Here’s what I did after my wife was asked not to breastfeed at the community center pool

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Yesterday, I received a text from my wife, Andrea, stating, “Any chance you can get in the car and come down here. They are telling me I can’t bfeed at the pool.” I put on a nice shirt and pants [doing web design from home requires neither] and got in the car for the Gladstone Community Center.

James Ryan Valeii happened to call me about some collaborative work for HypnoBirthing we are doing, and I told him I was on my way to address an anti-breastfeeding scenario. “I want to be respectful while clarifying our position,” I told James. I also told him I was feeling nervous. James was the best person in the world to be calling me in that moment because of what he told me, “Ask to see their policy in writing.” James is no stranger to this scenario because he is married to Kathy Valeii who runs Birth Anarchy, a website devoted to standing up for the rights of women.

With the focused words of James in my mind, I marched into the community center and asked to see my wife, the one with the baby. Without skipping a beat, the guy at the front desk told me how to get to the indoor pool. Andrea was seated in a chair looking out to where Sacha and Grandma were splashing in the kids pool. Andrea had her baby bag next to her and baby Kai was asleep in her arms. She directed my attention to the teenage male life guard who had asked her to cover up. Here is what Andrea reports:

I was feeding my 8 month old son while my older son played in the pool with his Grandma. I had been doing this on and off the whole time we had been there. The lifeguard on duty came over to me and said “If you’re going to breastfeed, will you please move to the changing room,” and I said “No.” He then asked me if I had a towel I could use to cover up. I again said, “No.” I suggested at this time that he go get a manager to talk to me about it, he said it would be his manager’s call. I agreed to talk to the manager about it.

The manager came over to me and said ‘We do ask people to move to the changing room to breastfeed,” and I said, “I’m not moving. I’m not doing anything wrong sitting here feeding my baby.” He mentioned it being the policy. I said, “Has someone complained?” and he said, “No. But someone might walk in and get offended.” I said, “I’m not going to move, so you might want to go get someone else to talk to me about this.” He agreed and said that he would talk to someone else and that they would see, but probably they were going to get me to move. I did not move. I finished nursing my baby to sleep, and immediately messaged my husband asking him to come over to the center to speak to the manager. I also looked up the breastfeeding laws in Missouri to be sure that I was within my rights. 

I went back to the guy at the front desk, introduced myself, and then asked to see in writing their policy on breastfeeding. His name was Adam and he was nice about the exchange, and I could tell he didn’t want to cause a scene; he kept his voice low and remained seated for most of our conversation. He explained that their effort to ask Andrea to move/stop was because they did not want other people to become offended at the sight of a breastfeeding mother. I told him that I understand their awkward position in this circumstance and that they did not want to offend anyone. Adam appeared relieved to hear this. I also explained how Missouri law protects breastfeeding mothers and that he couldn’t find the pool’s written policy prohibiting breastfeeding because it would have been an illegal document. At some point during our conversation, Adam gave me the business card of the community center administrator, and said he would be able to help me better understand the Gladstone Community Center policy on breastfeeding.

After this pleasant yet awkward exchange, I returned to my family at the pool. We packed up our bags to head out, and then the aquatics director arrived. His name is Jeremy and he was the guy notified by the lifeguard in Andrea’s story above. Jeremy said, “I apologize if I upset you,” and appeared to be going out of his way to act in a kind manner. I inquired about their breastfeeding policy, and Jeremy told me that they do not want to offend anyone, and so they ask breastfeeding mothers to remove themselves. I asked him for documentation of this policy, and that’s when Jeremy fumbled with an answer, stating he didn’t have anything to give me. Andrea told him that a twenty-second Google search revealed that Missouri has laws in place to protect breastfeeding mothers and that it is illegal to ask them to move/cover-up. Jeremy said he didn’t know what the laws were, but that the pool is a public place, so they have to do certain things not to offend their guests. That’s when I looked right at Jeremy, turned my head to the side and arched my left eyebrow. What did he just say?

There are three men in this story that each tried their best to act in a kind, unoffensive way. Here’s the problem; each of them were unknowingly sustaining the patriarchal stance that women are told what they can and can’t do. When Jeremy asked Andrea to move and she declined, he mentioned that he would talk to his manager, who would get her to move. No matter how much this manager was trying to act nice by using a soft tone, his actions were violent.

Hummm….violent seems like a strong word to describe this, right? After all, he wasn’t using brute force to move Andrea; no blood was spilled in this scenario. However, to take a stance that you control what a woman does with her body is an assumption that you have power over her. You are dictating what is appropriate behavior. You are trying to “get her” to do what you want. If she doesn’t comply, then you obtain assistance to “get her” to do so. Here’s the deal: every time you prevent a woman from choosing what she does with her body, you are acting in a violent manner. Do you see where I am coming from here?

You’ll never guess what the lifeguard had uncovered when he was telling Andrea to move. I’ll give you a hint. They are round. There are two of them. They are between his neck and his hips. Ok, it’s his nipples. Both of them were out and for all to see. Andrea had only one nipple out at the time she was feeding Kai. Why was she told her nipples had to be removed from the pool while the male lifeguard could have his out with no question?

Well, you might say that women’s breasts are sexualized in our culture, so we cover them up in the effort to remain decent. Yes, female nipples are sexualized in our Western culture. Here’s the rub; a woman decides when her nipples are sexualized, not a teenage male lifeguard, not a 30-something aquatics director, not any other person in the world.

Let’s look at it this way: if some man gets turned on by the low-hanging oak branches of the trees on the street, we don’t cover the branches because they are sexualized by that one guy. The oaks tickle his fancy, but they don’t tickle mine, so I go about my day, enjoying their summer shade rather than their erotic pleasure. The same is true for nipples, because there are times when they will be seen as a source of erotic pleasure and times when they will be seen as a source of baby food. One doesn’t negate the other.

