Sunday, March 02, 2008

There are a lot of boobs in the world, but the law is on the side of the lactating ones


What time is it?

Two Thousand Eight you say?

Oh. ... Really? 'Cause after the hoopla at the New York State Museum recently, I could have sworn it was half past 1600. You know, when the Puritans started putting roots down in New England. And yet, as details trickled out, it also felt a little like the Twilight Zone.

A woman breastfeeding an infant alleges someone wearing a badge and acting as an authority figure told her to move her baby's snack into the loo, and further threatened that she'd better hop to it since another employee had already gone to report the incident.

When the woman and her husband complained about the treatment to museum authorities, they said instead of receiving an apology they were told simply that the admonition wasn't leveled by a museum employee.

Can't you just see the collective shrugging of shoulders?

Museum officials contend that if the mother was approached by anyone it could have been one of the many state employees with ID tags who regularly walk through the museum as part of their daily walking route. The incident — as reported — they explain does not reflect the policy of the museum or the actions of its staff.

To paraphrase broadcast and written accounts the official stance seems to have been: we're not saying it didn't happen, but we're saying it wasn't one of our people. And we can't control the unwashed public. We have always welcomed breastfeeding mothers.
The results were somewhat predictable.

Outraged mothers assembled grass-roots style — prompted by posts in online forums and bulletin boards — to participate in a nurse-in to either protest the museum's handling of the incident or the fact that a woman was made to feel bad for something the law protects.

As a nursing mother I may get drummed out of the corp for suggesting nurse-ins seem a little silly to me, especially in light of the potential that some random state employee threw some weight around they shouldn't have. I understand the sentiment, but I think it's time for knee-jerk reaction to go in a forward-moving direction.
I think, at some point, we have to get past the indignant outrage and the desire to have everyone accept the laws with unfettered joy. Especially when you KNOW the law is on your side.

In a case like this one, I’d have no qualms about telling the offender: "YOU with the pointy finger! Bring me to your leader! Let's settle this here and now, because you are so wrong the light from right is going to take 50 million years to get to the place where we are currently standing."

I say this because I know that I can nurse my child in any public place because our state specifically says I can.

I don't have to change anyone's mind.

I don't have to admonish the puritanical mother who doesn't want her prepubescent son to see that kind of thing. I don't need to tell her to "Grow Up!" or let her know I think she could better educate the video-game obsessed fruit of her loins if she accepted the notion that breasts — outside of Playboy magazine — aren't always that titilating.

I don't have to nurse in a toilet.

I don't have to plan my errands better.

I don't have to pack a folding tent in my diaper bag for camouflage.

I don't have to express milk and bottle feed.

I don't have to feed my son formula.

I don't have to stay home until he's weaned.

I don't have to do any of that because the laws already say I have the right to nurse in public.

The law doesn't even say I must practice discretion. If I want I can show more than Janet Jackson at halftime.

The museum might have been able to stem the tide of outrage with a quick and profuse apology, but I think the outrage about acceptance is really what's in play, here.

I believe people who stare do so just because they know what's happening whether they can see anything or not.

It may very well have been someone outside of the museum's employ who took it upon themselves to admonish a fellow patron. The surest way to combat that, however, is stand up to it immediately and without malice.

Even most shopping malls – which are essentially private places that invite the public to spend its money – have policies that allow open nursing as well as offer "family rooms" for mothers who wish to nurse in privacy.

Since the battle has been fought and won already, it's time for individual women to take advantage of the victory and stop beating this dead horse.

There are a lot of boobs out there, but the law is on the side of the lactating ones.

1 comment:

Fairly Odd Mother said...

I nursed everywhere and never, ever had anyone say anything. I'm not sure what I would've done if someone said something. I always wish I could be more outspoken but I tend to clam up. But, I also would never, ever move to a bathroom either.

I look at the public breastfeeding demonstrations as a PR ploy more than anything.