This week, my post “What’s So Hard about Covering up to Breastfeed in Public?” was linked—twice—in this Forbes article by Tara Haelle. Ms. Haelle’s article describes how an Illinois restaurant turned a breastfeeding in public incident into a positive for both the restaurant and for nursing mothers. Cool story.
The link was great for my blog traffic, of course, but it also sent a delightful creature to my inbox. I’ve had many discussions publicly and privately about breastfeeding in public, but this e-mail was in a class of its own.
Check out the posts above first so you have a frame of reference for this person’s grievances. I copied and pasted the e-mail word for word in bold below. I’ve also included what I really want to say in response to each paragraph.
Brace yourselves, read all the way through (trust me), and please tell me how many times your jaw drops. I think I counted ten for myself. 🙂
Subject: Enough is Enough
Dear Ms. Reneau:
Be aware upfront…this is not a fan letter, just a letter seeking more information.
You have demonstrated the “courage” to vilify and scold adults. Let’s see if your screening staff and you have the ability to respond to this email.
Let me tell you, a screening staff would be AWESOME right now.
For the record, I did respond to you by e-mail, but didn’t hear back. Since you expressed your wish to make your case publicly, I’m offering this public space for us both to air our thoughts.
I just finished reading your article regarding mother’s rights to publicly do whatever the hell they want in public restaurants when it comes to breast feeding their child. I was force linked to read your thoughts on the matter because a Forbe’s article concerning a recent report about a hyper-sensitive Illinois Mother publicly lynching a responsible restaurant owner for no good reason. I’ve remained politely tolerant and quiet on this feminist sledge-hammer issue for over two decades. Being from IL, my patience was finally broken with this latest incident.
Man, I hate it when I am “force linked to read” things. That sucks.
You know what else sucks? Using the word “lynching” to describe someone complaining about an establishment breaking the law.
“Feminist sledge-hammer” is kind of an awesome phrase, though. Are you picturing Thor as a woman right now? I am. And now I’m wondering what the female Thor’s breast milk would be like, composition-wise. I bet it would be AMAZING.
Although I would much rather make my case opposite you on public TV, I’m stuck doing it here in the least visible and audible forum. Please kindly give specific, fact-based answers to the inquiries below that are not dipped in raw emotions or post-partum hormones. For a change, how about some objective, empirical, fact-based answers instead of your usual demagoguery?
Public TV would be SUPER fun, but since that’s not an option and this blog is a public place, let’s talk here. I’m happy to give objective, empirical, fact-based answers to whatever questions you have.
I’m gonna go ahead and gloss over the misogyny of the “post-partum hormones” thing, but well done using the word “demagoguery.” It’s one of my faves.
Mothers everywhere deserve consideration and accommodations up to a point. No rules is not an option. What gives breast feeding mothers the authority to trample the public conduct rights and morals of others?
Is this one of the questions I’m supposed to give fact-based, empirical, objective answers to? Because I’m pretty sure that’s not possible given the wording of the question.
But just for funsies, here we go:
1) This isn’t about the authority of breastfeeding mothers, it’s about the authority of the law.
2) I’m pretty sure “public conduct rights” isn’t a real thing.
3) Personal moral sensitivities are not protected under the law. There could be an issue if someone forced you to watch a mom breastfeed, but a woman breastfeeding in the same room as you is not the same as forcing you to watch it. You have eyeballs that move in their sockets, so unless a woman is literally shoving it in your face, you can protect your morals by simply not looking.
Fact: Women legally threaten co-workers, subordinates, and superiors in the workplace if believe they are in a “work place that makes them feel uncomfortable.” Their legal standing for suing is based on the undefinable standard that “It just makes me uncomfortable,” and they get away with it. Why doesn’t this bogus legal standard apply to breast feeding mothers (the word games you play with that expression are embarrassing) when it comes public restaurants. I sure as hell don’t go to a restaurant to hear a child suckling and openly, blatantly exchange body fluids. What gives a breast feeding mother to trample my rights?
