The media is no stranger to the overexposure of women’s bodies and the theory that “sex sells.” We’ve seen women dancing around in barely-there outfits for music videos or gracing the covers of fashion magazines with their, shall we say, assets covered by nothing more than unzipped jackets or their own hands.

 

With the constant exposure to sexualized nudity, it’s strange that some of the most fervent admonishments of women overexposing themselves for art or emotion, rather than sex. This was the case recently when actress Alyssa Milano started taking some pretty serious heat after posting a selfie of herself breastfeeding her daughter, Elizabella Dylan.

 

Just weeks later, Kim Kardashian made headlines for her Paper Magazine cover, in which she posed entirely nude. Of course, while there were those to criticize, Milano was a bit staggered to see that the negative reactions to Kardashian’s photos did not seem nearly as prevalent as they had been in the case of her breastfeeding selfie. As such, Milano took to Twitter to express her thoughts on the matter, tweeting the following:

alyssa milano tweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since raising the simple question, Milano seems to have inspired a breastfeeding selfie movement. Many women are following Milano’s lead and posting their own breastfeeding selfies on Twitter with hashtags like #NaturalizeBreastfeeding and #BreastfeedingSelfie.

 

Milano has sparked a pretty serious conversation about why it is that nudity in the context of sexuality seems to be so much more acceptable than nudity in the context of something as natural and beautiful as breastfeeding.

 

Milano posted this image of herself nursing daughter Elizabella to her Instagram back in October to mixed reactions from the public (mom.me)

Milano posted this image of herself nursing daughter Elizabella to her Instagram back in October to mixed reactions from the public (mom.me)

As a society, perhaps we have become too accustomed to the over-sexualization of the media and have come to view it as a norm, so much so to the point that nudity for sexuality’s sake no longer strikes us or offends us. Meanwhile, seeing nudity in the context of something like breastfeeding may strike us as offensive simply because it comes off as more out of the ordinary.

 

On the other hand, it is just as easy to attribute this discrepancy in the public’s reactions to a far more grim reality: that the over-sexualization of women’s bodies in the media has influenced us in such a way that we are somehow okay with seeing women’s naked bodies for the purpose of sex yet are not willing to see them in less provocative situations.

 

In this respect, it is as though a woman posing in the nude for the purpose of looking sexy does so in the context of what has become a preconceived notion of what a woman’s body represents — sexiness, and only sexiness. The woman’s body has become part of this sexual image. When a woman strips down for something as real and natural as breastfeeding, rather than the purpose of looking sexy, this shatters the image society has created of the purpose of a woman’s body. Her body no longer represents sexiness; instead, it represents motherhood and nurturing — things which do not fit the mold that we have come to want and expect.

 

Regardless of the reasoning behind why the public seems to be more offended by seeing women’s bodies in the context of motherhood as opposed to sexuality, the bottom line remains the same: our conceptualization and our expectations of the female body have become unacceptably skewed. Milano’s simple argument has made that much painfully clear. However, the support which her argument has inspired in mothers across the internet demonstrates that women crave a shift in this mentality and are willing to speak up for that change.

 

What are your thoughts on breastfeeding selfies? Do you think the public reaction to these images in comparison to reactions to more sexualized images of women is distorted? Share your thoughts below or tweet me @tamarahoumi