A while back, I was censored by the head of my friend’s beauty school. My experience brings to mind the double standard that our society holds regarding what is “okay” to talk about in public, and what discussions are offensive. We can talk about breasts when we talk about cleavage, celebrities, boob-jobs, or fashion, but when we talk about breastfeeding and human lactation, even in a subdued fashion, people can get very defensive and upset. It’s a strange commentary on our modern society.
Apparently, it is not ok to talk about mother’s milk, cow’s milk intolerance, or human biology at this beauty school.
I went in for an appointment to have my hair colored and cut, and my friend and I were talking about our children while she applied my color.
“I think she is allergic to milk” my friend said, “so we’ve stopped giving it to her.”
I responded by telling her that I was sorry to hear that her baby was ill, and I asked her to tell me more about it if she wanted. She did.
During our conversation, I assured her that she might still see symptoms even if she’s having her daughter abstain from cow’s milk, because the protein in cow’s milk can hang around in the body for 2-3 weeks after consumption. We also talked about human milk and the fact that children’s digestive systems aren’t fully mature until 6-10 years of age, “which is why, biologically,” I said, “it is healthiest to feed a child mother’s milk until they outgrow the need . . . and their system is mature enough to have a high probability of tolerating cow’s milk.”
“We are the only species that drinks the milk of another species,” I said. “Adults usually don’t show milk protein allergy symptoms because our digestive systems are mature. That’s why you see milk protein allergies so much more in little children – because their guts are designed to digest mother’s milk, and not mature enough to always successfully digest the protein in cow’s milk.”
I went on to say that my children like to drink cow’s milk as a part of our healthy living diets and that I have been watching for, but have never seen, any negative symptoms as a result. And I told her that I hoped that her daughter started feeling better. That was when we were interrupted, and we were instructed to stop talking about the subject of milk and human digestion.
I asked the instructor why she wanted us to change the subject and she said:
“There is a child here (she was around 13) getting her hair cut, and her mother is offended by your discussion. She says she doesn’t want her child hearing what you are saying. It’s inappropriate.”
I told her “There’s nothing inappropriate about the subject of feeding children. . . ”
She motioned at my breasts and said “I did it, too, but we don’t talk about it in public. It’s an offensive discussion, and this is a school. You can’t talk about that here. You need to change the subject.”
How ignorant and skewed is our society that a discussion about our children and their tolerance or intolerance of milk products and a little information sharing about the biological need for human milk almost got me kicked out of a beauty school. How can we as women and society members educate, inspire, and support one another if our conversations are censored so randomly? I was honestly caught totally off guard by the reaction to our discussion.
I chose not to say “breast”, “breastfeeding”, or “breastmilk” even ONCE in our discussion. I actually omitted those words because I know that the “B” word makes people uncomfortable sometimes. But still, a discussion of “mother’s milk,” “nursing,” and “lactation education” was too inappropriate for a 13-year-old child to overhear and made her mother complain that our discussion was “offensive and inappropriate”
I’m pretty sure if my friend and hair stylist and I had been chatting about the proper amount of cleavage to show when dressing for a party or looking at pictures of a celeb’s racy red carpet dress choices, or chatting about who the hottest celebrity is. . . that talk would have been deemed totally appropriate and not garnered any adverse attention.
But talking about a mothers’ concerns and explaining children’s digestive systems as it regards the biological need of a child for mothers’ milk . . . it nearly got me kicked out of a beauty school with foils in my hair.
What do you think about our censored discussion?
Have you ever encountered criticism for discussing nursing or other topics?
What suggestions do you have for compassionately standing your ground?
Photo adapted (added words) with permission from Carolyn Tiry on Flickr Creative Commons