Humanity I Love You

May 26, 2009

The world, sometimes, is an ugly place. A spectacularly ugly place. A place that is made all the uglier for the fact that its ugliness creeps in at the edges, smothering the beauty in its path. When you look at it through dreamy or sleepy eyes – rose-colored glasses, I think is the term – it seems unparalleled in beauty – a baby’s smile, peonies in first bloom, a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie – until you blink and rub your eyes and look more closely and realize that in the shadows lurks such ugliness as you have never imagined. And suddenly the baby’s smile fades, and the peonies wither, and the Buffy movie turns out to be a cinematic crime of such epic proportions to prevent you from ever seeing a movie again.

It’s the kind of ugliness, as I said, that smothers and warps beauty, turning the world ugly for no reason other than proclaim the victory of ugliness. So it is, for example, that people proclaim that an image of beauty and hope – an image of a small child nursing her infant doll – is something sordid, in order to assert their belief that nursing is ugly and that bodies are ugly and that any practice of nurture that does not accord with their limited view of what constitutes love and nurture is ugly. So it is, for example, that people proclaim that the marriage of two people who love each other and want to love and care for each other for the entirety of their lives is a deviation, simply because the people who want to marry are not of different sex, in order to assert their belief that love is ugly and that sex is ugly if these do not accord with their limited view of the character and purpose of love and sex. And so by making these assertions, they drag in the cold specters of prurience and judgment and demand that we view these unarguably beautiful things – playful joy being derived from an act of nurture, the determination of two hearts to be joined in committed love – through a chilly hateful fog. Everything takes on the cast of ugliness through such a fog. Everything.

Such a fog creates hate where none existed before, where none should have existed before. I hate those who would make me second-guess a beautiful photograph of my daughter, who would force me to defend encouraging her in something – indulging the impulse to play at motherhood, to play at nurture, to teach herself the practices of love and care – that should require no defense, none at all. I hate those who would compel me to shake my fists at the state of California and shout words like evil and stupid and unfair, who would drag me into the ring to defend, again, something that should be beyond defense, something that should just be received as a given blessing – more love in the world, more hearts bound to other hearts, more hearts in exulting in the joy of sharing a life.

There is nothing sexual about a child pretending to nurse. There is nothing sordid about two men or two women loving each other. That I even have to draw together in a written breath the words sexual-child-nurse and sordid-two-men-two-women-loving is ugly and wrong because it just perpetuates the ugliness, it just gives it air to breathe, it just acknowledges that it is there and that fills me with anger, so much anger, and so the cycle of ugliness grinds on.

So I am choosing, now, to refuse the ugliness. I am not going to argue or rant or defend. Beauty needs no defense. It just is. And I am going to celebrate it.

This is beauty:

Let’s celebrate it. Maybe, by celebrating it, we can chase the ugliness back into the shadows.

Teach your child to nurse a dolly. Tell your child that Barbie can fall in love with Barbie and that Ken can fall in love with Ken. Tell them that love – good love, strong love, love that doesn’t hurt – is never ugly. Tell them, teach them, that caring for other beings, is always beautiful, no matter what it looks like. Tell them to fight ugliness by celebrating beauty. And you do the same.

Let’s all do the same.

(Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down

on it)


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    Amy Ruth Webb May 27, 2009 at 4:48 am

    You said it!

    TeacherMommy May 27, 2009 at 8:35 am

    I’m pretty sure I nursed my dollies when I was a kid. I also grew up in a country where nursing is so taken for granted–and boobs, in general, viewed as tools for such activity–that women in their homes and the more rural places routinely go around topless for easy access. For the babies, that is.

    It was so strange to me to be told that I needed to cover up more or perhaps nurse my sons in another room when my father-in-law was around, because it made him uncomfortable. Sorry, bub, it’s my baby and my boobs!

    And LOVE e.e. cummings. Brilliant man.

    Jennifer May 27, 2009 at 9:38 am

    You are amazing. Thank you for making my cry (again). So well said; the e.e. cummings was just icing on the cake.

    Mama Seoul May 27, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Allowing more people to marry does not undermine my marriage at all. The high divorce rate undermines the institution of marriage more than allowing more people to marry.

    Also, I really don’t why some people would be o.k. with civil unions but not marriage. Why care? A government recognized union should be called the same thing for homosexuals and heterosexuals and if people want to describe themselves as married or partnered or coupled or whatever, they should. It doesn’t make any difference or have any effect on my marriage.

