DENMARK: Statue of Man Breastfeeding At Former Women’s Museum Prompts Criticism

A statue of a naked, bearded man attempting to breastfeed an infant is drawing disapproval on social media for what some critics are calling female erasure. The nude figure, constructed in 2021 as a self-portrait by Aske Kreilgaard, is depicted with exposed male genitals and breasts to which he is holding a feeding baby.

Despite having been created to commemorate International Men’s Day, the statue has now been placed outside of The Gender Museum (KØN) in Aarhus, Denmark, which was previously known as the Women’s Museum (Kvindemuseet).

The facility was originally founded in 1982 to educate the public about women’s history, but in 2021 was renamed to reflect a shift in focus towards topics of gender and sexuality.

The “breastfeeding man” statue was constructed to commemorate International Men’s Day in 2021. Image: Fine Spind magazine

The Gender Museum justified the decision to change its name by claiming that gender roles had “changed significantly,” and that the emphasis of the museum would be focused to shift towards “freer expression” of all genders.

“A lot has happened in the relationship between the sexes since the Women’s Museum Association saw the light of day. Men’s gender roles and function in society have also changed significantly,” the museum’s website stated.

“The cultural heritage rests in places on old divisions between genders and roles, while the present expects freer expression of all genders. Just as women’s research at universities today is called gender research, the museum has followed the same development in its ongoing depiction and documentation of cultural history.”

The former Women’s Museum first began to incorporate elements of gender ideology into their education programs in 2016 and currently offers sex education for children in primary school “through a culture-historical and norm-critical view of sexuality and gender.”

The museum’s website describes “gender education” courses for very young children.

“The societal norms that [children] experience on their own bodies are set against cultural history through objects from the history of sexual culture. In this way, we show the students that sex, gender roles and understandings of sexuality are rooted in our cultural history, and that ideas about gender, sexuality and sexual practices have changed over time,” reads the description of the course on the museum’s website.

The sculpture’s creator, Kreilgaard, has said in an interview with Fine Spinde that he titled the work Agape, a Greek word meaning “love.”

Just after the statue was erected, sculptor, photographer and writer Suste Bonnén sharply condemned the museum’s decision to commission and feature the piece in an article published by Kristeligt Dagblad titled, “Statue of breastfeeding man is a pedophile’s dream.”

“Isn’t Agape a pedophile’s dream? A grown naked man who enjoys putting a small child up to his nipple for him to suck is to me the epitome of what pedophiles dream of,” Bonnén writes. She further elaborates on how the area is an erogenous zone for both women and men, but highlights that whereas “the mother satisfies the child’s needs,” a man, being incapable of nursing, “only satisfies his own.”

Bonnén went on to describe the statue as flouting exploitation.

“I don’t see that the gender roles are being played with, as many others do. I see an exploitation of the little child, and a man playing with his own gratification. That is why I find it disturbing that both genders and audiences today welcome the message: The grown man can do whatever he wants with a small child, as long as we call it Agape.”

While the statue was erected outside of the museum in November of 2021, photos of it just began circulating in social media this week and prompting backlash. On Facebook, some Danish feminists noted that they had attempted to protest the name change of the museum in 2021, but found their concerns being ignored as museum officials reportedly felt shifting away from “women” and towards “gender inclusivity” was a better financial decision.

The photo of the statue that first prompted discussion on Twitter was posted by Michelle Uriarau of Mana Wāhine Kōrero, a Māori women’s group. Uriarau also referenced the name change at the museum, calling it “the erasure of women.”

Over one thousand people replied to Uriarau’s post, some of whom were expressing disbelief that the statue was even real. Many Twitter users were outraged at the symbolism, and the fact the statue was now housed outside of a former museum dedicated to women.

“The parading and exhibiting of the male sexual fetishist. Only women give birth and only women breastfeed NOT men,” user Elise Willows wrote beneath the photo.

“A nursing baby as the ultimate fetish accessory. Disgusting,” another tweeted.

Others in the replies referenced recent attempts to “neutralize” the language around motherhood and breastfeeding, something that has been shown to have a negative impact on maternal health outcomes. Some also referenced incidents involving trans-identified males attempting to breastfeed babies.

Last year, Reduxx reported on a Reddit post featuring photos of a trans-identified male user breastfeeding his wife’s newborn baby.

The post, titled “Oh my God I’m breastfeeding my daughter,” detailed how the user worked with a lactation consultant and his gender physician for several months prior to his female partner giving birth. Immediately following the baby’s birth, the user said he had begun breastfeeding the child to supplement formula feedings. The user also included a link to a photo gallery showing snapshots of himself “breastfeeding” the baby.

In 2018, an endocrinologist from Boston Medical Center claimed that breast feeding was an important method of validating a trans-identified male’s gender identity.  

In an interview with The New Scientist, Dr. Joshua Safer said: “Many transgender women are looking to have as many of the experiences of non-transgender women as they can, so I can see this will be extremely popular.”

Reports of trans-identified males seeking support from lactation consultants have increased. On social media, many new and breastfeeding mothers have also stated they’ve noticed an increase in men attending breastfeeding groups.

According to the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces, of about 2,500 monuments nationwide, only 28 commemorate women. The nation’s lack of female-focused memorials was the subject of a 2022 sculpture project that highlighted the lack of visibility of women in public art.

Reduxx contacted the Gender Museum for comment, but did not received a response at the time of publication.

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Genevieve Gluck

Genevieve is the Co-Founder of Reduxx, and the outlet's Chief Investigative Journalist with a focused interest in pornography, sexual predators, and fetish subcultures. She is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, which features news commentary and interviews regarding women's rights.

Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve Gluck
Genevieve is the Co-Founder of Reduxx, and the outlet's Chief Investigative Journalist with a focused interest in pornography, sexual predators, and fetish subcultures. She is the creator of the podcast Women's Voices, which features news commentary and interviews regarding women's rights.