Another Example of Evangelical Fear of Women’s Breasts

annie pegueroAnnie Peguero and her nineteen-month-old daughter attended church last Sunday at Summit Church in Springfield, Virginia. During the service, Peguero’s baby became hungry, so she breast-fed her. Little did she know that she was surrounded by horny, weak, pathetic men who can’t control their sexuality when ‘forced” to view a breastfeeding mom’s partially exposed breast.

The Washington Post reports:

Annie Peguero was trying to soothe her agitated 19-month-old baby in church on Sunday when she did what she often does — she nursed her. But her efforts to calm her daughter caused a stir in the sanctuary of Summit Church in Springfield.

A woman promptly asked the Dumfries mother to decamp to a private room, she said. Peguero declined and was later told that the church does not allow breast-feeding without a cover because it could make men, teenagers or new churchgoers “uncomfortable,” she said. One woman told her the sermon was being live-streamed and that she would not want Peguero to be seen breast-feeding.

The mother of two left her seat in the back of the church and fled, embarrassed and in shock. The next day, she posted her own livestream video on Facebook — with her baby, Autumn, at her breast — telling viewers what happened and urging women to stand up for breast-feeding.

“I want you to know that breast-feeding is normal,” she said.

It is also a legally protected right in Virginia, where the legislature passed a 2015 law that says women have a right to breast-feed anywhere they have a legal right to be.

….

Peguero, a 42-year-old personal trainer and fitness and nutrition specialist, often posts live videos online with tips and advice about managing life with two young children. She talks about getting through the day when a spouse is deployed, drawing on her own experience as the wife of a Marine serving overseas.

The self-described “hippie mama” said she looked forward to breast-feeding long before she had children.

“I knew it was the very best thing for my baby,” she said. “I wanted to give them that gift for as long as I could, and that’s what I did.”

She nursed her older daughter — now 4 years old — until she was 8½ months pregnant with Autumn. In all that time, she never had a problem nursing in public, she said.

“I have breast-fed in a few different countries. I have breast-fed all over the place,” she said. “No one has ever said anything to me.”

Virginia was one of the last states to pass a law protecting a woman’s right to breast-feed in public.

Before passage, women in Virginia had the right to nurse their babies on state-owned property, but restaurants and other privately owned businesses that were open to the public could prohibit it.

Under identical bills brought by Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) and Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-Loudoun), mothers are permitted to breast-feed anywhere they are “lawfully present.” The measures cleared the Republican-controlled House and Senate without opposition and were signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).

Albo and Wexton were not familiar with the details of Peguero’s case but said the law clearly gives women the right to breast-feed anywhere they are otherwise allowed to be.

“Women don’t really have a choice,” Albo said. “If you have a kid, and the kid’s hungry, you have to feed ’em.”

Wexton said she brought her bill after hearing from a woman who had been told she could not nurse her baby in a hallway outside the children’s room at her gym. Employees said she could only breast-feed in the bathroom, Wexton said.

“The fact is, women just want to feed their babies. Women are very discreet about their breast-feeding. . . . It’s not in any way an indecent exposure situation,” she said.

Leave it to Evangelicals to have a big problem with a human natural process — breastfeeding. What’s more natural than a mother feeding her child using the mammary glands the good Lord gave her? The problem is that Evangelical men are deeply immersed in a culture where women’s breasts have been sexualized. And as with anything having to do with sex while the lights are on, Evangelical churches and pastors — at least as far as the keepers of male mental virginity at Summit Church are concerned — overreact and enact stupid policies and rules.

Sadly, a century of Evangelical obsession with sex has resulted in multiple generations of men being taught that they are not in control of their sexuality, and that women are seductresses out to bed them. Women are forced to cover up their bodies and mute their comeliness lest some horn-dog of a man cast a glance their way and feel some sort of sexual stirring. Evidently, the Holy Spirit living inside Evangelical men is not enough to keep them from lusting during their pastors’ sermons.