I think the same is true for women everywhere. If they want their nipples to be sources of stimulating pleasure for others, then awesome. I love that. Thanks. You’re so kind. However, if a woman wants my attention to be focused elsewhere, say on her ideas about our culture, then me staring at her boobs is missing out on a good connection with her. It’s also rude, because it says, “Yeah sure, whatever. I don’t care about your ideas or what you care about, because I only care about you being a source of sexual stimulation for me.”

The same is true for breastfeeding. If a woman decides that her nipples are for her baby, and a guy says that her nipples are inappropriate and that she needs to cover them, then I see that guy as being violent. You might disagree with me here and say I am taking it too far. However, I am coming from the idea that violence is dictating what someone else can and can’t do with his or her own body. Violence is saying that you decide what is right for another person. Violence is negating someone else’s needs in order to serve your own. Violence is using power and force to obtain compliance. Violence is the end of communication and the beginning of war.

To tell a mother to cover up or to move while breastfeeding is to say that your needs are greater than hers. You are trumping her choice for her own body. You are missing out on the opportunity to have connection with her. This is sad, because mothers can be amazing, wonderful people that bring life into the world. Literally, mothers bring life into the world. It’s in everyone’s best interest as a species that we respect the mothers.

How do you respect mothers? How do you see your nipples? What do you think about our culture saying YES to man-nipples and NO to woman-nipples? Do you think that is fair? I remember once when Gena Kirby was staying at our house she brought this up. She said she was pissed that it is OK for a man to take his shirt off when it’s hot, but it’s not OK for a woman to do so. Crap. I felt embarrassed. I had never thought of it like that.

It comes down to this: a woman should have the freedom to decide to use her breasts for feeding a baby just like she can decide to use her breasts to stimulate the attention of a sexual partner. In either situation, it’s her decision. If a man finds the sight of a breastfeeding woman to be stimulating, then it doesn’t mean that he has the right to tell her to stop breastfeeding. It certainly does not mean that the breastfeeding mother is being inappropriate. Remember the low-hanging oak limbs? We don’t cover those up just because someone is turned on by them.

Let’s be honest; breastfeeding is titillating. The female nipple has been sexualized in Western culture in a most tremendous way and to such an extent that the vision of it is literally banned from television, so seeing one provides a thrill because of our cultural conditioning. The same is NOT true for an indigenous tribe in Papua New Guinea where the women leave their breasts out. The vision of a nipple to a boy or a man would be no more eye-catching than the vision of an elbow or an ear. What I am saying is that a heterosexual Western man will likely have a variety of emotions arising at the sight of a woman breastfeeding her baby. This is understandable. It does not mean he is bad or the woman should cover up.

If we are to march forward into the future with the health of our families in our best interest, then it behooves us to consider the nipple of a mother and what it means to us. We are mammals and all mammals feed their babies from the breast. Consider a world where the vision of a mother breastfeeding her baby is seen as wonderful and natural.

Hold Up: you’ll never guess who just called me. I am not kidding..as I am typing this post, my phone rang. It was Adam, the front desk guy from the community center stating that they are having building-wide training to address the situation yesterday, and to offer education on the Missouri breastfeeding law to all of their employees. Adam apologized for our experience yesterday and explained that they were in the wrong to ask Andrea to move. He explained that they were unaware of the law and also that they hire some young people whose first job may be to be a lifeguard at the pool. He apologized for the community center’s actions and hopes that we feel comfortable to return to the pool and enjoy our time there. I asked if he had my number from when I called yesterday to get his name. He told me that was true and that it took him a while to find my number in the phone records so he could call me back. Well done, Adam. I feel relieved that you took this seriously and made a strong effort to make the situation right.

 

Joe Valley is a feminist web designer working from home while supporting his young family. He and his wife, Andrea, have two boys born at home and an aging black cat who must be at least 20 years old by now. Joe came from the world of counseling where he worked with families finding relief from the rigors of life. Joe teaches counseling skills to birth professionals and also cheers for dads’ supportive role in birth at EmpoweredPapa.com.

Read the letter Joe wrote to the administrator of the Gladstone Community Center by clicking here: Dear Justin Merkey

Also, THREE CHEERS FOR ANDREA!!! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooray! Hip Hip Hooraaay! Andrea stood her ground by remaining seated when she was asked to remove herself for breastfeeding. She said NO to the men claiming that they decide what she does with her body.

Andrea and the boys

 

Joe and Sacha

169 Responses to "Here’s what I did after my wife was asked not to breastfeed at the community center pool"
  1. Stacie Lopez says:

    I cannot tell you how proud I am of Andrea! I imagine it must have taken her back a bit to be asked to do such a preposterous thing. But both of you handled it beautifully. Thank You two for being amazing!

    • Eileen says:

      Joe and Andrea’s position is admirable but isn’t it still a little sad that Andrea felt she had to call her husband, “the man” to help her out of the situation?

      • Dobby says:

        She asked him to pick her up. Not save her. I too would have wanted to leave the premises in such a situation.

      • Stacie Lopez says:

        Sad that she called someone she loves and trusts for help? No, I don’t think so. If Andrea had a wife, would you still call it sad?

      • Jen says:

        She called in her support, who happened to be her husband. It could easily have been a female friend or relative, depending on her situation. So no, I do not see it as sad. I see it as awesome that she knew her support would have her back.

      • Melody says:

        I don’t think so, at least not necessarily. My husband and I have different personalities and different strengths. Perhaps her choice to call him had less to do with him being male and more to do with him being more willing to deal with the situation. If it were my husband being harassed, he would probably call me!

        • Jeff says:

          When you have been faced with 3-people who will not interact with you, you have to either leave the situation or call in another person who can bring a fresh approach to the situation to resolve it. I call in my wife for all kinds of things.

          However, it says more about the other three men that it was not until her husband arrived that they were prepared to open a discussion. Men innately respond to authority and respecting authority is a an individual choice.

          So the next time you deal with a woman who acts with a position of authority ask yourself if you are responding to her the same you would with a man in the same position. The answer might change your views and force you to look at how you propagate a male dominated society. It did for me and not that many years ago.