    All this energy would be better spent encouraging pre-marital counseling and couples counseling to help lower the divorce rate or very simply, for the people to put down their signs and go focus on their own marriages!

    My son nursed his doll as well until he figured out that he didn’t have breasts, then, being the concerned little daddy that he is, he asked me to nurse his doll!

    The picture of your daughter is beautiful!

    JChevais May 27, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Anglosaxon puritanism stinks and is hypocritical.

    I’m really glad that I live in a “Latin” country now where people are allowed to live their lives and make their own choices.

    Upstatemomof3 May 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

    First off I must say I love this post!!! And I love that picture! Now let me tell you a story. I run a daycare and one day one of the four year old boys was saying he was going to marry another four years old boy that he was really good friends with. It was cute. Well, one of the five year old girls turned around and scolded him saying that boys cannot marry other boys. Well, before I could get into the conversation and correct her she went on to say that she was going to marry her brother. Now she is a kid but what got to me was that her parents had actually taken the time to tech her that boys could not marry other boys and girls could not marry other girls but let her go around saying she was going to marry her brother. TO me that kind of haterd is ugly.

    But I agree we should celebrate beauty and that picture of your daughter is beautiful!!

    Sam May 27, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Absolutely!! I offer you a standing ovation and a heartfelt, “hear! hear!”

    Julie @ The Mom Slant May 27, 2009 at 10:18 am

    We will all keep teaching our children so that they will not have to lament such ugliness themselves.

    LAVANDULA May 27, 2009 at 10:37 am

    love and nurturing and caring are always beautiful

    Jill May 27, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Love this post. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Anonymous May 27, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I have a photo of my child that I treasure. He was around 2 and decided to give his dolly some “drinks”. My four year old and 2 year old, both boys, ask me if I want some of their “drinks” and I think it’s beautiful that they want to share that with me. And yes, I have explained to them that they will not likely grow up to nurse their own children (though it is possible but that’s another story!)

    pkzcass May 27, 2009 at 11:43 am

    Went to the links and saw the little girl in the original photo that sparked such a storm. Your little one is much cuter and should have been the model. : )

    Jody May 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm


    Karen May 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Good for you.

    It is distressing that the haters had to try and take such a beautiful picture of your daughter and make it ugly. I said TRY, they didn’t, they can’t no matter how hard they push their narrow views on the world.

    They will never win, because there are strong, loving, open minded people like yourself and most of your readers. We can keep them in check by refusing to bend to their hate and teach our children acceptance and understanding.

    Thank you for your beauty.

    Chaos Control May 27, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Standing O.
    Standing O!!!

    Anonymous May 27, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    “So I am choosing, now, to refuse the ugliness. I am not going to argue or rant or defend. Beauty needs no defense. It just is.”

    Spoken with the soul of a perfect tyrant, or maybe just the soul of a perfect philistine. Look, I’m all for leaving some things be. Sometimes it may be be the best option. However, only someone monumentally selfish or bottomlessly shallow could look at the various manifestations, assertions, expressions and intimations of beauty in their life, in the world, in literature, in history, etc, and think that none of their particular understanding of it requires no further consideration. Great minds don’t think alike, and great souls even less. Still less would one have reason to believe that beauty can be packaged and mass-distributed in some simple or single social construct. Look, if you’re happy with yourself, fine, but then keep to yourself if you’re not willing or able to subject your own sensibility to any scrutiny. Beauty is found in many forms, not always perfectly compatible. Love of humanity which fails to take that into account will only ever amount to love of self: tyrant or philistine.

    Anonymous May 27, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    On a simpler note: people who say anything along the lines of “I don’t understand how love can’t be celebrated”, “why would you want to stop love”, “what’s wrong with love”, etc. – you’re all idiots. You can’t think of any form of love, any at all, that isn’t perfectly alright? Seriously? You’re incapable of making distinctions of any kind at all when it comes to love? Really? This is a question apart from marriage, homosexuality, or anything else. Just anyone who suggests that they cannot distinguish between kinds, degrees, qualities, etc., of love, isn’t just a moron, but probably lying, or at least incapable of any degree of thought: any and every person who says something like that has, does and will object to some forms of “love”, for any number of reasons.

    Anonymous May 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    I love this picture! I have a similar one framed in our house of our daughter nursing her baby.

