I’m taking a Pop Culture Women class this semester (GWSS3306) and last weeks readings revolved around motherhood and how it is portrayed in society and the media. One of the articles (“Double Life: Everyone Wants to See your Breasts—Until Your Baby Needs Them,” by Lisa Moricoli Latham) was concerned with the issue of breastfeeding and how mothers who try to do so in public are oftentimes harassed by customers/consumers and employees, depending on their location.
I don’t have kids. I don’t particularly want kids. But for some reason, the issue of breastfeeding really trips my trigger. My mother chose to formula-feed my sister and I. If I have children, that is likely the choice I will make as well, for personal reasons that are entirely my own. But I cannot wrap my head around the mindset of people who harass nursing mothers in public. Many articles have surfaced lately about nurse-ins at various department stores, and just this week an article concerning yet another hapless TSA agent harassing a nursing mother is making the internet rounds.
A mother attempting to go through a security checkpoint with her 9 month old daughter was stopped by a TSA agent who was, for some reason, suspicious of her empty baby bottles and her breast pump. He would not let her through with empty bottles. At first, this seems really, really contradictory. Liquids are incredibly regulated on airplanes, so the lack of them raised a problem?
The mother, Amy Strand, was forced to find a place to pump before she could board her plane. She asked for a private location in which to do so, and upon being told that one was not available, was directed to the women’s restroom. The only outlet where she could plug her breast pump in was located by the sinks. So she stood there, with her breasts exposed and visibly upset, baby in tow, pumping milk to fill the bottles.
TSA has done their typical thing and apologized to the mother and said that the agent acted inappropriately. That type of statement is becoming incredibly common to hear from TSA officials. But, back to the point of this blog post: what the hell is up with this constant policing over female bodies? And, more specifically, this obsession over breast-feeding. We are told that breast is best, but not in public, not even if you’re discreet. Your breasts are fair game when you aren’t pregnant or nursing, and the comments and ogling of leering strangers lets us know that breasts are great! But only if someone else is able to enjoy them, and only if someone else is able to dictate how much of them are exposed and for what purposes.
Lately, nurse-ins have been held at varying locations across the country– at Targets and also at the Facebook headquarters if you do a Google search. Nursing is a personal choice a mother makes. She should be able to nurse her baby in peace, without going into a germy public bathroom or being asked to leave a restaurant/store. Just as women who choose formula should not be harassed by others, women who nurse should not be either.
To read about the incident in the Hawaii airport: