The “peculiar role” of female breasts in popular culture was examined and questioned by political science professor Dr. Michael E. Lipscomb on Wednesday afternoon in Owens Hall.
Lipscomb read aloud his paper, titled “The Confused Breast: A Hypothesis,” wherein he focused on the breast’s connotative “intersection between the maternal and the sexual.”
Lipscomb questioned if pop culture’s “eroticization of the breast” is really as natural as we think, for it’s this eroticization, Lipscomb feels, that is stunting the progress of breastfeeding rights in the U.S., as well as women’s interest in breastfeeding.
“As a society, we should be less weary and less self-consciousness of a woman feeding her child in public,” Lipscomb said.
Acceptance of the “breast is best” opinion is wider now than in decades prior. Recent support for breastfeeding has come from a multitude of public figures, ranging from President Obama to Pope Francis.
Evaluating trends of public opinion on breastfeeding “alerts us to how we are programmed to think,” Lipscomb said.
Having co-authored the book “Breastfeeding Rights in the United States with fellow Winthrop professor Dr. Karen M. Kedrowski, Lipscomb said his breast-oriented research is often met with “knowing laughter” from his friends.
But the tone of chuckles from Lipscomb’s chums is changing. “Maybe the laughter is becoming more nervous, because it’s less funny,” he said.
“I think it’s an important discussion to have,” said junior art history major Emily Carter. “Breasts have been made an icon for heterosexual sex, and I think this was a good forum to introduce this dialogue for reclaiming the breast for women.”
Lipscomb’s presentation was insightful for junior political science major Trey Stokes, who said, “I didn’t know that African-American women had such a low rate of breastfeeding compared to women of other races. What surprised me was that they still don’t know why that is.”
The event was presented as the first installment of the John C. West Forum’s Politics of the Breast Symposium, which theatre professor Laura Dougherty described as a “series of events that talk to each other” and will be presented at the apex of where “where politics and performance intersect.”
Dougherty is excited for “the constellation of ideas” the symposium is sure to create.
The symposium is set to include three more events and will close with Paula Vogel’s play “The Mineola Twins: A Comedy in Six Scenes, Four Dreams, and (At Least) Six Wings,”which will be directed by Dougherty and will play in the Johnson Theatre April 9-12.