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Salma Hayek: Spread the Milk

February 17th, 2009


Comment #1 by Asafo on February 17, 2009 - 11:22pm

Oh no she didn't !

* Asafo doesn't even play the clip because he's afraid of the rage that would rise up in him, messing him up for weeks to come. *

Comment #2 by Super Amanda on February 18, 2009 - 5:54am

I love this so much! I can't wait till July when it's my turn to turn on the taps and flow with love!

Comment #3 by rebecca on February 18, 2009 - 8:48am

I actually love this, though I would really like to know what the baby's mother is thinking while this is all going on.

Reminds me of my Root post on breastfeeding:

The Milk Bank

Breastfeeding was one of the highlights of my first weeks of motherhood. The decision to stop nursing Tenzin at three months was torturous. Intellectually I knew the transition would be difficult, but I was totally unprepared for the emotional blow-back. It was so intense that when I stopped and began buying huge cans of Enfamil adorned with gold foil announcing its DHA content, I was haunted by an overwhelming sadness.

Sadness because I had more milk than any other mother in the ICU when my son was born, and it seemed like such a waste of my body's desire to provide sustenance. Sadness because even though it was awkward and difficult at times to get my son comfortably "latched on," I felt more connected to him at those moments than I can express in words.

Which is why when I saw the story about the Chinese police officer who nursed nine babies orphaned or otherwise disconnected from their mothers in the earthquake, I cried. The moment was charged because I still feel, looking at my healthy and beautiful son, that I, too, have more milk to give. That I know exactly what the officer meant when she said it felt completely natural to pick those babies up--babies who had no food, no mothers--and feed them.

The level of empathy I felt for the officer, the babies, and the moms dead and alive, made me think about the importance of milk banks, and what an amazing gift the milk of another can be. It also made me reflect on my decision to use formula for Tenzin and not breastmilk from a bank. I remember being disturbed by the idea of another mother nursing my child. It made me think of wet-nurses, "mammys," and indentured servants forced to feed the children of others.

But it also made me anxious about my role as a mother, and the effect another mother's milk might have on my son. I was so insecure about my motherhood, I worried milk from a bank would make him less "mine."

I wish I knew then what I know now--the bond between parent and child transcends time, place, and even breastmilk. It's indestructible.

In other words, while it may be important, the milk isn't the thing.

Love is.

And milk banks rock!


Comment #4 by Danielle on February 20, 2009 - 1:28am

Good point, Rebecca, about what the baby's mother was thinking while this was going on. However, I think it's important to point out that women in the rest of the world might not romanticize breastfeeding like we do. She could have been thinking anything.
The breastfeeding community online that I was on while I was pregnant was vehemently against hospital births, and I was told that medical interventions during labor would halt your ability to breastfeed. So, when I did give birth and ended up with both pitocin and and epidural, I just assumed I couldn't breastfeed, so I didn't. I didn't find out that that wasn't true until later. I thuoght my daughter would be ruined for life (I mean, they do make it seem that way), but when I see her now and how awesome she is, I trust parenting idealists less and less.

About a year ago, I read something about a woman in Africa somewhere who has never been pregnant (If I remember correctly, I think she is a none), and she goes to an orphanage every day and breastfeeds a dozen babies. If I find it again, I'll refer you to it.

Comment #5 by rebecca on February 20, 2009 - 5:07am

I agree--I bet she was actually thinking some things that were not flattering at all--and not necessarily about breastfeeding. I'm sure she has a critique of the bigger picture. The irony of someone from a culture that created the circumstance, coming to "save" the result of the circumstance...and being perceived as a great humanitarian.


Comment #6 by Anonymous on February 22, 2009 - 6:52am

Re: "The irony of someone from a culture that created the circumstance, coming to "save" the result of the circumstance..."

Mexico didn't create the problems in Africa.

Comment #7 by rebecca on February 22, 2009 - 10:40am

No, but the global ruling class elite did.

Which is not to say that I don't love Salma Hayek--I'm saying every moment is fantastically rich with layers upon layers of information.

