We’ve all done it. We’ve all partaken in it. Young, old, male, female…with friends, with family, with famous, infamous and even with foes – we’ve all taken that “Selfie”. It’s become so popular in the past few years, that one would be hard pressed to find someone who uses a mobile phone or tablet, who [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Are you a “Brelfie” Girl?


We’ve all done it. We’ve all partaken in it. Young, old, male, female…with friends, with family, with famous, infamous and even with foes – we’ve all taken that “Selfie”. It’s become so popular in the past few years, that one would be hard pressed to find someone who uses a mobile phone or tablet, who has not taken one. BBC News reported that, “The “Selfie”was named as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries in 2013”. According to the Editors, “The word has evolved from a niche social media tag into a mainstream term for a self-portrait photograph…Research suggested its frequency in the English language had increased by 17,000% in justone year.”

What then is the “Brelfie”? The Brelfie is a Selfie, usually posted on social media websites, of a Breastfeeding mother. It is a phenomenon that has been burning up the social media sites for a little while now and has gained considerable momentum in the recent past with popular figures and celebrities joining what is now commonly termed as the ‘Brelfie Brigade’. Along with it however, has also come a plethora of discussion and debate about the merits, demerits and the social impact it has had on the community at large.

Supporters of the trend claim that it is a bold move and one that has empowered women. Others claim that it is one step too far in an attempt by flagrant attention seekers to diminish the real message of a Brelfie: Promoting the actual act of breastfeeding. According to the UK Daily Mail, the debate continues as to whether it is “Empowerment or tasteless exhibitionism” as Brelfies continue to pop up on social media websites and on public online forums.

This is certainly not something very new. The act of proud breastfeeding mothers posting pictures of themselves on line has been taking place for sometime now, predominantly in the Western world. As with many things, it became big news when celebrities and respected, strong female icons started doing so too. As the Mail On Line elaborates,”So popular was the Brelfie Movement that last year Facebook was forced to review its rules regarding censorship of images on the site.
It had been accused of inconsistency, removing some pictures of breastfeeding mothers while allowing violent and disturbing images elsewhere. And since then, celebrity mothers have upped the ante…”

“These so-called ‘Brelfie’ activists: (are) women who have taken to social media to post selfies of themselves breastfeeding. Though this is by no means a new trend, it has gained momentum in recent years. Model Miranda Kerr was one of the originators when she posted an image of herself breastfeeding her newborn son Flynn in 2011. Opinion was instantly divided. Some people – women included – rounded on her, calling the image ‘gross’ and inappropriate.Others applauded her candour in promoting breastfeeding…Since then, there has been a veritable stampede of celebrities eager to share their breastfeeding images with the world.The model Gisele Bundchen, for instance, posted an image of herself being groomed and made up for a photoshoot – looking breathtakingly gorgeous – while breastfeeding her daughter in 2013…”Tamara Ecclestone, Thandie Newton, Gwen Stefani, Alyssa Milano and many more noteworthy artists and popular female figures have been fans of the Brelfie, with images of them breastfeeding, shared with millions.

What then is it about the Brelfie that polarises even women? At the heart of it lies the age old act of breastfeeding itself. For some, this is a very personal and intimate act. One to be shared with a baby in private, as an almost sacred ritual which propagates and deepens the maternal bond with her child – in addition of course to all the scientific reasons new mothers are often encouraged to do so. There are others who feel that to breastfeed is so natural and such a normal part of motherhood, that there should be no taboos surrounding it. It should be as normal and natural as a baby having any meal or nourishment – irrespective of the actual source. That it should be generally acceptable to choose when and where a new mother wants to feed a baby and that there should be no embarrassment or shame attached to the act, simply because the actual act itself entails being attached to a breast.

Opinion differs significantly according to where one has been raised, educated, one’s home environment, various customs within the family, the conservative or liberal attitude of the society one has been brought up in, one’s own inherent character and the list goes on. Personally I have always been a strong advocate of actually breastfeeding itself. Not simply for the medical rationale that supports it, the numerous myths and stories that promote it, but also because I chose to do so as a new mother and felt it was the best for my baby and myself. There were many challenges along the way, not helped by my profession as a performing artist, which found me finding ingenious ways of feeding in changing rooms in train stations across the United Kingdom; doing so pulled over at a rest stop along the motor way whilst driving from England to Scotland and even in the midst of concert performances – truly the ultimate example of feeding on demand! In the end, for me, it was all about personal choice. Being sensitive to the cultural norms of the environment I was in was important to me and usually something I always took into consideration. But again, that is entirely a matter of choice.

So whilst I was never a Brelfie girl, if another mother chooses to be, so be it. After all, it is a very personal sense of self-expression and whether it is with feeding or anything else, women themselves should have the right to choose what suits them. The only exception to that of course, is respecting those choices and opinions of others too. Ultimately whatever else is said and done, for me, the issue of paramount importance that must always be respected, is the Woman’s Right to Choose.

All comments, suggestions and contributions are most welcome. Confidentiality guaranteed.
Please email: KJWVoiceforWomen@gmail.com

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