    Her Bad Mother May 27, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Anonymous: really? All that from “beauty needs no defense”? Methinks you have some issues.

    First of all: claiming something along the lines of “beauty is truth; truth, beauty” is neither tyrannical nor philistine. I did not say that beauty warrants no examination or interrogation; I said that it requires no defense. Which, you know, is a suggestion that you can find in the works of any number of philosophers, ancient and modern, not least Socrates, Aristotle, Kant and Hegel. Sure, I was suggesting that certain things have a claim to the title of beauty, but that’s a different argument to address (whether the things I cite are in fact beautiful, as opposed to whether there is such a thing as ‘Beauty’ qua an ideal).

    And note that I did NOT state that any and all forms of love are de facto beautiful – I distinguished ‘good love, strong love, love that does not cause pain’ – which excludes a whole lot of instances of “love” that one might reasonably argue are *not* beautiful. But that doesn’t mean that it is unreasonable or ignorant to state as a fundamental that LOVE as an ideal is an absolute good. Plato’s Symposium is a good reference here. So is Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics. And yes, I’m being braggartly here – I’ve spent going on two decades as a student of philosophy, and love and virtue are my area of specialization, so I know whereof I speak.

    This post is rhetoric; it borders, at points, on hyperbole. It’s NOT a treatise on beauty.

    I welcome criticism, but a little thoughtfulness – and a more careful reading of what’s being criticized – is encouraged.

    Redneck Mommy May 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Well here I was going to argue Anonymous’s comment only to discover Cat herself did a much better job than I ever could.

    Better to school them than to swat them I suppose.

    Just not as much fun.

    anonymommy May 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    It’s too bad anonymous didn’t actually READ the post. If she/he had, I don’t think you’d be having this argument, Catherine.

    Or maybe you would. Some people just like to toss rocks in the puddle just to watch the ripple effect.

    Tatiana @ averygoodyear May 27, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Nursing my daughter has been such a beautiful experience, and I would be honoured if, someday, she wanted to try and replicate that bond with her dolly. I’m getting all teary-eyed thinking about sitting on the couch feeding her little sibling while she pretend nurses a doll beside us. It would be amazing.

    Insofar as Prop 8 — I’m so disgusted that it’s even an issue. Why is it okay for this prejudice to be written into law? You cannot discriminate against someone for the colour of their skin, but you can discriminate against them because of who they love? How does that remotely make sense, especially in a country that tries to present itself as a world leader?

    This was a really lovely, insightful, and passionate post. Well done.

    nic @mybottlesup May 27, 2009 at 5:59 pm



    TX Poppet May 27, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I disagree with Redneck Mommy. Lemme swat ‘em! But first I need to re-read this beautiful post again and again.

    Overflowing Brain May 27, 2009 at 6:08 pm


    I could swear that there was an old court decision one time that said that separate was inherently unequal. But clearly, that doesn’t apply to love and it doesn’t apply to people who are not hereosexual.

    We’d be nothing without our differences. Why the hell can’t we just celebrate them?

    I’m moving back to California next week and you bet your ass I’ll be screaming from the top of my lungs for some real change. It’s time. We’ve waited too long.

    Anonymous May 27, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    “I did not say that beauty warrants no examination or interrogation; I said that it requires no defense”

    You prefaced it with the statement: “I am not going to argue or rant or defend” – argue is the key term there.

    “I did NOT state that any and all forms of love are de facto beautiful”

    Ah, but I did not state that you did. I put in a separate post, in response to various posters above who made statements along those lines. Although you did write: “Tell them that love – good love, strong love, love that doesn’t hurt – is never ugly”. Now, you could say that “good love”, “love that doesn’t hurt” are qualifiers here. Fine. But then it has to be argued why this form of love is good and doesn’t hurt versus that one, etc. Its not simply self-evident.

    Her Bad Mother May 27, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Anon – I said that I wasn’t interested in ranting/defending/arguing the points against those who were claiming the things cited were ugly. Which is an entirely reasonable position to take. Some arguments are futile. Some arguments go nowhere. Some arguments just degrade both sides.

    This is a blog, not a lecture hall. Just because I say that I’m not willing to argue a certain point, doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to *argument*. It means that within the context of a post, I’m not going there.

    Although for the record, I’m not a relativist, and have little patience for relativism in most cases. So I’m quite willing to go to the mat to defend certain things as ‘right’ or ‘better’ and I agree that claiming why any form of love requires further discussion, but again: BLOG. I reserve the right to limit the scope of my arguments. And would prefer to not be called a tyrant or philistine for doing so.

