Modern Family & Breastfeeding: Thumbs Down

Have you seen the latest episode of Modern Family? The episode entitled “Best Men” features Gloria’s character answering the door, nursing baby Joe while signing for a package. No big deal, right? Who hasn’t answered the door with a baby on her boob? I thought the episode showed some promise!

And then I noticed the censor marks blurring Gloria’s chest area…where an equal amount of breast skin was showing on the other side, without a nursing baby attached. What? Censor marks? Really?

Then, Jay walks to the door and first berates the delivery man for ogling his wife’s breasts (the “joke” is that he keeps finding things for Gloria to sign so he can continue lasciviously watching her nurse her baby) and then berates his wife for “doing that” in front of a stranger.

ABC is so proud of the bit, they made their own meme about it!

Funny, right? Um…no, actually.

Jay continues to yell, telling her if she “has to” do that in front of strangers, to cover up with a blanket.

That’s just what American mothers need: Al Bundy telling us to cover up with a blanket so that perverts don’t get off thinking about our breasts as sexual objects. Is this funny? Does this pass for comedy on television anymore?

Jay continues, angry that Gloria was nursing at breakfast and other places in front of the extended family, obviously causing a scene and “making” Phil stare because he “almost ate a candle.”

I watched the episode a second time, because I wanted to see if it still made me angry once I was finished reacting. Yep. Still terrible.

The whole nursing bit was supposed to lead up to Manny’s obsession with breasts, causing problems in his art class at school since he draws and sculpts nothing but the female form. The “joke” is that Gloria nurses Joe so much, her teenaged son has become unhealthily obsessed with her body, with breasts in general.

Which, of course, is just silly because Manny is really in love with the nanny, who wears a frumpy apron and uniform anyway. Yet Manny still manages to think about her bosom…perhaps because media like this very television program teaches us all that breasts are nothing but sexual, that women’s bodies are for staring and fantasizing.

What do we have to do to reclaim our breasts from the male gaze? I’m disappointed in the writers. I’m upset that the show is playing right into the booby traps nursing mothers continue to face every day.

I’m also interested in that it’s the mama’s family who cause her the most problems with nursing–I find this to be true much too often. I wish Gloria would have spoken up about this, but she doesn’t. Feeling vulnerable, she shrugs and accepts the criticism from her family, like so many of us do.

Women who have fine experiences nursing in public feel they have to go to a back room or hide while they are at family functions because their relatives behave exactly like the Pritchett family.

Every time I think maybe I’m making it up, that there really are no barriers to breastfeeding except in my head, I see something like this episode and remember: I’m not crazy. We have a long way to go.

Has anyone seen any network television shows portraying breastfeeding in a healthy, positive way? Please share with us in the comments so we know what shows to watch!

6 comments to Modern Family & Breastfeeding: Thumbs Down

  • Shakeeta W

    This is so sad. Just when you think we may be making some headway in normalizing breastfeeding, something comes along and pushes 2 steps back :(

  • Amber E.

    I too was disappointed. This show bends the norms in other areas of family life, I thought for sure it would show the positives of breastfeeding. I love this show! But agree that the writers missed the mark on this episode. Gloria shows her breasts all the time. Much more then we would have seen with her nursing a baby.
    Anyway another show to check out is The New Normal. They recently had a breastfeeding episode. It had some positive things in it. The negative things I think were for comedy. I’d like to know what you think. I was happy it was opening up the subject of breastfeeding, trying to normalize it.

  • Patty

    I also wasn’t crazy about some of the things shown, especially the blurred breast.
    However, Gloria did tell Jay breastfeeding was normal. I also thought she wasn’t giving in to family criticism, she was just ignoring it.
    But the best part was Manny’s obsession. I think it showed very well that young men do not notice breastfeeding.
    Breasts do have two functions in our culture. I loved that Manny accepted his mom’s nursing as normal, but recognized the other function of breast on another woman.

  • K

    I have a feeling that the blurring of the nursing breast is largely used because the baby isn’t ACTUALLY nursing, and it would be quite difficult to make it look authentic without obstructing the viewer’s view in some way.

  • Tova

    On Breaking Bad, Schyler sends her kids to her sister’s house because she’s scared to have them around her husband the meth cooker. Schyler’s brother-in-law is holding the baby, and the sister brings over a bottle. The guy says, “There had better be breastmilk in there! Only the best for my niece!”

  • Katy Rank Lev

    Patty, you raise a good point about Manny not noticing the breastfeeding! That does show that it’s normalized to him.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge