Here in Louisville, labor unions often hire a couple of workers to stand in a conspicuous location holding a giant yellow sign that reads something like “SHAME SHAME Business Name” and a brief description below such as “Labor Dispute”. I notice these signs but I often wonder if they actually make any difference. Do the corporations being targeted actually feel any shame due to these signs? Does the average passerby ever question the cause for the signs, let alone boycott the “Shamed” businesses? What’s the point?
Then I had the thought that maybe the importance of these signs lies in what they represent for the unions of people who sponsor them. Perhaps they are simply a way for these workers to say “I matter. I don’t deserve to be treated this way. I am shining my little light in the big darkness.”
In the spirit of the Giant Yellow Shame Shame Sign, I offer the following open letter to our current culture:
Shame on you for making women feel like our bodies are defective. Shame on you for telling us we aren’t strong enough to give birth without drugs. Shame on you for telling us doctors know better than we what is best for us. Shame on you for telling us pregnancy and childbirthing are illnesses that need to be fixed and cured and managed.
Shame on you for telling us our pelvises are too small to allow our babies to fit through or our cervixes are incompetent or our uteruses are so weak that they will likely rupture. Shame on you for telling us our bodies are too old to grow a healthy baby at the very age our lives have just made room for one. Shame on you for telling us our bodies don’t know the proper time to give birth, that we need you to set the date or start the process. Shame on you for telling us we need someone else to pull the baby out, suck the baby out, or cut the baby out.
Shame on you for telling us our chests and arms aren’t warm enough to nurture our babies immediately after they are born, that your fancy warming machines are superior. Shame on you for scaring us out of keeping our babies close when they need us by telling us they need your medical training more than our loving presence. Shame on you for telling us we can’t trust our intuition about how often or how long to hold, cuddle, nurse, and nurture our children.
Shame on you for making us think we can’t make enough milk. Shame on you for telling us to worry because we only pumped an ounce this time or the baby only ate two ounces. Shame on you for telling us that artificial baby milk is the solution, that plastic contraptions are the solution, that giving up is the solution because we’ll probably never get it right anyway.
Shame on you for giving us dirty looks when we breastfeed our children in your line of sight. Shame on you for telling us we should cover up or go to the bathroom or just stay home to do “that”. Shame on you for telling us it’s gross or attention-seeking or inappropriate for your children’s eyes. Shame on you for making us think a machine is superior to our baby for removing milk from our breasts and a bottle is superior to our breasts for feeding our baby.
Shame on you for telling us the milk our bodies make is causing our babies to cry because they are allergic to it or it is too gassy or not nutritious enough. Shame on you for telling us the milk we make is not as good as artificial baby milk or even “just as good as” artificial baby milk. Shame on your for telling us we are making our babies too dependent or clingy or manipulative or spoiled by feeding them from our bodies and holding them when they ask for us.
Shame on you for telling us our bodies ought to look supermodel perfect 6 weeks after we give birth. Shame on you for telling us the importance of our bodies lies more in how they look to the outside world than in the wonders they can perform for us and our families. Shame on your for failing to notice just how perfect and beautiful and powerful our bodies are right now, as they are, no changes needed.
(Please note that I am not judging any woman who has made any choice listed above. And I am also not attempting to say there is never a need for any of the things listed above to be used for good. What I am condemning is the breakdown of women’s confidence, not the proper use of science, medicine, and intervention. So please, no comments telling me, “But, I really didn’t make enough milk. I really did need formula. Stop picking on me.”, etc. I support every woman’s choice to do any or all of the above. My hope is only that we are given the opportunity to make those choices from a place of informed empowerment.)