Wow, do you really hear children “suckling”? A baby would have to be a pretty loud nurser to be heard over the murmur of a restaurant. Maybe your supersonic hearing is the main issue here. Hey, maybe you accidentally got some of female Thor’s breast milk splashed on you during an open, blatant exchange of body fluids!
Wait, you wanted facts. Sorry. Okay, here goes:
Fact: You don’t have the right to not feel uncomfortable in a public place. I’m not sure what the workplace rant has to do with any of this, but if you’re taking issue with women complaining because something makes them uncomfortable . . . ummm . . . that’s exactly what you’re doing. It makes you uncomfortable to be in a room with a woman feeding her baby. There are no actual rights being “trampled” here.
Another Fact: Breastfeeding mothers are protected under Illinois law in public restaurants. In fact, even nipple exposure (gasp!) during breastfeeding is protected according to the law.
Here’s the actual legal wording: “A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.”
I’m not saying moms should be completely indiscreet, but the fact is that they have the right to breastfeed however they need to.
If I want to experience Mothers and their children doing whatever they want at an eatery, I can pull into my nearest McDonalds or Burger King and head for their play rooms. What gives a mother the right to invade then destroy my eating experience in public?
INVADE AND DESTROY. I think we should contact La Leche League and ask them to make that their new motto, since that’s clearly the goal of feeding babies in public.
(That was snark, just so we’re clear. At this point, I can’t assume anything.)
Seriously, though, the fact-based, objective answer to the question of “What gives a mother the right?” is very simple: THE LAW.
Further, if a woman completely breaks down because someone offers her another table so she can privately exchange body fluids with her child, where does she get off having a total emotional breakdown? She is obviously too immature to have and raise a child. Pandering laws to the contrary, there is no Constitutional law or right to be hyper sensitive. Ever heard the expression, Tyranny of the Minority? That is what is really going on here, feminist tyranny at its finest.
First of all, breastfeeding isn’t exactly an “exchange of body fluids.” It’s a transference of a body fluid, which we not-so-phobic people simply call “milk.” Unless you refer to drinking cow’s milk as drinking a cow’s “bodily fluid,” then you’re just using alternate wording to make feeding a baby sound ickier than it is.
Secondly, there is no Constitutional law or right to be uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public. No, that doesn’t makes sense. Neither does what you said.
Third, Tyranny of the Minority. Really? I looked for some scientific polls and actual statistics on opinions about breastfeeding in public, but couldn’t find anything authoritative. I did find several informal polls in which most people think breastfeeding in public is fine. I also found a couple that said the opposite. The vast majority of people I know don’t have a problem with it. Polls are going to vary, I assume, according to demographics, regional differences, etc. But I don’t think you can automatically assume that people who support the right to breastfeed in public are the minority.
The exchange of all bodily fluids between any two personse ought be in private. Do Gays have this same right to exchange bodily fluids when the feeling moves them anywhere in public? How is that case different?
Umm….WOW. I feel like I should just leave this horribly offensive question alone, but I just can’t. I’m assuming you are referring to sex here. I’m also assuming—and hoping—you wouldn’t want non-gay people to be having sex in public, either. That’s because sex is an incredibly intimate, private act. Feeding a baby is intimate in a hand-holding kind of way. There’s no comparison to sex that makes any kind of sense.
As for the “exchange of all bodily fluids” thing: Does that mean kissing in public should be illegal? What if you’re sitting next to someone on a hot day and some of their sweat gets on you and some of your sweat gets on them? Not all body fluids are created equal. Breast milk is not equivalent to sexual fluids. Not. Not. Not.
We no longer have equal rights in restaurants if out of control Mothers can do whatever they want minus a Code of Conduct. The hordes of unruly, disrespectful, and disruptive children (2-6 years old) that these ill prepared, immature Mothers are foisting on the world are doing untold damage to publicly rendered services world wide and its only getting worse.
