t’s easy to forget the almighty power of the ordinary breast. If you have a couple yourself, most of your attention spent on them in a lifetime is focused on making sure they look right in clothes and aren’t in your way, with occasional forays into sex and feeding infants. But breasts actually have a secret super power. When whipped out under the right circumstances, the ordinary mammary gland has the ability to expose a tremendous amount of cultural hypocrisy around gender and parenting.
Adrienne Pine, an assistant professor of anthropology at American University, unwittingly learned that lesson when she decided to shut up her fussy baby in the culturally prescribed way, especially for the highly educated middle class set: giving the baby her boob. Had she done so safely ensconced in her home, perhaps beatifically meditating on how this means so much more than any career ever could, she would have been held up as a moral paragon for all women. But since she did so in the middle of doing her job, in this case lecturing a class full of students taking a feminist anthropology course, she’s instead become a national scandal, with the controversy detailed on the front page of today’s Washington Post.