In what could be a first in American history, a female gubernatorial candidate openly breastfed her infant in an ad her campaign released on Tuesday. Kelda Roys, whose breastfeeding scene in her campaign video won praise and criticism, is a Democrat running for Wisconsin's governor seat, and she wants people to know that breastfeeding is absolutely natural. More importantly, she tells Bustle, she wants to make it known that being an attentive mother and effective politician aren't mutually exclusive.
In the video titled "Our Girls," Roys takes her crying four-month-old daughter from her husband and proceeds to breastfeed her. It's a visual that seems to have instantly won the attention of viewers, winning praise like "uplifting," "sincere," and "wonderful" in the comment section of her YouTube clip.
It's also a scene that has irked some viewers: One YouTube user even wrote, "What is the point of aggressively breastfeeding?" But Roys isn't bothered by the criticism; in fact, she has some advice for them: "If people don't like it, they don't have to watch the video. That's fine. We all get to make our own choices."
Roys tells Bustle that the breastfeeding scene was entirely spontaneous. "This is real life," she says, adding that she didn't feel the need to edit that part out. "People really want their leaders to be authentic. They're tired of politicians who seem to be scripted or you know, can give talking points but not show their humanity."
But Roys, who was previously a representative in the Wisconsin state assembly, wants her viewers to know that breastfeeding is not the only thing on her political platform. "This is not the beginning and end of my campaign," she says. "This is meant to be an invitation for people to learn about me. I have a long track record of accomplishing progressive policy change for Wisconsin."
A quick glance at Roys' campaign website shows where she stands on a variety of issues. For instance, she supports clean energy tech, investing in educating workers, fair wages, enhancing mental health care strategies, and reducing student loan debts, to name a few.
In her campaign video, she also talks about her concerns about BPA, a toxic chemical that is frequently found in children's plastic cups and feeders. In 2010, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed the BPA Free Kids Act, a bill that Roys sponsored.
The heightened focus on Roys breastfeeding her baby might be because viewers have just never seen that in a campaign video before. "The hope was that people would see this and say, 'Wow! She's talking about BPA. Let's see what else she has to say,'" Roys says.
Roys tells Bustle that she has a broader message for people viewing her campaign ad. "In 2018, I think women get to run for office and be in the professional world, and be active in their communities without having to pretend that we don't also take care of kids or take care of our parents," Roys says. "For so long, women have felt like they had to present only a certain part of themselves to be taken seriously in the workplace."
The aspiring governor adds that in the era of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements, women are learning that they no longer need to second-guess themselves, or feel like they are alone in dealing with sexual assault or harassment. "I'm very inspired by that," she says. "Those movements inspired me to say [breastfeeding] is also part of who I am. I'm not just a businesswoman, a former legislator; I'm also a mom."
Perhaps the most refreshing reaction to her campaign video, she says, is the support she's received from both liberal and conservative women for breastfeeding in her ad. It's gestures like that that Roys says give her hope for the country's future; that a seemingly controversial issue like breastfeeding in the open might encourage people to look for common ground. "I think we need spaces in our public life where, in this very divided climate, people can come together,'" Roys says.