07/12/2014 14:57 GMT | Updated 06/02/2015 05:59 GMT


"Get your tits out!"

That's an exclamation that has multiple possible meanings. It is something that men might shout at women, showing off their misogynist views, including the belief that women's bodies are public property. Some people might expect women to wear revealing clothes or to take everything off, in films or on the pages of publications or on the internet or in person. We women can argue against it, talking back to these men, telling them that our breasts don't exist to be sexualised by people like them.

"Get your tits out" might be a feminist call to arms, women baring our breasts, metaphorically or sometimes even literally, to speak up for our rights. We have the right to exist, and our tits have the right to take space in public, even as some men would oppress us and try to keep us hidden.

At other times, women might use the phrase jokingly or romantically, flirting with one another, objectifying each other, but also recognising that we are doing so. We might love women's bodies, but we also try to appreciate the person inside the bodies.

Now, however, my tits are public and political in a new way. My baby's rooting movements, smacking lips, and tiny cries equate to "Get your tits out, Mama." So I do. My child needs to be fed, and thus I feed her.

But, as has been shown in the news this week, a lot of people seem to object to this. While they're perfectly happy for women to show off their bodies for men's pleasure and for marketing purposes, somehow the original, natural function of breasts isn't acceptable. Such people - who object while objectifying - conveniently seem to have forgotten that they wouldn't exist without women and women's breasts. They act as though they are disgusted by breasts serving a baby, while expecting those same breasts to serve and titillate adults.

Clearly, something has gone awry in our society.

My baby is only two months old and while I haven't been encouraged to drape a napkin over me or to sit in a corner while breastfeeding her, the way Louise Burns and other women have been, I too have faced some odd comments and unwelcome advice. This doesn't seem to be at all unusual, unfortunately.

It's been suggested to me that appropriate, discrete places to feed my baby while out in public are my car and a public toilet. Neither place is comfortable and the latter is certainly far from hygienic. Few adults like eating meals in cars or toilets, and I wonder why they think babies should.

While breastfeeding at a restaurant, I was politely encouraged to face the wall instead of the room, so as not to upset or bother anyone.

I've been offered a scarf to cover myself with, even though having to fiddle with some cloth can make feeding more complicated, plus it may distract or overheat the baby. And anyway, I'm not forcing anyone to look (I'm not trying to "ruin your day with tits", as the Sparrow Folk song goes).

I've also grudgingly been told, "I don't mind if you feed here." I don't really care if anyone minds - the law is on my side, and my baby needs her meal.

Let's not forget that even though every person in our world was once a baby and therefore our culture ought to be more baby-friendly than it is, there are few amenities for parents of small children. In the city where I live, I know of only two public feeding rooms, each in a store. If you don't happen to be near either of those stores when your baby gets hungry, you need to either sit on a bench outdoors or spend money to go into a café or restaurant to find a clean, calm, warm place to rest. (And I won't even get into the issue of how there are so few baby-changing facilities around).

For those who say that breastfeeding mothers should stay home with their children, they obviously have no understanding of what parenting involves, and their attitude smacks of sexist, anti-woman views. And besides, if they genuinely think that mums and babies shouldn't be out and about, then they ought to pay more in taxes to increase maternity leave and maternity pay. That way they can get what they want and mothers will be able to stay home and breastfeed their children for longer. As it is, women have to rush back to work before they and their babies are ready, all because our society doesn't value parenting and all it entails.

In some circumstances, tits are indeed titillating, and that's fine. But in general, breastfeeding mothers aren't trying to titillate anyone with their bodies (many aren't even comfortable with their postnatal bodies). So it's up to individuals to try to change their perspective on breasts and to recognise the importance and thus the complete acceptability of breastfeeding in public.

When my baby cries, "Get your tits out, Mama," that's what I do, and I'm going to continue doing so, no matter what anyone else says or does. A baby has the right to be fed, and I have the right to get my tits out to do so.