I feel certain that my blood pressure is elevated right now. This happens to me when I read articles about important topics that are pure sophistry. This is why I should just stay away from the Internet. But I can't!!
I'm an innocent in this; all I did was send an e-mail. But then the "your e-mail has been sent" message came up, accompanied by a video about a breastfeeding doll that has the media putting the spotlight on parents in the US who are expressing surprise and derision. Not that there aren't many other opinions, many positive, but of course American media must sensationalize and emphasize the negative. As an educated mother well-read on the subject of breastfeeding and definitely an advocate, I naturally wanted to check out this new doll.
It turns out that the doll, called Bebe Gluton (there are supposed to be Spanish accent marks but I don't know how to type them), is not new, just recently introduced to the United States from Spain. Parents are saying many dramatic things about this doll, including that it is sexualising their children and that it could cause psychological damage. A child psychiatrist in the video I saw said there is nothing to worry about. I wanted to know more, so I googled "breastfeeding doll" and clicked on the first thing that looked like news. What I read was ridiculous, and the arguments made by the supposed experts at the end of the article seemed so sardonic and incongruous with the topic that I thought, Where is this article from?
The page had automatically positioned itself to the top of the article, not to the top of the web page, and I am programed to ignore links within articles, so I really didn't know where it was from, but when I got to the top of the page, my face, that had been screwed up with a question resembling What the?, relaxed and then I was like, Oh, of course. Fox "news."
Here is a quote about the breastfeeding doll from the supposed expert Dr. M. Alvarez:
"It could inadvertently lead little girls to become traumatized. You never know the effects this could have until she’s older."
So, Fox is quoting a gynecologist on the subject of child psychology. Dr. A may know more about va-JJs than the average person, and if I was at a cocktail party standing around talking with him and an accountant, he might win the conversation. That doesn't mean his opinion should be advertised by an organization with a major influence on and therefore a big responsibility to the people. Good job, Fox. You've done it again.
The article also says that Dr. A "wonders if [the doll] might speed up maternal urges in the little girls who play it."
Well, you can influence the thoughts and feelings attached to an urge, which is exactly what the company is expressly doing. Can one "speed up" an urge? I think that may be a philosophical question best saved for another day. My opinion is that the instinct to have children is human. The question of when and how it is appropriate for a baby to have a baby (cause we're all our momma's babies) changes with time and by region. That thoughts and feelings around the biological clock are cultural. This argument from Dr. A seems the same to me as saying a kid who plays Grand Theft Auto is going to steal cars based on that experience alone.
This Fox article on the breastfeeding doll goes on to quote another dubious source named Eric Ruhalter. He says, “What’s next? Bebe Sot — the doll who has a problem with a different kind of bottle, and loses his family, job and feelings of self-worth? Bebe Limp — the male doll who experiences erectile dysfunction? Bebe Cell Mate — a weak, unimposing doll that experiences all the indignation and humiliation of life in prison?"
Oh, please. Breastfeeding and alcoholism. Breastfeeding and erectile dysfunction. Breastfeeding and incarceration. These comparisons are ridiculous. Breastfeeding is a positive, healthy practice. These comparison subjects are all representative of serious problems that have from bad to horrible effects on the family and friends surrounding them... It's just really absurd to compare breastfeeding - a loving, natural, healthy act - with these aberrations.
This source, Eric Ruhalter, writes about parenting, which is his credential, but if you look, all he's got is a BA in economics, and writing experience. He probably followed some instincts of his own and had some kids and then started writing about parenting. That's fine for his parenting blog, but again, his opinion is just not good enough (and could be damaging) when we are talking about the future health of our children on a national scale. (Although, I am going to check out his books. They look cute!)
This was in an article from ABC...
Cesar Bernabeu, director of sales and marketing for Berjuan, wrote in an e-mail to ABCNews.com that psychologists and teachers were consulted in the development of the toy, and that it has garnered the approval of the Asociacion Pro-Lacttancia Meterna de Espana, a pro-breast-feeding organization in Spain...
The company responded ... "Breast-feeding is completely natural; it is not something that we have invented ourselves, it is something that is done all around the world," Bernabeu wrote.
If nothing else, the doll is innocent. People will have multitudes of opinions. Mine is that this doll provides an opportunity for people to witness a refreshing perspective regarding breastfeeding, and that they can use that opportunity to muse on their beliefs regarding what is healthy and appropriate. It's not that I would discount any opposing view, it's just that every opposing view I've read so far is unfounded. These 3 comments from parents on Parent Dish offer opinions from some reasonable sounding people.
I think this is hilarious! My boys didn't need a breastfeeding doll, they just hold normal dollies under their tops and to their chest to pretend to feed them! As for outrage, please, does anyone worry about dollies that can "poo" and "wee" and cry real tears, bottle feed, have "proper" boy and girl parts... Reckon $99 is a bit steep for a doll tho!
When ya think about it, it's the most natural thing in the world! The problem is, that breasts have been sexualised and are no longer thought of, they're for feeding a baby! Which is sad :0( And so in that respect in fact the doll in my mind sends a positive message!
The thing that teaches children future nurturing skills is being brought up in an environment where 'nurturing' is considered normal and natural. And like the other comment stated, children who are brought up with an awareness of breastfeeding will just mimic this by sticking their dolls up their jumper anyway - why buy a $99 doll for that?! What would really help is breastfeeding being depicted in children's books. If you think about it you realise that only bottle feeding is regularly used as a feeding method in images. Showing breastfeeding in day-to-day life would go a long way toward reinforcing the normality of breastfeeding and giving children a more balanced view.
So, to conclude, breastfeeding is awesome and Fox sucks. If you want to indulge in Fox's hilarious suckiness some more, see this episode of The Daily Show where Bret Baier, a Fox journalist, tries and fails to convince Jon and the people that his network is objective. Enjoy!