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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

When 38DD is the opposite of sexy.

I imagine I have your attention.

Good.

Over the last few days, a brewhaha has blown up over this story involving a woman trying to breastfeed her infant at a Burger King.

A furor erupted Nov. 8, when a customer at a suburban Salt Lake City franchise complained about a woman breast-feeding her baby. An employee then allegedly asked the nursing mother, Catherine Geary, to either go to the bathroom to breast-feed or leave.

Under the new policy, employees are told: "If a customer complains about a mother who is breast-feeding, kindly explain that breast-feeding is permitted in the restaurant and suggest to that customer that he or she relocate to another section of the restaurant."


Good for BK.

This has provoked a storm of postings around St. Blog's, most notably at the joint blog of the formidable duo known as Two Sleepy Mommies (blogroll pending). Their posts are here.

Heather's response was more pungent: "Take it to the bathroom? How would they react to me making their dinner in the john?"

The equally-formidable Michelle of And Then? (blogrolled way back) has come down on the opposite side with her thoughtful rebuttals.

As the husband/father of a breastfeeding wife with two kids with breastfeeding experience, I'm coming down firmly on the side of the Sleepy Mommies (including my sweetheart). None of this is to deny that there is a Lactation Nazi/Gospel According to Medela strain to breastfeeding advocacy, but most people I know have managed to avoid it.

It just seems that Michelle's argument (I'm interacting with the Objection! post) raises the specter of the Heckler's Veto, a/k/a Michael Newdow Syndrome--one person raises a stink, so everyone else has to evacuate the public square.

My reaction is ultimately more philosophical and visceral: in a culture that increasingly devalues motherhood and children (except in the accessory sense), denying the right to discreet (an important adaptation that *must* be made by the mother) public breastfeeding is an unnecessary and destructive concession to that culture.

Look at it this way--objections really do boil down to an "ick" factor, and a resentment of children (the latter most definitely not applying in Michelle's case, but you'd be astounded by how much there is). Her comparative cases aren't truly analogous, involving as they do harmful activities (smoking), unhealthy (waste-filled diapers) or immoral (semi-nude people). Breastfeeding is none of the above.

The same arguments can be applied to restrict or deny the access of disabled, retarded or other similarly situated people with discomfort-causing syndromes (e.g., Tourette's). Got a noisy or unpleasant-looking retarded child? Tough, there's always take out or mail-order. Keep them at home or otherwise out of sight, as they may make someone uncomfortable.

I'm sorry, but the well-known American "Fear of 'Tards" and the discomfort they cause or questions they might provoke is not a sufficient reason to deny them or their families public accommodations. A hungry infant, who effectively suffers from the same or worse disabilities, is truly no different.

Or consider another case--where a family prays before tucking into their Whoppers or Whalers. What do you do when that offends someone (see, e.g., Michael Newdow)? Should they take their Godbothering to the can or order in?

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