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February Newsletter

Your Earth: Breasts
By Suzanne Elston

Weeks after Janet Jackson's breast was bared during Super Bowl half-time show, the controversy continues. The event has so rattled the moral fiber of the American music industry that this year's Grammy awards were peppered with comments about the incident. When Justin Timberlake stood at the podium for what he called, "the greatest moment of my life", he also apologized (again) for the unfortunate accident/publicity stunt.

The fallout from Jason and Janet's little indiscretion had lead me to conclude that our society is so totally out of touch with reality that there is little hope for our survival. What was designed as an efficient vehicle for feeding our young has become an icon of youth, beauty and sexuality. And while the world is up in arms because of Janet's little peep show, breasts are routinely bared in the media to sell everything from cars and beers to
tropical vacations.

Breasts are also really big business. Perfecting the female breast is a growth industry that in the U.S. alone is worth more than a billion dollars annually. In 2002, 236,888 U.S. women received breast implants. This is more than twice the number of women who had their breasts augmented only five years earlier.

Here's the really sick part. As a society, we love them, we flaunt them, we enlarge and improve them and yet when women try to use them for their intended purpose they are thrown out of restaurants, movie theatres, family fitness centers and even government offices. To really demonstrate how perverted we've become, last year a Canadian woman was threatened with detainment, RCMP involvement and legal charges for terrorist action against a US citizen during a time of war because she was breastfeeding her baby on a plane. (I swear I am not making this up.) An American male passenger was so offended by the sight of her breasts that he insisted that she stop. When she refused, the debate escalated to the point where he felt threatened. (Obviously, the poor man hadn't been breastfed as a baby.) When the plane landed in Vancouver, the woman was escorted off the plane by the RCMP and was required to sign an affidavit in which she agreed to avoid contact with US citizens on all future flights in return for having any charges dropped. True story.

Just to prove that this isn't a single isolated and insane example, in same week as the Vancouver incident, a young mother was asked to leave the women's change room at the Barrie, Ontario YMCA for breastfeeding her infant. Apparently the scantily clad and/or naked women running from the gym to the shower were offended at the sight of a woman's breasts actually being used for their intended purpose. No fooling.

While these are two very bizarre examples, the same kind of discrimination happens every day to women who have the courage and the strength not to bow to commercial pressure and do what they intuitively feel is right, normal and natural for their babies.

The reason for this perversion of the most basic and nurturing process clearly isn't about modesty. It's about money. Breast augmentation may be a billion dollar industry but breast milk substitutes, i.e. infant formula, is a ten billion dollar a year industry ­ and growing. Forget that breasts were designed as a feeding device, not as a marketing tool. Forget that breastmilk is best for babies. Forget that formula fed infants are at greater risk for cancer, diabetes, asthma and allergies, cardiovascular disease, various infectious and chronic diseases. Forget that formula fed babies score significantly lower on cognitive development score and are much more likely to become obese. Forget that breastfeeding women have lower rates of breast, ovarian and other cancers. Breast may be best for mother and baby, but when in comes to formula manufacturer's bottom line, they are a threat to market share. And that's the real obscenity.

Websites of the week

Breastfeeding is a fundamental Human Right. If you feel your rights have been violated, contact the provincial branch of your Human Rights Commission. A complete list of Provincial offices can be found at

"Fourteen Risks of Formula Feeding" can be found on the INFACT Canada's website at

Contact Sue Richards at [email protected]

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