A Malayalam magazine is taking severe flak for putting the photo of a woman breastfeeding a baby on the cover.

Matrubhoomi’s women’s edition ‘Grihalakshmi’ recently came out with their latest issue that has a cover story and picture on breastfeeding. The cover story’s title means, “Do not stare at us while we are breastfeeding”

The picture shows a woman wearing a blouse and sindoor. She is looking straight at the camera while one of her breasts is uncovered with a suckling baby on it. This image has gone viral on social media and sparked a controversy.

Some are saying that women should breastfeed their children in private, others have a problem with the fact that the woman’s breasts are perfectly shaped and look nothing like the sagging breasts of lactating mothers. People also have a problem with model, Gilu Joseph, who has posed for the image. They said that the model is a single woman and does not have a child to do such a photoshoot. They are also questioning the magazine’s authorities’ inability to showcase a lactating mother on its cover picture.

These are a few conversations that have blown up the internet. There is also a large chunk of supporters of the magazine, which thinks that this image is actually breaking stereotypes and is a brave move by both the magazine and the model. Netizens are also applauding Joseph’s courage to do such a photo shoot. The point to be noted is that women form the major chunk of Grihalakshmi’s readership.

ALSO READ: Why Breastfeeding In India Remains Low Priority

SheThePeople.TV got in touch with Joseph to talk about the shoot and her experience. On how she agreed to do this shoot, Joseph said, “The photographer had messaged a few days back saying that he needs a model for a breastfeeding campaign. He asked me if I have friends who would do the photoshoot. When I read the message, I instantly agreed to do it myself. It happened just like any other photo shoot.”

On whether she anticipated any negative feedback to the campaign, Joseph said, “In the entire world, I only care about what my mother or my sister think of my work. They have always stood by whatever I have done in my life, so I had hoped that they would understand the cause. I called up my sister who is a nun and she said that this is unacceptable. She said whatever you think is right, you cannot do it in public. She also said that it will bring shame to the family, but then I understand why they say so and their concerns.”

“When I thought about it from my own consciousness, I did not feel that I am doing anything wrong. The only controversy that concerned me was my family and they are against it. But then I know that every bold decision starts with something like this,” she added.

Explaining that she grew up in a very small Kerala village where there is not even a railway station, she said it is a forest kind of place where people believe in culture, patriarchy, stereotypes, etc. “Even then I dreamt of becoming an airhostess when I had never even seen an airplane. When I set out to achieve it, many people discouraged my family from supporting me. I worked as cabin crew for eight years and then returned to become a lyricist in the Malayalam cinema industry. Then again I faced resistance from my family but still I went on to do roles in 10 Malayalam films.”

“When I did this work, I did not care about the controversy. I don’t care that some people are against my decision. I think that this campaign and my purpose is successful. If I can make one woman breastfeed their child in public with pride, then I believe it reached its due conclusion”

“Menstruation, breastfeeding and sex are some issues that people never talk about and I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about it.”

Indeed breastfeeding is noble cause and needs to be normalized. According to The News Minute, Grihalakshmi started this campaign after a man had posted his wife’s picture online in January. In the picture, the wife was breastfeeding their newly born child and it caused a furore on social media.

“Even when I was in the hospital, I had breastfed openly. So many people told me off for this. Some even said that if I fed my child without covering my breasts, they would dry up very soon,” Amritha told TNM.

Nothing shameful

Breastfeeding advocate and founder of Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers, Adhunika Prakash, said, “The primary purpose of breasts is to provide milk to our young ones. There’s nothing shameful about providing a human baby with human milk that’s fine-tuned to the specific child.”

“Breasts have been over-sexualized and we need to take all the steps possible to normalize breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding is in the best interest of the breastfeeding parent, the child and the nation since it brings down healthcare costs.

“We are comfortable with seeing models advertising lingerie on television, but don’t want to see women providing milk for their babies with their breasts,” Prakash said.

That’s food for thought, isn’t it?

Picture credit- India Today

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