Untold damage world wide? Holy cow, I didn’t realize that moms feeding babies had become such a global issue.
Oh, wait, you aren’t talking about breastfeeding anymore. My bad.
Now that you and your followers are armed and capable of digital lynchings, you have the upper hand. It is appalling as it is sickening. Spineless legislatures have kow-towed to your demands and digital threats. So be it. That’s a reality check for us law abiding tax payers.
Digital lynchings. I don’t even know what to do with that. Please see some history about actual lynchings in America. Pretty please.
Now, let me get this straight. You’re a law-abiding tax payer, but you’re arguing against defending an actual law. No problem—that’s your right as an American—but I just want to be clear on where we stand when it comes to laws.
Illinois law states that a woman can breastfeed in public AND that she has legal recourse against those who attempt to deny her that right. Again, the actual legal wording: “A woman who has been denied the right to breastfeed by the owner or manager of a public or private location, other than a private residence or place of worship, may bring an action to enjoin future denials of the right to breastfeed. If the woman prevails in her suit, she shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and reasonable expenses of litigation.”
So if rights and laws are important to you, both are on the side of the mother breastfeeding in public in this situation. She has a right, protected by law, to breastfeed in a restaurant. You have the right to ask for another table if you don’t want to see it, but you don’t have the right to ask her not to do it.
Your feminist aggression forcing open exchange of body fluids in restaurants in particular has resulted in our pocket book rebuttal. Whenever a breast feeding Mother ruins our dining experience, we get up quietly, keep our eyes to ourselves until we can look the restaurant manager/owner straight in the eye, then explain we (and our frequent $150 worth of purchases) are never returning. To avoid a lawsuit, we do not make eye contact with the disrespectful and insensitive Mother. We then very politely and objectively warn all our friends to stay away from these “sucking” restaurants. We take our food dollars elsewhere to places where our rights are not trampled.
Oh, man, this is getting really fun.
1) I hate it when my feminist aggression forces people to exchange body fluids in restaurants. I try to reign it in, but sometimes that pesky feminist aggression has a mind of its own. Sorry bout that.
2) I’m amazed that you’ve had that many dinners ruined by breastfeeding mothers. I’ve rarely ever noticed moms breastfeeding in restaurants, much less had a dining experience ruined by it.
3) I’m also amazed that with such incredible control over where you position your eyeballs (looking the manager straight in the eye while avoiding eye contact with the “disrespectful and insensitive” mother), you can’t seem to move them a few millimeters so you don’t have to watch a mother breastfeed in public.
4) You pay way too much for dinner.
5) You have every right to leave a restaurant if you don’t want to see a mother breastfeeding. But since there are NO restaurants in the state of Illinois where a mother can’t breastfeed, eventually you and your $150 are just going to have to eat at home.
6) “Sucking” restaurants. *snort* I’M DYING.
No, we don’t set up blogs to proclaim our victim-hood or cry for help as you have done. We do the right thing the right way.
Mmmm kaaaay. Like defending establishments who have broken the law? Like withholding your business from restaurants who insist on upholding the law? Like complaining about your rights being trampled because someone is sitting in a room with you doing something you don’t approve of? That kind of “right thing the right way”?
Why don’t you take a poll of your readers to determine where we in this “modern” society ought draw the line when it comes to free and open exchange of body fluids? Is there even a line to be drawn? With your policy, the answer is obviously “No.” Equal doesn’t really mean equal to you. Should breast feeding moms be allowed to take their tops off entirely? Why not if it makes them and their child’s experience “more fulfilling?”
I’d actually love to take a poll of my readers. What do you think, readers? Is there a line to be drawn when it comes to “free and open exchange of body fluids?”