Non-Evangelicals read posts such as this one and snicker while shaking their heads. There is nothing sexual about women breastfeeding their children. Babies need to eat, end of discussion. As long as women are discreetly feeding their babies, I can’t think of one reason why their doing so should be a problem. My wife breastfed all six of our children. Rarely did she leave a church service to do so, and if she it did it was because the child was being fussy and she didn’t want to disrupt the service.

I pastored scores of breastfeeding women during the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. I can think of only one time where a woman breastfeeding a child proved to be a distraction. One Sunday, as I was preaching away on the unsearchable riches of Christ, a church member sitting about three rows back unbuttoned her dress, pulled up her bra, and fully exposed her breast. She did this so her four-year old child could have a snack.  Most church members had no idea what was going on in the third row, but unfortunately for me, I had a boobs’-eye view.

In many Evangelical churches, men are viewed as metaphorical infants, unable to control their desires. Women are repeatedly told that they must be the adults in the room, and for the sake of infantilized men, cover their bodies. What’s even more astounding, as in the story mentioned above, is that it is left to church women to police their ranks. Taught that they must be gatekeepers, church women make sure that no Jezebel tempts their men. Perhaps the real solution to the breastfeeding problem is for men to own their sexuality. Stop with all the silly rules that only serve to embarrass and demean women. To Evangelical women, I say, it’s time to rebel against thinking that reduces women to sex objects. Of course, such rebellion requires Evangelical women (and men) to stand against the patriarchal, anti-women bullshit that their pastors preach Sunday after Sunday.  Sadly, I am not hopeful that church women will do so. The pressure to conform is so great, that only by leaving Fundamentalist churches can women truly be free.

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17 Comments

  1. Brian

    There is no way to justify caring for a child’s needs in a fundy evangelical environment. The purpose of the church is to harm these children and the women who have children, so why would a mother expect some understanding there? How odd it is that people persist in expecting bully church folk to act differently than they have always acted…
    I would suggest that if any woman wishes to care for her children, she exit the church door like the place was on fire! Save the children! Flee the church! If you stay, then expect more abuse and understand that the abuse is exactly what you choose for yourself and your children.

    Reply
    1. Ellie

      Brian,

      I have a lot of guilt now about raising my kids in the IFB church. I had a choice, but they didn’t. The last straw was when the pastor publicly humiliated my daughter for sitting to close to a boy at the schools High school basketball game. He told her he couldn’t look at her because the top button of her shirt was undone. Mind you it was a long sleeve button down collar shirt and her skirt was long to the floor. I don’t know how much more covered she could have been.

      Reply
      1. Brian

        Hi Ellie, We are trained to live guilt as if it was so natural in every cell of our human bodies. IFB guilt is like booze out of control, a never-ending excess that curses and crushes us till we fall at gawd’s feet again, again and again. I am sorry you must feel so guilty but the grace for us now, Ellie, is that we know what has happened and we can speak it honestly and clearly to ourselves and therefore to our children too.
        Bruce often speaks here of the guilt he carries for having shared the IFB ‘gospel’ and yet what he has been through burns as a light in darkness for many of us who have been incarcerated, born into it, caught up, harmed.
        It does me good to be able to speak my heart here and feel some balance in life, in living. I get an idea of what normal must be for people who have not been in war as we have… I hug my children and tell them they are free and loved, that there must be no greater love than what I feel because of them being alive, being in my life. My heart is full with them as yours is I am sure with your daughter. When my guilt grabs my guts, I make some gesture of love to my kids, some loving connection that reminds me guilt is the preacher’s problem now and not mine. He is free to choose too.

        Reply
        1. anotherami

          Guilt is not limited to those in IFB or other fundamentalist denominations. In fact, in the USA, I don’t see it limited much at all. Whether due to our Puritan roots, the Revivalist movements that have occurred periodically throughout our history, or just its pernicious effectiveness, is anybody’s guess.

