Maggie Maurer, the viral photos of the breastfeeding model

In her latest photo on Instagram, model Maggie Maurer looks like a divinity from some distant civilization: her face is covered in gold-colored paint (thanks to a wonderful make-up by Pat McGrath), she is wearing a bathrobe and holds up a protective plastic drape, like a shawl. She is about to walk the catwalk for Schiaparelli but, in the meantime, she holds her daughter Nora to her breast: breastfeeding has never been so cool and the photo has been taken, shared and commented on far and wide.

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It’s been a long time since the #NormalizeBreastfeeding social campaign, the photo of Rachel McAdams pumping milk during a photo shoot and the fashion show in which Sports Illustrated swimwear model Mara Martin was photographed on the runway while breastfeeding her baby. It was 2018 and today we can say that seeing a woman breastfeeding at work, in Parliament, in public places or on social media is much more common than in the past. Until 2014 Facebook didn’t even allow the publication of photos of breastfeeding women: today, fortunately, such censorship would seem unthinkable in the Western world.

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Nevertheless a photo like Maurer’s continues to have its political significance. It will be because there are still too few women who can actually breastfeed in the workplace. It may be because stereotypes and pressures continue to exist around breastfeeding that are badly reconciled with women’s self-determination and feed on clichés about a spirit of sacrifice and abnegation at all costs. In recent days, after the dramatic news story of the newborn who died in hospital when his mother fell asleep breastfeeding him, a strong debate has ignited in Italy. Mothers are too often left alone, they are asked to devote themselves body and soul to their children without real support that takes into account their personal health needs (mental and physical) and, then, also at work. We need more help for families, greater involvement of fathers and a cultural change on the myths of motherhood as an annulment of oneself. If Maurer, in the photo, looks like a mother-goddess of breastfeeding, may she be a deity finally able to celebrate women’s self-determination and the importance of fighting so that everyone can choose to breastfeed and experience motherhood if, where, how and when they prefer, without judgments.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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