If you read this blog regularly, you know that the IWF strongly opposes the efforts of the feminist establishment to make bottle-feeding a baby as taboo as smoking a cigarette–by insinuating that it’s as hazardous to health as smoking. The militant fems are pushing the U.N. to adopt stringent restrictions on the marketing of infant formula in Third World countries whose goal is to scare women away from the stuff.

On April 29 we sent an open letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, expressing our belief in breastfeeding as the preferred mode of nutrition for a newborn but saying that it was “anti-woman” not to oppose regulations that would discourage working mothers from returning to their jobsites and also discriminate against adoptive mothers and those who cannot nurse for medical reasons. (See also Breast-feeding Totalitarians, April 7, and the Mailbag for April 25.)

Reader C.Y., who’s evidently from the U.K., Canada or somewhere else with socialized medicine, responds:  

“I believe any restrictions on infant formula, far from being anti-woman, are infact the opposite.

“Millions of woman are led to believe they are unable to breastfeed due to the clever advertising and marketing of artificial baby milk substitutes. Women are led to believe they cannot work and provide breast-milk and that somehow formula provides a freedom for women.

“I would argue this is merely more clever marketing by formula companies. Formula is not a safe alternative, not when you consider formula drastically increases the risks of cot death and some childhood cancers, infections, diabetes and a lower IQ. Not breastfeeding increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer (as well as baby girls’ breast-cancer) risk), ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer to name just a few. The rate of hospital admission for formula-fed babies is three times that of a breast-fed…and costs the N[ational] H[ealth] S[ervice] millions. How is protecting this product in any way protecting a woman’s rights?

“If the alternative to breast-milk WAS safe and nutritious I would completely agree with your arguments. However, it is not, and all over the world women are subjected to the underhanded promotion that leads them to believe it is a comparable product. New reseach also indicates that exclusively breastfeeding is recommended for a HIV-positive mother; it is when breast-milk is mixed with formula that risks of transmission increase.

“Breast-milk is a live product like blood with over 100 unique constituents, a great deal of which simply cannot be reproduced. I would have hoped an independent women’s organisation would be pushing for women to be allowed the very real facts on which to base their decision and not perpetuating the myths of formula.”

The “very real facts” are exactly what we’ve looked at, and unfortunately they don’t support most of your assertions, C.Y.

Of course a mother’s own milk is the best thing she can feed her child–if she feed her child that way–and for many women, that’s simply impossible. Like many  highly educated First World women, you, C.Y., assume that every working mother has a comfortable, no-stress, no-travel white-collar job that allows her to slip off to the ladies’ room whenever she likes to express her milk into a pump–and a trained nanny at home to take care of the feeding. There are a lot of women in the West who don’t have those kinds of jobs and those kinds of schedules, and even more women in the developing world who don’t have them. And that category doesn’t even get to the many adoptive moms and grandmothers raising babies. What are they supposed to do?

As for the health hazards you’ve enumerated, here’s a Food and Drug Administration report that declares properly prepared infant formula to be perfectly safe (and it’s a 1996 report from the Clinton years, so you can’t attribute it to Bush pro-corporate bias), as well as a 2001 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrating the cancer fears unfounded. As for the large number of formula-fed babies being admitted to hospitals, have you ever considered other socio-economic factors?

What really seems to boil your baby bottle, C.Y., is the fact that the infant-formula makers are “advertising” and “marketing” their products–i.e. selling them–instead of giving them away. Your real complaint seems to be with the free-market system, not with infant formula as such.

The Other Charlotte blogged last week on the feminist establishment’s antipathy to war–except when it comes to sending women soldiers to the front lines so they  can have their limbs blown off. Then our rad-fem pals are all for fightin’. (See TOC’s A Sobering New Reality: Women and War, April 29.)

Fellow winger-blogstress Bookworm Room adds some thoughts on this subject:

“If a society faces extinction, it makes sense for everyone — men and women — to pitch in to fight. Absent that circumstance, if a society wishes to remain viable, it makes no sense whatsoever to pitch women into battle.

“Biologically speaking, if only one man comes back from a war to join with a few surviving (and fertile) women, they can theoretically repopulate the world. However, imagine one woman coming back to several men. Add the risks of her infertility and her death in childbirth to the slow rate at which women can reproduce, and it’s fairly dicey whether the their little group will survive. Biological reality therefore argues against the wholesale use of women in combat.”

Good observation–although I hope we never get down to the last man on earth. What if he had hair plugs or trimmed his nails at the breakfast table? We might never get the world repopulated!
Finally, reader R.C. weighs in on the feminist jihad against a stainless steel sculpture of a torso of a naked woman (it’s a sex object!) planned for a traffic circle in Venice, Calif. (see The Latest Feminist Cause: Banning Nude Statues, April 22.) R.C. writes: 
“Horrors! The feminists having the vapors over nude statuary are in danger of falling into bed (tee hee, snort) with John Ashcroft.”

Yes, it’s ironic that the Ashcroft-loathing rad-fems feel the same way about the Venice Torso as the former attorney general felt about the bare-breasted torso of Lady Justice in his department.

I’ve got to say, though, that Ashcroft and the other evangelical Christians have a point: They recognize that naturalistic sculptures of lovely naked women can’t help being erotic. That’s why, in Greek and Roman times, Venus, the goddess of love, was regularly depicted in the nude but chaste goddesses such as Diana and Minerva weren’t. It means that context is all-important. A nude sculpture might be just the thing for a private art collection but would be highly out of place in most public venues. And even the most skillfully painted or sculpted female nude has a way of making a place look like a bordello real fast.

In our politically correct time we tend to see nude sculpture as an either-or proposition: We’re either good First Amendment types and we’re for it–because it’s art and besides, what’s wrong with the human body? Or we’re good feminists and we’re against  it because it “objectifies” women or whatever the rad-fems say. We don’t consider the fact that art has the power to arouse our passions as well as our critical facilities and our ideologies.

Sure, some religious types are overly sensitive to this arousal of passions and thus perhaps overly censorious. But I can understand why they might not want a nude statue placed next to a church or behind a cabinet secretary during a press conference. As you’re fighting bumper-to-bumper beach-bound traffic in Venice, Calif., however, a stainless steel nekkid lady might be exactly what you need to cheer you up.