Viral breastfeeding photograph celebrates motherhood in the military

breastfeeding military moms viral photo screen shot 2015 09 14 at 4 26 10 pm
Tara Ruby
Hardly is there a more gendered, female unfriendly workplace environment in the United States than our military. Despite the fact that there are now more than 200,000 female active duty members — including 74,000 in the Army, 53,000 in the Navy, 62,000 in the Air Force, and 14,000 in the Marine Corps at last count — the armed forces does not exactly exude gender equity in its recruitment efforts. In fact, when Tara Ruby served on active duty in the U.S. Air Force between 1997 and 2001, no dedicated spaces for new, breastfeeding mothers looking for privacy to pump even existed.

More than a decade later, times have changed, and so have the facilities. At Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, a nursing room has been established in the Army base. While it may seem like a small gesture, it is in many ways a major recognition of a unique bonding experience between a woman and her child — one that juxtaposes the often hard exterior of the military with one of the most tender moments in human life. In honor of the new room, Ruby, now a photographer, decided to create “portraits of uniformed soldiers breastfeeding their children.” The striking photos have since gone viral, and serve as a beautiful and inspiring reminder that being feminine and maternal can and indeed does coexist with the strength, duty, and honor that are more often associated with the military than with motherhood.

One of the photographs Ruby shared on Facebook has now received nearly 12,000 likes and 9,000 shares. In her post, Ruby writes, “Today I believe we made history. To my knowledge a group photo to show support of active duty military mommies nursing their little’s [sic] has never been done. It is so nice to see support for this here at Fort Bliss.” Numerous supporters have applauded Ruby’s seamless normalization of a natural process in the context of what is generally considered an uber-masculine, rough and tumble environment that has had its fair share of controversy when it comes to gender as a whole.

“Through the guidance of my military friends, the Fort Bliss P3T Program and Brestfeeding in Combat Boots, our Garrison command and our Public Affairs, we were able to show that even our mommies in uniform can provide for their babies,” she says. “Breastfeeding their babies doesn’t make them less of a soldier, I believe it makes them a better one. Juggling the tasks and expectations of a soldier, plus providing for their own in the best way they possibly can, makes (these) ladies even stronger for it.”

Ever the loyal servicewoman, Ruby was sure to note that the current policies in place are supportive of working military moms, telling CNN, “I think it’s great the Army is supporting active duty mothers.” Still, she notes, “Sometimes, you hit a point in your military career where you have to choose between being a soldier and a mother, and a photo like this helps mothers so they don’t have to choose.”

While Facebook initially removed the photo (much to the chagrin of the many individuals who’d reposted and shared the image), Ruby has managed to sidestep the rather absurd no-breastfeeding policy at Facebook for the time being, and the post has generated rather lively discussion, with some praising the sentiment while others called it “unprofessional.” Of course, neither Ruby nor the Army agree with this critique, and both have noted that breastfeeding while wearing a military uniform is perfectly fine as long as the women “maintain professional standards.”

In any case, the real issue at hand is the display of support such photographs represent for working mothers who put their lives on the line for not only their children, but for their fellow countrymen and women every single day. And if that’s not worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

Photography

The Nixplay Iris might just make digital picture frames cool again

The digital picture frame's popularity has fizzled because of time-consuming updates and low quality -- but can a Wi-Fi connected frame change that? The Nixplay Iris is an 8-inch smart digital picture frame that wireless updates photos.
Movies & TV

Premium network, premium content: The best movies on HBO right now

HBO always has a solid selection of feature-length films on tap, but the offerings rotate fairly regularly, and browsing fatigue can set in given the sheer volume of the catalog. Here are our current favorites.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in August 2018, from ‘Blue Valentine’ to ‘Jurassic Park’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, subdued humor, or anything in between.
Mobile

The 100 best Android apps turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

Choosing which apps to download is tricky, especially given how enormous and cluttered the Google Play Store has become. We rounded up 100 of the best Android apps and divided them neatly, each suited for a different occasion.
Computing

The Facebook dating service will be free of charge and free of ads

Facebook is getting into the dating game. While the feature was one of the surprises from this year's F8, new details suggest what the feature may entail, including a few screenshots from a computer programmer.
Social Media

Three million people quit Snapchat after the redesign

After a million users signed petitions to get the old Snapchat back, the network's user count is showing the early results of the changes with a three-million-user drop in daily active users.
Features

The numbers don’t lie: Facebook is faltering. So what will eventually replace it?

Facebook is faltering, and the data prove it. User growth is slowing, employee outlooks are dipping, and young people are looking elsewhere. But for Facebook to fail, an alternative must arise. Who will it be?
Social Media

Facebook wants to help you find a mentor with its latest Groups feature

Facebook is designed for connecting to other people -- so why not mentors? Today, Facebook launched a program inside Groups that allows for two users to go through a mentorship program together.
Social Media

Facebook’s less cluttered friend list feeds are no more

Facebook friend feeds created a more curated news feed -- but not anymore. Facebook discontinued the feature, saying it wasn't widely used. The move will help the network focus on improving the news feed, the company says.
Photography

Starting a vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability.
Photography

For Monaris, it’s a photography career launched on an iPhone and Instagram

On Instagram, she's known just as Monaris. But street photographer Paola Franqui has built a following largely with an iPhone and a smile. We sat down with her to talk photography, style, and Instagram, of course.
Mobile

Marco? Polo! Let's explore the app known as the 'video walkie-talkie'

Marco Polo has been dubbed the "video walkie-talkie," but how does the video messaging app stack up against competitors like Snapchat and Instagram? From unique filters to personalized video messages, we explore the Marco Polo app.
Social Media

Kids can now initiate a friend request on Messenger Kids by using a password

Facebook's messaging app for the under-13 crowd required parents, not kids, to initiate the process of adding a friend. Now kids can start the process by using a unique passphrase -- a feature that still requires parental approval.
Social Media

Instagram hackers are changing account info into Russian email addresses

Have you logged in to your Instagram lately? A hack circulating this month has Instagram users locked out of their accounts because a hacker changed all the profile data, according to a report.