Friday, November 02, 2012

What's up with that background image?

I get asked sometimes about the background image I use for this blog. It's a late Renaissance painting by Jacopo Tintoretto and it hangs in the National Gallery in London.

Wikipedia: "The Origin of the Milky Way is a painting by the Italian late Renaissancemaster Jacopo Tintoretto (1575-1580), in the National Gallery, London, formerly in the Orleans Collection."

I love it because:

• it portrays the Greek myth of the infant Heracles being brought by his half-sister Athena to her mother Hera, who nursed him out of pity. His suck caused her milk to spray across the heavens, forming the Milky Way. The divine milk gave Heracles his super powers. I love that story!

• UK resident Catherine Gulati, who was breastfeeding at the National Gallery of London and was asked to leave, told the BBC, "I thought it was ironic because in another room there was a picture of a bare breast with milk squirting out of it..."

• it portrays a breast with actual milk coming right out of it - something every one of us should see, both closeup at our mother's breast, but also as children, as teenagers, as adults, as health care professionals, as educators. Because, to paraphrase Emma Kwasnica, we need to SEE milk coming out of nipples if we want to normalize breastfeeding:
Quite simply, this is about normalizing breastfeeding. The more we hide it away, classify it as obscene, shame mothers into covering up while feeding, and encourage women to retire to "private" rooms in order to breastfeed the baby, the less we see of it in public, and the less and less people are comfortable with the very idea of nursing in public. This is the sad reality, in this pathologically hyper-sexualized (yet sexually repressed...) North American culture of ours. The solution, however, seems quite simple to me; breastfeeding (and/or images of breastfeeding) need to be seen every day, and I am convinced that SEEING more breastfeeding, wherever possible, is what will change our breastfeeding culture. Re-normalize it. Everywhere in North America (in all provinces in Canada, and in every state in the USA but two) women have the right to breastfeed in public, wherever they have the legal right to be. So women should do it. And they should feel completely free to do it. Lots of it. As much as possible. From Informed Parenting, which hosts Emma's entire essay, "Why seeing breastfeeding is important: my personal challenge to you"
• Sometimes when I'm feeling feisty I put details

of it up as my Facebook profile. Bam! Instant 30 day ban.

• it illustrates what my blog is about. This is not a breastfeeding blog. It is a blog about human milk. Which of course wouldn't happen without breastfeeding. But this blog is about what happens when human milk leaves a woman's body and doesn't go directly into her own baby's mouth.