Monday, October 29, 2007


Did you know that breastfeeding could abolish all diabetes? No, you didn't? That's because it can't!!

Last week, a nurse (possibly a nurse practitioner) said at a health care activism meeting, well, if everyone breastfed, there would be no diabetes.

Um... I say, I am diabetic and I was definitely breastfed for a long time.

Instead of owning up to the stupidity and insensitivity of her comment, or at least backing off a little, this woman says, "Really?!! Wow, you must be the outlier, the one exception! It's an inflammatory process!"

Hell no. This woman did not only just talk about me and my mother, but then she tried to defend her statement and act all surprised.

I thought about not even telling my mom (a nurse practitioner) about it because even though we both know it's bullshit, I don't want her to even think for a second about blaming herself or that I might blame her. But, I decided to, and she articulated another thing about it that bothered me. She said, "Doesn't sound like politics to me, sounds like blaming the victim." Yes, the blaming the victim thing. Stupid and fucked up. But I think it was politics, or "blaming the victim" masquerading as a political statement/rebellion, which bothers me even more. And blaming mothers is a recurring theme in our culture.
EDIT: As I was writing this post, I found this great discussion going over on Scott's blog about diabetes, breastfeeding, and blame/guilt.

I am actually all about breastfeeding for mothers that are able to, but this comment was just ridiculous for a couple reasons. Even though I do think traditional medicine can be harmful sometimes and natural methods have a lot to offer, the "natural medicine" pusher people piss me off a lot because they take it to an extreme that is able-ist and/or just dumb. Also, not all mothers are able to breastfeed for various health and other reasons.

In general, people that think they have a cure-all "natural" solution for my diabetes, or whatever else, are pretty arrogant to think that they have the fix to something that I devote endless time and energy to on a daily basis. If it was that simple and complete a solution, don't you think I would have found it? Or am I just stupid for muddling through with my traditional medicine? Do you want to see what happens to my body for even 4 hours without any insulin?

Now, that nurse wasn't suggesting she had a cure for me now. This is just an example of where that kind of statment takes you. It's a way of invalidating my very real experience. That's the problem with universalizing especially when you havent had that experience (and especially when you're working out of this ableist framework).

Also, even if it really was true that breastfeeding can prevent all diabetes, that's a pretty serious, loaded thing to say in such a cavalier way to someone you met 15 minutes ago.

I need to learn to write shorter posts. If you're getting bored, you can consider yourself done here! More ramblings of mine follow...

There are studies that show breastfeeding does significantly reduce the chances of a kid developing type 1 diabetes. And inadequate nutrition as a fetus, infant, or child can be linked to higher risks for stuff like type 2 diabetes and other health issues as an adult (one reason why I think we need to look at environmental stresses like poverty, etc. before anyone chalks up racial health disparities to genetics, which can often end up being just a new sophisticated incarnation of scientific racism). But for her to talk about this one single cause is really inaccurate. And her justification that it's an "inflammatory process" doesn't help her case, because there are so many different triggers that contribute to inflammation.

Also - speaking of ableism - this nurse also made a bunch of comments about well, if something ever happens to me, that's it. pull the plug. She was trying to make a point about the excess money we spend in the U.S. on heroic measures like ventilators at the end of life. I actually agreed with some of what she was saying, that we need to reexamine what life is and how we're spending our healthcare dollars, and if we really want, from a financial
and quality of life standpoint, to be living hooked up to tons of stuff instead of letting ourselves die peacefully when life is ending. But I don't think needing outside assistance from other people, machines, or drugs are the definition of when life is worth living or not, and her statements went too far into ableism and almost even eugenics.

Do you really think life with illness isn't worth living? And do you want to say that to me and the woman sitting next to me that looks like she might have cancer? Besides being a messed up way of thinking, MOST people live with illness or disability in some form at some point (especially people that are not upper-class white people like she and I). And I think to not recognize that is both inaccurate and ableist in that it reinforces this idea that healthy and perfect (and requiring no outside help from other people/medicines/therapies/etc) is the "normal" state for everyone, and a fall from that is remarkable or abnormal.


misscripchick said...

i like how people always blame the mother. not.

Jonah said...

It's not so much about breast feeding as it is early exposure to things other than breast milk.

I think that saying that someone shouldn't have to pay for someone else's life support might be a non-ablist thing to say, but saying you wouldn't pay for your own even if you had the money, is tantamount to saying that disabled life sucks.

And I'm tagging you for seven random things.