Mind Your Language.

by Lori Dwyer on January 4, 2011 · 16 comments


Those of you who follow me on Twitter, and happened to be around last night, may have seen two things. Number one, I was having a totally f**ked up absolute bi-atch of a day. Number two, someone decided to take offense to take something I said. And I, of course, took offense back.

And the thing that smarted the most, about this whole encounter? This chick was right. There is nothing more infuriating than having someone call you on something, make you feel like a d**k, and then have them be correct about it.

Anyway. Let’s rewind, and I’ll fill you in.

I’ve spoken about my experiences breastfeeding my children before. I wouldn’t call myself a lactivist- what happened last night showed me I certainly can’t wear that badge. But I think I’d call myself a Huge Breastfeeding Advocate With Unlimited Empathy. I spoken before about how, from my humble POV, this is a societal problem, with so many different causes and roots and we have a freaking long way to go before breastfeeding is the norm again. Before no one thinks twice about it.

Before we don’t even have to have those conversations on Twitter, or write blog posts about it. Because there is no issue there to talk about.

Sorry, I’m waffling again.

Point is, in my Twitter stream last night, a few people were discussing a show on Foxtel (cable, for the Americans- which I do not have because I am a loser) called Extreme Breastfeeding. Oh, my. Shock horror. Women breastfeeding four-year-olds. You can imagine the discussion, I’m sure.

So I Tweeted this.

Cause… that’s how I roll. I don’t pick at people personally, it’s none of my bloody beeswax. But I did think it was important to put an open discussion out there. I wanted to see, in my Twitter stream, at least, as many people talking positively about breastfeeding as there were talking negatively.

And for a few short minutes, it worked. Conversation was respectful, views were aired, there was no narkiness. We’re all adults here.

Or at least we are, in my little chunk of the Twitterverse.

But it seems, for all the good I did, I used the wrong bleeping word to do it.

Some of you may have read this article. My homegirl Holly has blogged it before, and I came across it on a parenting forum quite a while back, and it was Tweeted to me again last night. It’s brilliant. It’s truth. It is a bit more hardcore that what I will ever be. But, really, it’s a must read for any new mum. Any experienced mum. Any mum.

And here in lies my conundrum. Did I do more harm than good, Tweeting what I did? Would it have been better to Tweet nothing, than to errantly use the phrase “extended breastfeeding” to imply feeding a child older than, say, twelve months?

The funny thing about all this is, the Tweep that called me up on this is not a Follower of mine. She never has been, I don’t think. For those of you who are not on Twitter (Hello? The dark side is waiting…), that basically means that, to see my Tweet, she would have done a general search for the word ‘breastfeeding’. And then picked my Tweet out of that stream to respond to.

Which is curious. Because if she saw my Tweet in that stream, she no doubt would have seen a dozen or so bagging a show called ‘Extreme Breastfeeding’. Why didn’t she respond to them?

Because it would have been too difficult to take that on, in 140 characters or less?

That’s the problem with Twitter. It’s the beauty of it too. The brevity. The relative anonymity. It’s a regular occurrence, almost offending someone on Twitter. I think I did that with the lovely Carly last night, during the fall out. And we all remember what happened with our good mate Joe.

The key to Twitter is the same as any social media- never take things too seriously. Sometimes, when you have to be so succinct, you can use the wrong word, in the wrong context.

For the right purpose.

Is that any excuse to be rude?

We, as bloggers and Tweeps, speak to our audience, yes? We use the colloquial language of a technological generation. Do we sometimes use phrases that appeal to the lowest common denominator? Of course we do.

I stole this picture from That Tech Chick. She’s cool.

The intended audience for that particular Tweet was the people in my stream who were obviously not so accepting of the very natural act that is lactation. I used a phrase, a language, that would resonate with the current conversation.

I wasn’t Tweeting to the choir. I was talking to the uninitiated. Surely, I can be forgiven for using slightly imperfect language, if the intention is respectable? If my intention was to be an advocate, to illicit an open flow of conversation? Is it the intention, or the effect that speaks louder here? Was the effect of my Tweet more positive than any potential negatives that come from that phrase…?

Maybe not.

Whatever. I did end up apologising to this Tweep for my language- but not the breastfeeding bit. Just the narkiness. I’m not sure my mother would approve of me saying “F**k you too” to a stranger.

