Trudeaus' breastfeeding tweet an 'amazing' show of support for moms

Women usually lead the fight on women's issues, so it's a nice change to have a powerful man take up the cause.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau deplane in Yellowknife with their son Hadrien during last fall's election campaign.

The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau deplane in Yellowknife with their son Hadrien during last fall's election campaign.

Our prime minister did something really cool this week, and I’m not talking about shirtless photobombs.

He tweeted a beautiful photograph of his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudueau nursing their youngest son, Hadrien. The caption read, in part, “Let’s support mothers who breastfeed anytime, anywhere.” He was throwing his support behind World Breastfeeding Week, which ended on Sunday.

I’ll offer a classy salute to anyone who advocates to normalize breastfeeding, but Trudeau’s tweet caught my attention in large part because it came from a guy.

Typically, it’s women who are rallying on behalf of women for women’s issues. There’s no shortage of Instagram pics by female celebrities, blog entries by female writers, and posts by female social media users calling for more support for public breastfeeding. But sometimes this can become white noise.

So when a man – and an influential and relatively well-liked one at that – joins the chorus, his voice kind of rises above the crowd.

Here’s the thing: We’ve sexualized breasts to the point that many people feel uncomfortable at the sight of a woman breastfeeding, and so mothers often feel compelled to nurse in private, or not at all. I’ll be the first to admit that when I feel awkward nursing in public, it’s usually because I’m afraid of offending men, not women.

So what does any of this have to do with Justin Trudeau? Well, if we’re trying to change public opinion about something, we need the support of everyone, and that includes men. Men need to care about issues that affect women because we are their mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. Men, just as much as women, need to drive change. But why don’t they?

According to a study by Catalyst, an international non-profit focused on promoting workplace gender equality, men are often reticent to take a public stand on women’s issues in part because they fear the potential reaction of other men. The fear of looking silly to their buddies keeps them from speaking up in support of women’s issues they may very well care about.

So while Justin Trudeau’s tweet may not have been earth shattering, it possessed a subtle self-confidence that may end up empowering other guys to become more vocal on this particular topic. At the very least, I hope it gave pause to the men and women out there who usually think mothers should be nursing their children in private.

The movement to promote and normalize breastfeeding is usually woman-powered. But women need the support of their husbands, brothers and fathers. We need the support of the man sharing our park bench or sitting beside us on the plane when our hungry babies begin to cry.

We know we’ve got the support of our prime minister, and that’s a pretty amazing thing.

Kristen Thompson is a Toronto-based journalist and writer and the founder of Running With Safety Scissors.

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