A photo of a black mother in a barber’s chair — breastfeeding her baby as the styling of her buzz cut was finished up — is striking a chord with Facebook users this week. And the barber who originally posted the image, Adrian Fanus, is pretty sure he knows why.
“This photo addresses two things that women are constantly criticised for, cutting their hair off and breastfeeding. It is time that we embrace what is beautiful and natural,” he wrote alongside the photo on Facebook in late September. This week, it was reposted by Professional Black Girl, where it has gone viral with more than 21K reactions and more than 2K comments, largely positive, including “Good on both of you for normalising breastfeeding,” and “We need more pictures in the world like this.”
"It's kind of crazy to me the reception that the photo has received,” Fanus tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I did not know it would resonate with people the way it did.”
The owner of the Adrian Fanus Grooming salon in Brooklyn, New York, Fanus says the mother in his chair is longtime client Nicolette Parkinson, and that his shop is a “very inclusive, safe space for people from all walks of life,” except, that is for those who are “sexist, racist [or] homophobic.” Both he and his client come from backgrounds in which breastfeeding is normal.
Parkinson, 28, from Brooklyn, is of Jamaican descent, and tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she was heavily influenced by the women in her family, all of whom “strongly advocated for breastfeeding.” And Fanus, a St. Lucia native, says he “didn’t realise” how sexualised breasts are in the U.S. until he migrated here at the age of 18. But breastfeeding, says, was normalised for him growing up, and one of his aunts breastfed her son until he was 5.
Which is why both barber and client were taken aback to see the negative comments sprinkled in among the positive. "I never realised how much of a conversation the post would start,” Parkinson says. “I never realised how much this is not a norm."
Among the critical comments were some suggestions that the mother-of-two should have covered her one-year-old up as he nursed. But, Parkinson explains to Yahoo Lifestyle, "It's never about the environment when it comes to feeding my son,” adding, “My son doesn't like a cover-up. He tends to get hot really fast, and he'll push it off of me."
Another critic suggested her son was too old to be nursing, writing, “I wonder how old that kid is! Looks like he should be over being breast fed.” (The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for at least two years.)
Comments like those, Fanus believes, come from people simply “imposing their own insecurities, shortcomings and limitations on other people.” He adds, “It is never my place to police a woman’s body.”
That goes, as well, for the other controversial piece of Fanus’s photo: Parkinson’s super-short ’do, which she says represents her “embracing her natural beauty,” and which makes her feel “super liberated.”
It’s a topic the barber has given a great amount of thought and has even written about in an essay, “The Big Chop,” which he shares with Yahoo Lifestyle.
In it, he explains, “Long, straight hair has been upheld as the standard and epitome of beauty. Little girls are subconsciously taught that, from the dolls they are given to play with along with the images on the magazines, movies, television and society as a whole.”
A woman cutting off her hair, he writes, is an act of rebellion, a transformation that entails her “embracing change, happiness, love, self-acceptance, strength and everything she has been denying herself.” Fanus says he’s “grateful” to have been a part of so many women’s “evolutions.”