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7 Ann May 11, 2012 at 11:59 am

{I will try to say this politely, but if you feel you don’t want to publish this comment I totally understand…..}

I don’t think anything of whether she is still nursing her three-year-old or not. Not my business, don’t care.

I do think that allowing a picture like this of your child to be placed on the cover of a national mag is not fair to the child. I think that is the kindest way I can say it.

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8 Zoe Saint-Paul May 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Thank you for putting that kindly, Ann.

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9 Tara S May 11, 2012 at 1:17 pm

The only thing that freaked me out about the picture is that I didn’t really notice the stool at first…so the child looked to be about ten. That was scary! But three or four years of age? Meh. If I were in a circumstance where obtaining proper nutrition for children was a serious concern, I’d definitely recommend continuing till 5 or 6. As long as moms are steering WELL clear of puberty, it’s not really a “moral” thing – it’s cultural and situational.

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10 Zoe Saint-Paul May 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Yes, I think we make many things moral that are really cultural and situational.

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11 Haley @ Carrots for Michaelmas May 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm

As a huge supporter of extended breastfeeding, I was thrilled when I heard that TIME was planning a story on AP and extended breastfeeding. However, I have to admit that I am disappointed in the cover. As you said, they’re trying to sell magazines here…and that’s just why they exploited something beautiful and natural and sensationalized and sexualized it. I don’t think their desire to make a profit should exonerate them of this incendiary journalism and it makes me upset.

I have absolutely NO problem with the fact that part of her breast is exposed. I have seen and admired breastfeeding pics in which far breast can be seen and I think that’s perfectly fine. Because breasts aren’t merely sexual and breastfeeding isn’t a sexual act. Indeed, I breastfeed in public all the time and don’t bother covering up. My baby is irritated by using a cover so I don’t worry about it and I don’t think it’s immodest at all. My issue is the pose they have her in. She’s a lovely woman, but I think they are overplaying her sex appeal with her “modelesque” pose and notice how the picture shows no connection between your friend and her toddler. They are not cuddling, looking at each other, or engaging each other. The picture almost makes her looked detached. And to be honest, her gaze at the camera appears a little bit provocative to me. I love the idea of showing a woman confidently breastfeeding an older child, but I think this image makes it look sexualized rather than confident.

The age of the little boy isn’t an issue for me. Americans are uncomfortable with extended breastfeeding and they need to get over it. But I think by putting the child on a stool it makes it look strange and extreme and I hate the message that breastfeeding a toddler is sensational and weird. It’s not. It’s perfectly normal.

And the title: Are You Mom Enough? I’m sure your friend doesn’t practice extended breastfeeding in order to impress people. So that title is just so misrepresentative of AP. Most mothers choose a parenting style they believe is right for their children, not in order to prove that they’re “mom enough.”

I hope nothing I said is offensive to your friend. I don’t like the way TIME portrayed her, but that’s not her fault. Feel free to delete the comment if you think anything I said was unkind! Definitely not my intention!

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12 Zoe Saint-Paul May 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Although Jamie knew this whole thing would create controversy, I’m betting she’s surprised at just how visceral the public’s reaction has been to the cover photo. When you say yes to a photo shoot at a major magazine, you’re in their hands and having worked in the magazine business, I know what happens around an editorial desk when it comes to selecting photos to sell a story or an issue.

It’s hard to know whether the long-term effect will be of this feature when it comes to support for breastfeeding and attachment parenting practices. I’m guessing it will raise some awareness, but not necessarily change any minds.

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13 Karen May 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I breastfed all nine of my children, but none longer than nine months. By that time they were all eating some cereal, fruits, and veggies, and they were less interested in nursing as well as getting more social at mealtime. I enjoyed nursing, but I got to a point where I felt tied down by it. I felt–and feel–that I gave my children the health benefits of nursing when it was most important for them.

As for “attachment parenting”–well, I am against co-sleeping–I mean, who really gets rest in that arrangement? I don’t think you need to “wear” a baby in order to have a close relationship with him or her, or to make the baby feel secure. Also, what do “attachment parents” do when they have twins? (I am a mom of more than one set of twins.) There are many ways to foster closeness between parent and child.

I don’t think the people who are uncomfortable with women openly bearing their breasts for nursing are hung up or out of it. Just because you are fulfilling a natural function does not mean that you should throw modesty and consideration for the sensibilities of other people out the window. Politeness matters.

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14 Kathleen May 12, 2012 at 9:42 am

Just a quick comment from a person who applies all parenting Philosophies from sleep traing to co sleeping, in the beginning I do sleep with my babies because I actually sleep more then getting up 17 times.
But at some point that stops working. And they sleep in a separate room.

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15 Tracy G May 12, 2012 at 6:31 am

This photo made me really take a look at what I am comfortable with and why.

