Kendi, a one-year-old black rhino from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, is quite the show-stealer. Not only has he been in the news because he was the first of his super-endangered species to be born at the zoo in nearly two decades, but also because he "nipped the tip of an adult male’s right index finger during a behind the scenes encounter".
The picture Cincinnati Zoo recently posted of Kendi, by now about half the size of his mother Seiya, nursing, wasn't meant to be anything but cute and inspirational (we're dealing with an endangered species here, remember?). With the caption " Kendi will still nurse every now and then when Seyia will allow it", it simply showed zoo life in action. The zoo is a place where people can enjoy seeing "rhinos wallow, flamingos socialize, and zebras snort — all events that visitors may get the chance to experience as they explore this area", the zoo shares, and nursing rhinos are just another thing you can encounter at the zoo. We bet they weren't expecting anything like the response they got!
Women converged on the zoo's post to share comments they've no doubt been confronted with numerous times, united in their dripping sarcasm.
"Omg!," one woman exclaimed. "That CHILD is too old to still be on the tit! Get him a cup of cows milk! Ridiculous that mom allows that! Shes just trying to entice the other dads in the compound!! She should be ashamed!!"
Another added: "She better be careful or she'll still be nursing him when he's off to college! He's definitely old enough to be on cow's milk now."
"Can’t they do that in the bathroom? I’m trying to eat here...", a third pipes up.
And on, and on, and on.
"Obviously she'll be one of those mothers who rocks up to kindergarten at recess and flops a boob over the fence so the child can feed!!", one woman says, reminding us of a common old wives' tale that extended nursing means never-ending nursing.
"This photo is distracting, she’s trying to steal my boyfriend," another says, making fun of the idea that breastfeeding in public is in any way done to attract attention.
"Wow. Rhino boobs should only be seen on beaches or in lingerie ads. Have some dignity! I mean, I’m all for rhino breastfeeding, but..." Yup. Because breasts are only for the sexual gratification of men.
"Stop rubbing breastfeeding in my face, FED IS BEST!", reads another comment, referring to a recent campaign that many ultimately see as anti-breastfeeding.
The 200+-comment post was soon dominated by the kinds of stereotypical one-liners breastfeeding mommas contend with every day, and the message was clear. Black rhino calves tend to nurse for about 18 months — the same amount of time they spend in utero. For human babies, however, the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and nursing alongside solid foods "up to the age of two or beyond". Yet every nursing mother knows that the admonishments never stop. Moms are constantly told to cover up, stop nursing, "do that in private", or supplement with formula. Then there's always, of course, that odd busybody who just can't help themselves and simply has to share that "extended nursing" is kind of pathological and almost pedophilic. (Remember Little Britain's "bitty", anyone? Nope. That just doesn't happen.)
Rhino breastfeeding is nourishing, natural, and normal. So is human breastfeeding. Human breastfeeding is not sexual, disgusting, inappropriate, or something to be done in a restroom, hidden away from view. The moms commenting on the lovely picture of Kendi and his mother show us all that we still have a long while to go before everyone sees it that way, though.