Our society is one that sanctifies motherhood. Pregnant women are often exempt from the pressures of societal aesthetic because they’ve dropped out for nine months to do this sacrosanct thing that would be in bad taste to commodify. So of course, the forever-insipid Australian media has done exactly that via Channel 7’s new show, Yummy Mummies.
The show isn’t even on the air yet, and there are at present 19,000 signatures on a petition to ban it. All these people are clambering over each other to prevent Yummy Mummies from airing because one of the women on the show saw another woman breastfeeding her baby in a cafe and said, “Breastfeeding in public is illegal – you just don’t do it.”
What’s really happening here? What are people really angry about? You don’t see this kind of righteous activity around Big Brother or The Bachelor.
For example, The Real Housewives Of Whatever City is just as boring and useless. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you exactly what value it adds to the world. I suppose you could say cheap entertainment has its own value, but I guess the bigger picture is more concerned with exactly how damaging it is to air.
This is a slippery slope. It’s difficult to be the arbiter of harm minimisation in today’s media landscape. If some mule-kicked idiot on a reality program says something that is extremely offensive, or factually incorrect, when do the media practitioners become liable for harms, either perceived or tangible, produced by their work?
My personal view is that it’s impossible to manage this sort of thing perfectly. Reality TV is scripted, so the argument that “We couldn’t predict they’d say that!” is rubbish, but I don’t believe media networks are solely responsible for the damage that may be caused to vulnerable persons by what they see or hear on these programs.
I do believe, however, it would be cowardly of Channel 7 not to act when it’s obvious that whatever views expressed in a show have an extreme likelihood of causing harm. I waiver on whether Yummy Mummies falls into this category, because I haven’t even seen it. Nobody has.
Get ready for our Yummy Mummies!! 😱😱#YummyMummiesAU, COMING SOON to Channel 7.
I think its premise is stupid, but it’s possible I’m in the minority. Maybe some people do want to see glamorous pregnant ladies. Pregnancy and glamour aren’t often found together in expressions of popular culture, so I can understand where the fascination may lie.
Yes, with enough pressure, we could get Yummy Mummies axed fast – however, we can’t infantilise ourselves by swaddling the public in safety and approved viewing material. People need to be allowed to make their own decisions.
Channel 7 could air this show and concurrently run positive breastfeeding advertisements. That’ll tip its morality closer to neutral in this instance.
We can’t infantilise ourselves by swaddling the public in safety and approved viewing material. People need to be allowed to make their own decisions.
The fact is, there are individuals out there who have platforms, who aren’t super bright, and they’re usually untouchable because they translate to $$$ for the networks they draw viewers to through their controversy. The most powerful thing the viewers can do is to simply stop watching, which is easier said than done. There’s a reason we can’t help peeking at car accidents, even when we feel uncomfortable.
This is why it’s interesting to me that there appears to be a disconnect between the objections to Yummy Mummies, and objections to other, equally miserable reality programs that have tunnelled into our brains over the last 17 years.
There isn’t much of a general outrage surrounding reality television. So what’s different about Yummy Mummies?
I’d argue that it touches on a societal taboo. Motherhood is sanctified in our culture, and seeing mothers flaunt their wealth in ways we deem to be ‘tasteless’ appears offensive because it challenges the supposed nobility and humility of bringing life into this world. Mothers are meant to be demure.
Frankly, I don’t really care that a bunch of pregnant women are running around the city in horse-drawn carriages or buying designer clothes for their unborn children or receiving literal bouquets of money. Good for them.
The now infamous line, “Breastfeeding in public is illegal – you just don’t do it,” is a pretty dumb thing to say, but there are so many people who share this actor’s opinion that it would be silly of us to knock her off her temporary pedestal and hide her views when we could use it to our advantage.
This controversy could create an opportunity to educate the wider public.
The Yummy Mummy is wrong – breastfeeding in public is not illegal – but it’s also her prerogative to belch her embarrassing opinion. It’s just as much our right and responsibility to shoot it the fuck down with precision and vigour.
Who knows? Maybe she’ll come around and have a change of heart.
Arca Bayburt a journalist who writes the BRAG’s regular LGBTQI column, Out & About.