I am a huge proponent of nursing, and don’t understand it when a mother chooses not to when she is physically capable. I am still nursing my (much younger) toddler, so I love it and get it. Thanks to this photo, I’ve realized that my own comfort level on when a child it too old to nurse is when they can’t rest/sit comfortably in your lap anymore.

Another thought on publicly nursing, I always cover up unless at home or with a very close friend or sister, etc. I consider it an very intimate time and don’t care to share it with others. Nor do I care to see others doing it. It always gets me bc the moms I do see nursing openly seem to do the “boob sandwich” and I don’t want to see it! I don’t do that myself so I’m not sure why it happens so much!

I haven’t read the article, but as far as AP goes, I have adopted some of the practices accidentally. I have never read a book on it, etc, it just came natural for me to do some things considered AP. I am afraid that the cover is a turn off to most people that may otherwise give the proper respect to AP, because it is so over the top, I actually think it makes it harder to take seriously. Which is unfortunate, bc AP has so many good points.

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16 Zoe Saint-Paul May 14, 2012 at 12:55 pm

What is the “boob sandwich”?? :-)

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17 Tracy G May 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Ha ha! It’s when it gets squeezed and then sort of put into the baby’s mouth. I can understand if you are new to nursing or dealing with a newborn, but once my kids get it they don’t have much difficulty latching, etc. It seems to have be more exposed from a logistical standpoint and kind of freaks me out a little!!

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18 Zoe Saint-Paul May 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Okay, I think I know what you’re talking about. The term for it cracks me up.

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19 Mimi May 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I wanted to wait until I read the whole article before I commented on this. I am a Time subscriber the issue was delivered in the Saturday mail. I am not a mother yet, however, I am a huge supporter of attachment parenting in various forms. I think that extended breast feeding is completely acceptable and appropriate. I found the article itself rather interesting. I felt as if I actually learned a bit about Dr. Sears and his parenting theories. What I missed was the connection between the picture and the article itself. I looked at it more like a clever move on a editors part to sell more magazines. I admire your friends courage to take this picture, however, I just wonder about the effect it will have on her son. Similar to what Ann was saying in her comment above.

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20 Zoe Saint-Paul May 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Yes, there was little connection between the cover shot and the interior stories, which is too bad, but that’s what happens in the media. It’s always about creating the biggest splash. As for the effect on her son, it’s a fair question and I’ve wondered it myself. Knowing Jamie, it’s something that she and her husband would have discussed when they made the decision to be interviewed and photographed, and ultimately it’s their decision because they are the parents.

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21 Mary May 14, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I have 4 kids, all of whom have been nursed (publicly) for more than a year. I’m fine with attachment parenting-my kids sleep with me, I wear them in slings, etc. I’m careful to cover up because I tend to be a modest person and I try to be respectful of those around me. I can see the argument that you may be bringing more attention to yourself by covering up with a brilliantly colored blanket than if you just quietly nursed your baby quickly. BUT as a mother of a 7-year-old boy, I have learned that little boys recognize breasts and understand that their bodies react to them, even though they are nowhere near puberty. Breasts are part of good-touch/bad touch because they are something that gets covered up by a bathing suit. They are also part of sex, even if breastfeeding is not. Young boys have physical responses to some images, even if they can’t quite understand the image or the response. SO I try to be aware of the images I allow my son to be faced with. And I’d be pissed if I was in the food court at the mall with him and a woman left her breast hanging out there for the world to see. As I said, I’ve always breastfed my kids and done so in public. But I’ve certainly been to the ChickFil-A playroom and seen women not covered up while nursing and seemingly unaware that anyone else would notice her breast hanging out. Even if you are not thinking of it in a sexual way and expect the grown men around you to accept that, that does not mean no other male will notice or respond to it. And women should be sensitive to that. I understand it agitates kids to have covers, but my kids also get agitated when I change their diapers and put them into carseats. But if we’re riding in the car, they have to be strapped in. The Time Magazine cover is shameful, and I would hope the mother did not pose for that picture. It is very sexual and provocative in nature. Women who breastfeed their children beyond one year do it as a comforting, loving thing. This mother is not looking at the child, she is not cuddling him-she appears to be simply providing a snack. The picture is inappropriate and unrealistic.

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22 Zoe Saint-Paul May 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thanks for your comments, Mary. Some of what you say may actually lend support for the argument that we over-sexualize breasts and therefore need to start changing that by what we show. Boys’ bodies *do* respond to stimuli right from infancy, without any awareness of sex per se, but it does not have to be the case where they view breasts as overtly sexual; it’s not hard-wired. There are many places in the world where women breastfeed children openly through toddlerhood and primitive societies where breasts are bare — and in those cultures breasts are viewed primarily as mammary glands and not as sexual stimuli. This is a cultural perspective.

Although I myself don’t consider the photo to be “very sexual,” I do agree it’s unrealistic — even Jamie has admitted to that; it’s not the way a mom would be nursing her child and it doesn’t match the story it was writing about — attachment parenting.

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