A Defence of Gisele; or, Her Cups Runneth Over


Impossibly tall. Impossibly thin. Impossibly bosomy—especially for someone that tall and that thin. Gisele is one of the most famous women in the world.

Gisele is also a new mother, and it is some of her opinions on mothering—breast-feeding in particular—that have caused something of a storm in a C-cup.

Author: Tiago Chediak

The snapshotted opinion appears to suggest mandatory breast-feeding worldwide:

I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.

Gisele was, of course, speaking in her role as glowing mother, not in her role as model/philosopher. The reaction here in Australia has been quite widespread. Possibly because we are in election mode and everything is being treated as a policy announcement. Maybe Tony Abbott will seize upon the trend and make his paid parental leave scheme conditional upon breast-feeding. Or, more likely, he will join the chorus against Gisele to prove his solidarity with the half of the electorate that can’t stand him.

Those who have reacted strongly to Gisele’s remarks focus on the enforced breast-feeding aspect, and, after racing through several stages of hypothetical law-making (including supposing that a “world-wide law” is an actual thing), seem to arrive, inevitably, at the conclusion that such a statute would be a zero-tolerance policy:

@ksteve85: Wow Gisele, way to completely piss off the mommy community. I BF, but how dare you suggest it should be law. Some mom’s CAN’T.

This approach misses Gisele’s point entirely. In the brief captures from the interview I have seen, Gisele makes two points:

  1. That breast-feeding helped her keep her figure
  2. That breast-milk is more nutritious for babies than formula.

There is nothing controversial about these two claims. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has some very similar comments to make:

WHO can now say with full confidence that breastfeeding reduces child mortality and has health benefits that extend into adulthood. On a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the recommended way of feeding infants, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years or beyond. 1.

It appears Gisele’s mistake (aside from not being an internationally recognised health authority) stems from rhetorically over-simplifying the situation and its benefits to arrive at a statement which seems to suggest that breast-feeding should be legally demanded.

Let’s be honest. Gisele does not travel in the same circles as the rest of us. I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to imagine that many people whom Gisele encounters in her regular life are successful career people with an army of assistants and nannies in tow to assist with child rearing, and for whom breast-feeding simply does not fit into their lives.

For example, Gisele’s comments make more sense if they are understood as addressing the kind of attitude that was brought up in a Daily Mail article regarding Gisele’s own comments:

And in 2008, TV host Kate Garraway said she struggled with breastfeeding her daughter Darcey.

‘After three weeks I certainly didn’t feel sexy, I felt a bit like a milk cow who existed only to provide food for her child,’ she said. 2.

And people are upset because Gisele has unrealistic ideas about motherhood? One might speculate about how Gisele would have felt had she been unable to go back to modelling swimwear six weeks after giving birth, but such speculation is not particularly helpful or relevant.

“Gisele’s Law” has been framed in terms of people who choose to use “chemical food” rather than those mothers who are unable to fully nourish a child on breast-milk alone. The reference to making it a law is simply a figure of speech.

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EDIT: As of writing this, Gisele has updated her blog. Here is an excerpt:

My intention in making a comment about the importance of breastfeeding has nothing to do with the law. It comes from my passion and beliefs about children. 3.

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  1. http://www.who.int/child_adolescent_health/topics/prevention_care/child/nutrition/breastfeeding/en/index.html
  2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1299711/Gisele-Bundchen-says-breastfeeding-law-6-months.html
  3. http://blog.giselebundchen.com.br/en/sentido/a-importancia-da-amamentacao/

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