          • Adam says:

            Yes, yes, yes. This totally bothered Mr while reading the story – that the Officiating Men if the establishment didn’t get receptive to discussion until another man came to discuss – and all of them there to discuss the behavior of a woman. (Agreed that the blogger isn’t at fault for answering his wife’s call for help, but it circumstantially made him a part of that patriarchal picture.)

      • Mindy says:

        Wow Sad that she called her husband. It would of been sad if her husband didn’t back her up. But he did and she knew that he would that is her partner the most important person in the world to her and her children. Why would that be sad.

      • F8hope says:

        I believe it has less to do with him being a man and more to do with him being her best friend and support.

  2. James Valeii says:

    Thanks for being so courageous Andrea: Hip Hip Hooray!

    Super well written, Joe. You put it in perspective. I’m glad to see how you link the demand for concealment to violence.

    Plus, I think you wrote another great, and potentially a much more amusing icebreaker for the next time something like this happens to someone else. Imagine walking up to the staff to say, “We are mammals and all mammals feed their babies from the breast.” *Raising eyebrows expectantly.*

    • Hattie says:

      I was asked to leave the pool area as I nursed my baby on the side of the pool. My 3 year old daughter was swimming and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving her in the pool alone. I didn’t know what to do. They told me my breast milk might get in the pool and it was a biohazard.

      • Joe Valley says:

        Yeah, because breastmilk is a biohazard. Sure. I can see that. Not. I am so sorry you had this experience, Hattie.

      • Ashley says:

        Yeah, because your breast milk is going to leap out of your breasts and into the pool, overtaking every single atom of the chlorinated water and poisoning all of the children (who btw, were probably breastfed).
        I fail to see how they possibly thought your breastmilk was a danger and how they thought it was somehow going to spill from your breasts or baby’s mouth into the pool where kids PEE all the time!

      • Catherine says:

        Tell them to look up the CDC stand, and they will find themselves mistaken.

      • Muskelly says:

        Umm, wow Hattie. Sounds to me like they were grasping for a reason to impose their will on you. And they found a pretty ridiculous one if you ask me. Breast milk a biohazard? That’s a pretty big stretch.

        And I do agree with the link in the article between the imposing of one’s will and violence. As a woman who has experienced both, I can tell you that being takes down to by a man (such as when he uses his words to force your compliance) hurts just as much as being hit by one. I see both as a form of violence, based on how they can both make you feel, which is worthless. Breastfeeding mothers are doing nothing wrong, and should not be made to feel that way simply because they are feeding in a public place.

    • Muskelly says:

      Sorry, I meant “being talked down to,” not “being takes down to.” Stinkin’ autocorrect!

    • Mandy says:

      I love that saying. I think I will keep that in mind if I am ever asked to cover up.
      **fingers crossed I never need to use it.

  3. Jen says:

    Did they also call your wife?

    • Joe Valley says:

      Adam only had my number because I had called earlier to get his name for my letter.

    • Joe Valley says:

      I have thought a lot about your question, Jen. Wouldn’t it have been great if Adam asked to speak with Andrea so she could hear his apology?

      • Jen Danger says:

        Thank you for your response. Yes I agree, ultimately since it was your wife they requested to leave, and in doing so violating laws protecting breast feeding mothers, the ideal would have been for him to ask you for your wife’s number. It is important that they apologised to you, because you also matter in this story, but does it not speak of a continuation of patriarchal values that they spoke to the secondary person, and not the primary one who the situation affected, your wife? Maybe I’m reading too much into it. But if it was me, I would have expected and appreciated the apology firsthand. Ideally he should have called you and apologised, then requested her number and called her to apologise.

        • Louisa says:

          I do not think you are reading too much into it, Jen; for me, this was the main point!

          We have come a long way and thank you, Joe, for your efforts, although in reality celebrating the fact that a man apologized to you for mistreating your wife only reinforces the male patriarchy system you appear to be trying to educate against.

  4. Adam says:

    Well handled and well written. Thanks so much for sharing! (FYI I’m not the Adam in the story)

  5. EllyMae Haverstick says:

    So proud of you both for defending yourselves and your childrens rights. I was a BFing momma and did not let someones closed minded opinion affect my childs breakfast,lunch, dinner or even snacks. Good Job!

  6. kali shell track says:

    That’s awesome that moms will not have to deal with the same situation Andrea did! She stood up for herself and she made a difference (with the help and support of her guy!) Way to go !!

  7. Laura says:

    Why do people think it’s okay to offend a breastfeeding mother (and her family) because others may or may not be offended by her breastfeeding? I don’t understand that thinking.

    • Veronica Lake says:

      I know this post is going to be very unpopular, but I feel it important to rally behind a different point of view; one with as much validity as the one being rally around here. I don’t understand the thinking of anyone who would intentionally offend anyone, and that includes breastfeeding mothers, knowing there are those who would be offended by her openly breastfeeding. It isn’t the breastfeeding that’s the problem, it’s the naked breasts. This is just one more instance of the minority demanding their rights over the cultural norm and the beliefs and morals of others. I also don’t see this as a “patriarchal stance that women are told what they can and can’t do”. It’s a position of not wanting one person to upset another with behavior that might be construed as immodest or against religious beliefs. Why can people these days use a little common sense and think about someone other than themselves when out in public. What you do at home is your own business. What you do in public affects everyone around you. Public breastfeeding may not be against the law, but public nudity is in most states, if I’m not mistaken. A naked breast is just that. NAKED. AND, by the way, breasts are sexual. How many women tell their mates they may not touch their breasts? Or how many never wear low cut clothing, accentuating their cleavage? This is just another popular issue to rally around. I am, if you were wondering, a female. A heterosexual female who likes the fact that my breasts are a sexual stimulant for my man.

      • Joe Valley says:

        Oh, Veronica. While I don’t have a problem with you presenting an alternative idea, I do have a problem with you suggesting Andrea wasn’t using common sense and was only thinking of herself. I won’t stand for this kind of language.

        I welcome your ideas about breastfeeding and how you see that an exposed, breastfeeding nipple is upsetting to a person with certain religious beliefs. Obviously, I disagree with your notion that a breastfeeding nipple in public is inappropriate.

