The Tragedy of the Commons’ Body: Daniel Tosh and Breastfeeding

By now, every one of you knows about the woman who called Daniel Tosh out on attempting to make light of rape who was then subsequently threatened with gang rape. You probably have already read your favorite point of view on how to react to this story in a few different blogs and other online content. If you are one of my readers, you probably come down on the side of “Daniel Tosh is a scrotum for this and other reasons and doesn’t have the vagina to tell an actual joke.” So what does that have to do with breastfeeding? Lots! Come with me on a journey into the wilds of feminism.

As others have pointed out, the issue is actually not about rape jokes versus heckling. That is merely what Tosh’s supporters have decided the issue is (or decided to derail the issue into being). What really pushed feminists over the edge was Tosh’s reaction to it. Tosh’s threat against the heckler. Not a threat to STFU or she’d be removed, but a threat of rape, of gang rape by her fellow audience members. You know, those men sitting right next to her. Tosh decided to make this a “joke” but using the phrase “wouldn’t it be funny.” Yep, hilarious.

His words were used to remind this uppity female audience member just where she resides in the gender hierarchy.

But what about the breastfeeding? Okay, okay.

The other thing that has been blowing up my newsfeed (thanx to a wonderful doula friend of mine) is about the many and diverse controversies surrounding feeding babies. Is attachment parenting good? Why are celebrities only breastfeeding for a few weeks or months? And the ever-present: OMG, that parent is feeding hir child in public! With a breast! That I can see!

I can’t do better than Barbara Kruger here in explaining how these things connect.

What rape jokes (all, even the ones that “work”); non-troversies about whether, when, how long, etc to breastfeed your child; and nearly every other feminist, womanist, anti-kyriarchy issue remind us is that your body (the one that is not cis, hetero, able, white, mid/upper-class, male) does not belong to you. Your body is part of the commons, and as such is subject to use and abuse by those that make the cut, those that get to own their own body.

Your body, from a very young age, is going to be told what to wear, what to look like, where to be at what times, where not be at what times, what to do, what to avoid doing, how to express itself, what choices are available to it. None of these things will be clear or without contradiction. Your body can never do anything perfectly, because the whims of those using the commons are never going to be consistent. You will be blamed for those whims. Or rather for not predicting those whims and acting accordingly.

Daniel Tosh’s threat and all this breastfeeding hullabaloo are examples of our culture hemming us in and controlling our bodies. You see it in the fights over reproductive rights and justice. You see it in the unnecessary, but forced choice between a career outside of the home and a career within it. This control is accomplished on a continuum from subtle social pressure to shocking levels of violence. This control is so complete and overwhelming, that you may not even see it for a very long time. Once you do though, you will recognize that you’ve been drafted into a war. The shrill scream of those silly feminists against the culture, against the threats, against the restrictions, against the “jokes,” against the violence, that is our battle cry. We are not going to stop fighting until the war is won.

Published by creatingcarrie

writer, performer, misadventurist, catmom, the silly aunt, and lawyer. i'm not very good at being still.

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