As for the question: Should moms be allowed to take their shirts off to breastfeed? Oh gosh, I don’t know. Should people who hate breastfeeding in public be allowed to wear a sandwich board with “SUCKING BABIES SUCK” on it while shouting through a megaphone, “EXCHANGE YOUR BODY FLUIDS AT HOME!”?
Those kinds of extremes are straw man arguments. Fun, but not reasonable retorts.
Even Mothers require a code of conduct in this day and age. Fathers have them.
I’ve read this e-mail half a dozen times and still don’t know what this means. Fathers have a code of conduct? Like, officially? Because I’m pretty sure someone should make sure fathers know about that.
Respectfully and with professional regards,
T & A
Ah, thanks. I appreciate your respect and professional regard.
You didn’t sign your name, but rather used a phrase as your sign-off. I didn’t include it here, in case your desire to debate publicly was really just blown smoke, but the fact that your sign-off phrase abbreviates to T & A . . . again, DYING.
Now wasn’t that all sorts of fun?
As bafflingly entertaining as this e-mail is, it’s merely an extreme of some fairly common attitudes about breastfeeding in public. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard them all at this point, though “‘sucking’ restaurants” was a new one for me. To be fair, I’m assuming some of this person’s vitriol was directed at the woman who wrote the Forbes article, not just me. But still. So. Much. Specialness.
I really do feel sad for this person, to be filled with so much anger. I know that you can’t fix crazy, and you shouldn’t feed trolls, and I could have just left it alone, but COME ON. I couldn’t help myself.
You may now carry on with your day. Just be sure to keep your “feminist aggression” in check, and watch out for female Thor’s breast milk. It apparently gets around.
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Hey Dear, Great Job here on MOTHERHOODANDMORE Website. You know what? I read a lot blog post and I never heard of a topic like this. I love this topic about Digital Lynchings Feminist Tyranny And Other Travesties Of Breastfeeding In Public. Your exuberance is refreshing.
OMG. I am dying over this!! Before I even got to the T&A at the end. This has to be someone messing with you, right?! Also please please please email back and suggest a split screen video chat you can record or something!
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy that. What a….. weird email.
I just came across this and all I can say is… WOW! So some of those “who dont support” (I try to be more diplomatic) breastfeeding THINK that breastfeeding is a sexual act? Im saddened by this worldview that thinks that the breast is only a sexual icon. 🙁
Wow…..just…..Wow…..This is so funny and scary at the same time that some people actually still think this way. It almost seems like it’s a guy pretending to be a woman writing it. Except I doubt most men without a college education have these kind of sentence structuring skills, note I said sentence structure, not logical grammar, of which there really is very little in this person rant.
I love how many times he/she brings up “Exchange of bodily fluids”. Kind of like they just came home from a marathon sex education class about why to use condoms and now they are going to somehow equate sexual acts with breastfeeding. LMAO.
It really sounds like if this is a woman, it’s the kind who sits in a chair by her front window behind lace curtains watching all the other neighbors so she can make sure she can see any type of activity she thinks is illegal and call the police about it.
I loved your responses. It was just way too funny. 😀
This is awesome! Thank you! So funny (not the crazy person’s e-mail, but your response – classic!). Thanks!
I bet this person would absolutely lose his or her mind if he or she came across a mom pumping in public. And, I have to say, it is amazing how breastfeeding support disappears when pumping for a baby’s needs are discussed instead of nursing. As mentioned by another commenter, there are those of us who have babies that could not latch or have other reasons for which nursing did not work, however we still wanted our babies to be breastfed. This means, for many moms, working diligently to keep up supply and living our lives trapped by scheduled dates with a machine. I’d love to see an article about acceptance of public pumping as equal to the support shown for public nursing. Thanks!
