A Feminist Critique of the Role of Medical Discourse in the Introduction of the Breastfeeding Amendment in the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 NSW

Sallie McLean

Abstract

Although breastfeeding in public space is protected under anti-discrimination laws throughout Australia, public breastfeeding remains an ambiguous and controversial issue. The NSW anti-discrimination amendment that expressly permits women to breastfeed in public was introduced using a decidedly medical discourse. Public breastfeeding was legitimised by recourse to the nutritional and economical advantage of breastfeeding. This rationale effectively disengages breastfeeding from the paradigm of women’s rights, and leaves the act of breastfeeding itself open to substitution. A feminist jurisprudential analysis of the legitimising arguments behind the amendment illustrates how the focus on medical and economical concerns obscures the role that nationhood, capital and cultural practice play in denigrating breastfeeding as a distinctly female practice.

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