Supermodel Gisele Bundchen was quoted in the September Harper’s Bazaar UK as saying, “There should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.”
Bundchen got lots of outraged reactions to her statement, but mostly from women with positive opinions about bottle-feeding, or general dismay at woman-to-woman lifestyle attacks. Very few commenters pointed out the classism in the comment.
One of the exceptions was Canadian blogger Renee Martin, who wrote,
“I do want to talk about the one issue that is not being addressed in many of the complaints about her statements – class. In Canada, a woman has one year paid maternity leave, but this is not a global universal. In the states, maternity leave is often six weeks and it is unpaid. Breast may be best, but because of the way this world is organized, it is not a choice that many poor women are allowed to make. Often women lose their jobs when they take time to express milk. Many places of employment don’t even have a space where this can happen in privacy and relative comfort. If you are a middle manager with an office door that you can close this provides an environment that a factory worker by nature of her job simply will not have. So this idea that you are a bad mother if you do not breast feed, fails to take into account how women/mothers are often in extremely different circumstances due to class.”
Good points, Renee – but Canada’s policies far outshine the American version. Only 8% of US workers get any paid family leave for newborns – and only 5% of those earning less than $15 an hour. One in five of those lowest earning workers can’t even take any unpaid leave after giving birth, according to 2007 Department of Labor data.
So where will Gisele be breast-feeding 8-month-old Bejamin? The Brazilian supermodel and husband Tom Brady spent $20 million on their California dream house – 22,000 square feet for their 5-person family.
Meanwhile, thanks to the Great Recession, so many unemployed people are moving in with their families that there was more than a fourfold increase in overcrowding (more than one person per room) from 2005 to 2008, according to a report sponsored by the Research Institute for Housing America. Ten percent of young adults, ages 18 to 34, said in the Pew survey they had moved back with their parents because of the recession.
The total number of households in the US fell by more than a million in 2008 because of foreclosures and people giving up apartments and homes, mostly to move in with relatives.
The view from a mega-mansion looks a lot different than the view from a relative’s living room couch. And a $25 million a year model, the highest-paid in the world in both 2009 and 2010, has a lot of nerve laying down the law for women who might have to bottle-feed to keep their job.