To make something clear from the start: I am a guy and I don’t have children.
That being said, I think I’ve figured out half the problem with breastfeeding in public. I am not offering solutions. I’m just offering an explanation of the problem. I’m a math guy. One of the rules is that you can’t solve a problem you don’t understand.
See, breasts have become highly sexualized in our society. People see boobs and they immediately get a gratuitous thrill. That’s why breasts are used in ads, movies, fashion, etc. They’re a talking point, a viewing highlight, a conversations starter, and a necessary stop on the tour.
I can’t tell you if that’s a bad thing. I don’t know. But it is the source of the problem. People seeing breasts get a thrill, or have been told they should get a thrill. Women showing their breasts in public has, for decades, been a huge public thrill. Add a baby, though, and things get messy. Here’s why:
If a baby is breastfeeding, people don’t get their thrill.
That’s the real source of the problem. We’ve been taught that we should always get excited at the sight of breasts. It could come out as disgusted or enthralled or aroused or anything really, but there’s a thrill, there’s supposed to be a reaction. When we take away the thrill aspect people get disappointing on a level so deep as to be almost visceral. A woman breastfeeding her baby has robbed the onlooking crowd of their thrill. They don’t get the psychological reward they’ve been trained to expect. And that makes people angry.
Psychologists can tell you all about the expectation and denial of rewards. It’s a serious issue. It’s why people react so vehemently to something they would have otherwise walked past. It’s why public breastfeeding has become such a talking point. If a woman pulled her tits out at random in a park. People would laugh, point, yell, etc, but then it would be over. The situation would be done. But if a woman pulls down her shirt to feed a baby, there’s no conclusion. It’s all buildup. There’s the breast, the nipple, the exposure, but no thrill. There’s no reward. It’s like the thrill has been stolen from them. It’s like being teased, the psych equivalent of being punished. They flip. They hold a grudge. They lash out.
That’s why the fight is getting so big; people want their thrill. When they don’t get it they scream like the hungry babies that started the whole issue.