Free the nipple

Your Mom Goes to College

mia-villanueva

Last fall, I saw the only man in the world that had never seen a boob.

I was sitting the last row of the giant auditorium in the Valley Life Science Building for my Transnational Feminisms class when I first saw him. The auditorium was filled with at least 100 women, some of whom even had their cleavage showing or their nipples slightly protruding through their shirts. (Collective gasp!) At first, he seemed to camouflage himself in the classroom as someone who had, in fact, seen boobs before. He sat perfectly still; not paying mind to the Victoria’s Secret Bombshell push-up bras around him that boasted the racks of their owners surrounding him.

Beside him was a woman who had her newborn baby sitting on a carrier on the floor next to her seat. It was not until 30 minutes into lecture, between the yawns of students and the sounds of fingers feverishly typing on keyboards that the newborn began to cry, attracting the attention of the mother, the male student, and myself. I watched as she swiftfully removed her baby from the carrier, lifted up her shirt, and attached the baby to her boob, almost all in one motion.

As a mother who breastfed her son when he was a baby, I looked at this woman with admiration; both at how easily she had gotten her baby to latch and at how confident she was in her duty as a mother to feed her child. So confident, in fact, that she did not notice in the slightest the male student beside her, who at this point, needed a crane to help lift his jaw up from the floor. He looked around to see if other people were also taking notice of this catastrophic event — a woman exposing her breast in public to feed her child. It was then that a few other students in the back rows of the lecture hall, women included, interlocked eyes with one another, their pupils all screaming “Oh my god, that’s a boob!”

Could it be that all these students had never seen breasts before? Had none of the men jerked off underneath their covers in middle school to fake breasts on PornHub? Had none of the women observed their own breasts in the mirrors of a retail-store fitting rooms? Had none of them been babies themselves, relying on their mothers breasts as their only form of nutrition? Had none of their mothers ever told them about breastfeeding at all?

Students, and society as a whole unfortunately are only comfortable with breasts in certain contexts; like under the string-bikini of a woman lying out by the pool, or on the front-cover of a Playboy magazine displayed at a 7/11 register. This is largely due to the fact that breasts in America have been increasingly sexualized in the media since the 19th century. Breastfeeding mothers are the collateral damage to this cultural-shift, and have been shamed in public for breast-feeding ever since.

Like the mother breastfeeding in lecture, I too, have faced my fair share of disparaging looks when I would feed my son in public. Even though I would do so with a nursing cover on, it still felt so taboo no matter where I was. When I saw the mother in my class so unashamed and so assured in her right to feed her child, regardless of the context, I could not help but think of how brave she was in the face of judgement.

Initially, I felt secondhand offended at how offended some of my classmates were at her nursing her baby. When she returned to lecture two days later, however, with her baby and began nursing again, I noticed the stares had turned to glances. I became hopeful that more exposure to breastfeeding would be the first stepping-stone in destigmatizing breastfeeding for them, though I still know that there is more work outside of that that needs to be done in order to lift the perverse cloud that shrouds a beautiful act of nature..

Thankfully, UC Berkeley is one of few campuses that offers breastfeeding support programs at the Tang Center and various lactation rooms around campus. Even when a lactation room isn’t accessible, state laws as well as the Department of Education’s Title IX protects women from being discriminated in classrooms or really anywhere for nursing. In other words, mama bears, no matter where you are, feel free to free the nipple.

Mia Villanueva writes the Thursday column on her experience as a student-parent at UC Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].

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  • BlackConservative

    Anyone who shames you in public for feeding your baby is a complete moron IMO. No mom should be shamed for having to feed their child in public. It’s natural and a free country. I love boobs.

    • lspanker

      In all honesty, some individuals may have treated her awkwardly, but I question whether anyone on campus tried to shame her, given that railing against perceived offenses and slights, even when none were intended, is all the rage in Daily Cal op-eds these days…

  • lspanker

    Once again, where’s the baby-daddy, and why can’t he take care of your kid while you’re in class?

    • s randall

      Last fall, I saw the only man in the world that had never seen a boob.

      Too bad you weren’t there.

      • lspanker

        “A wise man speaks up when he has something to say.
        A fool speaks up when he has to say something.”

        Clearly you HAD to say SOMETHING…

        • s randall

          You went off on the author on her first column, and then you followed up on it again – for no good reason. She made no mention of having her own child in that class.

          I don’t know what is going on in your life, but bringing others down is not going to fix it.

          • BlackConservative

            Then why do you go around posting here? It appears a lot of of your posts are attempts to bring people down and he does have a point. Where is the father? It may make the article more interesting and feel more real to adults.

          • s randall

            I am a person of color too. It does shape the way I see things. I see clear intent in the comments on “where’s the father” and I don’t like it. If you are a person of color as you say you are and you don’t see it too, then all I have to say is I clearly don’t know anything.

          • BlackConservative

            I like to acknowledge the real issues and try to solve problems. I agree his comment was not very nice and appears to be meant as a trigger troll comment, however, it’s still a point. I just really want people to concentrate on the real issues plaguing the black community and children out of wedlock is one of the number factors in if you will be poor. I’m trying to get both sides to care about the black on black crime rate and how to stop the crime in the black communities, especially black on black because I grew up in these communities and know how it is. I’ve been ostracized from them just because of my ideas for solving the problems. You have every right to not like his comment and i’m not fond of the snarky way he wrote it , but to say he doesn’t have a point and should be silenced is incorrect. Blacks should stand up against this problem of fatherless households. Do you not care about this problem or do you consider my racist for bringing it up? The stats are there…

          • s randall

            I have a much different experience than you. I grew in a middle class neighborhood, I never felt any discrimination until came to Berkeley. I took an AC transit bus on College and somewhere past Ashby, some guy got on the bus, walked up to where I was standing, glared and spat on me. I was shocked. I asked my friend what happened. He told me to be cool and that I didn’t want “trouble.”

