Saturday, September 5, 2009

Changing Culture and Showing Sensitivity

A big question has been on my mind for weeks now:

How do you change culture while still being sensitive to people within the culture?

This question could be applied to a lot of things, of course, but the specific topic that has brought it to my mind is breastfeeding, particularly breastfeeding in public. After a conversation with a friend a few weeks back, this question has been weighing heavily on my mind.

To fill you in a bit, I need to explain a few things about myself. First of all, I am the type of person who feels like a terrible hypocrite if I believe strongly in something but then do not live it out on a regular basis. To me, it seems pointless to say you believe something if you aren't going to follow through in action.

What happens, though, when your strong beliefs collide?

Here is another important tidbit about me: I believe wholeheartedly in breastfeeding. That is how babies were meant to be fed, and I see absolutely no reason for a woman to be made to feel like she has to leave the room or hide under a blanket just to feed her baby. I passionately believe that our culture's views of breasts have become sexualized to the point that people in our culture get really uncomfortable (and sometimes even confrontational) when a woman nurses her child publicly- even if she is doing so as discreetly as she can. I could say a lot more about my beliefs on this subject (as the friend I conversed with can attest to, lol), but for now I will leave it at that. The point is, I believe our culture absolutely, unequivocally has it wrong when it comes to breasts and breastfeeding. And I believe strongly in doing my part to change our culture by living what I believe, so for many months now I have nursed my baby in public, as discreetly as possible, but without draping a cover over us or hiding in a nasty bathroom.

However, there is something else I believe in very strongly, and that is sensitivity and love. And if I know that people are uncomfortable, it would be insensitive and unloving of me to knowingly do something that makes them uncomfortable. In our culture, discomfort when confronted with nursing a baby the way I have been is, unfortunately, common.

So, two of my very important beliefs have collided. On one hand, I feel like a hypocrite if I do not live out my strongly held beliefs about nursing babies in our culture. On the other hand, I feel like something even worse than a hypocrite if I make people uncomfortable for the sake of my cause. Love and sensitivity for other people obviously win out over a cause. So I have started using a nursing cover again.

Still, my mind keeps coming back to the question at the beginning of this post. If I truly believe our culture's views of breasts and breastfeeding are terribly skewed and need to be changed- HOW can I help change this aspect of our culture, while still being sensitive to people within our culture? Sensitivity can be such a fine line, because in a way I almost feel as though I am bowing to and accepting our culture's views. Balance is especially hard to find for someone like me, who tends to be all-or-nothing about everything I do.

There are so many areas in which our society's attitude is broken; this isn't the only one. And we are all passionate about changing different things. So I ask you: how do YOU change culture while still being sensitive to people within the culture?

No comments:

Post a Comment