Breastfeeding and Gender Inequality

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Paige Hall Smith, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Many feminists have argued breastfeeding is a constraint that may prevent women from realizing nonmaternal opportunities. This article presents an alternative feminist perspective, arguing that the view of breastfeeding as a constraint glosses over the mediating role that gender inequality plays in the way breastfeeding impacts women's lives. Rather than focus on breastfeeding as a constraint, attention should be focused on the ways that socially created policies and practices, often based on a gender-similarity framework, sustain gender inequities. Policies and practices based on this framework negate the needs of the body, which exaggerates gender differences, redistributes gender inequities, and raise the costs of breastfeeding. In contrast, locating the constraint in the arena of gender inequality better explains how social decisions that differentially accommodate men's nonlactating bodies privilege men over women and help us recognize how passage of polices that accommodate lactating bodies represents progress toward equal opportunity.

Additional Information

Journal of Women, Politics & Policy, 34(4), 371-383
Language: English
Date: 2013
breastfeeding, women's status, gender equity, public policy

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