By now, you may have seen the story in TODAY or any number of media outlets about California State University Long Beach graduate Karlesha Thurman who was captured a couple weeks ago breastfeeding her 3-month old daughter Aaliyah during the graduation ceremony while still in her cap and gown.
After getting her diploma, her baby became too fussy so she had a friend bring her down to nurse her and she did so with no fuss or complaint from other graduates. A friend took a photo of Thurman nursing because she thought it was cute.
Later, Thurman posted the photo on the (now-deleted) Facebook page Black Women Do Breastfeed, a page set up to normalize breastfeeding among a community that usually doesn’t support breastfeeding and are least likely to nurse their babies and to do it long because of the shame and stigma. Black women are least likely to breastfeed and when they do stop earlier than other women, Centers for Disease Control reports note.
Thurman’s photo had the dual purpose of showing that despite getting pregnant in her final year of college and not being married to her child’s father, she persevered, overcame the odds and graduated
“I honestly thought that as a society, people were more understanding to breast-feeding and understood the importance of breast-feeding,” Thurman, 25, told the site. “It’s not disgusting, it’s not a bad thing, it’s not a negative thing,” Thurman added. “It’s the best thing for my daughter. More people should do it.”
“I posted it to show it’s natural, it’s normal, there’s nothing wrong with it,” Thurman said. “I didn’t even know there was a big controversy about breast-feeding in public until all of this happened.”
Only the image went viral somehow and has sparked vigorous debate, once again, over whether the act, in that setting and whether posting the image of it in social media was appropriate.
Some have slut shamed her over her nipples being exposed and others said it was just inappropriate setting to be nursing, that she should have planned earlier and pumped so her baby could have been nourished using a bottle; and/or that she should have at least covered her boobs or done it in private. Some said she should show modesty, and been more discreet.
Bellyitch has posted on similar controversies over the past four years. We covered breastfeeding in social media shaming in 2012 with Eric Benet, Gisele Bundchen in 2013 and model Ashley Nicole in March 2014.
Sadly, it seems that when black women do it, there’s the most uproar.
Today, I replied with a meme I created and shared on my Tumblr page:
…And a Buzzfeed post I wrote after a friend told me that the nipple exposure is what really made it different than an average cleavage photo.
I had to point out the 8 Times Celebrity Women who are not Karlesha Thurman showed their nipples in images that circulated in social media but didn’t shut down the Internet in dialogue over breasts.
Melody Thornton of the Pussycat Dolls, Actress Sharon Stone, Pop singer Ciara, The Fantastic Four actress Jessica Alba and Rihanna and Rihanna and Rihanna and Rihanna all bared the nips but to less uproar as we’ve seen in two days over a recent college graduate breastfeeding her baby out of necessity and shared on her private Facebook page.
Aaaah society and our sexual double standards and low tolerance for breastfeeding our young.
Personally, I’m tired of talking about this. Let’s #NormalizeBreastfeeding already so we don’t have to keep having this debate over and over again.