Mexico City's Breastfeeding Campaign Unwittingly Sexualizes Women and Shames Mexican Mothers
Strengthened jaw development. Easily accessible complete nutrition. The reduced risk of diabetes, celiac disease and sudden infant death syndrome. Those are just some of the benefits experienced by babies who are breastfed by their mothers. For this reason, women's health groups in Mexico City are launching campaigns to help normalize breastfeeding for mothers. However, the initiative utilized distasteful posters, featuring toned and topless female celebrities with a banner censoring their bare breasts, which reads "No les des la espalda, dale pecho," — "Don't turn your back on them, give them your breast."
— ASH: Fredric Wertham (@fredric_wertham) May 26, 2014
Mexico, which has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Latin America, could benefit from encouragement and public notices that broadcast the numerous advantages of breastfeeding children. Only 14 percent of women in the country breastfeed during the first six months; meanwhile, breastfeeding could counter childhood obesity and breast cancer, both on the rise in Mexico. Failure to breastfeed children is easily attributed to a number of factors, including the simultaneous strife of poverty and long work hours experienced by mothers, prohibitions against breastfeeding and pumping milk at work, and the normalized use of baby formula in Mexico.
Enter: Mexico City health officials, who launched the campaign this month to support the image of nursing mothers. Instead, the campaign not only managed to sexualize women by offering unrealistic portrayals of flat-bellied and perky-breasted women who've just given birth, but all of the women included in the advertisement are all light-skinned (actress Camila Sodi, actress Maribel Guardia and boxer Mariana "La Barby" Juárez ), and the ads relay the message, "if you don't breastfeed, you are a bad mother and you are the one to blame," stated Regina Tames, of the reproductive rights group GIRE.
Similarly, a group of activists sent a letter of complaint to the city's human rights commission that the ads "condemn mothers, rather than informing them about breastfeeding, and they reduce a social problem with multiple players — fathers as well as mothers, workplaces, health authorities, and public spaces and the community at large — to one person: the mother."
Regional Adviser for the Pan American Health Organization Chessa Lutter stated that doctors and nurses in Mexico are required to promote breastfeeding, and lactation areas are supposed to be provided in the workplace, but neither stipulation is enforced.
"It shouldn't just be all up to the mother," said Lutter. "You have got to provide that very supportive environment, particularly in a country like Mexico where because it isn't now the normative behavior the government has to take a very strong role."
Colombia and Brazil reversed declines in breastfeeding by restricting the advertisement of formula and producing public ads proclaiming the nutritional benefits of nursing. In Mexico, there's unwillingness to reign in companies that sell baby formula or restrict hospitals from handing out free formula and marketing products to new mothers.
According to NPR, Mexico City's health director intends to open 92 lactation rooms throughout the city and two milk banks. Also, photos of the topless actresses have been removed from the city's website. Time reported that the slogan will be reworked and everyday mothers will be slated to be a part of the campaign, rather than celebrities.
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