Comment #8 by rebecca on February 22, 2009 - 10:55am
It's also not to say that I, and all of us talking on this thread aren't also implicated. At this point it's like the song says: no one's hands are clean.
Comment #9 by rebecca on February 22, 2009 - 10:24pm
Comment #10 by Anonymous on February 23, 2009 - 1:23am

Sorry, Rebecca, but Salma Hayek has nothing whatsoever to do with the problems in Africa, regardless of who she married a few weeks ago.

You're viewing her gesture through the lens of white oppressor/ black victim, even though that paradigm clearly does not apply here.

Comment #11 by rebecca on February 23, 2009 - 3:03am

"You're viewing her gesture through the lens of white oppressor/ black victim"

I'm actually not, anon. I'm thrilled by her gesture. I'm wondering how the woman watching her gesture took it. I doubt she saw a wealthy superstar from the west in the same way she would see a Mexican woman of the same class as herself. 

I would have done the same thing as Salma--and I also would have wondered at the implications of it. 

There are just so many shades here, not the least of which is the fact that Salma isn't only Mexican, right? She's also Lebanese, correct? So if we look historically at the relationship between the Arab world and sub-saharan Africa we would also see quite a complicated picture. From enslavement, to forced religious conversion, to ongoing denigration of Nubia down. 

So-I rarely look at thing from an oversimplified binaristic pov; I do, however, allow myself to include the wide range of circumstances at play in any event. It would not be at all difficult to read many other positive tropes or memes into this picture--and again, I would make the same decision as Salma, but I would not make it blind to the incredible complexity of the moment. 



Comment #12 by rebecca on February 23, 2009 - 3:15am

And, where you are correct, I would venture, is that we could speak a bit about the mother's agency in this scenario. She does have agency and what did she use it for? Perhaps her agency can be seen in the fact that she did whatever she needed to do to get her baby fed that day--I'm sure many women there did not have whatever that quotient was that created the circumstance. Who knows how she got to be there?

We could imagine that she made some decisions about her own dire situation--I'm open to that, to her belief systems being problematic, her choices leading to a point where she couldn't provide for her baby.

We can even look at the leaders of Sierra Leone and the incredible corruption in their government--but as an African Studies scholar who knows the history of colonialism, independence, subsequent "underdevelopment" including the privatization of mines, etc by European companies, and the following burden of debt placed on these nations by structures like the IMF (not to mention the sales of weaponry to these countries by developed nations like the US--weapons then used to kill millions and prop of governments that support foreign policies and interests), I feel pretty secure in saying that the mother of that child has the right to feel both gratitude and rage, irony and equanimity. 

Like a snapshot of a supremely wealthy Catholic Spaniard visiting an American Indian reservation and nursing a severly malnourished child of an alcoholic mother who was beaten by missionaris for speaking her own language as a child. 

I don't care how many choices that mother made, to miss the, ahem, irony of that moment would be an injustice to all sides, a missed opportunity for healing, or at the very least, accountability. 

Comment #13 by Super Amanda on February 25, 2009 - 8:26pm

I love your excerpt from "Baby Love." I'm waiting to read it until my next international plane ride. Salma, for all her fame, riches and beauty is still an outsider in many respects. She's a Latina/middle eastern, she's one of the few truly hourglass bodies left in Hollywood and she's not a quiet "dumb sex symbol" or self parody hot tamale.

I think she simply shared her booby milk because she loves to breast feeding, those who dismiss it as some racial thing really need to chill. Madonna using kabbalh/colonialism as a means to go into Malawi and cross promote her competition with Angelina Jolie and desperate need to appear relevant, is far more destructive than Salma's breast.

Comment #14 by brownimani on February 25, 2009 - 9:04pm

I agree with you SuperAmanda. I really loved this when I saw it on the major media news (a 15 sec snippet I'm afraid). I too thought for a moment "where's the baby's mom, is she alive, is she okay with this, is the child sick?"- but only for a 10 sec snippet. Then I thought "this is a great thing to do, what a gift", and it's funny how I still miss nursing a baby 10 years after the fact. But that is the magic of mothering.
I found that mainstream america hates what MommySalma did and think it was gross and disgusting. Humans have a long way to go and in the meantime, those of us who know better will keep on mothering when and wherever we see a need.

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