        You write, “By the way, breasts are sexual.” I am confused why you wrote “By the way, ” because to me it means you are suggesting that I am forgetting that breasts can be sexual. Did you not read the part about how I say breasts are titillating and have been sexualized in Western culture? Yes, our culture must carefully navigate this topic of public breastfeeding BECAUSE the breast can mean two very different things: sexual pleasure AND food for babies.

        The major point here is that we as a culture would sorely miss out if we were to take the sexualization of breasts to mean that mothers cannot feed their babies with them. If a girl grows up and goes her entire life without seeing breastfeeding out in the world, then breastfeeding will be to her something strange and weird. How will that affect her decision to breastfeed when she is older?

        If you are openly against breastfeeding as a normal, natural choice for a family, then that’s one thing altogether. However, if you think that breastfeeding is fine, which I suspect you do, then keeping it as “what you do at home is your own business” relegates breastfeeding to the corner along with the fringe habits of weirdos.

        To suggest that a woman doesn’t have the right to feed her baby in public is to miss the power of women. You shut them behind closed doors like freaks of nature capable of planting seeds of dissemination in the minds of impressionable youth.

        The woman’s body first produces milk after she has a baby whether she decides to breastfeed or not. This is who women are. That’s what their breasts do. It’s not something a woman has to go out of her way to achieve. It literally just happens. In fact, I have come to understand that men ALSO have the anatomy to produce milk when the presence of testosterone is suppressed in the body. Apparently, according to some scientific journal I will spend no time finding for you now, that an old man is a good candidate for feeding a baby in the tragic event that a baby should be separated from its mother.

        Basically, we aren’t talking about women here. We are talking about humans. If we haven’t destroyed ourselves in the next couple years with CO2 emissions and overuse of freshwater, then I’d love to see a world where we can embrace ourselves and how we naturally operate, openly feeding our babies.

        You get to enjoy wearing a booby top that showcases your cleavage so that your man can enjoy their beautifulness when the two of you are out for dinner. My wife gets to enjoy feeding our baby while seated beside the pool. The point is that each of you have the right to decide what your breasts mean in any moment and that no one else decides for you.

        • Mary says:

          Glad your wife stood her ground. As far as “common decency” and what you do at home vs public my church takes the stance that Mary breasted Jesus when he was a baby. at BRCC if any moms would like to remain in church service and feed their babies the God intended for the breast to be used then please feel free to feed your baby, anywhere you want, anytime you want. If the pastor can handle it in the front row and not be offended then I’m sure men that see women half nude in bathing suits shouldn’t be offended either.

        • kathy cassity says:

          THANK YOU, Joe!!!!

      • T says:

        If we accept the bald statement that “breasts are sexual”, we must also then accept that all breasts are sexual, and prohibit any display of breasts. Men too.

        If you’re actually saying that *nipples* are sexual (given the nature of many women’s pool attire), the problem becomes even more acute.

      • Mema says:

        I concur Veronica. I’m a mother of 6 and grandmother of 15 (and counting). I believe in breasfeeding and my children follow suit. I DON’T, however, think it’s appropriate to “whip it out” for the sake of being “natural”. I cover up because it’s the polite thing to do. I’m not offended at mothers who nurse, but I am taken back by those who force their “naturality” on me in public. There is a happy medium here. I live in Missouri btw. If you are going to nurse in public don’t get up on the stage and announce over the microphone I’M BREASTFEEDING! Your baby dosen’t like to be in the heat, or cold or bright light when feeding so show some compassion and cover up. I always carried a light weight cheesecloth to provide protection when I nursed.

        • Joe Valley says:

          That’s funny, Mema, I missed the part of the story where there was a microphone used during breastfeeding.

        • Susan says:

          I. Agree with mama. I, too, breast fed both my children until they were a year old. However, although I did feed them in public, I always had a lightweight cloth to drape over us both. I had a 4 year old son when my daughter was born and had to feed her whilst out with him. I was discrete because I had seen another woman breast feed openly and I, myself, was embarrassed by the display. I appreciate Adam and Andrea May not be embarrassed by a naked boob or two in public, but I am and I know many others who would be too. I also know other nursing mothers who chose to be discrete. All this came naturally, not because I or my friends were ashamed of breaks feeding but because it was the decent thing to do. I get all your arguments, but my feeling is that it’s a bit peculiar whipping your bits out in public. We are going to have to agree to disagree on his one.

          • Brittany says:

            I dot believe that your experience constitutes what others must ensure. I can tell you that myself, as a currently breastfeeding mother, have true to use covers and blankets (including the gauzy type you must be referring to). My daughter absolutely will not nurse under a blanket of any kind. She will fuss and even scream, and will grab and expose me anyhow. She is six months old, and needs to nurse still frequently. I don’t see how anyone should be embarrassed I see me nurse her. It’s not like I want people to be offended. But she needs to eat, and deserves to be comfortable enough TO eat. This is bigger than women’s rights: this is also a baby’s right to proper nourishment and comfort. I’ve never before seen a woman breastfeeding and thought of it as sexual. Maybe someone else gets embarrassed for me. You know what? People get embarrassed to see cleavage. Or tattoos. Or any number of things we don’t tell tem to cover up. Sure, it may be considered rude to “whip it out for attention” but rarely is that the case. It’s usually moms like myself who just want to focus on feeding the baby in comfort and care much more about the health of our child than opinions of others. The soft of a breast (which frankly breastfeeding hardly shows more than low cut shirts) should not be shamed and made out to be so offensive.

          • kathy cassity says:

            There is as much breast exposed by a woman or girl wearing a bikini, as there is a mother breastfeeding a child. You RARELY get a glimpse os nipple, unless your eyes are PLASTERED on her! And, in that case, YOU are the one with the PROBLEM! WHY are you SO FOCUSED on someone that you cannot look AWAY??!!

          • kathy cassity says:

            Your actions had nothing to do with it being “the decent thing to do”. you WERE ashamed or embarrassed by breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding ANYWHERE, is in NO WAY an INDECENT act! It is an act of love and providing NUTRITION!