    Her Bad Mother May 27, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Nic – that was the best all-caps comment I’ve ever received, I think ;)

    Anonymous May 28, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Do any of you actually have real jobs? Or do you just sit around all day and breastfeed? Just curious. You’re special and cool, it must be really great to “be” you. Get a life already.

    Lez May 28, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Thank you Catherine! Just thank you. You have said it all! Yes, the picture of your daughter is beautiful, and yes, we should all be able to love who we love.

    Don’t let that pissant anonymous poster tick you off. I had a similar debate with someone when we were passing same-sex marriage in my state (Vermont). While I used my real name, he was a coward, who hid behind being anonymous! If you feel so strongly and think you’re so right, use your real name! Stand up out and proud!

    Catherine, you’re the best!

    Mom101 May 28, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Anon 9:13, no we pretty much just sit around and breastfeed all day. I tried to order a life over the internet once, but the postage was too expensive and since I don’t have a job (since I just sit around and breastfeed all day) I had to cancel the order.

    Oh well. Maybe next year.

    Issas Crazy World May 28, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    LOL at Mom101. Great answer.

    Real job Anon? What is that again. Oh wait, raising our children isn’t, is it? Since we don’t get paid for it, it’s not real? Get a life.

    You can’t win with these people. You put a kid in daycare and you are guaranteeing them to a life of depravity and drug use. Stay home with them and you are an idiot, incapable of getting or keeping a job. Some days, I wish they’d all get together and make up their dang mind.

    Catherine, I adore that picture. Beautiful little baby girl. Don’t let the trolls get you down C. Hell, one told me to kill myself yesterday. Serious. Am imagining how horrible their lives must be, to spew such hateful things all of the time. Hugs to you.

    Issas Crazy World May 28, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Oh and because I got caught up in the nonsense and forgot what I intended to say: Thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my cracked heart, for your last paragraph. My family was hoping that the state of California would pull it’s head out of it’s ass the other day, because my SIL has planned her wedding already. They will still get married, but sadly it won’t be recognized. Yet. One day, hopefully sooner than later it will be.

    Anonymous May 28, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    And guess what, some of us DO have "Real Jobs" AND "sit around" and breastfeed (though if you have any clue about breastfeeding, you'd know its not just about sitting around). Oh yes, and have lives as well.

    Ugh, what's the point.

    To the OP – great post & awesome photo. Both my kids nurse their dolls too. Boy & girl.

    Jen at Semantically driven May 28, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    Here’s a story about a little girl at kindergarten not being allowed to breastfeed her doll there

    alejna May 29, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    A beautiful photo and a beautiful post.

    I’d write more, but it might keep me from sitting around and breastfeeding all day.

    Mary@Holy Mackerel May 31, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I never knew breastfeeding could be seen as anything other than what it is: feeding your child…

    My daughter used to nurse her dolls all the time. It's all she knew. And my husband and I thought it was endearing and wonderful.

    Great post.

    GalenaFaolan June 1, 2009 at 12:34 am

    I am going to have my youngest daughter read this post tomorrow. I hope that she, like me, has a tiny bit of faith restored in humanity. The words you wrote touched my heart and made me cheer! That is a beautiful photo. I wish I had been able to breastfeed all my children but it wasn’t meant to be. I am proud my first of four got some of the privilege.

    Showing my daughter her mother isn’t the only one who is ticked off about shooting down same sex marriage will do her good. She is 15 years old. We both pray when “the day” comes for her, the day when she finds “the one” and wants to marry, she will be able to do so. My gorgeous girl is gay and wants to have the right to marry the woman of her dreams and to have that union recognized.

    Thank you for the post, and for reminding me there still are many good people in the world.

    caramama June 3, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Since you posted that pic of your daughter nursing a doll in that previous post, I have occasionally thought about it. I just think it's wonderful to see a child pretending to feed a baby by nursing instead of bottle-feeding, mainly because it is so rare. I simply do not understand how people can take exception to it or freak out about having their kids see a woman breastfeed. Thank you for posting the picture again!

    But don't even get me started on the state of CA and this latest ruling!!!

    Constantina June 3, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Okay, I'm incredibly late getting to this post. Because, well, life. But to add one more small voice to the chorus: very simply, thank you.

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