The real problem with the breastfeeding yoga mum

Image: Daughter of the Sun Facebook page.

Image: Daughter of the Sun Facebook page.

If you’ve been following the “naked breastfeeding yoga mum” saga the past week or so, you’d know that said yoga mum, known to her family as Amy Woodruff, had faced a barrage of criticism for a photo originally taken and distributed via parenting sites some two years ago. This kerfuffle culminated in her Instagram account, @daughterofthesun, being deleted, apparently due to “haters” having reported her numerous breastfeeding photos.

(For her part, Woodruff said of the internet storm, “My prayer is that others can also follow their dreams and tune in to their hearts and not their TVs”.)

First things first: you can breastfeed your baby while dressed as a giant ant in one of those zero gravity loop-the-loop planes for all I care; provided the child is not in harm’s way, parenting and how to do it should be something that the parents themselves decide on, not a crowd of know-better bystanders. Furthermore, the fact that - presumably, as Instagram’s powers that be have remained mute on the subject - her Instagram has been deleted due to photos of breastfeeding is obviously ridiculous.

Image: Daughter of the Sun Etsy store.

Image: Daughter of the Sun Etsy store.

(NB assume any links to Daughter Of The Sun aren’t safe for work, unless your workplace smiles on the beauty of the perpetually naked human form.)

Advertisement

Rather, the problem with Daughter Of The Sun and its ilk that nobody seems to be discussing is how rife with cultural appropriation it and similar lifestyle blogs are. Making teepees for “moon time”, shooting topless fashion stories dedicated to “the indigenous women of Bali who inspired this shoot”, dressing up in indigenous face paint and headdresses, using terms like “natives” and “primitive”: none of these things are made any more acceptable (than they would be if a witless hipster did them, that is) if the person in question claims to be “receiving the downloads” from Gaia.

Daughter Of The Sun is just the most newsworthy example of this behaviour; there are loads of other people engaging in “magick” and associated ‘close to the earth’ lifestyles who make a miniskirted music festival attendee in a warbonnet look like a bastion of sensitivity.

Image: Daughter of the Sun Etsy store.

Image: Daughter of the Sun Etsy store.

The new age community loves nothing more than to cherry pick aspects of other cultures to add colour and meaning to their practice, but they get away with it perhaps because it seems to lack the cynicism with which fashion labels and B-list celebrities culturally appropriate. The difference, so the dodgy logic goes, is that peace-loving freaky people aren’t hurting anyone. The reality is that cultural appropriation, colonialism and privileged condescension sucks no matter who’s doing it, whether it’s Urban Outfitters or one “yoga mom” with a blog. 

The basic gist of cultural appropriation, though it’s discussed in the context of fashion in this particular instance, is well summed up by A l’allure Garconniere’s fine post on the topic: “the issue of institutional racism and discrimination [cannot] be completely divorced from the question of cultural appropriation. they feed into one another”. The issue of colonialism, in particular, is even more present in situations like Daughter Of The Sun’s, where a privileged white woman travels to hang out with “natives” and then sells their “tribal” crafts via her Etsy.

Like so many things - fashion shoots, Halloween costumes, interior design - it doesn’t have to be like this. It’s possible to live a life in tune with the new age vibrations (ahem) and have a more-than-basic grasp of cultural sensitivity.

The image of Amy and daughter Naia that went viral.

The image of Amy and daughter Naia that went viral.

In my spare time, I engage in plenty of practices that could be described (or dismissed) as “new age”, though I don’t blog about them because I assume that for most people, hearing about my very mundane adventures in herbalism and kitchen magic is about as interesting as hearing the good news about J.C.

However, within that lifestyle/belief structure, I’m careful to only work within a model that is appropriate to my own cultural heritage, to wit, an English and German tradition. (If you’ve been looking for a good 16th century recipe for rose butter, I’m your gal.)

I mention that not to say “woop woop give me a medal for being the bestest”, but to illustrate that it’s still possible to live “close to the earth and in tune with the Mother”, as Daughter Of The Sun/Woodruff puts it, without engaging in the wholesale appropriation of other people’s cultures. All it takes is a bit of sensitivity and a willingness to do some homework. Chances are your own culture is stuffed full of fascinating and enriching things to make and do.

Stepping away from the lure of cultural appropriation might mean your Instagram is less crammed with ‘like’-bait “colourful” Ikat prints and feather headdresses, but it also means you’re less likely to be being a complete dropkick, too. And I’m no expert, but I think Gaia would probably prefer that.

 

 

 

 

72 comments so far

  • Whilst I agree that appropriating someone else's culture is a form of racism, I don't think that people need to avoid learning about customs and ideas from around the world. Understanding people who are different from ourselves is part of being a well rounded person and helps us to avoid cultural imperialism.

    Commenter
    Nisha
    Location
    North Fitzroy
    Date and time
    August 28, 2013, 7:01AM
    • It's not racism. Racism is about thinking ones race is superior to another because of biological advantages. The misuse of this word by PC and multicultural fools has deprived it of any worthwhile meaning or value. It's just a meaningless political epithet these days.

