Hands off Jordan’s breasts!
In rejecting breastfeeding because she wants to work and enjoy sex, Katie Price has shown she is more liberated than the ‘militant lactivists’.
Katie Price, also known as Jordan, the British glamour model with big ambitions and even bigger breasts, has long taken pleasure in shocking the more uptight and prissy inhabitants of Britain’s cultural landscape.
She has inflated her breasts to 34 FF. She’s posed topless for the Sun, nude for FHM, and Wow, Really Nude for Playboy. She used to turn up to movie premieres in items of clothing so revealing they made the once-shocking miniskirt look like the fashion equivalent of the burqa. She stood in the 2001 UK General Election, promising voters free breast implants, more nudist beaches and a complete ban on parking tickets (she got 713 votes). And amidst a cacophony of caterwauling about what a thick chav she allegedly is (the Chavscum website calls her ‘tacky talentless scum’ and a ‘munting annoyance’), she has built a formidable one-woman modelling and promotions business. According to the Daily Mail’s list of ‘Britain’s Richest Celebrity Chavs’, Price is worth £30million, making her one of the wealthiest women in Britain.
Now she has done something that is apparently more shocking than anything on that list of nose-thumbing, puritan-baiting activities. This time she’s really wound up those who fancy themselves as the guardians of our moral values. She has caused a ‘furious row’, and has been accused of taking part in an ‘extremely cynical…stunt’. One organisation has denounced her as ‘appalling’ and is planning to make a complaint about Price and others to the Advertising Standards Authority. What did Katie do next, to attract renewed attacks on her character? You had better be sitting down before you read this: She posed for a photograph in which she is shown bottlefeeding her newborn baby.
That’s right – in the current issue of the celebrity magazine OK!, a postnatal yet glamorous Price can clearly be seen feeding her three-week-old daughter, Princess Tiaamii, from a bottle. What’s worse, the bottle says ‘SMA’ on it, SMA being one of the leading manufacturers of formula milk for babies. The breastfeeding lobby is up in arms. As a headline in yesterday’s Independent on Sunday put it: ‘Breastfeeding lobby criticises Jordan for infant formula “stunt”.’ Groups such as the National Childbirth Trust and Baby Milk Action have slammed OK! as irresponsible for publishing such a photo during World Breastfeeding Week and at a time when ‘in this country, only 48 per cent of six-week-old babies are breastfed, while a quarter of babies get no breast milk’ (1). They believe that Price and OK! may be in cahoots with SMA. There is a ban in Britain on promoting infant formula for babies under the age of six months, and some suspect that Price’s photo-shoot – in which a loving mother is shown feeding her lovely newborn baby with a bottle of SMA-branded formula – is an ‘appalling’ cynical attempt to circumvent the ban (2). Elsewhere in the current OK! there is an advert for SMA milk for babies over the age of six months.
So what? It would hardly be shocking to discover that a celebrity had used a photo-shoot or a TV appearance or some other publicity stunt to promote a product. They do it all the time. What is shocking, however, is the furious response to a perfectly pleasant photograph of a mother feeding her child. That an image of bottlefeeding can be greeted with such horror – denounced as ‘appalling’ and ‘irresponsible’ – shows how intolerant and hectoring the breastfeeding lobby has become. The ‘strong advice’ that babies should be exclusively breastfed for at least the first six months of life is now promoted by everyone from the World Health Organisation to the National Health Service (NHS). And it is guilt-tripping mums and limiting their choices. Today’s incessant promotion of breastfeeding (and the simultaneous demonisation of bottlefeeding as an activity so abhorrent that it apparently should not be depicted in popular magazines) long ago crossed the line from Health Campaign into the territory of the Moral Crusade.
Katie Price aka Jordan
Anyone who picks up the current issue of OK! probably would not be shocked by the Katie Price photo-shoot (unless you have an aversion to pink and half-naked, permantanned celebrities). It is your average ‘introducing the latest celeb baby to the world’ type of spread. There are 19 bright and at times garish full-colour photos of Price, her husband Peter Andre, the former singer, and their daughter Princess Tiaamii – and only in one photo is Price shown bottlefeeding her daughter. Yet that is one photo too many for to the breastfeeding lobby. Today’s breastfeeding moralists – or ‘militant lactivists’ as they call themselves in the States – believe that mums should exclusively breastfeed for the first six months (and longer if possible) and should shun the bottle entirely.
