Jamie Oliver recently got a load of flak because he made some comments about breastfeeding rates in this country. He got the flak for two reasons as far as I can make out: one valid, (in my opinion), and one not. The valid criticism is regarding some of the things he’s said, for example, that breastfeeding is easy. I know from my wife and many other people in my life that, unfortunately, that is often not the case. He was also getting flak, however, because he’s a man commenting about a female issue. He was poking his nose in. Meddling in something he can’t possibly know about personally.
Well, give him a break. Now, he needs to get his facts right, and he needs to get his pitch right. Assuming he gets the facts and the pitch right (that this is not about judging or criticising individual women, but about how we change society and the systems we have to better support women in this challenge) – assuming he gets that right, he has every right to get involved with this as an issue. And it does need addressing. The health benefits to mother and child are proven beyond any scientific doubt. That means an increased rate of breastfeeding would be a good thing for the country and it’s future health. And, bloody hell, with the NHS being pulled apart by this Government anything we can to do raise the health of the next generation is worth fighting for.
The fact that he’s a man does mean he can have no direct, personal experience of breastfeeding. But, by that rationale, we would have no female doctors that could know about men’s health problems, no bereavement counsellors who hadn’t lost someone, no midwives who hadn’t had children. The list could go on. He wasn’t sitting there giving an account of what it feels like to breastfeed. He was looking at this as an issue that can be worked on, and he has the motivation and passion to do so. And with four kids he also no doubt has a lot of indirect experience.
And, also, while this is ultimately a woman’s choice, it’s not always wholly a woman’s choice. Nowadays many parenting decisions are joint decisions. The decision for my wife to breastfeed, and to continue to do so when it was so very hard, was not just hers. So, yes, men do have a stake in it.
For me, the bottom line is that a man who’s done his research and understands the facts behind this very emotive issue has more of a right to talk about it publicly than a woman, whether they breastfed or not, who is misinformed. And that is the case for absolutely any issue where it is the facts that matter.
Steve Mayes | Steve Mayes Photography