If you know me, you know I’m militantly pro-breastfeeding-in-public. I nursed my daughter for her first year of life, often in public and rarely with a cover. I’ve breastfed on the beach, in malls, in airports and on planes, in restaurants and even on my front lawn. And I did it with a “say something, I dare you” look on my face every time. Which, when you think about it, is ridiculous. No woman should ever feel defensive for wanting to breastfeed her child in public. Nor should a woman be denied a public space for making good on her breasts’ biological function.
Currently, a proposed bill in Texas would protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public and two University of North Texas students have created an amazing ad campaign to rally support for it, and illustrate what it’s like when women don’t have that right. Aptly named “When Nurture Calls,” the campaign shows young mothers forced to feed their children in dirty public bathroom stalls:
The copy at the bottom of each image reads, “Would you eat here? By law, breastfeeding mothers are not protected from harassment and refusal of service in public, often forcing them to feed in secluded spaces such as public bathrooms. Contact your state and/or local representative to voice your support for breastfeeding mothers, because a baby should never be nurtured where nature calls.”
Despite encouragement from the government, public health experts and researchers to breastfeed infants, women are often scrutinized, ostracized and inappropriately sexualized for doing so in public spaces. Nothing better underscores this point than the criticism being lobbed at this campaign, with social media commenters accusing the images as encouraging women to expose their “sex objects.”
One of the young women who participated in the ad, Monica Young, responded to critics in a Facebook thread, saying “Despite all the hate and negativity that surrounds this topic, I am proud of all the moms who continue to nurse in public. Whenever, however, wherever around whoever, black, white, fat, skinny, 15 years old, 35 years old, keep it up. If people are going to waste their energy on so much hate toward innocent mothers doing what’s best for their children, then their opinions are of no value in the first place.”
Another Facebook commenter added credence to the campaign — and the need for legislation protecting breastfeeding mothers’ rights — with her personal experience: “I fed my child once in a bathroom stall. I cried. I cried for my child as the person next to me defecated and the foul stench reached my nostrils. I cried because I was ashamed at doing something as harmless as feeding my tiny helpless infant. I told myself never again. I had no support until I started standing up for myself and my baby.”
At the end of the day, breasts are made for feeding. There is nothing lewd, crass, trashy or otherwise inappropriate about breastfeeding — no matter where it takes place.
And if logic or anecdotal support aren’t enough to validate this campaign, these memes might do the trick: