Two graduating moms posted pictures to social media breastfeeding in their caps and gowns. The resulting media storms took on two very different personalities.
Jacci Sharkey, who graduated from the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, took time out to breastfeed her son Alec and posted the picture to her Facebook page:
My main message was to show to other mums that were thinking of studying that it can be done and to just go for it. To me the picture represents mums being able to have it all, a career and a family. They don’t have to give up the career for kids, and don’t have to give up kids for the career. As mothers we can have it all.
The press agreed that Sharkey’s story was inspirational, and reported it with headlines like these:
- ‘Internet Cheers For Photo Of Mom Breastfeeding At Graduation’ – The Huffington Post
- ‘A Mum Graduating From College Said Thank You With A Breastfeeding Photo’ – Mashable.com
- ‘Breastfeeding Mom Graduation Photo Goes Viral’ – Yahoo News
- ‘Photo of breastfeeding mum in graduation gown receives ‘stunning’ response’ – Brisbanetimes.com
The articles above, along with many more, focused on the positive aspects of Jacci’s triumph both at school and as a mother. Her accomplishments in both areas are truly inspirational and deserve every bit of the applause she’s received.
A black woman’s photo depicting the same natural act of breastfeeding didn’t go over so well.
Enter Karlesha Thurman, graduating from California State University. She also had a hungry child, and also decided to take the time to feed her. When a friend snapped a photo because he thought it was “cool,” Karlesha thought nothing of it. She posted the photo to the Facebook page Black women DO breastfeed, and the story was picked up by People where Thurman is quoted as saying:
I did it to show it’s natural, it’s normal, there’s nothing wrong with it.I honestly thought that as a society, people were more understanding to breastfeeding and understood the importance of breastfeeding. It’s not disgusting, it’s not a bad thing, it’s not a negative thing. It’s the best thing for my daughter. More people should do it.
After the People story, the headlines weren’t as innocuous or inspirational:
- “Breast-feeding mom’s college graduation photo stirs controversy” – Today Parents
- “Mom who posted image of her breastfeeding daughter at college graduation defends herself after backlash” – Dailymail.uk
- “SoCal Mom’s Breastfeeding Graduation Picture Ignites Internet Firestorm” – KTLA.com
The comments on articles about Sharkey, with the exception of a few, were overwhelmingly positive, prompting her to send out thank you messages. There’s even a Facebook Page dedicated to her photo.
Thurman, on the other hand, found herself defending her actions and doing interviews explaining herself, as if a nursing mother has any need to do such a thing.
Not to point out the obvious or anything, but can anyone tell what the difference is between these two women? Why is one applauded and told she is beautiful and inspirational while the other is scolded and told to “put that thing away?”
Is it because Australians are more tolerant to breastfeeding? Could it be that the internet, which knows no borders, has decided that nursing in the northern hemisphere should for some reason be done in private? Perhaps it’s more disgusting to drag your infant into a public bathroom to eat if the water spins counter-clockwise.
Or maybe there’s something else. If only it were blatantly obvious.
If only Karlesha Thurman were Alyssa Milano or Kiera Knightly.
Allyssa Milano got the praise she deserves for being a working mom who breastfed when she posted this picture to Instagram. No outrage, no controversy, and certainly nobody telling her to put that thing away. Kiera Knightly, on the other hand, was recently depicted topless in an article against the photoshopping of women. So far the praise is heavy for such feminism, and no child was breastfed.
Who knew breasts could be so diverse.