In case you didn't get the memo, women's breasts don't exist purely as sweater pillows for straight dudes to gawk at or as props for high-end nude fashion calendars. They serve a biological function by literally giving life to babies.
Last week, mom Ashley Kaidel, the blogger behind Intactalactivist Mama, was trying to do just that with her own infant when she spotted a lady giving her the side-eye from the other end of the restaurant. Rather than ignore this particular Judgey Judy (no relation to the '90s TV judicial goddess), Kaidel took to Facebook to post an open letter to her and all the other breastfeeding shamers out there.
In the post, which has garnered more than 383,000 likes since it was published on Nov. 24, Kaidel describes having a stare-down with the woman, who was "shaking her head with judgment."
"I don't mean to say 'Everyone should breastfeed without a cover. Show the world your boobs!' If a mother is more comfortable covering herself because SHE feels better doing so, then I totally support that," Kaidel wrote in her post.
That said, she continued, "the reason I post these types [of] pictures is for the mother that tried breastfeeding uncovered once and she got shamed, she got stared and pointed at, she got nasty comments, she got asked to leave the room, she got asked to cover up."
Kaidel went on to outline the number of reasons why breastfeeding women shouldn't feel pressure to cover up in public. Aside from the fact that breastfeeding in public is perfectly legal, there's nothing sexualized or inappropriate about it. "Breasts were made to sustain your baby's life before they were made to bring pleasure to any other man, woman, partner or spouse," she wrote.
"Their sole purpose is to make food and dispense it straight into a baby's mouth. There is nothing weird about this and there's no difference in me feeding my baby with my breast than you feeding yourself with a spoon."
Kaidel's message has since gone viral, garnering more than 120,000 shares since it was first published.
This is far from the first time a woman has been shamed or judged for breastfeeding their child in public. In April 2015, California mom Elisha Beach received a mixed response when she posted a photo of her breastfeeding her daughter on the toilet, as a way of shining light on the often less than glamorous reality of motherhood.
"I've gotten 'You rock, Mom.' 'I do this every day.' 'I'm doing this right now.' 'This is my life right now,'" Beach told local station KBCS-TV at the time. "And then I've gotten 'You're disgusting.' 'You have no class.' 'You're a terrible mother.'"
Women on Facebook and Instagram have also been indirectly shamed for breastfeeding by having their photos flagged by other social network users and removed. Although both Instagram and Facebook technically allow moms to post breastfeeding photos, having changed their user guidelines in April following intense backlash, that hasn't stopped users from continuing to flag the photos as inappropriate.
It also hasn't stopped people from shaming women who post the photos. Just recently, an image of a woman nursing her baby on a crowded Beijing subway went viral on the Chinese social media network Weibo. "Let me remind you — this is a Beijing subway not a bus running in your village," the original caption said.
Kaidel hopes her photo will change the public perception of breastfeeding and convince people to realize that breasts aren't sexual organs — they're life-giving forces of nature.
"I don't post this for attention. I don't post this because I think everyone should nurse uncovered. I post this to give mamas encouragement," she wrote. "And to encourage others to make breastfeeding mothers feel accepted and supported; not alienated, ridiculed and judged."