          • Crystal says:

            Susan, it is certainly your right to be more discreet (you didn’t mean “discrete” here) when you are nursing. It is, however, NOT your right to demand that others make that same choice.

            I’m always surprised at how many conflicts would not be conflicts at all if people would realize that not everyone has to do the things you prefer.

        • ALA says:

          Yes its a matter of public display for the sake of bring on display or politely feeding your baby without drawing attention to yourself or your breasts. If it’s about feeding your baby – then feed the baby, there s no reason to draw attention or being any more “bare” than necessary. It’s just common sense, common courtesy and a matter of privacy which yes may need to occur in a public spaces from time to time but that does not mean it gives a nursing mother carte blanche to be less discreet than the public venue diserves.

        • Kate Sheahan Crawford says:

          Beautiful piece, Joe Valley. Mema, if a baby is cold, sure, cover the baby up. But in warm, humid conditions I feel so sorry for the hot little babies covered up by “nursing blankets.” Most of the world’s women breastfeed in public and it’s seen as normal. Kudos to Andrea and Joe and others like them for helping our (sometimes) socially backward nation to recognize the importance of normalizing public breastfeeding.

        • kathy cassity says:

          No one FORCES anything on you, Mema!! If you do not like seeing a mother openly breastfeeding in public…WALK AWAY!!!! If anyone were FORCING you to do that. THAT would be a violation against YOU! Much like people trying to FORCE a baby to eat with a blanket over it’s head!!!!!!!!

      • Donadl says:

        That’s because you’re either stupid or ignorant. Ms. Lake. Take your pick.

      • batgirl says:

        Veronica if a person’s religious beliefs are such that they need control breastfeeding mothers around them then how do they function in public AT ALL???? Do they walk around handing women extra clothing so those women can cover up to the OBSERVERS level of comfort? Please. We only impose these kinds of controls on women, and specifically women who breastfeed. If a person’s sensibilities are so incredibly delicate that the sight to a mother feeding her child would send them into a frenzy of indignation and offended blustering then they really shouldn’t be at a public swimming pool. Cuz let’s face it, women are walking around barely clothed there. Either you deal with it or YOU leave, Youd don’t make other people modify their lives to suit YOUR preferences.

        • Joe Valley says:

          Batgirl, thanks for your comment here about the notion of sensibilities. I have seen some pretty amazing outfits lately. Imagine the shorts revealing the bottom part of the butt cheek. You know what I am talking about? They’re shorts so short that you can actually see the line between the butt and the leg. Strangely, the last time I saw this it was on an adolescent female. Oh parents. Sigh. If the notion of asking a woman to cover up while breastfeeding is appropriate, then so is telling the mom to cover up her teenager’s ass cheeks.

          • LRN says:

            Ha, Joe. I’d love to be able to tell people to cover their butts (that is a hygiene thing, in my mind.) But I don’t, because it is none of my business.

            Also, I’m surprised no one has responded to Veronica the fact that in most states nursing mothers are exempt from public decency laws. Because it is not indecent to feed your child.

      • batgirl says:

        My only thought is who at a public swimming pool is going to have the time or energy to be constantly watching and observing the other patrons??? Obviously the lifeguards but that’s what they’re PAID to do. It sounds like this was more of a situation of life staff getting offended, not the patrons. It’s silly and sad. Good for Andrea in standing for her rights.

        • diane says:

          Veronica, this is silly. Yes, the issue IS about thinking about someone else. That someone else is the BABY. Not the person who has the freedom to look away if they are uncomfortable.

      • Roslyn says:

        Did you actually read this post?

      • In the state of New York, women can walk around topless. Plus, they say “Be the change you want to see in the world”, and this means that women should stand for their right to go topless or breastfeed in public. It is time to stop sexualizing breasts. A women should be able to get a sun tan on a beach, topless, without men giggling like idiots around her. The whole breast thing has been blown out of proportion. You don’t giggle at a dog or a cat because they don’t walk around with a bra or an underwear, and you certainly don’t ask their owners to hide them from public because they are “naked”. You are entitled to your own opinion, but hopefully there will be less people like you in the world soon enough, and more people who do not sexualize certain organs in the human body until they are in a relationship with that person. Because intimate relations are about the relationship first, and not about the sexually objectified human form.

      • Sara Peterson says:

        Breast feeding violated your religion? What, pray tell, religion speaks against breast feeding? I disagree that your sinful nature and hypocritical moral high ground trumps the needs of the baby. Avert your eyes!

      • kathy cassity says:

        Just so you know, Veronica, breastfeeding is NOT against religious beliefs. It just isn’t. And, why maintain a cultural “norm” that is puritanical and backwards?? There comes a time for CHANGE, and this is the time for THIS issue to CHANGE! I breastfed SIX children at a time when I was relegated to feed them while sitting on a toilet, if I were at a mall, and my child needed to eat. Do you have ANY idea how incredibly unpleasant and demeaning that is? I will back up ANYONE who wishes to breastfeed in public! I have two daughters whom I want to make this a better and more accepting world in which to nurse!

      • kathy cassity says:

        You should like it MORE that they may one day feed your child. Just know THIS…it is okay to like BOTH!!!! Breasts are sexual AND a method to feed our children!!!!!!!! And, there is no reason that a healthy and intelligent person should confuse the two
        !!

      • Crystal says:

        Here’s the difference, Veronica. If Andrea had just wanted to expose her breasts to see what the reaction would be, or because she liked to, then I’d understand the raised eyebrows. But she was feeding a child. Why do our new-fangled screwed up “cultural norms” (i.e. only norms since the advent of formula and breast pumps, by the way) trump a woman doing what women were born to do? And moreover, why would any adult’s PREFERENCES trump a baby’s absolute unquestionable need to eat?

