Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sisterhood of the traveling boobs

public display of affection, originally uploaded by toyfoto.

TAP, TAP, TAP …. !!!

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.

It seems that a woman breastfeeding an infant alleges someone wearing a badge 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.

What’s interesting (to me) is that it appears when the woman and her husband complained about the treatment to museum authorities, instead of receiving an apology they were told simply that the admonition wasn’t leveled by one of their employees. 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 bastardize paraphrase a little more; the official stance is 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.

The results were predictable.

Outraged mothers assembled grass-roots style - prompted by posts in online forums and bulletin boards - for a nurse-in to protest the museum’s handling of the incident.

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. But I understand the sentiment.

I mean, I'd much rather put my energy into boycotting malls and other places of commerce shielded from such state laws because in fact their halls are private property.

But I’m not an organizer, nor am I terribly organized.

In an instance like this I’m someone who says: ‘YOU with the pointy finger! Bring your boss to me! Let's settle this here and now." Because I know the laws are on my side. 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’ and in the process let her know she could better educate the video-game obsessed fruit of her loins to the notion that breasts aren’t reserved only for the pages of Playboy magazine.

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.

It doesn't even say I have to practice discretion.

Lord knows even without a baggy sweater I'm showing less than J.Lo walking down any red carpet. And really, my theory is people who stare do so just because the know what's happening whether they can see it or not.

From a public relations standpoint, if it were me on the end of the complaint line at the museum I’d have apologized immediately and apologized profusely. It may very well have been someone outside of the museum’s employ who took it upon themselves to admonish a fellow patron. But it was someone who seemed to be in authority, and it happened at the museum. Is there anything else that really matters?

In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if the state worker at fault is someone working in the collections or someone pushing pencils around their desk waiting for the clock to strike five?

Seems to me, people shouldn't be worried about who’s held accountable because everyone pays a price.

There are a lot of boobs out there, many of which aren't even lactating.


Ellen, John & Sophia said...

These people look familiar! Good to see this pic-

Sarita said...

I love the smiling while nursing photo...those are the cutest smiles. We just stopped bfing this month but even at 2 years old he still had the same smile as when he was just a wee babe.

Well, I have nursed just about everywhere in Paris, including the Louvre and I can't imagine someone telling me not too! I don't get it. You can't even see the boob, most of the time. And seriously, who cares!

I'm not going to admonish anyone either but I am certainly not going to be told where I can and cannot feed my baby - especially since I was extremely discreet anyway. All the son of any puritan has to do is walk down the street and he will see a lot more boob in magazine stands then he will see when I feed my baby.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! My son recently weaned after 2 years, 2 months and 8 days. I often nursed in public and like 99% of nursing moms did so with out taking off my shirt and showing the girls to the nearest 12 year old boy. I think there should be actual punishment for those who break the law by demanding that nursing moms leave or go to the bathroom. One might decide to look the other way and mind their own business if not doing so would result in a nice heafty fine!

Nurse on Mamma!

Sarah said...

I always like the story my mother tells about a friend that was breast feeding in a restaurant. A man told her she should go in the restroom to do that, and the mom replied, "Why don't you go eat your lunch in the bathroom?"

Redneck Mommy said...

I whipped the tit out in public all the time to feed my son. I refused to backdown on my rights to nurse wherever I chose. It always amuses and annoys me when people get their panties twisted over something so natural.

Almost makes me wish I could whip out the tit again.

But that would just land me in jail now, for public indecency...

mamatulip said...

I breastfed in public many times...would do it again in a heartbeat and encourage women to do the same.

I love the quip about telling someone to go eat their lunch in a bathroom.

Leeanthro said...

In Illinois, our law states that you have the right to nurse in all public places, that means malls, too.

My son won't nurse in public- too distracting. So he gets formula in a bottle when we are out and about. I bet some people don't even know that I still nurse.

But I did nurse him at the pool, in the mall, in the park, etc. when he was littler. But I wore a cape for my own modesty and to try to limit the distractions. I think that women should definitely be able to feed where they want, but there's nothing wrong with a little discretion depending on the company you're in.

I often say that there is more nip flashed in our home on a daily basis than you see during a Superbowl Halftime show!

And my daughter has started lining up animals to nurse when the baby nurses. Suddenly I'm a cow with teats to go around?

I think that a lot of the looks I got while nursing in public were parents remembering what it was like to have a little one. Not negativity.

toyfoto said...

Be forewarned. ... my thoughts are a little more nuanced, and will appear slightly different in the "other" location on Sunday.

Kelly said...

I tried to leave a comment the first time I read this, but I must have messed up the verification. Anyway, I love this post, I love the pictures, and it'll be my pick for Perfect Post, Feb edition! More to come...

Kelly said...

Siobhan, I awarded you a Perfect Post for this post. It was really good, and so logical and eloquent and spot-on. I don't see an email to send you the badge, but I think you can pick up the image at Suburban Turmoil. Anyway, I'll be writing a post about it later today. Cheers!

Brillig said...

Congrats on the perfect post-- I'm glad you were given this award, because otherwise I might not have ever read this, and it's fantastic. I love your attitude-- I love that you took issue with the museum personel AND the nurse-in gang. Your stance is perfect. Love it!

andi said...

This truly was a Perfect Post! Congratulations! So well said - who has room for a camouflage tent in their nursing bag anyway (lol)? Oh and I love the nursing pic - so sweet.

Amanda said...

I remember watching this on the news thinking two things, first, WNYT and all its reporters were so excited to repeatedly use the word "breast" in a broadcast, and second, "That museum employee is screwed."

Such a shame that people get into such a state of hysteria over a breast. Would that I could head over to the clerk at the store and say, "The exposure of your thong is not acceptable, please go elsewhere."

Great post!

Indigo Children said...

Found you through "a child is born". Great post. I wish I was confident enough to nurse in public. I am still a closet nurser. I get so nervous when trying to situate my baby and the blankets and not offend anyone, that it just seems like it is not worth it.

You have inspired me to want to try again. You are right--it is my right!!

Queen Mommy said...

I nursed all three of my babes, whenever and wherever. I nursed in restaurants and while walking around the aisles at Target. I also used to pump at my friend's desk at work. I whipped it out everywhere. So silly all this craziness!! I mean really???