Bill Maher and Breastfeeding

FOR DOWNLOAD MORE GALLERY On the 9/14 edition of HBO's "Real Time With Bill Maher", the host went through his show-ending laundry list of rants entitled "New Rules", with the final subject dealing with women breastfeeding in public. Typical of many American males, Maher took the sophomoric approach, making fun of "lactivists" and stating that there was already a place for breasts and eating called "Hooters".

His rant stemmed from the recent incident where a woman breastfeeding her baby was asked to cover up at an Applebee's Restaurant. Maher took the restaurant's side, using the old, tired argument that just because it's natural does not make something fit for public viewing. He stated that masturbation was natural but he would not do that in front of a lot of people.

Breastfeeding is not masturbation, it is not even something sexual. It's eating, something we all do in public, something we do to celebrate special occasions, something we do to stay healthy and alive, something we do to socialize with friends. Comparing breastfeeding to masturbating in public is not only offensive, it's plain ignorant.

There was a time not too long ago, in the 1950s, when women who were pregnant were not socially acceptable in public. You could not even say the word "pregnant" on television. Lucy and Desi had separate beds so Little Ricky must have been a product of immaculate conception.

We were wrongheaded in thinking that this charade was somehow more civilized. Infant formulas and bottle-feeding were promoted as being more convenient and more nutritious, and certainly a lot more profitable for the companies that made these products. Little by little American society separated mothers from their infant children by putting up barriers to breastfeeding. Not only was there a loss of physical bonding, it turns out that breast milk is the perfect food for a baby, and it was being denied to millions of children.

So, Bill, while you seem to think that it's perfectly OK now to have a woman running for President of the United States, you still believe deep down that women are second-class citizens, that the female breast is nothing more than a sexual plaything for men, and that when it's used for the motherly act of feeding a child, it must be covered up or sent to a bathroom.

Thirty-nine states now have laws protecting a mother's right to breastfeed in public. Bill, get with the program, your sexism is showing on this issue. Women should not have to feed their children in shame just because you think that tits only belong in Playboy.

Yes, I get the ultimate point that you were trying to make, that people do tend to latch onto "narcissistic" social causes and ignore the greater issues at hand, such as the War in Iraq, or our dwindling Constitutional rights. But you forget that it is the grass-roots causes that give us inner strength. Certainly the same "narcissistic" charge was leveled at Rosa Parks when she refused to go to the back of the bus. Imagine the selfishness of that woman, Bill, she wanted to be treated as an equal.

Breastfeeding has always been a necessary component of raising any child throughout history. While alternative methods of feeding were sometimes required when breastfeeding failed, such as employing a wet nurse, it was not until the last century that bottle feeding became practical and affordable. Today, we have the benefit of modern science which clearly shows us that the breast is best, so the only thing that is standing in the way of widespread acceptance of public breastfeeding is our own immature attitudes.

And that means you, Bill.

UPDATE: Suburban Oblivion has a good take on Maher's rant, as well as a link to the YouTube video.

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