  8. Mo says:

    Great and well-written article – and well done enforcing an individual’s right against an authority going against the law. I must admit I’m still a bit confused about the reasoning though (and since my name is a bit ambiguous, I’ll be up front and let you know I am a man). The fact that the three pool employees are male seems crucial to the scenario (“sustaining the patriarchal stance that women are told what they can and can’t do”), but what if any of the pool employees had been female? Hypothetically. what if it were a woman telling Andrea to “cover up”? Then, would it still be an issue of gender? Or perhaps would it be an issue of our (uptight) society fearing anything sexual (the fact that either gender has to cover up their bottoms too) – or I don’t know, something like that. And if the response to that question is something like “well that fact is they WERE men in this particular situation” then why is not equally problematic that in this particular situation Andrea felt the need to be rescued (calling her husband) by a man?

    • Joe Valley says:

      If the three naysaying employees had been women, then their actions would still be “sustaining the patriarchal stance that women are told what they can and can’t do.” Both men and women can sustain patriarchy.

      Here’s the thing, Mo. A woman is vulnerable when she is breastfeeding in public. Her body is exposed and she is subjected to the uncontrollable conditions of the environment. I see it as her partner’s job (whether male or female) to protect her when she is threatened. When Andrea sent me that text, she was asking for help, which isn’t a sign of weakness or that men are more powerful; it’s a sign that she knows upon whom she can rely. That’s me. She can rely on me.

      • Mo says:

        That all makes a lot of sense (as does your response to T immediately below), thanks for elaborating! I have another question then (again not disagreeing at all with the result of the pool event but questioning the reasoning), if you don’t mind: one of the big points of the argument is that a woman should be able to choose how her breasts are being perceived at a given time (“to use her breasts for feeding a baby just like she can decide to use her breasts to stimulate the attention of a sexual partner”). If the argument can be simplified to ‘a woman has a right use her breasts how she chooses, since they are in fact HER breasts’ – and if you’ll allow an admittedly silly hypothetical – should a woman be allowed to use her nipple to, say, stir her drink or make designed imprints in a sand castle [I’ve moved from pool to beach for some reason] ? Her body, her breasts, her right – she’s choosing they not be sexualized in these examples. And if you’ll allow to me make another jump, by extension, should a woman be allowed to choose how her vagina is being perceived at a given time? Namely, if she chooses for it not to be sexualized can she expose her vagina for any other purpose? [Again, I’m just trying to get to the bottom of the argument that it’s her body and therefore her right – OR is that argument unique to breastfeeding since breastfeeding is natural (and necessary)?]

        • Joe Valley says:

          I appreciate your questions here, Mo. It comes down to the babies right to be fed. I am sure the Nestle corporation and all else who manufacture synthetic breastmilk would love to chime in here. See, a baby needs to eat and no amount of sexualization of breasts should interfere. Breast impressions in the sand are a wonderful thought, yet I am sure the sand will do just fine without them. Also, I am yet unaware of a situation where the exposed vagina is essential to someone’s life.

          • Joe Valley says:

            Ok, I thought of a situation: say a woman went into labor at a well-attended outdoor music festival and couldn’t make it back to her tent before the baby was born. In this case an exposed vagina would, in fact, be essential to someone’s life. So, there you go, Mo. Another case where the baby’s needs determine the propriety of the scenario.

        • Felicia says:

          Vaginias are genitals, breasts are secondary sex characteristics. There is a huge difference between the two, Mo. Vaginas are sexual by nature, breasts have been sexualized by western culture. Men can go shirtless, but they certainly can’t go around flashing their penises. The logic is for the sake of equality, not exhibitionism.

          • Joe Valley says:

            Dang, you’ve got this argument down, Felicia. Thanks for sharing your clarity.

          • ALA says:

            Yes and in the case of the “need to feed” a baby you have a choice of how and where in most cases—to which as much or little discretion can be applied or ignored depending on how much one can help it or somewhat chooses to draw attention to themselves. In the case of a vagina being on display because a woman gives birth in a open public venue i.e. one she did not choose, anyone assisting her in delivery would still offer her protective. hygienic privacy to the degree it is available. But if a baby is coming imminently–it’s coming, taxi cab, tent or the great outdoors. Breastfeeding a baby there are choices if not always when then in how bare or covered or private you can or want to be. . . exempt from public decency laws, yes. . .exempt from discrete or in good taste given your public surroundings–not so much.

      • kathy cassity says:

        Perfect answer, thank you!

    • Andrea Valley says:

      You know, Mo, I thought about that, how the people requesting that I move were male. I wondered if the third person who the manager went to get might arrive and be a female. I don’t think it matters.

      You’re assuming, incorrectly, that you know how I felt in this situation. I’ll tell you, if you’d like to know, but please don’t assume you have a window into my personal emotions. Your comment is feeding the problem. It says, oh this weak woman, she should have dealt with this all by herself instead of calling her man to rescue her.

      That’s your version of the story, not mine. And I was there.

      • Mo says:

        Andrea,
        Sorry I just now saw you response after I had posted another response above. I realize my original post asked more questions than it revealed my attitude toward those questions. So to clarify, I didn’t mean to imply you were weak nor that I know how you felt in that situation (how could I?). I ( perhaps incorrectly) read into Joe’s words that it mattered that the pool workers were male – and so I tried to turn that logic on the fact that Joe is male as well – only to make the point that none of their genders matter [it shouldn’t matter that the pool workers were male nor does it matter that your person of support is male]. It is more of a societal problem as a whole that the ‘no breastfeeding by the pool’ rule would be implemented rather than the fact that those three pool workers happened to be male. I do believe that the way to move forward is for men and women to unite rather than create more separation (“us” and “them”).

    • Melody says:

      I wasn’t there and therefore speak with very little authority. Still, I did not read this as a situation where a female had to be “rescued” by a male. She was calling someone she trusted to help her out. It may have just as easily been a woman. Why make more out of it?

  9. T says:

    I’m disappointed.

    Why call *A MAN* to come deal with the situation if the point is to stand up for ourselves?

    • Joe Valley says:

      Comments like yours, T, I find to sustain the chasm between US & THEM–between MEN & WOMEN. Strength comes from our ability to unite, not to separate.

    • Andrea Valley says:

      T, it’s unfortunate that you missed the part of the story where I said No numerous times, did not get up as was requested, and talked to the manager about how his requests were in fact illegal.
      Yes, I called my husband. He is a man.

