Monday, 21 January 2013

Is it acceptable to breastfeed in public?

A few days ago, a woman supposedly caused a public outrage when she openly breast feed her 11 month old daughter at a public swimming pool. She refused to cover up and was forced to leave the pool, which violated all state and federal laws that are meant to protect against discrimination on this issue. The story has become a hot potato in the news world, sparking heated debate on both sides of the fence. So again, the question is asked is it acceptable to breast feed in public?

After the story broke, a male newsreader added fuel to the fire by saying women should cover up. Suddenly Twitter, Facebook and numerous online forums were all a buzz with his comments. Everyone was throwing in their 2 cents worth – both in support and opposition of the woman’s actions.  

It amazes me that people can have such a strong reaction to this. Since the birth of the human race, and even the apes we were spawned from, mothers have breast feed their babies. In the days before the milk man, milk powder and milk banks, babies really had no choice but to suckle from the breast. It has to be one of the purest forms of nature so why is so much negativity attached to it?

It’s not like the women is dancing about with tassels on her nipples at a strip show. It’s not like she’s making any sexual connotations by baring her breast in public. It’s not like the people who take offence to it weren’t breast fed themselves, so what’s the problem? Especially when men get about at the park, shops, beach and other places baring their chests for no other reason than they can’t be bothered putting on a shirt and they want to show off their pecs! Let me tell you I’ve seen enough portly gentlemen baring their chest in a shopping centre so they should be forced to leave because I’m offended by their gut hanging over their shorts? I doubt that would ever happen!

I was fascinated by some of the comments like “I don’t mind topless sun bathing at the beach but this is different.” Why is it different? Even said news presented said this in defence of his comments today. I find it interesting that he says women should consider the needs of others. Why? Smokers don’t consider my needs when they puff their toxic fumes in my face. The fat man in the lime green g-string at the beach didn’t consider my needs when he walked past me.  The men who have flashed themselves at me in public didn’t consider my needs. In the end, as members of society, we all have needs. If we had to consider the needs of everyone else, we would never do anything for fear of upsetting someone else.

Other comments asked why men would be happy to see women’s breasts in movies and on the internet but not in a public place. Do women with their children think it’s inappropriate and men are just made uncomfortable by the site of a breast? To be honest, you’d think a lot of men should embrace the sighting of a bared breast as no doubt for many of them, that’s the closest they’ve come to the real thing in quite some time!   

Needless to say, the issue caused mothers across the country to unite and they came in numbers. A few days after the pool incident, 20 mothers turned up to the pool to protest the treatment of their fellow mum. Whether you think women should openly breast feed in public without covering up or not, really doesn’t matter. The fact is this woman’s civil rights were  violated the minute she was forced to leave the pool and I for one hope she sues them! We have nothing in this world if we can’t rely on the laws that are in place to protect us, and our rights, and I think people who defy those laws need to be made an example of.

I am not na├»ve to the fact this is a complex matter. I know there is a plethora of different and opposing views and sparking the conversation in a group can lead to World War 3! But, I do know the plight of an exhausted mother who will choose to just sit down in the most convenient place to feed her child because they are screaming with hunger pain. I know the exhaustion you feel when the screaming gets so much you just don’t have the energy to find the local parents room – if you’re even in a place that has one. I’ve been there and experienced it myself, but of course not being a mother, I just had to pull out a bottle. But that’s not always the simplest thing either.

Choosing to breast feed in public is a personal choice. I know women who support it but wouldn’t do it themselves and that’s ok. When mothers do it, it’s a simple act of feeding and nourishing their child. Why should women be discriminated against for that? The simple fact is they shouldn’t and yet people will continue to shun mothers who exert their simple human right to feed their child. No doubt this is a debate that will continue to the end of time. I’ll be sure to come back and comment on this the first time I’m chastised for breast feeding in public! Bring it on! 

Image by papaija2008
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