Feminist Erasures

pp 167-182

Got Milk?: Motherhood, Breastfeeding, and (Re)domesticating Feminism

  • Kumarini Silva


In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex that ‘Woman has ovaries, a uterus: these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature.’ She went on to note that while women are often critiqued (and ridiculed) for thinking with their ‘glands,’ that ‘Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands, such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively, whereas he regards the body of woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it’ (p. 27). At that time, Beauvoir’s reflections — that women’s biological functions and reproductive practices were being translated into social conventions about femininity and the feminine — were met with considerable criticisms, and little support. More than 60 years later, the value of her observation is much clearer, especially as women continue to be the ‘second sex’ within patriarchal social, economic, and political structures that govern much of the globe. Cultural tropes that reinforce women as more emotional, more impulsive, and therefore in greater need of domestication, have long been critiqued by feminists, but continue to thrive in contemporary US culture. This is in spite of the great strides made by feminist activisms, especially in the last 40 years.