      Was I nervous? Yes. Was I shaking? Yes. Did I feel concerned about dealing with the matter at hand while also caring for my sleeping 8 month old, and my 5 year old who was still in the pool? Yes.

      I called for back-up. I have no intention of feeling bad about that. I have no intention of allowing you, or anyone else, male or female, to regulate my experience.

      • Tal Doran says:

        Ms. Andrea, you should not feel bad for calling the person who promised to cherish you and you promised to cherish in return. When faced with stressful situations, we reach out to someone who we fully trust and have complete faith will stand there beside you and give you the encouragement or the steadying breath that you may need. I would have done the same thing, called in my husband. Not because he is a male, but because he is my other half and together we make the whole.

      • kathy cassity says:

        You are an admirable woman!! You did exactly as you should have!

    • Heather says:

      I gotta say, if this happened to me, the very FIRST person I’d call would be my partner. Period. A very upsetting and uncomfortable situation. Would you feel differently if I told you my partner was another woman? Who cares? Partner=first call. And she did stand up for herself, each time she said no. You’ve missed the point entirely.

    • She called her husband. If her partner was a woman, then she would be calling a woman. If her partner was a dolphin, and that dolphin could take a phone call, she would be calling a dolphin. What’s your problem? Bitter much?

  10. Good work Andrea and Joe sticking up for your baby’s right to be fed respectfully and for helping to educate the people in your community about how to support breastfeeding mothers appropriately.

  11. Elizebeth says:

    This is a terrific post about a “terrible-turned-terrific” story. I only see one missing sentence; You may as well make it obvious, just after the arched eyebrow “What did he just say?” just how hilariously hypocritical the man was being about offending the clientele. It seems like there was only one offended party at the pool that day, and that was Andrea. Oops!

    I am so relieved to hear that the people were sensible and flexible enough to discuss and change their “policy” about nursing at their pool. I’m sure that a huge part of that is how clearly and calmly you and Andrea stated your positions – violent communication leads to defensive or violent behavior. Kudos to you both; we need families like you in all corners of the world.

    • Joe Valley says:

      Feels good to read your words, Elizebeth. Thanks for taking the time to share your support. Yes, how interesting that the pool guy seem so motivated to not offend anyone while…..offending someone.

  12. Jenni says:

    Awesome, Valleys! Well done! When these breastfeeding conflicts arise, I bristle at this thinking: The pool people asked Andrea to cover up or move so guests wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. But Andrea was a guest too and was made to feel uncomfortable, so that ‘guest comfort plan’ obviously didn’t work out. Breastfeeding mothers shouldn’t lose their status as guests when nursing their babies. Want the guests to feel welcome? Make the mamas feel at home! Thank you, Team Valley, for handling this clearly and smoothly. Brava!

  13. Traci says:

    Thank you SOOOO much for setting them straight. This is our community center too and I always tried my best to cover because I feel the social pressure to (like anywhere) but when I look around there are so many women showing much more skin than I would be without. A cover! Amd seriously, the changing room?? What on earth is one expected to do with older kids while in there?!

    Next, if you could get them to stay open through Labor Day they’d really be on their way to being a grown up facility!

  14. Scarlett says:

    I am laughing away at all those people snidely remarking on how Andrea called her husband, A MAN (and also the father of the baby being told to feed in the toilet, presumably). Firstly, it’s sort of his issue that his baby is in that situation, even if his wife can stand up for herself (which, clearly, she can). Such a classic patriarchal assumption that he has no skin in the game because breast feeding is women’s stuff, apparently, not HUMAN stuff, or stuff we should all be concerned about. Secondly, there’s the hilarious idea that you can watch a child in the pool, stay calm enough to get an eight month old to sleep and keep them there whilst have an argument with people who are clearly unaware of their legal responsibilities. Maybe Andrea called Joe so she could hand him the baby and continue the discussion, not to “save her”. Thirdly, there seems to be all this drama around whether men and women solve it. When will we start thinking as humans, not dividing things that are human problems into men’s or women’s? Finally, Veronica et al, you make me so sad. It’s the attitude of women like you which mean babies end up on formula because women fail at breast feeding, because they grow up never seeing it, because they do it behind closed doors, or they try and are humiliated, maybe because they can’t or won’t stand up for themselves, either because they don’t have men (or women) to support them, or because women like yourself give them the evil eye for looking after their babies needs instead of yours. Veronica, and all those with your opinion, here’s a red hot tip. If you don’t like the view, you can move! It’s much harder for a ther breast feeding a baby to do so so I suggest you just do yourself a favour and don’t look if it bothers you. I won’t comment on why you have these issues, I’ll just note they are exactly that. Your issues. Worry about your issues, and your own business. There are two people in a breast feeding relationship. Not two plus onlookers. My friends and I all manage to sit around together breast feeding our babies and you know what…it doesn’t get weird. At all:-) it is possible, I assure you! And we have everything from Christians to pagans to we’re good for religious beliefs too..in fact even the Pontiff supports breast feeding in Church!

    • Joe Valley says:

      Solid Gold Scarlett. Solid gold.

    • Mary says:

      Glad your wife stood her ground. As far as “common decency” and what you do at home vs public my church takes the stance that Mary breasted Jesus when he was a baby. at BRCC if any moms would like to remain in church service and feed their babies the God intended for the breast to be used then please feel free to feed your baby, anywhere you want, anytime you want. If the pastor can handle it in the front row and not be offended then I’m sure men that see women half nude in bathing suits shouldn’t be offended either.

  15. Lauren says:

    I love hearing of your courage and the reasonable way you handled the confrontation. Thank you for sharing your story with us all!

  16. Lms says:

    Good for mom and dad! I nursed 6 children (all until at least age 3) and dealt with similar scenarios at times. Luckily I too live in a state that protects Breastfeeding in public. Having to assert our rights while caring for young children is stressful. I am so glad you stood up for yourself and didn’t leave. Why is it okay to offend Breastfeeding guests and not invisible others? And to T, the baby being born scenario would be celebrated and on the six o’clock news.

