Sunday, July 3, 2011

Breastfeeding in public (Nov. 23, 2007)

Current mood: moody

Let me start by stating that there is no more fundamental women's right -- no, start over.

There is no more fundamental human right than for a woman to feed her child.

Engrave that in marble for the world to see and affix it to a large steel beam anchored in concrete! Perhaps, however, we also need a smaller, more portable version of it to beat people over the head with when they try to deny women that right.

Such is the case with breastfeeding. Far too often, a woman trying to feed her child is told she cannot, or is in some way restricted, or simply removed altogether from that location.

In a few jurisdictions, women not only are guaranteed to be able to feed their children in any way they deem fit, but are also given legal recourse against anyone who does try to deny them. This means three things:
  1. A woman may display any amount of skin for any amount of time, anywhere she is legally allowed to be;

  2. Any form of obstruction is off limits, including but not limited to leering by teenage boys, objections by other customers, and any request by anyone in authority to the woman to alter her behavior, covering, location or position;

  3. Should anyone give the woman a hard time, she has legal grounds to sue.
Pennsylvania has finally adopted some protective legislation, with the passage of Act 28 of 2007, signed into law by Governor Ed Rendell on July 8. It is not without its drawbacks, among which are:
  • It is considered a freedom, not a right.

  • Localities may still act to prohibit the practice.

  • Neither promotional nor tolerance incentives for employers have yet been agreed upon.

  • No legal recourse wording was in the final document.
No restrictions and full recourse are as it should be, but even that is not enough. Should anyone have a problem with the woman's behavior, covering, location or position, it should be theirs to do something, not the woman's, and that something should be to change their mind on the issue. People need to be educated on this, and specifically learn tolerance and support.

The reasoning behind this is simple. A lactating woman who feels she is being intruded upon will find it difficult to initiate or maintain the "letdown" reflex which allows milk to flow. It's instinct. Policies must do more than merely allow breastfeeding; they must support and defend it. Changing the laws to protect this basic human right must be a priority, without any regard to politics, religion, or anyone's idea of modesty.

On this sole issue, American society today continues to live in some medieval Dark Age. At once we tolerate if not celebrate female skin displays and covered breast movements, while simultaneously going ballistic at the slightest appearance of an areola or nipple at rest. At once we turn a blind eye to the woman disciplining her kid to within a hair's breadth of involving CYF, but pounce on the silent, nearly motionless woman in the corner feeding her child. At once we become indignant over anything that smarts of female immodesty, but rarely have a cross word against shirtless, overweight men whose breasts often exceed the size of many women's.

It's wrong. It needs to change. Pennsylvania has a nice start, at long last, but it still has a long way to go.


bus15237 said...

One of my most shared posts, and one of my most deeply held beliefs. If you have a problem with this, change your mind. The women are right.

bus15237 said...

Original comments from the 2007 MySpace post:

Its nice to see a man express his own opinions on the topic of breast feeding. It's only natural and it's the best thing for a baby. Natural defenses that come with breast milk cannot be duplicated in a lab or even in a factory to be infused with powdered baby formula. It's the only way that a child would receive defenses from diseases such as chicken pox, polio, mumps, rubella, anything that you get vaccines for. Not to mention the bonding that happens between mom and baby. I'm not sure about this but in most cases ie resturants and other public places they aren't allowed to make you move or change your position because you are doing something naturally. It's a federal law that all public places have either 1. a breast feeding room/pumping room or 2. a policy in place that allows a mother to breast feed her baby without interruption.

Reply Stuart Strickland
That's what support is all about, my friend. While fighting restrictions on topfreedom and breastfeeding are different, they are inextricably related, because, at the core, it's all about who's really in control of women's breasts. Of course, it should be their owners, and *nobody* else, for *any* reason.

The federal law only covers federal property, e.g., post offices, federal buildings, etc., and does not trump state law, which covers everything else. Pennsylvania's Act 28 of 2007 allows localities to trump state law, i.e., if Scottdale PA wanted to outlaw breastfeeding, it could. Which is wrong.

As to my involvement: My wife nursed both our kids beyond one year, one to beyond two years, in part because of my constant support. For a while, we were members of La Leche League, the international bf support organization.

Liz Book
Have I told you how much I adore you, lately? Here I am, fluxing with the idea of doing another Topfree Stand protest in Daytona in March. After reading your blog entry, I am very much inspired to continue the fight in Daytona Beach on March 8th. International Women's Day. Ya know, I even dabbled with the idea of doing two protests this March. On the other hand, I worried about doing them in conjunction with my 14th Amendment lawsuit against them. I was torn.

Natasha Renée
It infuriates me how society celebrates a woman's breasts as sexual objects instead of the natural food source they were meant to be. i have to admit that i didn't breast feed for this reason alone. it was too uncomfortable. having grown up seeing breasts only as accessories, it just seemed indecent to have my child's mouth on them. how sad is that :(
you're so right. there needs to be education to attempt and reverse this ridiculous way of thinking. thanks for sharing this.

Michele James-Parham
Thanks for posting on this.