She can run for office, but she can’t breastfeed her child in public without sexualization and aggressive backlash.
It’s not a new argument or idea that the stigma behind women breastfeeding in public needs to change. If women are expected to be the primary caregivers of their children, we should respect their power in politics as mothers.
Women are changing the way the public views their everyday lives, and they’re starting with their campaign ads.
Krish Vignarajah, previously Michelle Obama’s policy director, is running for governor of Maryland. She is the only woman running in Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor, and she is presenting her motherhood and womanhood as one of her biggest assets.
“I am no man,” she said in her campaign ad while breastfeeding her child. “I am a mom. I am a woman, and I want to be your governor.”
Right behind Vignarajah is Kelda Roys, a Democratic candidate running for governor of Wisconsin. She too has been open about her daily life and responsibilities as a mother in her campaign ad where she discusses her work on banning a harmful chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups in the state of Wisconsin while breastfeeding her child.
Roys said the moment was unscripted and she decided to keep it in the final cut. She also said she is used to the negative backlash she has received in response to the video.
“You know what’s funny?” Roys said in a Fox article. “As a woman who has been in public life, I was the head of NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and I was in the Assembly — I’m used to that kind of really disgusting, sexist language.”
In general, however, Roys said she was met with positive reactions from men and women.
These women should not be met with cringes or shaming. Their openness and transparency should be met with applause, admiration and support. Both these women are trying to express the need for women, including mothers, in politics.
“This is my life,” Vignarajah said, as reported in a Baltimore Sun article. “It’s what moms have been doing forever, juggling work and getting things done. When women serve, you have better outcomes.”
Both of these women have been met with negative backlash in YouTube comments that imply extremities such as exploiting children and womanhood for political gain.
A user by the name of Barron Trump commented on the Vignarajah ad.
“You literally stole a Lord of the Rings quote. Nobody cares if you have boobs and children. You’re literally doing what women should do, and have been doing, for 10,000’s of years.”
A user by the name of Scalene Bandito commented on Roy’s video.
“What is the point of aggressively breastfeeding? Congrats on your plastic reform bill or whatever. Should I release a campaign ad where I just start shaving right in the middle of it? I think I’d beat you!”
Promoting family values is not a new technique to political campaigning. Pushing their gender and roles as mothers is strategic for their campaigns.
If you can sexualize the act of breastfeeding, allow them to normalize it. If you can allow male candidates to promote their family values, allow them to normalize their maternal values as benefits.