Emily Bieberly and Kobe Blaise weren’t on the latest episode of 90 Day Fiance, but they are still a hot topic.
After their last episode, some viewers are looking right past Bilal and Shaeeda’s Lifetime psychological thriller vibes to label Emily a “villain.”
There is a simple explanation for why Emily and Kobe getting such a strong response.
And it goes right to the heart of 90 Day Fiance‘s most pernicious problem.
In many ways, Emily Bieberly and Kobe Blaise’s story is inspiring.
They waited so long to be together, really through no fault of their own, and both want to shower love on their young son.
Kobe made the journey to Salina, Kansas to live with Emily and her family and to finally bond with precious little Koban. It’s a beautiful story.
But back on Episode 5, things took a sour turn when Kobe confronted Emily about pumping milk for Koban.
He didn’t like that she was doing it at all, and he insisted that she should not be doing it in the living room.
Kobe challenged Emily pretty bluntly while she pumped milk for their son, claiming that this is “not normal.”
Emily was taken aback, as were any viewers who hadn’t seen the warnings of this in previews.
She’s already in her own home. Where was she supposed to go to pump?
According to Kobe, downstairs in the basement.
Interestingly, Kobe — possibly answering a producer’s question — claimed that this is unusual in Africa.
Kobe is from Cameroon, and we don’t doubt that his impression of “discreet” women reflects his life experiences.
But many African fans of 90 Day Fiance have pointed out that this is not universal to the entire continent, with some admitting that they’d assumed that being uptight over breastfeeding was an “American” thing.
There’s no question that many Americans do have hangups about breasts, women, motherhood, and where they intersect in breastfeeding.
Fortunately, Emily’s parents affirmed to the camera that they do not share that antiquated worldview.
They support their daughter feeding their grandson, and don’t want her to hide in some sort of Shame Room to do it. Obviously.
Kobe soon revealed that there was more to it than simply being uptight about breasts being visible.
He admitted that he wanted Emily to start weaning Koban, not going with a child-lead weaning route.
Though virtually every health organization in the world recommends breastfeeding until age 2 or older, Kobe found it odd that Koban was still breastfeeding.
Cameroon’s own government recommends breastfeeding until age 2 or longer.
There are also alarming health statistics about the role that malnutrition plays in the deaths of young children in Cameroon.
Despite multiple initiatives to promote breastfeeding, reports say that cultural obstacles — which may explain Kobe’s attitudes — have hindered these noble efforts.
It soon became clear, as Kobe spoke to the camera, that he did not wish to “share” Emily’s breasts with his son.
He and Emily are engaged and are rekindling their sex life … as much as they can, given that they’re parents and also living with her parents.
But he wants her breasts all to himself, which is an odd way to look at things.
That is already a lot to unpack, but we knew that it was coming.
It wasn’t just the trailers that warned us. The cameras and editing made certain that we all saw Emily breastfeeding Koban.
Part of it was to get a reaction from mom-shaming misogynists who feel as Kobe does, and part of it was to set up viewers for Kobe’s confrontation.
There have been other easy shots at Emily, from her one night with Kobe in the hotel before coming home to using separate beds at home to help Koban stay on schedule.
Emily has had her defenders, of course, especially by past and present breastfeeding parents and others who don’t think that hiding in shame is ever appropriate.
But overall, even as viewers watch Bilal play games with Shaeeda’s emotions until she is driven to tears, Emily is getting the “villain” treatment.
It’s not like the show — from producers to editors — didn’t know that Emily feeding her son would get backlash.
There have been any number of viral stories in recent years in which someone gets mom-shamed for (gasp) nursing their kid.
Whether it’s in a restaurant or on a park bench, intrusive weirdos will make absurd demands of strangers, some of whom clap back and go viral for it.
The phenomenon of this particular type of misogynistic trolling is so well-documented that there are support groups.
Part of it has to do with how our culture sexualizes breasts to such a degree that even nursing a baby is framed as “indecent.”
It’s not everyone, and it is getting better, but many parents know that refusing to hide in the bathroom to feed their child could make them targets — and 90 Day Fiance was counting on that.
90 Day Fiance has a lengthy history of catering to misogynists, using editing and even casting to spoon-feed them reasons to hate a woman on screen.
Some of the women in the franchise have been genuinely awful people, but we’re not talking about Leida Margaretha or Angela Deem.
One simply needs to edit out a little context — or, more simply, show a young, pretty woman living her life — and a certain segment of viewers will eat them alive.
Considering the world in which we live, it’s almost surprising to see that 90 Day Fiance‘s misogyny problem is bigger than it’s racism or xenophobia issues.
As long as the editing continues to cater to that, a couple of stars each season are going to be thrown into a meat-grinder fueled by (often internalized) misogyny.
Maybe Emily will do something awful later this season. Right now, she’s just feeding her son, and the people who have a problem with that — including Kobe — are just plain wrong.