The Outlawed Nipple
Breastless Parents and the Desire to Conform to Normative Motherhood
Maternal feminist theory and normative motherhood are influenced by a repronormativity that assumes all birthing people will breastfeed or chestfeed their infants. However, there is a predominant absence of a critical analysis of breast and chestfeeding from maternal theory and normative motherhood. Many new parents—for example, trans parents who have had chest masculinization surgery and parents who have had double mastectomies—do not have the privilege or ability to breast or chestfeed. For these breastless parents, the dilemma they face is intensified by normative motherhood discourses that essentialize good parenting as hetero-normative and repronormative, along with “breast is best” propaganda espousing erroneous health benefits. In this article, I argue that breastfeeding mandates are ubiquitous and misguided, in part due to an unspoken and assumed aspect of normative mothering, which has diluted the way health and perinatal care systems support breastless parents. This article centres repronormativity and transnormativity, ideologies entrenching the gender binary into its most rigid form, as intrinsic structures to normative motherhood. Understanding these concepts illustrates the harm inflicted on gender-nonconforming (or maternal nonconforming) identities embodying parenting. To combat this embodied shame and discrimination, I outline a conceptual framework for transnormative parenthood delineated by queer, intersectional, and ambivalent dictates.
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