My son saw a picture of a woman breastfeeding. His response says a lot.

I've spent years as a breastfeeding advocate, so my son's negative reaction to seeing a nursing baby totally threw me.

I had just finished writing an article about breastfeeding in public and was searching for a photo to add to it, when my 8-year-old son looked over my shoulder. He gazed at the image on my screen of a mom breastfeeding a baby with a confused look on his face. "What is she doing?" he asked, his brow furrowing. "That looks weird."

Photo by Johan Ordonez/Getty Images.


I tried to hide my surprise as I explained that she was just feeding her baby, but inside, I was floored.

I have spent most of my 17 years of motherhood advocating for breastfeeding moms. I've written multiple articles about breastfeeding. My own mother is a retired lactation consultant. All three of my kids — including my weirded-out son — nursed through toddlerhood.

How did that statement really come out of my child's mouth?

After a few minutes of reflection, I recognized where we'd gone wrong.

My son is the youngest child in our family and one of the youngest among our circle of friends. My older two kids had the benefit of seeing their younger siblings breastfed, in addition to seeing many of our extended family members and friends who had nursing babies. Because of that fairly constant exposure, they'd never blinked an eye at breastfeeding.

Photo by Ezequiel Becerra/Getty Images.

But I realized my son, by sheer circumstance of birth order, had rarely seen babies nursing. And seeing breastfeeding is the key to normalizing it.

A simple lack of exposure, plus immersion in a society where breasts are highly sexualized everywhere we look, equaled a kid who saw a baby on the breast as "weird."

It didn't matter that no one in our family had ever made breastfeeding out to be anything other than the natural way babies eat. It didn't matter that his father makes it a point to never make sexualized remarks about breasts. It didn't matter that he himself nursed until he was 3.

My son thought breastfeeding looked weird because he had not regularly seen babies breastfeeding. Not seeing it is what mattered.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

It's hard to believe that in 2018 it's still controversial to see a baby eat the way pretty much every mammal on Earth eats. But it is.

People can get way up in their feelings about breastfeeding in public. I've got the hate mail to prove it.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post diplomatically refuting every argument I've ever heard against women breastfeeding in public. It has received hundreds of comments — the vehemence with which some people argue that moms who breastfeed in public are disgusting, immoral, looking for attention, or half a dozen other offensive, unsavory qualities is kind of unbelievable.

One of the angry responses to my suggestion that women not feel shamed for breastfeeding in public. Who knew that nursing mothers were responsible for crime, poverty, and divorce? Screen shot from Motherhood and More.

One lengthy email I received accused moms who feed their babies in public of "feminist tyranny," "digital lynchings," and a host of other transgressions. It's worth a read, if only for the jaw-dropping entertainment factor of it.

This is a mere excerpt. You can read the whole thing with my responses here. Screenshot from Motherhood and More.

While extreme, these comments are also a window into how some people really feel about breastfeeding.

Society will never accept seeing breasts as anything other than sexual if we don't see more moms breastfeeding in public.

Yes, breasts have a sexual function. So do mouths, but no one has an issue seeing mouths being used for other purposes.

Breasts are not, primarily, sex organs. (And they are not genitalia, which is why comparisons with seeing penises in public are moot.) Their primary biological purpose is feeding babies. And if we don't see them being used for that purpose — regularly and out in the open — we will continue to see breasts primarily as sex toys, and people will continue to be uncomfortable with breastfeeding.

Photo by AFP Contributor/Getty Images.

That discomfort can have a detrimental effect on breastfeeding rates. Moms have all kinds of reasons for choosing not to breastfeed, and we all need to respect that. But feeling uncomfortable because breasts are hypersexualized should not be one of them.

Some people argue against breastfeeding in public because children might see it, but I would argue that kids are the ones who should be seeing breasts used for their original function without fuss or fanfare.

Please, moms, if you are choosing to breastfeed, and you're comfortable nursing your babies in public, do it.

Kids who see breastfeeding their whole lives don't see it as weird. But they do need to actually see it in order to counteract the constant messaging in advertisements and media that breasts are sexual.

Photo by AFP Contributor/Getty Images.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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