“Don’t stare, we want to breastfeed.”- says the latest cover of the Malayalam magazine Grihalakshmi’s cover. The message is simple, clear and bold. The picture is a sublime representation of the bond that a mother shares with her child. To an onlooker it can bring out different emotions. Those intending on sexualizing the human body will only see the photograph in that manner. The problem does not lie with the photograph, it is purely the mindset of the people. Nonetheless this portrayal of a mother breastfeeding her child has become a point of controversy. Why? Because a section of our society is strangely comfortable with women being raped but find a breastfeeding mother an indecent representation of a woman.
Yes! Indecent. Women are revered in Indian society. A mother is placed at the highest pedestal so much so that we call our country BharatMa. Not BharataPita, not BharatDada but BharatMa. But still when it comes to the health and safety of that Ma, our orthodox and highly irrelevant customs and traditions stand in the way. Be it menstruation, post and pre-natal healthcare, or something as pure and as serene as breastfeeding one’s child.
The opposition to this cover, brings forth the things that are wrong with our society. In a society, where women are thrown semen filled balloons in the name of festival, calling a picture of breastfeeding mother indecent is ironical. The incident opens the pandora of women issues which find place in the news from time to time but with no solutions. The issues challenges a woman’s right to her body. The model, Gilu Joseph, consented to the project knowing beforehand what she might be subjected to. However, she maintains that’s breastfeeding is a privilege which a mother has and nothing can stop her from doing what she feels is right. She further adds that she is extremely proud of her body and only she has right over it. These beautiful, bold and modern thoughts are a challenge to the orthodox medieval traditions and customs which led to the self appointed moral policing from a section of our society to protest against the cover. Apart from this, several others took to social media to criticise the cover saying that it sexualized breasts.
A complaint has been filed against the magazine for indecent portrayal of women. The editors of the magazine have termed it as a cheap publicity stunt. This is not the first time that we find our society divided on the issue of women’s honour. Not long ago, people were burning public property in the name of honour of their Ma Padmavati. These crusaders of women’s honour bound by their patriarchal mindset are her biggest culprits. A women’s honour doesn’t lie in what she wears or how she treats her body. It’s her body. Only she has a right over it. We don’t need a legal justification of her right over her body. She has a right over it by virtue of having born with it similarly as a man do. This simple solution of giving women equal status is too complicated for our patriarchal society. Women don’t need a higher pedestal. Women don’t want to be worshipped. What women want is equal status, equal opportunities and equal rights. EQUAL. NOT A BIT MORE. NOT A BIT LESS.