Nursing discreetly helps to normalize breastfeeding in a slow, gentle way. "we don't need to give these people any more fodder to feed on."
I agree completely. I have gone back and forth with using a cover, not for my own comfort, but because I had this thought awhile back. I don't want to be fuel in a negative firestorm.
I have seen moms say, "do what you and you're baby are comfortable with." Problem with that is, I'm not very modest at all and am rarely uncomfortable while exposed (breastfeeding or not), I'm just a laid back and comfortable in my naked skin. That's not however, the impression I want to give while breastfeeding. If not caring how much skin I show, or the occasional 1.2 millisecond nipple flash would normalize breastfeeding, then I would go about my business. However, society won't change it's collective mind about BFing as long as they have fuel for negative thoughts, comments and examples all the time.
(that stupid drunk driver BFing mom spraying the cop with milk has gotten much more publicity than the military mom who pumps milk to send home from Afghanistan.)
What society needs is to see happy breastfed babies, hear stories of how well breastfeeding has helped a premie, hear that well educated, strong parents breastfeed full term. They need to see moms breastfeeding, but in a so-called respectful way (it's society that thinks NIP uncovered is disrespectful, not me). Moms to be, and new moms, need to see only positive publicity surrounding breastfeeding, not how a woman feeding her child was harassed. They need to see and hear about breastfeeding more often than they see formula or bottles. Teenage girls need to see how much easier it is, and happier mom and baby are, not that they cannot go anywhere out of fear of offending someone, or being embarrassed.
I see many variations of the comment "it's just a boob, that is what it was put there for" frequently, or, "they're for feeding babies, not sexual fantasies" biologically, naturally speaking, this is very true. Society however won't stop seeing breasts in a sexual light. No matter now many moms nurse, that fact won't change. Seeing breast skin, areola, and nipple in a feeding context won't change the deeply ingrained fact that breasts are sexual part of the body. We can only help to separate the feeding breast from the sexual breast by normalizing breastfeeding and complying with society's desire to not see much skin.
We cannot change the minds of wacked out twisted sickos out there, but we can blanket breastfeeding in a positive, beautiful light. Hopefully washing out the negativity with the positive.
I am by no means suggesting we move to the bathroom, or stay home for 2-7 years if we nurse full term. I'm agreeing with Anne, do what you can, within reason, to show that breastfeeding is normal, and that breastfeeding moms cannot be compared to sluts at mardi gras.
She gave some examples on how to nurse discreetly. I give similar tips often on Internet support group pages often. Chose location wisely, a table, bench, shady tree, etc with low traffic flow, or that gives the least amount of people a direct viewing angle. Use the excuse "in case the baby fusses" when asking for restaurant seating off to the corner. You can use a super lightweight silky scarf to cover just a bit. Or turn away or cover only while latching. Lift your shirt to gain access from the bottom rather than the top, or layer a bottom-access blouse with a top access tank, so belly/side skin aren't exposed.
I don't intend on hiding, I enjoy knowing that when feeding my babe in public, others will see that it is normal, accepted, and no big deal. I will however try to see things from their point of view, they see probably, an uncountable number of sexual breast references for every 1 feeding reference. I can't blame people for being shy, or ill-informed. Embarrassing them, or giving them gossip for later won't do the cause any good.