Never thought about to much public pumping as I’ve been blessed with good latches. I’ll be honest I’d do a double take and honestly my heart would go out to you as being stuck to a pump isn’t even fun at home. It’s so much easier and less noticeable when it’s baby. I support ladies who pump bc I in no way feel that’s an easy life at all. And just thinking about trying to pump out in public mind boggles me. Lol. Mama u should be able to do whatever you need to for your baby. I say GO mama!! And I’d defend you any day 🙂
I don’t agree with your bottle statement. Feeding your baby via bottle does not have to equal formula. There’s a whole segment of breastfeeding mommas who have to exclusively pump for many different reasons. We breastfeed… our babes just don’t take it from the tap.
Your perfectly worded responses are a reminder that there is no need to get angry and worked up over the close minded nursing-nay-sayers. From what I can tell T&A yearns for a different Era when children are raised by a nanny away from the public eye, only to be brought out on holidays and special occasions. It sounds as if they imagine these loose-moral women are walking around town with a child permanently attached to their bared chests, (though I am sure we have all felt that way when we just wished for five minutes to take a shower!)
I know I’m very late to this party but felt I really needed to comment. I’m so sorry for the essay…
I have laughed and gasped my way through your response. It means a great deal to hear this person stood up to in a way that when faced with a similar individual in person a few weeks ago, I struggled to do.
I was nursing my 8 week old son in a local cafe when a woman on the next table began loudly commenting about how disgusting and disrespectful breast feeding is. When respectfully challenged (it was too loud and obvious to ignore) I was threatened with being hit, slapped, called a cow (ironic). She said she was reporting me to the police and advised that if I wanted to do it I should be at home. I was then mocked for crying (I’m still ashamed I showed such weakness) but I did record her attack to ensure that I was protected if she carried out her ridiculous threats. Funny thing is we have since discovered that my son is tongue-tied and as he was constantly hungry was happily cluster feeding through the whole vile event (that really got her goat)
I was defended wholeheartedly by the cafe staff and other customers. My beautiful cousin who was with me was my voice when I was lost for words, other mothers came and asked me to sit with them, having their say to this woman as they did so. Older ladies came over after she had left to tell me that they had fed their children many years ago, offer me tissues and say well done, the cafe staff requested she leave and have since barred her from the cafe. Both the law and those around us supported my right to feed my son. It knocked me a little but I believe I was just unlucky.
Thank you for openly defending a mother’s right to feed her child as she sees fit. The likes of the author of your email are out there but they are by no means the majority.
Wow this is incredible! Your responses made me laugh for sure! Crazy… really. I have read your work on Scary Mommy and now just discovered your site full of good stuff!
Well-worded rebuke to an obviously insane individual. I know there are more people like this than I care to think about, but there are a lot of us who see breastfeeding as something natural, beautiful, and between a mother and child, too.
Public gawkers have a choice to look away. Generally, you don’t even know when someone is discreetly breastfeeding! I say this as a mother of two who has nursed her children on a bench at the supermarket, at the park, or in the airport. Discreetly but openly. Without removing myself to a bathroom, feeling ashamed, self-conscious, or feeling a need to be “covered” while doing so.
I nursed my 2 year old at the park today while some workmen were constructing a fence nearby. They never noticed. Then I saw your post. I was floored by the vitriol flung your way, as well as the analogies drawn between breastfeeding and gay sex, for one thing. Or the idea that men innately subscribe to some higher code of conduct than women. Or the idea of associating lynching with anything. Ever. I could go on, but you did so already, and beautifully. Thank you. Not for this misogynist, but for the rest of us.
Omg…I’m nursing my baby to sleep while reading this…and she is shaking everytime I read “female Thor’s milk”…hahaha
Miss Reneau, thank you for your work. You are a fantastic writer who never fails to make me laugh, cry or feel understood and empowered.