In Britain, from the moment a woman gives birth she is cajoled by the health authorities, under the direction of the central government’s Department of Health, to breastfeed her baby. Even though surveys continually show that a majority of women do bottlefeed their babies in the first six months of life, still the authorities promote the message that exclusive breastfeeding is the best, safest and most responsible option. An Infant Feeding Survey from a few years ago found that where 69 per cent of babies are breastfed initially, around a fifth of breastfeeding mothers give up within the first two weeks and over a third give up in the first six weeks. The percentage of mums who exclusively breastfeed falls as their babies get older: mothers seem to breastfeed less and bottlefeed more as their infant reaches four months, six months and especially nine months of age (3). Yet while mums seem to prefer mixing breast with bottle, the NHS dishes out leaflets on why every new mum should only breastfeed, bans are enforced on the promotion of formula milk for babies aged six months and under, and breastfeeding promoters rail against the publication of a photo showing a celebrity bottlefeeding her three-week-old baby.
Breast milk is, in some ways, better for babies than formula milk (though formula is still perfectly safe and nutritious). Scientific studies suggest that breast milk offers some protective effect against certain babyhood illnesses, and breastfeeding also allows mothers to regain their figures quite quickly after giving birth. However, today’s militant lactivism is about much more than informing mothers of the fairly limited health benefits of one form of milk over another. It is about laying down the line on what makes a Good Mum and what makes a Bad Mum.
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed are seen as natural and earthy. They’re seen as women who are willing to follow the advice of Health Workers Who Know Better and to elevate the interests of their newborn baby above their own. Their use of their breasts for feeding is taken as a sign that they have bought into the current trend for child-centred parenting (4). Mothers who opt for the bottle are looked upon as problematic, possibly even troublesome. After all, if they ignore health workers’ advice about breastfeeding, what else will they decide to do their own way? Bottlefeeding mums are judged by some to have snubbed child-centred parenting in favour of adopting methods of feeding and childrearing that grant them the flexibility to continue doing things that they enjoy: socialising, working, returning their breasts to their recreational state for their own and their partner’s pleasure. Breastfeeding has effectively become a government-imposed test of good motherhood: those who pass, by obediently breastfeeding baby for six months, are praised and celebrated; those who fail, by turning to apparently evil formula milk, are looked upon as ‘irresponsible’, possibly even ‘appalling’.
That breastfeeding has become a moral crusade is clear from the language that is used to promote it. The message that ‘breast is best’ is strengthened by stringent bans on the advertising of formula milk for infants under six months of age, and by harsh judgements against those, such as Katie Price, who admit publicly that they bottlefeed. Indeed, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that what really upset the militant lactivists about Price’s spread in OK! magazine is not just the SMA photo, but also what Price herself says about breastfeeding.
Price tells the OK! interviewer: ‘I don’t care what people say – you don’t have to breastfeed.’ She goes on: ‘I don’t want a baby drinking from me. The thought of it makes me feel really funny. I think only a certain person could handle my knockers!’ She also waxes lyrical about the benefits and ease of instant bottlefeeding. ‘It’s brilliant. I have 20 crates of teats and bottles, and I don’t have to sterilise or heat anything. You literally take the teat out of the pack, screw it on, throw it away…. They gave me a tablet that dries your milk up so my boobs haven’t hurt or leaked or anything.’ (4) In today’s quite hysterical pro-breastfeeding climate, saying such things – that you think breastfeeding is weird, that you much prefer to use bottles and that you want only your partner to have oral contact with your breasts – is tantamount to committing a mortal sin. In the past, Price’s comments would have been looked upon simply as one woman’s expression of her mothering preferences. Today, such is the intensity of the lactivists’ crusade that Price has landed herself in hot water for daring to challenge the orthodoxy and conformist campaigning of the breastfeeding lobby.
In many ways, Price, the former glamour model turned businesswoman, is more liberated than the breastfeeding cheerleaders at the Department of Health and in campaign groups such as Baby Milk Action and the National Childbirth Trust. The bottle was once seen as a symbol of women’s emancipation. If women so chose, they could disconnect themselves physically from baby and instead buy readymade milk, which either they or, importantly, their partners could feed to their child. It seems Price prefers bottles to breast because she wants to get back to work (and her breasts are an important part of her public image) and because she wants only her partner to ‘handle her knockers’: in other words, she is keen to continue carving out a successful career and enjoying her sex life. Militant lactivists, by contrast, seem to view breasts as semi-sacred expressers of milk, and call on all new mothers to submit themselves fully and physically to the task of childrearing. Who would have thought that big-boobed Jordan would make a better defender of women’s liberation than the educated feminists in positions of power?
Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Visit his website here.
(1) ‘Breastfeeding lobby criticises Jordan for infant formula “stunt”’, Independent on Sunday, 5 August 2007. Some have criticised the formula milk companies rather than Katie Price herself; for example, see the Boycott Nestle blog.
(2) ‘Breastfeeding lobby criticises Jordan for infant formula “stunt”’, Independent on Sunday, 5 August 2007. Some have criticised the formula milk companies rather than Katie Price herself; for example, see the Boycott Nestle blog.
(3) See Breast- and bottlefeeding: is ‘better’ always best?, by Jennie Bristow
(4) See Jennie Bristow’s Guide to Subversive Parenting, Rule 1: You and your child have the same interests