          I don’t recall one of my grandmothers ever going to church but her favorite phrase when we did something wrong was “Shame on you!” I must admit to having used it too; according to my son “not too much but more than you should have.” Which of course makes me feel guilty! My only comfort is in knowing I did it less to my kids than my elders did it to me.

          As social creatures, much of our behavior is based on modeling the behaviors of the culture we grow up in and changing those models is hard, even when we are actively trying to change. I’ve come to see the Biblical warning of “the sins of the fathers” going down 7 generations as an early attempt at saying this.

          Reply
        2. Ellie

          Brian and anotherami, Thank you for your words, they have been a help to me. I am still pretty new to Bruce’s blog but I don’t feel quite so alone on my journey whenever I come here.

          Reply
          1. Brian

            Very important points for me, thanks anotherami. I often stay specific to my own experience but as you point out, the effects of cultural DNA reach far beyond the IFB, far beyond the excessive religion I most often charge. In the West and particularly USA, you have an unhealthy excess of both religious extremes and a virulent nationalism, flag worship. I am thankful that there are still many many Americans who see well beyond the Woo.

          2. Brian

            You are very welcome, Ellie… Be careful around here though: Heathens, the whole bunch of them! 😉

      2. gimpi1

        Don’t feel guilty. You believed things that weren’t an accurate reflection of reality, things that had a distinct toxic side. When you learned better, when you saw the destructive side in your pastor’s actions – you pulled back. You gave your kids the example of changing your beliefs when you learned better. That’s a great example. We all need to be able to acknowledge mistakes, to correct course when we discover we’re in error. Yet, it’s one of the hardest things there is for many people to do. You did it. Well done.

        Reply
  2. Justine Valinotti

    Brian–I couldn’t have said it any better.

    The funny thing is that those men who believe they and their fellow congregants will be corrupted by the sight of a woman’s breast are probably the same guys who go home and jack off to porn after the service.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      Justine, thank-you….
      I hate to taint masturbation with evangelical church services. The one seems to me to have something or other to do with feeling good and the other, with active self-harm. I have heard that good preaching often leads to very bad sex but I am not schooled in these matters. Seems to me that if a preacher had better sex, he might stay in bed on Sunday morning (day of well-needed rest!) and not go running for a pulpit to climb on top of and publicly play with himself.

      Reply
  3. Chris

    A 4 year-old is a little too old to still be breast-feeding. Just sayin…

    Reply
    1. Brian

      Chris, exactly what age is appropriate for breast-feeding? Are you going down the pervert road? Breast-feeding is a most natural act of a mother and child and far more important than any church service or public gathering. It is a priority and necessary. It begins naturally and it ends naturually too when the child matures to a certain stage. We really are not in need of your referee call here, are we? You are making Trenton think of Game of Thrones!

      Reply
    2. gimpi1

      Actually, if she stopped nursing her first child in the 8th month of her pregnancy with her second child – who is 19 months old – she would have stopped nursing around 20 months ago, when her now-four-year-old child was around two-and-a-half. At least, that’s how I do the math.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Lost in the discussion is the fact that breastfeeding is a natural birth control of sorts. Not perfect, but certainly used by many women.

        Reply
        1. Becky Wiren

          I just read that it is 98% effective if baby is less than 6 months old.

          Reply
  4. Justine Valinotti

    Chris–Maybe we’re reading this a bit differently. My understanding is that she breast-fed (past tense) her now-four-year old daughter until she was eight months pregnant with the girl she was breast-feeding in church. According to my admittedly-limited math skills, if she was pregnant for nine months with the girl she was breast-feeding in church, that means she stopped breast-feeding her older child a couple of weeks before the second (19-month-old) girl was born. That would have been twenty months ago. That would mean the elder child was breast fed until 19 1/2–let’s say 20–months ago. If she’s four years old now, it would mean she was breast-fed until she was two years and maybe a couple of months old. That doesn’t seem so unreasonable, at least to me. Then again, I admit that I’ve never had children.

    Reply
    1. Trenton

      reminds me of game of thrones where the one kid is like 8 years old and still breastfeeding

      Reply

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