      However, the tosser in the photo is just that, a total narcissist who cares nothing but to get attention by insulting stunts. She insults the entire yogic tradition of India to gain celebrity and money. She is the shallowest of shallow opportunists and by her act insults the entire yogic tradition and all Hindus. But this is what you get when a civilization - our own in this case - is in rapid decline. If Western civilization were healthy, we'd laugh at her and this empty fool would retire into a corner into the abject humiliation she thoroughly deserves.

      Commenter
      Catch 22
      Location
      European through and through
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 8:49AM
    • Hmm, culture is rather dynamic.

      Whilst culture is the common heritage of humanity, we have to be careful when protecting a distinct positive culture (like a distinct regional culture) from other positive cultures else we end up becoming modern day hitlers pursuing and creating a negative culture.

      I collect a particular form of Sth Korean art that is very very rare and I have the second largest collection of that art in the world. When in South Korea I devoted much time and much money to hunting and acquiring that when 99.999% of Koreans just didn't care about it.

      But, the outrage and nationalism from the few when they discovered I had collected this stuff was astonishing for it was me who had bothered to protect these cultural items while they hadn't at all. "Alex Is Taking Our Culture" was a post that actually appeared on a Korean web forum- it lead to a mini cyber war and resulted (sadly) in all foreigners being excluded from that particular site.

      I guess ultimately, it is up to us to decide what is culturally praiseworthy and what isn't and we do this every day, in our own patterns of consumption and social discourse etc like this woman has done.
      If she wants to wear African trad clothes then good on her- as long as she doesn't do it to the exclusion of values in the way we treat each other.

      I much prefer Christian values over traditional practices, clothing and artwork and hey, if you read the new testament you find that's exactly what Christ taught.

      Commenter
      Alex
      Location
      Finley
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 12:40PM
    • 'appropriating someone else's culture is a form of racism'

      whaaat? why? Do you think people of other cultures are similarly 'racist' when they start wearing t-shirts and eating big macs?

      The fashion shoots are just representing images and they do this with aspects of western culture as well. How is doing a fashion shoot in 50s beatnik style any different to doing one in a tribal style?

      Culture isn't the clothes. Culture is a set of practices and beliefs. No-one 'owns' culture. Culture has morphed and spread throughout history and continues to do so today.

      I guarantee people from the cultures being 'copied' would not be offended by the spread of some of their practices. The idea they would be is just silly.

      This whole argument is very weird- it's like you're looking for something to be offended about.

      And don't you think it's time we left yoga mom alone?

      Commenter
      Reg
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 1:32PM
    • No, you're wrong. Racism may have evolved a biological bent but the it's earlier forms derived from cultural or religious differences being used to justify conquest and slavery. There is an argument to be made for this form of appropriation being racist as it removes most of the important tradition and in some cases may violate religious beliefs. Believing that you have a clear and unequivocal definition of racism is naive.

      Commenter
      Patrickb
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 9:26PM
    • 'appropriating someone else's culture is a form of racism'. It is although I'd like to swap out appropriating with the word hijacking. It demeans someones cultural inheritance if any old philistine can come along and mimic your culture. A bit like eating at a supposed authentic Italian restaurant where the kitchen and waiting staff are all Chinese. It's a fraud.

      Commenter
      W
      Location
      Berlin
      Date and time
      August 29, 2013, 1:44AM
    • This article is full of xenophobic and narrow nonsense Clem. Those who follow their own cultures could equally be accused of being unthinking followers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with cherry picking from different cultures; it is far better than sticking with your own. Why? Because all cultures have their good bits and all have their dreadful practises that should have been rejected long ago. As a world-culturist for years I have cherry-picked the most suitable practises from a range of cultures and have a far more satisfied and heathy life because of it. It is simply wrong to accuse cultural samplers of appropriation, racism, etc.

      Commenter
      Dean R Frenkel
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 29, 2013, 7:22AM
  • Clem, always enjoy reading your stuff. Don't know whether "cultural appropriation" is really racist but the way it tends to be practised it is undoubtedly disrespectful, condescending and smacks of elitism.

    Commenter
    ChrisH
    Location
    Vic
    Date and time
    August 28, 2013, 8:58AM
    • What I find strange is why the 'earth mother' / naturalist women always gravitate towards wearing multicolored, 'tribal' pattern clothing.

      Why not pure wool suits?. Suits make women look classy, irrespective of their baby feeding orientation.

      Commenter
      sunny
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 28, 2013, 9:21AM
      • Have you ever tried doing yoga in a suit?

        Commenter
        K.
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 28, 2013, 11:52AM

    More comments

    Make a comment

    You are logged in as [Logout]

    All information entered below may be published.

    Error: Please enter your screen name.

    Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

    Error: Please enter your comment.

    Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

    Post to

    You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

    Thank you

    Your comment has been submitted for approval.

    Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.