January 17, 2013

You're Not Advocating, You're Shaming

Although, I find it a little ridiculous that I have to preface this I'm going to. Most of you who know me know I wouldn't hurt a fly, I'm sensitive to a fault and just as protective. I believe VERY strongly in a mother's right to feed her kid however she sees fit with out public or private recrimination. So keep that in mind as you read this. It's been on my heart for two weeks now and I've waited to write this in an attempt to let my OWN emotional response settle.
I see it a lot on people's Facebook profiles, twitter and blog "about me's": breastfeeding advocate. I often wonder exactly what that entails. I would consider myself an advocate for many things among them, clearing the cloud of mystery and stigma that surrounds mental health issues particularly ante- and post- natal mental health and the prevention of child and animal abuse. I feel very strongly about those things.
I would imagine that a breastfeeding advocate probably aims to educate others and protect a woman's right to feed her child in any manner she sees fit at any time in any place without being shamed for it. I'm just guessing here. I didn't breastfeed Evie past four weeks so I don't really know what being a breastfeeding advocate entails. Please if you are let me know what it means I would really love to know.
However, there comes a point when advocacy jumps the track and takes a 180 degree turn into shaming formula feeding mothers.
A few weeks ago this photo appeared on my Facebook timeline four times. Four. Each time I saw it I was livid.
And ok, I get it I really do. This graphic is intended to remind mothers to avoid doctor's who aren't supportive of their breastfeeding goals. I fully agree, doctors should NOT be offering formula to mothers who tell them they are exclusively breastfeeding. It's very frustrating I am sure (I've never experienced this so I don't know) and absolutely counterproductive to helping a mother who wants to breastfeed.
I get that not everyone is as lucky to have such fantastic support, as a mother, from their child's pediatrician as I have. 
However, in that clever pithy little graphic is the message that feeding your child formula is akin to giving him or her cigarettes. No matter how you want to look at it, no matter if you think it's not the point the metaphor is there. In order for this graphic to even have a point you have to compare formula feeding to something negative.
Another scenario: An obese man, wanting to lose weight and a cheeseburger.
Another scenario: A drug addict wanting help and a syringe of heroin.
The list goes on and on and on.
That's not advocacy, that's shaming.
Shaming formula feeding mothers while hiding behind the word advocacy is nothing new and I am so bone tired weary of it.
Advocate, advocate, advocate -- I beg of you! Be an advocate for those who are scared to talk for themselves and educate, but don't do it by shaming someone else. Don't do it in words with hidden judgement and heartless cruelty.
If this is how you advocate then I'm sorry for you; you won't win supporters with a mean judgemental graphic that shames someone for a choice or maybe for something that was out of their control. You merely create a forum for people who think just like you to talk about how right they are.
If this is how you advocate you are not gaining support, you're driving people away.
If this is how you advocate then you lose my respect, and if you are advocating for anything you should know that in order for you to have a chance of changing the tides you are fighting you need the respect of others. You cannot broker change without respect. Period.
If you feel strongly about this too, on either side, I invite you to weigh in. However, I must ask that you remain respectful and kind, to me and to anyone else who might comment. Thank you.
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