So..that’s it. Thanks for listening. I’m not even sure why I’m writing this all down, except for the fact that what I do here is to document things that happen. To speak. And I feel better now. Kind of.

I am slightly in shock over the fact that the first time someone told me to ‘watch my language’, it was over the phrase ‘extended breastfeeding’ and not the word ‘c*nt‘. And I am slightly terrified of the response I’ll get when I tag this post ‘boobies‘.

But again, whatever. Like most things, I’m sure that will pass. As the lovely Ravishing Diminishing Lucy says– gracious is as gracious tweets.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

The Mother Experiment April 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm

You've got me grinning from ear to ear coz I'm caught up in a useless Facebook argument at the moment. I took offence to this chick saying "frigging". Of all the stupid things for me to do. I was like "if you are going to swear do it properly."
As a side note, my 13 month old is in no hurry to relinquish my boobies.


Cate January 5, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Oh no, I can't open any of your twitter links (I'm sure it's just me…I don't know *anything* about twitter except that it is a giant time-suck and I don't have enough hours in the day to read everyone's blogs, let alone their tweets or twitters or whatev's…but I digress) so I'll never know what she said you said she said…so sad :-(


Kamarine January 5, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Splitting hairs imo. Why do it with people on the same side. Either way it was sending the positives.

Great post.


Fi January 4, 2011 at 10:23 pm

From my experience, breastfeeding is one of those topics that people seem to get a bug up their arses about – ready to jump down the throat of ANYONE that dares to even think about saying the 'wrong' thing. Unfortunately you were on the receiving end of such defensiveness Lori. As the girls have said above, there was nothing even slightly offensive about your tweet – that woman obviously had nothing better to do with her time!
Can completely understand why it hurts, but honestly, it's not worth losing sleep over hun, people like that are not worth the energy. The fact that she didn't bother to respond to your explanation is proof in point!


Cate January 4, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Darn – why do I always miss the fun twitter moments?

Great post girl. :-)


Heather January 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Sounds to me like the chick was just itching for a fight or something. I don't think the term 'extended breastfeeding' can really be considered offensive.


Very Bored in Catalunya January 4, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Ah this kind of thing annoys the hell out of me. You were in no way offensive, the terminology changes like the wind, it's so difficult to keep up with all. The fact that you said that breastfeeding a 4 year old was considered normal practice in a lot of countries should have been enough. People need to get down from their high horses as they actually do their cause more harm than good.


SJ January 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Extended breastfeeding is a common term, well I think so (so it must be)! Not a Twitter user so probably missed the point, though I really appreciated the article when Holly posted it.


Veggie Mama January 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm

To trawl the internet looking for a fight is ridiculous. If only we could avoid being upset by those sorts of people! Uncalled-for rudeness is always going to offend us I guess.

Point is, your heart and intentions were in the right place and that was obvious to all. Well, except her!


Tina ~ tina gray dot me January 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I totally agree with you, Lori. Great post! :)


carly January 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm

didnt offend me sweets. my tweet was probably more offensive than yours. x


Lucy January 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

You are kinder & gentler than I. As I said a few tweets ago, support toward breastfeeding goes a lot further than the lingustics and terminology ever will.

Rather than fretting over what extending breastfeeding can be called, let us be gentle on one another and hope that more empathy equals more babies breastfed for longer.


bigwords is… January 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Here here! Great post x


Good Golly Miss Holly! January 4, 2011 at 10:24 pm

The biggest lesson to learn when it comes to breastfeeding advocacy is you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Tact, not condescension.

Girlfriend should take note!

P.S; Your tweet does more for the cause than what that other chick's one does, and if she tries to pick on you again … I'm going to unleash an unholy tirade of c**t bombs at her ;)


MMBB January 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm

By the way, if breastfeeding a four year old is considered to be the norm, what is the 'correct weaning age'? I would use the term 'extended breastfeeding'.

Anyway as soon as a child is eating their 3 healthy meals a day, they are getting all the nutrients they need aren't they? I'm talking about kids old enough to talk, feed themselves, and wipe their own arses, they probably don't 'need' to be breastfeed (just a presumption, I am not a dietitian of any sort)

You can choose to breastfeed as long as you want, and I have no problem with that. But don't go all ninja on someone for using the term 'extended breastfeeding' sheesh

Yours Truely,

A "premature weaner"


Mrs Woog January 4, 2011 at 5:28 pm

The term Extended breastfeeding makes sense to me. As do your points. Love your work Lori xox


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