Maybe you know or you do not know that at least two years ago I opened up a Zazzle store online that I eventually termed the ‘Anti Breast Is Best Shop’. It happened as a result of being a bit (or more) irritated with the ‘fluff’ around breastfeeding and how injustice was overlooked — Why were the reasons that caused these so-called ‘disparities’ — as far as on merchandise and within the larger messages overlooked? I saw bumper stickers and buttons and such that read things like ‘Breast Is Best,’ or ‘Babies Were Born To Be Breastfeed’ I thought — ‘Well, we all know that! Now, let’s talk about social issues — racism, classism, patriarchy, whiteness etc, that stand in the way’ — so I started creating — socially conscious breastfeeding material; bumper stickers, t-shirts, magnets, keychains. Well, lately I’ve had a few moral convictions about this shop. It’s not like I hadn’t thought about this before but I’ve really started to wonder if I’m contributing to commoditizing breastfeeding — or, helping make it moreso than it already is — which is exactly what I am against. But I didn’t start the site to make money or to try and ‘market’ this perspective — AT ALL. In fact, far from it I started it to get a message out — Racism Hinders Breastfeeding, White Privilege Hinders Breastfeeding, Babies Were Born To Be Breastfed: People Were Meant To Be Equal, and more. And even though I have made a profit I have never made a significant amount of money from this store but I have made money from it. But I can say that except for maybe 5% — maybe — all of it has been recycled directly back into critical breastfeeding awareness. I’ve even donated some of the money to other organizations that work towards reproductive justice, for example.
When I went to see African American environmental activist, Majora Carter a few weeks ago on campus (actually it was longer; this post has been in draft mode for a while) and hung out with a friend of mine afterwards, who is an anthropologist and environmentalist, I was wearing one of the shirts that I designed. When she saw it — about just how powerful breastfeeding is for Black women, I told her I made it and she asked me if I used capitalism in my regimen. She wasn’t saying this to make me feel bad or anything of the sort, but I have to tell you that I’m so glad she asked me that question. Like I said it had already been on my mind but that day it really got me thinking much more about it.
I don’t think it was ironic that I happened to see and hear this from my friend at an environmental lecture either. Making more products contributes not only to the degradation of the earth’s natural resources but the degradation of the environment is even felt greater by groups that I would represent. Take breastfeeeding, for example — many advocates discuss preserving the environment with more breastfeeding, and while that is definitely true environmental pollution and degradation is absolutely felt more by People Of Color – and environmental degradation is also a reason that prevents a successful breastfeeding relationship. It’s quite complicated. So in essence if I kept this shop would I be causing more harm than good towards the communities I’m looking to represent? A while ago I wrote this article criticizing Oakley Sunglasses who ‘donated’ some of their most ‘impressive’ pairs to the 33 miners who were trapped in Chile, in 2010. I titled the article ‘Oakley Sunglasses: Don’t try to pull the shades over our eyes,’ because at the surface — even though it appears that the company is doing something kind and noble for these miners, they are, in fact, doing nothing but absolutely providing these miners with the exact same materials that are used to exploit them and is what puts them in these situations anyway — products that require digging the earth’s resources and the vicious aggregate of capitalism, exploitation, pollution and everything else that goes along with it. It creates and sustains a cycle. This is just one example and one scenario, but there are plenty of others.
I haven’t made a concrete decision about it just yet — whether to close up shop or not — or if I on such a small scale could even have that much impact as far as something that detrimental — but I will say that I have taken steps to minimize its significance in places, and especially on this blog. I took down the redirect that would link to the store’s site. I’m doing this while I work on gathering my thoughts, and ironing my feelings out about it all.