Mara Martin is a Sports Illustrated (SI) swimwear model. She’s also mommy to a sweet baby girl – Aria – all of five months.
On Sunday 15 July, Mara was due to strut her stuff on the catwalk at the Sports Illustrated Swim Search Show in Miami. However, she faced one adorable “issue”: little hungry Aria.
Due to the start of the show being pushed back several times, it was almost baby’s dinnertime and she couldn’t care less that mommy had work to do – she just wanted some yummy breastmilk.
Now, all mommies know that there’s nothing as tough as consoling a hungry baby. Mara knew this too, but as a working mommy, she still needed to go out there and do her thing.
And so, she decided to breastfeed Aria while gliding down the catwalk – giving birth to the image that’s dominating our newsfeeds these days.
Swimwear model breastfeeds on the catwalk! Aren’t they gorgeous?
Swimwear Model Breastfeeds on the Catwalk
The image? A statuesque, voluptuous and bronzed goddess (i.e. Mara) in a shimmering, golden off-the-shoulder bikini, and Aria, dressed in a teeny green bikini bottom and noise-cancelling headphones, latched on to her mommy.
Mara, all smiles, sashays down the ramp, flaunting her curvaceous body. Needless to say, both of them OWNED the runway.
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But people still grumbled and were offended. Why?
The model was delighted with the show, expressing her joy in an Instagram post.
But of course, predictably, there were the usual critiques:
“Wait until your baby grows up sees this picture! I hope he won’t get embarrassed and get teased by other peers”
“No, you can’t do it all. Fuck off with the bullshit. You lack manners . Attention seeking idiot. Leave your kid out of your shitty ideas. It was totally unprofessional and ridiculous. It’s not about the breast uncovered, it’s the simple act. It’s not the place to do it and don’t come with bullshits like you “had” to feed the baby. That’s a lie. I know what breastfeeding is, I did it for a long time. You acted like a dying model in desperation, used your own child to get attention… Model? Model my ass. Stay at home if you care that much of your baby and stuff. Shame on you.”
“Actually, most women will feed their baby right before something like this to make sure they aren’t hungry. I’m sure she knew approximately what time she was walking. To me, this is not normalizing breastfeeding. This is exploiting it and doing the opposite. Everyone stages everything these days for attention. And how long is that walk? Come on. It’s not like she’s in jury duty all day. That I can understand. This situation is lame. I’m on month 14 BFing and don’t understand this situation at all.”
“Oh so your the one huh!!! I see well this is actually really disgusting like why would you do this and in public?? This is something to be doing in private do you know how many perverts are out there. Tons. You are sooo very disgusting for doing this take it outside somewhere else. I just don’t get it. Its ugly.”
“Desperate for attention lmao”
“Saw the video. That’s one saggy ass giggling and wobbling all over the runway smh”
Luckily, there were plenty who firmly had Mara’s back, applauding her for #normalizing breastfeeding and also for showing off her gorgeously curvy post-baby body with pride and utter confidence.
“This made my day. You are an amazing new mom and already a great role model for your daughter. Thank you for supporting breastfeeding!”
“This is beyond amazing!! Thank you for doing this as showing the world (especially the men who read sports illustrated) that this is the most natural thing in the world and the primary function of our breasts!!”
“Mara, I have not stopped smiling all day …. you have shown the world a normal body on a runway … proud and strong and beautiful . Thank you for giving all women inspiration!”
And the positive comments just keep rolling in, drowning the haters in a sea of support.
However, perhaps more disturbing than the regular haters were the judging voices of other women, some of them mothers. Some felt the whole catwalk situation was stressful for the little baby. Others believed the decision to nurse on the catwalk was a calculated, attention-grabbing move.
Both were clearly not the case. If a baby is stressed, they don’t care where they are – they cry to show their distress. Was Aria crying? No. Was she wriggling about trying to escape her mommy’s breast and arms? No. As you can clearly see in the video, she stays calmly latched, noise cancelled by the headphones.
Also, Mara’s decision to model with her child was exactly that: her decision. As Aria’s mommy, she knows her daughter the best. Mara obviously made an informed choice to walk with her baby latched on knowing that she would be fine. After all, no mom would knowingly put her baby at risk, right?
And as for the move to breastfeed on the ramp being calculated…. SI Swimsuit editor MJ Day explains it was certainly not planned in advance.
“It was very spontaneous,” MJ explained. “When I was talking with the girls backstage prior to the show beginning, I saw that Mara’s baby was sleeping and peacefully nursing. I asked Mara if she would want to walk and continue to nurse. She said ‘Oh my gosh, yes! Really? Are you sure?’, and I said absolutely!
“I loved the idea to be able to allow Mara to keep nursing and further highlight how incredible and beautiful women are. For me, I nursed two babies myself, so I find it to be one of the most powerful things the female body can do. It was the easiest decision.”
Mara Breastfeeding on the Catwalk Is a WIN for All Women
This is a world in which women are still sexualized and objectified, despite the efforts of women’s rights champions in the past and present.
When Mara strode down that catwalk, she confidently destroyed a couple of sad stereotypes about women that exist in society.
The first is obvious. She’s normalizing breastfeeding.
If people have no issues seeing the breasts of non-breastfeeding models in SI editions, why do they get uncomfortable seeing the true function of breasts? Mara is also essentially breastfeeding in public – another area that has generated plenty of debate over the years, still frowned on in some societies. She’s helping shatter this stigma.
Next, she sets an example to women around the world (and their employers) that heading back to work doesn’t always have to involve the cessation of breastfeeding. Employers should take note of MJ’s comment and lead the way for more breastfeeding-friendly initiatives in the workplace.
Finally, Mara shatters false concepts around body image and women. Her body certainly doesn’t align with accepted (stereotyped) notions of what a model’s body should look like.
She has powerful legs and thighs, breasts heavy with milk, and an ample, sexy bottom that she jauntily wiggles. Mara flaunts her physical assets. She obviously doesn’t give a damn about what other people think. Her’s is clearly a post-baby body and she’s PROUD of it.
Mara is completely and utterly woman and shows this to the world powerfully and confidently.
Here at theAsianparent, we applaud this woman and the team at SI for helping to break down stereotypes about women.
This is a world where the American president downplayed the benefits of breastfeeding for commercial gain; where an 11-year-old girl in India was gang-raped by 17 men; where women are eve-teased and made to feel inferior on many levels; and where women in the workplace still earn less than their male peers.
This is why it’s important that we, as women, stand behind Mara and applaud her.
She is just one powerful image in the tapestry that strong women started to weave in the past, and that we MUST continue weaving in order to blanket-out multi-faceted prejudices that women still face.
Also read: The Singapore mums who proudly advocate breastfeeding in public
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore