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Coming to LifePhilosophies of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Mothering$
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Sarah LaChance Adams and Caroline R. Lundquist

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823244607

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823244607.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FORDHAM SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.fordham.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Fordham University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FSO for personal use.date: 01 August 2021

Exposing the Breast

Exposing the Breast

The Animal and the Abject in American Attitudes Toward Breastfeeding

(p.263) 12 Exposing the Breast
Coming to Life

Rebecca Tuvel

Fordham University Press

This chapter explores a curiosity in American attitudes towards breastfeeding through various cultural moments. Despite the medical community's recommendation for mothers to breastfeed, the United States has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the developed world, and, among the women who do initiate breastfeeding, many opt for the bottle shortly thereafter. This analysis traces a shame associated with the mother's breast in our cultural unconscious, and suggests that sociocultural accounts that attempt to explain this shame by reference to the sexual objectification of the breast in our culture do not tell the full story. Rather, an understanding of our desire to reject that which threatens our “humanity,” including both maternal and animal bodies, is needed to explain the displeasure and disgust many Americans experience upon witnessing the act of breastfeeding. I turn to Kristeva's theory of abjection to help explain this phenomenon, but also suggest some ways in which Kristeva's theory is lacking with respect to the role of the animal (in favor of the maternal) in constituting our humanity. I conclude by gesturing towards the importance of a post-humanist ethics if we wish to liberate the bounded concepts of the maternal and the animal from oppressive cultural constructs.

Keywords:   breastfeeding, animality, maternal body, abjection, Julia Kristeva

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