Melanie Arougueti/Contributing Writer
Last week, the Miami Swim Week took place at The W South Beach Hotel in Miami Beach, FL. During the event, model Mara Martin walked in a metallic gold bikini for the 2018 Sports Illustrated show while breastfeeding her five-month old daughter.
Martin and her baby were both met with the applause—and the former was praised for her actions. However, some were critical of the act, commenting that breastfeeding shouldn’t be displayed on a runway.
These types of sentiments demonstrate what has always been an obvious secret: the stigma surrounding public breastfeeding. Some members of society treat breastfeeding with disgust simply because they view women’s breast as sexual objects.
To an extent, I understand the reactions that Martin received. Public breastfeeding can be considered somewhat indecent. However, in the same way we are permitted to eat in public, babies should be able to feed as well.
And it wasn’t like Martin stripped in front of the crowd; the models were all in swimsuits. Martin herself didn’t reveal anything nor was she provocative during her walk.
A member of the crowd also can’t complain about the “indecency of the sacred breast” when they are watching women walk in suggestive swimsuits. Is a woman’s body only acceptable when they are dressed to please other people?
I understand that breasts are seen as sexually appealing but they have actual uses beyond what society thinks of them, such as feeding babies. And there is nothing wrong with a woman using her body for something as natural as feeding her own children.
Apart from this, the critics behind Martin’s actions fail to realize the amount of publicity a famous model has when she struts with her Sports Illustrated bikini. With this publicity, there is a chance to make an impact for women everywhere, especially when it comes to public breastfeeding.
She had a chance, and she took it. By breastfeeding her baby on a runway, she embodied independence and empowerment as both a woman and mother, proving that women can do both.
Of course, for the sake of not only hungry babies but also public decency, public breastfeeding should only be acceptable in certain sanitary places. One would be breastfeeding at any other times than work hours—a real estate agent, for example, shouldn’t breastfeed while showing their clients a property.
Let’s hope Martin’s actions can lead to women being able to breastfeed publicly and still be taken seriously as a woman because there is nothing more important than for women to have control over their bodies without society’s constant shaming.
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