British poet tackles sexist breastfeeding stigma in a powerful new video.

Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

British poet Hollie McNish recently released a spoken-word video about breastfeeding in public, called "Embarrassed." The writer's visual collaboration with Independent Films quickly went viral on Facebook. Thousands of people rushed to share the video, in part due to the powerful delivery juxtaposed with footage of breastfeeding urban mothers from diverse backgrounds. 

Since publishing her autobiographical book about parenting earlier this year, McNish has started to become an icon of feminist motherhood in the United Kingdom's literary circles. 

Her new video highlights the stark contrast between billboards covered with provocative cleavage and bodies displayed on sexy magazine covers, compared to the shame leveled at breastfeeding mothers.

"I whispered, and tiptoed with nervous discretion," McNish said in the video as she describes breastfeeding her newborn daughter. "But after six months of her life spent sitting on lids... trying not to bang her head on toilet rollers... I'm getting tired of being polite as my baby's first sips are drowned, drenched in shit." 

Thousands of Facebook users rushed to comment with both approval and gratitude. "This is powerful! I breastfed all my three, and at times felt uncomfortable [because of] judgmental onlooker[s] even tho I was very discreet," wrote a commenter.

This stigma isn't just uncomfortable — it can also be dangerous. Earlier this year British mother and business owner Charlotte Purdie was harassed and threatened over the phone when she opened Nottingham's first family cafe where mothers can breastfeed openly. 

McNish's poem also touches on how that stigma can be leveraged for profit. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding reported baby formula is a billion-dollar industry. "Which is fine if you need it," the mother-poet said. But often it's the poorest who "end up paying for one thing that's always been free."

She ends the video with a personal commitment to follow her conscious and standup for breastfeeding mothers by refusing to submit to social pressure even when it's uncomfortable. "No more will I sit on these cold toilet lids," McNish concludes in the video. "No matter how embarrassed I feel as she sips." 

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