Friday, November 17, 2006

Breastfeeding = Terrorism?

I spent the day composing several different posts in my head, some funny, some serious. But I'm writing something completely different.

I had read about the woman who was kicked off a Delta flight for breastfeeding.* And of course I was angry and outraged, but had not particularly resolved to do any more.

Then I saw Her Bad Mother's addendum to her Thursday post. I went and signed the petition (easy to do--if you haven't already, head on over there!). And then I went over to MSNBC and found the section where they printed readers' comments on the issue. I did not ever click on "Read the full entry..." I got everything I needed from the little blurbs.

The anger boiled over.

While a few of the comments fully support the woman who had been breastfeeding, many of them put some of the blame on her or suggested ways in which the other side of the story might validate the flight attendant's actions. A good number of the comments decried the woman's rejection of the blanket that was offered, saying things like:
However if she did not want to comply with accepting the blanket, then she set herself up to be removed from the airline.
Another commenter used the argument that:
The issue is with breast-feeding in public. Breasts arouse sexual feelings in men and sometimes other women, and THAT is why there ought to be discretion. A pro-breast-feeder is going out of bounds when she purposely breast-feeds in a public place while it is made known to her that some people are uncomfortable about it.
But the one that really got me?
It does not offend me at all. I think this incident might have been more of a safety issue. After 9/11, flight attendants are more concerned with safety and if any passenger makes them feel uncomfortable or a passenger seems to not want to comply with the flight attendant's request, often they will be asked to leave the plane if it has not left the gate. Maybe that flight attendant felt threatened by the woman or felt she could cause trouble later in the flight.
OK. Deep breath.

Rant begins:
  1. Given the reaction of some commenters, it appears that others may have brought up the child's age. 22 months. Almost 2-years-old. And in North America, in particular, often treated as "too old" to breastfeed. Never mind that the WHO recommends breastfeeding for at least the first two years of a child's life, that in many third-world countries children continue to nurse at least a little for several years beyond this, that the North American recommendations (6 months before solids, a year on at least some breastmilk) are frequently presented as compromises that try to balance health-based decisions with society's general ickiness around the breast.
  2. Which is a whole other thing. The over-sexualization of the breast. One little flash, and people get all up in arms. I can't believe that some ass thinks that it is the breastfeeding woman's fault that the tiniest sight of her breast might cause men (and us lascivious lesbians) to lose control. Seriously--if she's nursing, maybe some of the flesh is showing. Perhaps there is a flash of nipple at the transition. But the solution? The perv doesn't need to be looking.
  3. And the idea that she needs to cover the child up with a blanket. My son hated it whenever I tried to cover him with a blanket. With the thrashing and my inability to see what was going on under there clearly, there was more danger of me giving a show when I tried to be "more discreet."
  4. I don't even know what to say about the suggestion that this was a security issue and that the discomfort the flight attendant felt about the breastfeeding woman might be equal to the discomfort created by a passenger who is acting weird and sending off terrorist vibes. Because if she was breastfeeding before the plane took off, she might very likely try to rush the cockpit once they were up in the air?
I had thought the hoo-rah over babytalk's magazine cover a few months ago was insane. And it seems even more so when I see these crazy moments juxtaposed against the studies and reports that demonstrate breastfeeding's benefits.

I'm not trying to pass judgment on anyone's breastfeeding practices, but--damn it--when will we get society to back off and not add another dimension to the difficulties?

*I just found on MSNBC that the flight attendant who removed the woman has been disciplined. Anger level recedes a little. Just a little. Because, really, why did this need to happen in the first place?


Lisa b said...

I have to wonder what that discipline consisted of - sorry I am so cynical. Given the media attention I think they have to say that.
I can only hope it doesn't happen again. This was always such a fear I had while nursing my daughter. You are so tired as a new mom that the outrage of someone asking me to move, cover up etc would have upset me a lot. Never mind that it is my right, that isn't comforting in the moment when you are confronted.
Seriously how is it even possible in your own seat by the window to be indiscreet? The situation is riduculous.
I am starting to see more and more why we need to be more vocal about supporting nursing moms.

cinnamon gurl said...

I really didn't need to get more angry about this... what ignorant comments. I linked to you in my own post about this.

And lisa b: Sadly, I bet you're right about the 'discipline'.

This story has made me want to be more of an activist about breastfeeding.

Mouse said...

OK, the discipline probably doesn't come anywhere close to being what I think is appropriate. And I'm sure it was self-defense more than anything else. And I am still mad.

I also agree about wanting to be more of an activist on the topic. So much of the conversation over breastfeeding tends to be among mothers--and some of it is more accusing than constructive. Maybe things would be more constructive and supportive if all this other crap didn't keep happening.

Mad Hatter said...

The stupidity of people still baffles me despite spending 41 years witnessing it on a daily basis. And what is so frustrating is that I simply don't get it. Babies drink milk from their mothers. It's a no brainer that when a baby (or toddler or even pre-schooler for crying out loud) wants to drink milk from her mother, she should be able to any time and any where--except in a moving car (although I did meet a woman once who said she could keep her seatbelt on in the back seat and still manouever over the carseat to nurse--holy moley!)

Delta should be ashamed. The flight attendant should be ashamed. Every passenger who complained should be ashamed and every passenger who did not speak up to defend this woman should be ashamed. Sheesh.

Her Bad Mother said...

I'm still angry about this - discipline or no discipline. It makes me worry for what else we're taking for granted v.v. our 'rights' as mothers...