Favorite

Look out for the breast-feeding controversy 

''The greatest poverty is not to live

In a physical world, to feel that one's desire

Is too difficult to tell from despair.''

—Wallace Stevens, "Esthétique du Mal."

At the outset of a new school year, the news media offer helpful tips for college students: "Choosing the right major," "6 tips for surviving dorm life," "5 things you should never say to your professor," stuff like that. Rarely do they offer practical advice for students who find themselves enrolled in a course taught by a faculty member who's a total crackpot.

Or to put it more succinctly: another year, another collegiate breast-feeding controversy. Possibly you remember the brief sensation about this time last year, when Prof. Adrienne Pine suckled her infant daughter in front of a classroom filled with students attending her "Sex, Gender and Culture" class at American University. The embattled anthropologist explained that she'd brought the feverish baby to work with her rather than cancel the first class of the semester. When the child began crying, Pine put her to the breast and went on with her lecture. Some of her freshman students were taken aback.

Now comes Prof. Karla A. Erickson's path-breaking article renouncing breastfeeding altogether, which the Grinnell College sociologist confesses made her feel like a cow. (An insult I shall refrain from passing on to my own cows, diligent mothers every one.) Perhaps not coincidentally, Erickson too teaches classes on "Gender and Society" at the Iowa college. Her bottle-feeding manifesto appeared in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, where it attracted hundreds of incredulous responses.

After the birth of her first child, she explains, Erickson's life as a mammal struck her as terribly unfair. Not only did nursing her infant son impose restraints on her own "spatial mobility and time," but the "part no one every talks about is that breastfeeding also consolidates pre-existing biological tendencies that privilege the breastfeeding parent."

Yes, you read that right. Nursing her child was a joyous experience to Erickson, but as it also gave her an unfair advantage over her husband in securing the infant's affections, the practice needed to be renounced in the interest of gender equity. Baby gets a boo-boo, baby runs to Mommy. And that would never do.

"It's one thing our bodies do that reinforces the social differences between men and women....Sometimes we have to do a runaround our bodies to ensure equity. Sometimes we have to do some social engineering to help dislodge our social aspirations from the dictates of our glands and gonads."

Dislodge our hopes from our gonads? Must we really? Somebody needs to tell Prof. Erickson that few unearned patriarchal privileges are sweeter than rolling over and going back to sleep while Mommy tends the baby.

So anyway, if you're thinking that American University's famous lactating anthropologist would set her Iowa colleague straight, you'd be mistaken. Motherhood's evidently not a big part of these gender studies classes. There's no hint that Adrienne Pine found breastfeeding particularly joyous at all. Quite the opposite. During her moment in the spotlight, Pine made clear her contempt of people who see breast-feeding as a "transcendental act," along with "gendered essentialism about the naturalness or sacredness of the mother-child bond."

In a Counterpunch article devoted largely to attacking the "biased and sophomoric" undergraduate reporter from the campus newspaper who interviewed her, Pine emphasized that she had "specifically tried to distance myself from lactivism, which has always seemed hopelessly bourgeois to me — those marauding bands of lactating white women who go to collectively feed their babies in places where the right to breastfeed has been called into question. ... And the whole argument about the breast being more 'natural' than the bottle leads down a slippery slope of biological determinism."

Nothing sacred or natural here, in other words. We're intellectuals.

Prof. Pine added, "if there were an easy way I could feed my child without calling attention to my biological condition as a mother, which inevitably assumes primacy over my preferred public status as anthropologist, writer, professor, and solidarity worker, I would do so."

No biological conditions, please, we're gender specialists existing in a realm of pure theory. What with entire academic disciplines these days devoted to such quasi-Marxian humbug — a curious combination of the perfectly obvious and the utterly absurd — the odds of a student's encountering a Fruit Loop with an attitude and Ph.D. approach certainty.

The thing to do is to consider it a learning experience.

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Hillbillies

    Anybody who can sing the lyrics to David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" probably won't find a whole lot in J.D. Vance's hotly debated, bestselling memoir "Hillbilly Elegy" that's real surprising.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Lost in Real America

    Following the 2016 election, some readers have accused me of being out of touch with the Real America — that mythic locale inhabited by people who vote like them and watch the same TV shows they do.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Killer's failure

    Has any murdering terrorist ever failed more dramatically than Dylann Storm Roof? Like any punk with a gun, he managed to slaughter nine blameless African-American Christians at an historic church in Charleston, S.C. Intending to start a race war, he succeeded only in shocking the moral conscience of the state and nation.
    • Jun 25, 2015
  • Obama takes long view

    Right now, it's beginning to look as if President Obama will end up deserving the Nobel Peace Prize he was so prematurely awarded in 2009.
    • Jul 23, 2015
  • Trump and political correctness

    So I see where candidate Donald Trump and former Gov. Sarah Palin are complaining about "political correctness," the supposedly liberal sin of being too polite to tell the unvarnished truth. Me too. I've always laughed at the follies of self-styled "radical" left-wing professors.
    • Sep 3, 2015

Most Shared

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders to be deputy White House press secretary

    Donald Trump announced additional White House staff today, notably including Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy assistant to the president and principal deputy press secretary.
  • Legislation filed for $10 million school voucher program

    The legislation to vastly expand transfer of state tax dollars to private schools came before the school choice day event I mentioned earlier.
  • Pork and more

    Some notes on disparate topics before I take a vacation break.
  • Trumpeting

    When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?
    • Jan 19, 2017
  • Hillbillies

    Anybody who can sing the lyrics to David Allan Coe's "You Never Even Called Me by My Name" probably won't find a whole lot in J.D. Vance's hotly debated, bestselling memoir "Hillbilly Elegy" that's real surprising.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Lost in Real America

    Following the 2016 election, some readers have accused me of being out of touch with the Real America — that mythic locale inhabited by people who vote like them and watch the same TV shows they do.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

1.73-carat diamond found at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Jack Pearadin and Doug Nelsen found a 1.73-carat diamond after nearly a year of searching the park's field.

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Putin and Trump

    Here's a thought exercise: What do you suppose would happen if Russian strongman Vladimir Putin decided to clarify remarks he reportedly made about Donald Trump during the election campaign?

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Good one, Al. Hell hath no fury, and all that happy horse-shit. I hope Gene…

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Make that "old hack."

    • on January 20, 2017
  • Re: Putin and Trump

    • Oh dear - It is me, E.E.W - I'll confess - but not so much…

    • on January 20, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation