Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bust magazine: Milk Men

makes sense this isn't a photograph...
I love Bust magazine. I"ve been a reader since it was a zine in the mid 1990s. It has evolved over the years for good and bad. I like the fashion and beauty stuff alot. I do wish they'd use more 'real' models or at least 'real size' models, but it's fine. Their cover subjects have definitely skewed to prime time TV plugs but that's ok, it would be cool if someone picked up the magazine because they like a certain TV show and then got interested in the DIY stuff or the feminist news.
Which brings me to this months issue, I just had to whine about this 'feature'. The whole 3 page article (illustrated by one cute cartoon) basically chronicles some heroic male breast feeding efforts which don't go far. Don't get me wrong, this is not an "EWWW" complaint, or even a "men should be men, and let us ladies be ladies!"---it's just a simple, 'let's not call this unicorn a horse'. I hate this type of reporting. This is not a real phenomenon. I understand that a handful of men have endeavoured to overcome biology and try to breastfeed their kids, I actually think that idea, or sentiment, is laudable. But he article suggests that this practice is a) something other than a very unusual practice attempted by a small fringe minority; or b) a means to feed a baby. As the article details, there ain't much milk to be had from dudes. They do cite the research that shows the skin to skin contact with a caring parent has amazing benefits for both baby and dad (or mom)....that's fantastic. But they are not breast feeding.
I feel like this almost undermines the most obvious biological advantage that women have over men; the ability to create and sustain life! Is it really necessary for men to come around and try to grab this brass ring too? At the same time, that type of argument suggests biological determinism, that biology is destiny and any attempt to tinker with it is folly. And I don't think that is the case, there are lots of good arguments to be made for rejecting this kind of determinism and also for challenging gender norms and roles.
And yet.....
I couldn't help but think of this as akin to female ejaculation--yes I know that is very real, there are squirters among us. But it's not typical. It is a HELL of a lot more common than men breastfeeding. The idea that this is something to strive for seems to ignore the fact that 90% of women have trouble reaching any orgasm at all; or that 10-15% of women have never had one (stats from our friend Dr. Phil) seems a bit silly to add a new layer of performative ejaculate to the proceedings. If it happens naturally, by all means. If it's going to make anyones 'dry' orgasm feel inadequate, that is unfortunate.
Clearly there are some physiologic similiarities between the G-spot and prostate gland. I'm sure the female and male breast have some similiarities too. What ISN"T the same is the cascade of hormonal triggers that cause milk let down.
Of course there is another layer of complexity to this gendered biological behaviour; namely that for men to struggle to perform physiologic feats associated with women (breast feeding) will always be marginalized; unlike women striving to ejaculate 'just like a man'. Female ejaculation may not be typical but nor is it marginalized, maligned or considered laughable the way male breast feeding might be. 

I do still love BUST though.

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