Why Did I Turn Away?
This article was originally published on the Good Men Project on 10 October 2015.
I turned away, just a few degrees, to avert my gaze slightly. I was sitting at a children’s playgroup across from a friend as she started breastfeeding her son. I wasn’t uncomfortable, she was comfortable to feed in front of me. So why did I turn away?
I didn’t think about it until later. I’ve been a big supporter of my wife breastfeeding our children when and where needed, as is her right. I’ve stood up to waitresses who harassed us during dinner. I know it wasn’t because I was uncomfortable.
I didn’t flinch as she fed her son from the side farther away. So did I look away when she switched to the closer side to preserve her privacy? To subtly indicate that I wasn’t going to take advantage of the situation and steal a peek? I don’t know.
This is the first time I can remember when I was having a one-on-one conversation with a woman as she began breastfeeding. I’ve been in plenty of groups with women breastfeeding, but I guess we’ve always been in a larger discussion where it is natural for me to be looking away momentarily at the exposed moment.
But did I make her uncomfortable by turning away?
It’s not like I avoided looking at her during the entire feeding, just as she was uncovering her breast and before her son began feeding. Talking to my wife later I realized that some people might take my courtesy as a sign of distaste. I hope that was not the case.
As a man I feel I have little to add to the conversation about breastfeeding other than to support my wife and defend her when needed. And as a friend I want to respect privacy while not making someone self-conscious.
I guess there is nothing to do but keep talking.