MMA Mom’s Viral Post Calls Out the Double Standard We Place on Breastfeeding Mothers

I’ve been a breastfeeding mom for almost a decade now, and one of the things that has baffled me most is just how uncomfortable people can be about the sight of a mother breastfeeding her baby. At this point, I can say one thing’s for certain: Almost no mom is trying to shock or offend anyone when she sits down to nurse. Whether it’s at a playground, a family event, or the waiting room of a doctor’s office, all that we’re thinking about is feeding our babies — and hoping for as little attention or fanfare as possible while we do it.

Jackie Owens — a mom of three and a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Ring Girl — is reminding the world of that fact yet again, thanks to her powerful Facebook post that has now gone viral.

Originally shared on the popular breastfeeding Facebook page, The Badass Breastfeeder, Owens’ post discussed two popular photos of herself that have both been shared widely on Instagram and other social media outlets. In one photo, she’s dressed in a bikini while posing in her role as an MMA Ring Girl (and looking totally amazing and kick-ass, it should be noted). In the other, she’s sweetly nursing her baby. Both photos are striking for different reasons, and Owens looks stunning in both of them.

In the post, which has now been liked by over a thousand Facebook users, Owens discusses the very different reactions the public has had to her two photos — and her reaction to it all:

“Today is the day I rant about perspective and hypocrisy,” she writes. “I’ve shared my nursing photo (on right), on breastfeeding page threads several times. It is currently circulating and being shared on Facebook and Instagram breastfeeding pages, which I absolutely LOVE. Because it should be seen and normalized.”

She continues:

“I am a MMA ring girl, which I also love. I am paid to wear similar bikinis, booty shorts, revealing tops, take pictures with fighters and members of the audience. These pictures also circulate through the Internet: Facebook, Instagram, youtube videos of fights, people that I don’t even know share pictures with me on pages of theirs.”

“I have received an amazing amount of support, and criticism, on both. Ironically, on different ends of the spectrum, even from the same individuals. Guess which one had positive vs negative feedback. Smh. If seeing the picture on the left is ok with you, then seeing the picture on the right should be ok with you.”

I think it’s awful that anyone would have a negative reaction to Owens’ breastfeeding photo. It’s gorgeous, and nothing but maternal and loving — which is exactly why Owens’ own message about the hypocrisy of it all hits the nail right on the head. Why is a picture of her breastfeeding the offensive one? Not that it matters how much of her body is revealed, but the breastfeeding one actually shows much less flesh than the MMA photo — and yet that’s the one that people took no issue with.

How many times do people need reminding? There is nothing inappropriate about the act of breastfeeding. And no, it doesn’t matter whether skin is revealed or not while we’re doing it: It is not indecent exposure, and there is certainly nothing sexual about it. Period. To breastfeeding moms and their babies, it’s the most ordinary thing in the world. And in many ways, it’s actually extraordinary. It’s lovely and miraculous to be snuggling your baby close and providing them with food that was made by your own body, just for them.

Speaking with Babble Friday, Owens shared that she knows the struggles of breastfeeding moms all too well. As a mom of three (two boys and one girl), she’s had different breastfeeding experiences with each of her children. Her first baby was a preemie — a 35-weeker weighing just 3 lbs. 14 ounces. And though it was difficult, Owens says she breastfed him for a short time while she could. While she was incredibly proud of this accomplishment at the time, she said she didn’t get much support for breastfeeding him long-term, and didn’t know how to maintain her supply after she went back to work and college. Her third baby (the one pictured in her post) is the baby she’s breastfed the longest — 12 months and counting.

Owens understands how often breastfeeding moms come up against critics, and just as she discussed in her viral post, she tells Babble she’s has gotten quite a bit of negative feedback about her breastfeeding photos. Of the critics, Owens says, “I find it amusing that generally those same critics are OK with a woman’s body being sexualized.”

But in sharing the photos and her story, Owens hope is that people will finally start to realize what a huge double-standard there is when it comes to breastfeeding.

Most of all, her intent was to encourage and lift up other breastfeeding moms — and that she most certainly has. Although she’s gotten plenty of negative feedback from the photos, she’s had many moms tell her how much they’ve meant to them. In fact, the very reason her post went viral was from the support of fellow breastfeeding mothers, who liked and shared her post to spread the word. Many of the moms even asked permission to share the photos themselves.

What struck me as particularly badass was that rather than get angry at those who’ve criticized her photos, Jackie has empathy.

“I tell myself it’s lack of knowledge on their part, they just don’t understand the personal connections or feelings of accomplishment,” she tells Babble.

If you ask me, Jackie is an incredible mom and woman. I find her courage and confidence inspiring, and I’m so glad she’s putting herself out there to support breastfeeding moms.

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