Women’s Health Action (WHA), a New Zealand breastfeeding charity, is being criticized by women’s rights campaigners for creating a series of e-cards with what was deemed as “racist” content. One of the cards seems to be showing a white man bottle-feeding a baby, while an indigenous woman, presumably Māori, is shown pumping breast milk.
According to WHA, the campaign “Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support,” created eight cards for World Breastfeeding Week in 2022, containing images of women in several stages of breastfeeding.
However, women’s rights activists were shocked to see among the cards an image of an indigenous woman sitting on a sofa, with breast pumps attached to both her breasts, while a white individual, with masculinized features, is bottle-feeding a baby, sitting on the floor.
On social media, the image caused confusion, as some people weren’t sure what the bottle-feeding person’s sex was. The e-card itself doesn’t contain an explanation.
A Twitter user named Rebecca stated "So, the native woman is now a milk machine to validate the white mans breast feeding fetish. Have I understood the ad correctly?"
Another user, "TruismT," wrote: "Sorry, what is going on here? We have a hungry baby and a lactating mother, but she's pumping and baby is suckling on an empty nipple (being tube fed though). Whose needs are being met here?"
Only when visiting the WHA website does a person find out the e-card’s message. According to a video on WHA’s website, the white woman bottle-feeding is a “transgender papa,” who gave birth to the baby. The indigenous woman being pumped for breastmilk is her partner and has induced lactation because the woman who gave birth has had a double mastectomy. According to WHA, these cards were made to support “transgender and non-binary parents” in breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding is never achieved alone,” says the charity on their website. WHA claims that the campaign’s goal is to promote and celebrate breastfeeding by “recognising and honoring all the people involved in the breastfeeding journey.”
Further, WHA uses a resource called “Supporting transgender and non-binary parents”, created by PATHA (Professional Association for Transgender Health Aoteroa). The guide by PATHA claims that “transgender and non-binary parents make up about 1% of the postpartum population at present.” WHA adds that this number will continue to increase as the “social stigma” associated with being transgender or non-binary” will decrease, because “more people are feeling safe to identify and be open about being transgender and non-binary.”
The PATHA resource promotes the idea that people have “genders” that differ from their “assigned sex at birth” and that the increased social tolerance of trans people has led to “access to gender affirmative care.” WHA also compares the social acceptance of trans identities with acceptance of people who are left-handed. Additionally, the PATHA guide promotes gender identity beliefs to children questioning their sex, claiming that the number of trans people will increase because they will freely “explore their gender identity."
WHA, which was set up 37 years ago, has received funding from the New Zealand government via the Ministry of Health for over a decade. Other funding bodies are the Lottery Grants Board and Foundation North.
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