Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What? Let the babies go hungry?

Imagine the shock of a woman in Vancouver the other day when her husband was trying on clothes at an H&M ™ (Hennes & Mauritz AB) store and their baby needed to be fed. The mother did what comes naturally. She breast-fed the two month old daughter. The next thing, the employees' walkie-talkies were whipped out like she was some kind of common criminal about to shoplift. She was whisked into a diaper change stand and told "store policy" dictated she had to feed her child there and nowhere else in the store.

Two problems. One, it's the law in British Columbia: Women have the right to breast feed their children, anytime, anywhere -- no exceptions. It's not at all obscene, and for what it's worth Health Canada recommends exclusively breastfeeding children for the first six months of their lives even though most mothers stop sooner than that.

Two, turns out it's not store policy after all. A spokesperson at the Canadian headquarters of H&M -- a Swedish based chain -- said nursing mothers are welcome into the stores anytime they want.

That hasn't stopped some protesters from saying they'll have a nurse-in on Thursday at the disputed location. Or the parents from filing an official protest with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. The woman's offence appears to be solely she did what was right. What was in fact right.

Look, guys and ladies -- and I do direct this to both groups as a still very single guy with no kids: I accept there is some merit that there are some men out there who go around malls for the sole purpose of gawking at breastfeeding mothers hoping to catch the sight of some nipple. I think the term some use is "free-showing," like a peep show without having to pay. But there are only some men who do that and they are a very small minority. Most of us guys have lightened up on this and understand breastfeeding is a normal biological function; and I hope would readily stand up to such perverts.

Isn't it just so ridiculous, though, that because there are such stalkers still out there all women have to be punished or treated like criminals? If men fed their babies on the bottle, they wouldn't be called out on it. So what gives? Men's breasts and women's breasts are biologically identical. It's the fact that a quirk of nature makes women's breasts able to produce milk, that has somehow made society (or the Victorian prudes within them) treat them like sexual objects and that's just plain nutty.

As for the argument the woman should have asked if the store had a breast feeding or diaper change stand -- sorry, babies don't work on that kind of schedule. When they need to be fed, they need to be fed. It's kind of like Polly wants a cracker, NOW!

Americans have the right to bear arms. Canadians have the right to bear breasts. So ladies, if you have children you have to nurse, whip them out wherever and whenever your baby needs to be fed no matter what the prudes think. Don't worry, I'm not going to gawk; but rather quietly celebrate what comes naturally and what every woman should be able to do without fear of harrassment.

With regard to the employees who mistreated this woman in violation of the law, the law should throw the book at them. A stern lecture is not enough, nor is ignorance of the law an excuse.

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Pale said...

Diaper change stands? Are in the bathrooms.

Been there. Done that. The last time someone told me I should go breast feed my kid in the ladies room, (restaurant) I told them they should go eat their meal perched on a toilet in a filthy bathroom stall.

And then I also told em to have a nice day. (which always seems to some off as an insult...could be the sickly sweet yet evul smile)

I was a master with blankies BTW. No one ever saw a thing.

BlastFurnace said...

Diaper change stands, or even better specific stalls for the purpose of breast feeding itself, should be a matter of course. But the problem is still the same: Some kids can't wait to be fed. Express milk.