It’s Now Legal To Be A Mother In All 50 States — But Not A Woman

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woman breastfeeding

While the nationwide agreement that a mother can feed her baby in the public sphere is amazing and, frankly, a fantastic step towards America trying to be more “pro-motherhood,” it still doesn’t necessarily make it okay to be a woman — only more okay to be a mother.

In case you haven't heard, the last two states (Idaho and Utah) that hadn't jumped on the "free the nipple" bandwagon are officially on board and breastfeeding in public in all 50 states!

Until now, these two states were the only ones that didn't have any laws to protect breastfeeding mothers (most states at least have laws that protect women from "indecent exposure" and "obscenity" laws).

According to USA Today, Idaho had little to no resistance getting this law passed. It passed both the house and the Senate unanimously earlier this year. However, it has been noted that the bill doesn't necessarily make it clear that a woman can breastfeed anywhere in public. However, there was resistance in Utah. According to People, the bill did not pass until language that implied that a cover wasn't necessary while breastfeeding was taken out. After that part was edited out the bill now reads, "to breastfeed in any place of public accommodation" and it passed with a vote of 66-5.

Regardless of finally being allowed to feed our babies as we see fit, women are still clearly held to different standards than men.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a HUGE step and maybe even a small step closer towards equality among the sexes, but I encourage you to see it as just that. A step in the right direction, but we’re not where we need to be yet.

The fact that breastfeeding in public has ever been an issue is baffling to me. Like, that’s what breasts are for, y’all. But I’m aware that this is partly the way I was raised. Growing up, nursing was always supported and normalized for me. Even the men in my family are supportive of it (even the ones that may be a tad uncomfortable with it). No one ever expects the mother to be responsible for their personal discomfort at my house. If someone is uncomfortable, that’s their problem. They can go sit in another room until the mom is done nursing. As it should be everywhere.

But I’m painfully aware that not everyone is raised like this and not everyone agrees with me that women should be allowed to nurse wherever they want regardless of whether they cover up or not while doing so. That’s why it’s so fantastic that women in all 50 states FINALLY have the law on their side when they’re harassed for feeding their babies in public places (because let’s be honest, it’s still going to happen).

However, we can’t deny that this decision does leave the rest of us women behind a bit. It protects mothers from the closed-minded ideas regarding “modesty,” but not ALL women.

RELATED: I Breastfed My Best Friend's Baby — And Have Zero Regrets

It kind of feels like the law is saying “we’ll finally treat female nipples equally, but only if a baby is in front of them.” So, really, only women who are currently breastfeeding are even protected at all.

Here’s why making breastfeeding in public legal is still not enough for free the nipple:

1. We still need to normalize breasts outside of nursing.

Just because breastfeeding in public is legal doesn’t mean the culture is okay with it yet. So, we still have a lot of work to do there. It’s time to unabashedly breastfeed and not apologize when someone complains that our breasts are too visible in certain outfits (the same principle — look away if it bothers you).

If breasts were normalized for all women then it probably would never have even been an issue to use your breasts for what they were intended for (feeding your babies). The bill literally didn’t even pass until they took out the part that implied you could nurse without being covered up. All because one dude said, “But this seems to say you don't have to cover up at all. [I'm] not comfortable with that at all, I'm just not. It's really in your face.”

Which leads me to believe again that this is less pro-women and more pro-motherhood. Newsflash: not all women are mothers.

2. The female body is still overly sexualized.

Only letting women be exposed when their breastfeeding basically says, as a culture, we need a woman to either be a mother or a sex object. The fact that women aren’t allowed to be topless in the same places where men are permitted is 100% sexist. As breastfeeding shows us, a woman’s chest serves a dual purpose (they aren’t just sexual) whereas a male’s chest has no other function than to be sexual and yet women are expected to cover up when men get to free the nipple (without most people even batting an eye).

Until ALL nipples are treated equally, women being allowed to breastfeed publicly still isn’t enough. Sure, you may say women have been given “more rights” with these laws because they can have a nipple out to feed their baby in places where men would get weird looks for having their nipple out. But, isn’t that more the babies’ right to be able to eat comfortably like everyone else at the gathering, not the woman’s? Plus, even if it was a "special privilege," that only leaves women treated slightly better in very special circumstances the few years they are nursing their babies. That's not equality. 

I mean, women would still be seen as “offensive” and “obscene” if they were topless at the SAME places men are allowed to be topless (like parks, beaches, etc.). That’s sexist. Nipples are nipples.

RELATED: I'm All For Equality, But This 'Free The Nipple' Thing Is Dumb AF

It's time we get over it. Again, this law only treats breastfeeding mothers better. It does NOT mean that women are treated more equally. It just means that we’re finally allowed to be mothers.

I mean, I get that American culture has over-sexualized female breasts to the point that it makes most people feel like they’re in a “Girls Gone Wild” video if a woman is topless whereas almost no one cares if a man is topless. But that doesn’t make this not discriminatory. That simply means that our culture needs to change to treat men and women equally.

3. ALL women should be protected from the ideals of “modesty” — PERIOD.

While things have slowly become progressively better for women and girls regarding modesty over the last 100 years or so, we’re still not where we need to be because we still aren’t treated equally in most walks of life (especially regarding "modesty"). 

School “dress codes” still treat young girls unfairly based on nothing more than “distracting boys” and women are constantly being asked “what they were wearing” when they’ve been sexually assaulted (even though it’s been shown time and time again that what a woman was wearing isn’t even a factor). These things contribute to our prevailing rape culture. 

I know it seems insane to say that rape culture is caused by seemingly little things like dress codes and the inability to be topless in the same places men are. But it’s these small things that get brushed under the rug until women are blamed for their own sexual assaults based on what they were wearing. These attitudes are instilled in us from such a young age that people DO make these leaps (disturbingly easily).

So, I urge everyone to not give up the fight just because we've been given a little bit of wiggle room. Because the fight can't stop until true equality is reached.

RELATED: These Photos Prove That Breastfeeding Moms Are Basically Goddesses

Nicole Bradley-Bernard is a writer who needs coffee more than she needs anyone’s approval. She enjoys putting bright colors in her curly brown hair, spending time outside on cool days and being with her partner in life, Eric, who she considers a continuing source of inspiration.