I came across an article on Yahoo that shows a woman of the military, Jonea Cunico, breastfeeding her child while in her Air Force uniform. Cunico posted this photo to her Facebook page, and it sparked much controversy online.
Many individuals were supportive of the bold photo, with the photographer, Jade Beall, stating that she "[admires Cunico's] work and effort to bring women and humanity together." Others shared Beall's viewpoint, as another individual said, "[the photo is] so powerful and beautiful that it makes me want to cry. Also, I don't think I've seen an image that has had me feel so patriotic. The natural, tender human element, mixed with the U.S. military brought back some kind of 'oneness' for me."
This photo definitely showcases a performance of identity, specifically gender. The act of breastfeeding and caring for a child is very maternal and nurturing, which are some trademarks of femininity. Yet, the juxtaposition of this femininity with the strength and power associated with the military, a traditionally masculine symbol, creates complexity in the identity of this woman that many find inspirational. To those quoted above, Cunico is an individual who blatantly challenges traditional gender roles and creates a unique identity for herself.
However, Cunico notes, "I know there will be people who don't agree with me nursing in uniform." Surely enough, backlash included a man sarcastically stating that the photo was "very professional" and a woman saying that it was "disrespectful to the uniform and the military."
The comments of these individuals reflect a belief that the military has an image of power, strength, and professionalism that should not be blurred by any other notions. In some sense, this idea can be interpreted along gender lines as well. In our society, masculine and feminine images are generally kept separate from each other and are accepted when they are separate. Through the lens of popular culture, masculinity and femininity are deemed radically opposite representations so mixing them can seem strange and even unnatural. Therefore, Cunico's photo, which mixes some of the strongest images of masculinity and femininity, provides a breeding ground for questions about representation. Is there ever a time and place that masculinity and femininity can not only co-exist but fully and acceptably come together?