Oh, and I can understand people’s ignorant disgust with us public nourishers…they are wrong, but I get it…but they are ignorant, and wrong…very very wrong…
Thank you for a beautiful response to an obviously deranged individual. Consistently trying to demean breastfeeding by referring to it as “an exchange of bodily fluid” is ridiculous, though technically accurate. Though, if that’s the case, perhaps this person should start raving against people with sweaty palms shaking hands in public. Oh, that fluid exchange is creeping me out! That fact is that people like this man, and I am assuming the writer is a man, have objectified women’s bodies so deeply that the very sight of a woman’s nipple or even the possibility of a peak of a nipple or even the hint of the nipple being revealed (unless it’s in the hyper sexualized that people like him want) is terrifying. Female breasts = scary to loser misogynists who obviously didn’t get breast fed enough as a baby.
This writer might not necessarily be a man. It very well could be a childless woman. My older sister (whom I have nothing to do with anymore because she told me in an email when I was pregnant that she wanted nothing to do with my child because she hates pregnant women and babies and implied that I would be a terrible mom) has these exact same views as this writer. She literally would shudder and shake whenever a pregnant woman walked by, as well. It is also these types of childless people (not all childless people are like this) that think they know everything about parenting and continuously criticize mothers for “ruining society” with their bad parenting.
I’m pretty sure this woman’s interaction with breastfeeding families is the least of her problems…Hate and tolerance are probably at the forefront of her daily functioning. I just have a great amount of pity for her. We have all been at the butt end of these types of disapproving “high and mighties” who spend their days counting how much better they are than us. I have been around long enough to know that people like her have a typical nasty, smug, glare, that plants on their face regularly and, that I find much uglier to be around than any nipple in public. God HELP the poor soul that sneezes near this woman. She’ll probably curse you to Hell and think that she actually has the power to be successful at it.
THOR IS A LADY, NOW! No seriously, the current comic book run has a female Thor. I’m eagerly awaiting the breastmilk storyline.
FOR REAL?? Oh my gosh, Marvel must make this happen. It could be an episode called “INVADE AND DESTROY.”
Well done, Annie. I love it. Especially the “eat at home” response. If I were paying that much for a meal often enough to have the experience ruined, as this writer has, I’m pretty sure I could afford a private chef. Of course, I’d have to begin the ad “Bodily Fluid Exchanging mothers need not apply.”
But seriously, you handled it well. So many times we look past these things, but then comes that time we just can’t. And I love that this was it for you.
Thanks, Tawnya. 🙂
…And that is how you nail a response to a troll. No words I can add would improve this. LOVE!
PS. My colleagues either think I am marking papers which are so bad they have me snorting my coffee or I’ve been rumbled that I’m not actually working.
Haha! Thanks, MMKDPR. (That’s not quite as fun as “T & A”, but I’m now referring to you as Mmmm Kay Dipper in my mind.) 🙂
STINKIN’ HILARIOUS! I’m no feminist. Not by a long shot. But I am one of those moms that thinks feeding children is a pretty normal, natural thing. It’s amusing that this guy (I’m assuming this is a male, but I could be wrong. My apologies if I’m mistaken.) thinks moms feeding their kids their own milk is “exchanging bodily fluids,’ because I’m pretty sure he would not have an issue if we were in a restaurant exchanging a cow’s “bodily fluids” via a bottle.
Personally, the fact that he views milk as a bodily fluid, and compares sex to feeding a child makes me think he shouldn’t be allowed around children in general. If he feels a need to stay home, I welcome him to do so. That’s some pretty perverted thinking.
I assume it’s a man, too, perhaps unfairly. It’s actually pretty common for people to compare breastfeeding to sex. I didn’t realize that until I started reading comments on articles about breastfeeding in public, and I’m always like WHUUUUH? Soooooo not comparable!
Be brave Michelle…there’s a bit of “Feminist” in all of us.
Oh, I’m definitely one who raises my girls (and boy) in a way that feminists probably think I’m a feminist.
I love the piece of your comment that talks about Cow bodily fluid in a bottle. I am one who actually does not like to watch babies being bottle-fed. This makes it fun to be a statistical outlier on the other end of the continuum from the complaining poster person.