By: Michael Gagnon
(Family Honor Editor’s Note: This blog is a response to a recent news story involving a Victoria’s Secret employee who refused to allow a woman to breastfeed her infant child in a dressing room at their store. Although corporate policy for Victoria’s Secret is to allow women to discreetly breastfeed in their stores, this was not an isolated incident of a VS employee not allowing it. Click here for a link to the original story. This post offers a male perspective on this issue. This time next week, we’ll post a female perspective on the matter.)
Whenever I’m in the mall, I grow anxious walking down a particular row of shops because I know that the Victoria’s Secret store is coming up. As a man, it is a significant temptation for me and I must make a conscious decision not to ogle the larger-than-life posters of women in lingerie that barely covers anything.
Like most men, I’m a very visual person and images of half-naked, photo-shopped models are the last things I want running through my head when I’m embracing my wife. Those 10-feet-tall photos of naked women on the Victoria’s Secret store fronts make it nigh impossible to keep a pure heart and mind. Why am I so drawn to stare and lust? I think, in large part, that the appeal of a full-breasted woman is that I’m drawn to the beauty of life-giving love. Nothing in the universe is more beautiful than life-giving love.
The Cross of Christ, the most heinous and evil act ever perpetrated by man has become the most beautiful act in all history. And in a small, yet beautiful way, a mother nursing her child is sacramental–making visible the invisible spiritual reality–inasmuch as she is giving of her own body, her own self, to nourish and give life. In fact, it is for this reason that few things in this world are as beautiful as motherhood; which is why it is not surprising, though highly ironic, that Victoria’s Secret would refuse to allow a mother her request to nurse her child.
Perhaps it is the corporate policy of Victoria’s Secret to allow mothers to nurse in their stores, but left to the individual employee, how could they allow it? A nursing mother threatens the very foundation upon which Victoria’s Secret stands: the objectification of women. Now, some might counter that Victoria’s Secret is just trying to help women feel beautiful and sexy. But if this is true, then why do they blatantly display posters of women of unobtainable physical dimensions? Why do they print their logo smack dab on the backside of a woman’s pants so that men’s eyes are drawn to them?
Simply by the presence of the store front porn-quality posters that Victoria’s Secret proudly displays, they demonstrate their total disregard for the beauty, mystery, and sacredness of the human person. Thus, their entire ethos is threatened by a mother nursing her child. Why? Because a nursing mother reveals the truth of a woman’s body. As Blessed John Paul II said, “The body, in fact, and it alone is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery [of God]… and thus to be a sign of it.”
And so as a man, husband, father and Christian, I encourage mothers to continue to nurse their children and to fight for their right to do so in public and to counter society’s denigration of femininity and beauty. You are a witness to the beauty and love that God has made each of us for, and a reminder that he calls us to be life-giving in our relationships with others.
Michael Gagnon is a husband, father and Catholic youth minister in the Atlanta area. He has been called to serve God by serving young people and their families. You can read more from him on his blog at www.benchwarrior.wordpress.com.