Natural Hair Mag

Black And Breastfeeding: A Cultural Panic


Here’s the image that people are flipping out over

Karlesha Thurman, a 25 year old mother and recent graduate of California State University Long Beach, enraged the public after she posted a picture of herself breastfeeding her daughter during graduation on the facebook page Black Women Do Breastfeed. The group is devoted to dismantling stigmas associated with breastfeeding in black communities.

The photo went viral and people took to the internet to share their opinions and disgust with her actions [because women’s bodies are always up for public discussion].

According to Buzzfeed, some of the comments were:

“I’m all for breast feeding. But at a graduation come on y’all that was inappropriate.”

“Nobody told her to hoe around in 3rd period. She should’ve been doing her work & maybe she wouldn’t be breastfeeding during her graduation.”

“Still don’t mean she ain’t a HOE: Breastfeeding & graduation (nice combo).”

In response, Thurman stated:

“I found out I was pregnant my last year of college. She was my motivation to keep going, so me receiving my BA was OUR moment.”

The faux-panic over this woman breastfeeding is quite troubling. Women producing milk for their children in 2014 shouldn’t be “shocking” or “pornographic.”

If you’re offended by my breasts, or by my ability to feed a child, then don’t look. Why should I have to accommodate you when I have a child who has to eat?

Human beings are in denial. We are animals. We are part of nature, and yes, some women can produce milk…why? Again, because we’re mammals.  Being offended by women feeding their children through their breasts is like being offended that I’m breathing oxygen into my lungs. It makes absolutely no sense.  [Also, I hope if you’re offended by breast milk, you don’t drink cow’s milk…because that would be really hypocritical!]


A popular meme on the internet…just in case you need a refresher on science.

We arbitrarily decide what we’re going to be offended by and then we create rules that we don’t question. AND ALMOST ALWAYS, these rules dictate women’s actions…which is not surprising since we live in a male-dominated society.

To call Thurman a “hoe” because she has a child at 25 is beyond me. Again, there’s always been a cultural panic surrounding women’s [particularly black women’s] sexuality. It’s pathetic. To assume that you can even have an opinion about her sexuality demonstrates how we possess women’s bodies in this culture. She’s allowed to do whatever she wants, and obviously, she’s doing fine.

There are so many horrible narratives in this culture surrounding black women as mothers. We’re portrayed in the media as crack heads, welfare-queens, and hypersexual jezebels. But when there’s an image of motherhood that’s positive, one where a woman is taking care of and celebrating her child while simultaneously pursuing education, we put her down…because BOOBS.

Jamilah at Ebony states:

The models of Victoria’s Secret expose more décolletage than your average breastfeeding mom—along with a lot of pelvic bone and a few other things. And yet, despite the presence of TV ads that air during shows where children are watching and large window displays that are located in Times Square and the malls of middle America alike, I can’t recall the last time I heard cries for these slim sex kittens to be presented with more “modesty.”

I just think this is plain ol’ racialized sexism. America is so uncomfortable with women’s bodies…except if they’re white, thin, and sexualized…maybe if Thurman was a white woman, her breastfeeding photograph would be considered vogue, fashionable, and bold.


A *televised* Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show….no one seems to be bothered.

The fact that we exist in a culture where HOOTERS is a popular restaurant but breastfeeding is inappropriate demonstrates that heterosexual men define what is deemed acceptable. If your boobs are for men, you’re in the clear. If your boobs are for you, or your child, it’s indecent!


Hooters…yeah…i wonder what that restaurant is about…

Breast-feeding in public also brings up the issue of accommodating women’s bodies in particular spaces. We structure so much of the work day, and business, and university life around the male body. Some women can get periods and some women have children…so why don’t we accommodate that!

Accommodating women’s bodies is an afterthought when society is structured around men. 

If people are offended by breast feeding why does NO ONE accommodate new mothers at graduations? Do mothers not count as students? Our ideas of what makes you a “student” are horribly traditional. There are tons of mothers in college. There would be MORE mothers in college if the schools accommodated women’s bodies by providing free childcare, and not penalizing women for catering to their children.

Why are mothers never accommodated in the U.S.? We like to critique everything mothers do, but we never accommodate them! Where was Thurman supposed to go to breastfeed her daughter?

So many people say “go find a room” when it comes to women breastfeeding their children, but where exactly is that room? Why don’t you go make one since you’re so uncomfortable with women’s breasts producing milk. People would rather let a baby starve, than have to see a woman’s breast in public…while these same people probably have no problem with Hooters.

To be disgusted by breastfeeding is to be a total hypocrite. If you’re uncomfortable with women’s breasts, then don’t look. Don’t make us move. You move.

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  • ju

    Wait, I myself do not want to see anyones breast while they are feeding their child

    • Aphrodite Kocieda

      Thanks for commenting! What bothers you in particular about a woman feeding her child in public?

  • Michelle Ehrnman

    I’m firmly pro-breast feeding. I breastfed my children as long as they needed – including our adopted daughter. I had more disgusting, thoughtless comments when people saw me (white mama) breast feeding my adopted (dark skinned) daughter. While I made every attempt to be modest, I wasn’t about to throw a blanket over my baby’s head and be ashamed of the fact that I was meeting my child’s physical and emotional needs. Rather than hollering about the breast feeding graduate I say WAY TO GO, MOM! You made it AND took care of your child!

  • neenee

    Kudos to this young lady. Our breast exist as a source of nutrition for babies. Society has sexualized breast to the point a mother can’t breastfeed is ridiculous. Its appalling her milestone became something deviant. Many blessings to her and family