            Fast forward, I live in a middle class neighborhood with good schools. I don’t know what can be done for the places you are talking about, but in my heart of hearts, I have an ominous feeling about the direction the country is taking.

            As far as the author, she should get props for doing something with her life and for her child. I give her a lot of credit for that. I wish her well.

          • lspanker

            I have a much different experience than you. I grew in a middle class neighborhood, I never felt any discrimination until came to Berkeley.

            Consider yourself lucky. I dealt with genuine physical abuse and violence as a kid due to being one of the few white kids in a majority black and hispanic neighborhood (and 98% of the violence came from the former, not the latter).That’s why I always have a good laugh at upper-middle class white liberals living in hillside neighborhoods where 99% of the residents look just like them, preaching that some of would never understand the plight of oppressed minorities because we have never experienced “racism”…

          • BlackConservative

            Dang, thats crazy, why did he spit on you? I would have flipped my lid and called him out and possibly called the police. It pisses me off to even hear this happened to you on a public bus in Berkeley. Where are you originally from? I completely agree, props to her and I do wish her well.

          • lspanker

            I see clear intent in the comments on “where’s the father” and I don’t like it.

            So what is that “intent” and why do you not like it?

            Or are you incapable of responding?

          • Zhané Garlington

            EXACTLY

          • lspanker

            You went off on the author on her first column

            I didn’t “go off”. I asked a legitimate question. She was bemoaning the difficulty of taking care of her kid while she attended college. I merely asked why there was no reference to the child’s father, who I would presume bore some responsibility here as well and could offer his assistance in taking care of the kid when Mom was in class. Why do you find that so offensive?

          • Juliet Lewis

            “Bemoaning”???? Wrong word choice.

            She was just stating that she did not believe that her and other student parents felt that they had the support they needed while “taking care of [their] kid[s] while attending college”. She wasn’t complaining about taking care of her kid, she was complaining about people like you being not understanding of her doing so while attending school.

            oh and here is a crazy idea….THE DAD IS AT WORK.

          • lspanker

            She was just stating that she did not believe that her and other student parents felt that they had the support they needed while “taking care of [their] kid[s] while attending college”.

            Is she getting any support from the baby’s father?

    • tjimmel

      Working? Wild guess…

      • lspanker

        There was no mention of a father in her previous column either, where she bemoaned the lack of anyone to assist her in the care of her children. Once again, what’s up with that?

        • Zhané Garlington

          Again I will state: all of you guys commenting where the father is can be dismissed. Life happens and she is not obligated to give anyone those type of personal details. The point of the article is to bring light to the fact that traditional students aren’t the only type of students who attend universities yet they seem to be the only targeted demographic higher institutions cater to and that needs to change.

          • lspanker

            Again I will state: all of you guys commenting where the father is can be dismissed. Life happens and she is not obligated to give anyone those type of personal details.

            Then I guess we’re not obligated to take heed to any of her whining, correct? She shows up at Cal and starts writing articles complaining about how tough it is to be a mother and student. However, many of her complaints are geared around her need to take care of his kid while attending class. In our society, a child in a stable, two-parent family with RESPONSIBLE ADULTS would work together to address both of those needs. Once again, why is there no mention of a father to this baby?

          • lspanker

            Again I will state: all of you guys commenting where the father is can be dismissed. Life happens

            Pardon me, but from my understanding of human biology, life doesn’t just “happen”. Apart from the occasional Immaculate Conception or some deity taking a rib from one person to create another, asexual reproduction is exceedingly rare in the human species.

            she is not obligated to give anyone those type of personal details.

            Fine, and likewise, we’re not obligated to provide sympathy or assistance with her plight, correct?

            The point of the article is to bring light to the fact that traditional students aren’t the only type of students who attend universities

            True, but at what point does the university get diverted in providing services to others that it loses sight of its primary function? From my understanding the University of California was founded for the purpose of providing higher education and research, not to function as a social services agency, healthcare provider, or agent of social change. Perhaps we lose sight of such when we start insisting that UC provide special services to individuals who at face value seem to have some issues with their own planning and priorities…

        • Juliet Lewis

          How is the child’s father relevant to this article about her witnessing someone else breast-feeding in class?

          The author’s father, as well as the father of the child being breast-fed in this article, could VERY WELL be at work. You know, making money to provide for his family and put a roof over their head.

          Under the circumstance that he’s not and that he’s not around, what do you suggest she do? Stop pursuing her education? Let the road blocks that come with being a student parent derail her for good?

          The writer is not only a mother in school, but surely one that is working as well as she mentioned in the last article that her child is in daycare, and any parent knows that daycare isn’t cheap. So give her some credit and stop derailing her efforts to help improve the university’s resources and outlook towards student parents with your comments this *assumed* absentee father.

          Every parent knows that there are some things you just can’t prepare for when it comes to kids…REGARDLESS if they’re doing it alone or with a partner. Sometimes there are daycare closures. Sometimes your child is too sick to attend school. So is it really such a crime that she asks that university professors, students, and faculty be more compassionate, accepting, and aware of these circumstances? She is elevating her own life and her son’s by attending UC Berkeley…she should be given every resource to succeed because of that alone…SINGLE PARENT OR NOT.

          • lspanker

            How is the child’s father relevant to this article about her witnessing someone else breast-feeding in class?

            Why is she bringing an infant child to class in the first place? Forget the breastfeeding, ever consider it’s a disruption and not fair to the prof, the other students, and the baby itself?