  17. observer says:

    Nice story. It would be better if you did not redefine the word violence. It simply does not mean what you claim it means. Despite two paragraphs explaining why you use it or what it means to you, it is still the perfect excuse for someone on the fence to tune you out.

    • Aime says:

      I’m not sure which definition of violence you are looking at? The World Health Organization defines violence as, “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.” I, most certainly, would feel violated and attacked had I been in Andrea’s position. And furthermore, I don’t know any woman who would not feel the same way in a similar circumstance, especially when you add in the vulnerability of a nursing mother as well as her natural instinct to nourish and protect her young! Joe said it perfectly! ” violence is dictating what someone else can and can’t do with his or her own body. Violence is saying that you decide what is right for another person. Violence is negating someone else’s needs in order to serve your own. Violence is using power and force to obtain compliance.”

  18. It’s really sad women have to do this, and either aren’t aware of their rights, or decide not to “shake the tree” as they say. By standing up to your rights, you mold the world as you want the world to be, and I think a world where women can just whip out a boob and feed a baby is a beautiful, natural world indeed.

    By the way, In our case my wife does cover herself, but that’s because our daughter gets distracted when people move around her while breastfeeding. So creating this enclosed private space allows our daughter to focus on feeding, and allows her complete a full uninterrupted feeding.

    • Joe Valley says:

      Thanks for sharing, Skaag. I know what you mean about covering up for the baby to remain focused at the breast. Andrea holds up a towel at Kai’s eye level so he is not distracted by the world around him. The ironic thing about this is that the covering doesn’t necessarily prevent people from seeing her breast. Andrea keeps the fabric to the side so she can still make eye contact with Kai. That’s the problem with asking a woman to cover up, because covering up for the sake of other people usually entails eliminating the possibility for eye contact between baby and mama. Who wants to eat alone under a blanket?

      • Scarlett says:

        Skaag,

        How old is your baby? I used a cover at first too, because of my own issues…and I found, after time, they made it harder, not easier, to avoid exposing the breast. They would fly off or hit wind at the worst times, and I finally gave up after my husband got the velcro caught on his shirt and stood up while I was trying to get my bub attached at about 3 months. Luckily, not many people were around, but everyone saw a lot more than they do now, when I just have a singlet or crop top underneath a t-shirt.

        Once mine turned about 5 months I would have been dreaming anyway, it is all I can do to keep her still for 30 seconds and stop her kicking me, sticking her fingers in my nose or ears or digging her toes into my stomach…there is NO way I could keep her under cover! I don’t know how women do it with covers, to be honest, my hat is off to them if they can be bothered and make it work at all!

        Mema,

        I missed your post before. I find myself quite offended by the way you have worded your statement. I don’t “whip it out” (completely disgusting turn of phrase by the way), I carefully expose enough of my breast for my baby to feed comfortably. I have never been harassed, unlike poor Andrea, but I have managed to hold conversations with waiters and acquaintances who by their eye contact make it clear they have not even realised what I am doing while they chat to me. That’s not to say if I wanted to “whip it out”, that there would be anything wrong with it.

        However, if I did, for the sake of gross expediency, presumably, need to “whip it out”, I assure you I would not be at all concerned with forcing my naturality on you. I would be concerned with meeting my baby’s needs for comfort (which includes eye contact) and food as a priority, often because they are distressed. When babies are distressed, as I am sure you recall, sometimes, your breasts start squirting milk even before you get the baby on, whilst you are sorting out a cover. It is entirely possibly I would have squirted milk in your eye in an effort to avoid offending you with my naturality. I assure you I have never been the slightest bit concerned with other people whilst I breastfeed my daughter. Other people are not my problem. My daughter is. My milk is for her. Not you.

        Please do stop putting words in the mouths of breastfeeding mothers. I feed without a cover 1. For the comfort of my baby not having something over her face (and even now we sometimes wrestle, because she, and not I, would prefer more of my breast to be exposed so she can squeeze it and make the milk come out faster (not always my favourite thing), and my clithes get in the way, 2. So I can look at her happy face and talk to her while she feeds. 3. So that other mothers and girls can see breastfeeding as normal, and natural, and be empowered to breastfeed rather than harming their babies gut function with formula because they feel too uncomfortable to breastfeed.

        I think the number of children and grandchildren might actually make it worse…all those daughters being shamed for feeding their babies the way they are supposed to. It is nothing to be ashamed of – pride should be what you feel when you see your grandchildren being nourished, anywhere, anytime, by your daughters.

        For your edification, here’s a great song confirming all the worst things you have been thinking about breastfeeding mothers ruining your day whipping them out. You’ll love it, I promise.

        http://www.smh.com.au/national/breastfeeding-mother-juliet-moody-shows-us-her-wit-in-viral-video-20140208-328uo.html

        • Our daughter is 9 months old and is definitely at the stage where she pokes our noses, ears, touches our eyes to find out how they work, squeezes my wife’s boobs (because hey who doesn’t like squeezing boobs?!), scratches and caresses my wife’s skin (if I don’t cut her nails quickly enough, my wife’s skin will be quite red and irritated!), etc.

          However, and maybe this is because my wife has been doing it from the start, our daughter is now used to that darkness created by the shroud my wife wears while breastfeeding, and she totally relaxes and focuses on feeding as a result.

          I have to say, it’s a pretty comfortable thing to use and we take it everywhere with us. It has two terry cloth pocket corners at the bottom which are very practical for wiping baby’s mouth or nipples after baby’s done, but those terry cloth pockets also make the corners significantly heavier which means the shroud is not going to fly away with a bit of wind. It also has a strap at the top, which means it can never really fly away, and is quiet secure.

          I think this is the one we use:
          http://www.amazon.com/Bebe-Au-Lait-Nursing-Cover/dp/B00H586N9C/

        • Cecifish says:

          Thanks, Scarlet, for bringing up a very important part of this discussion. I respect that some women do not feel comfortable with breastfeeding in public, and believe it is each woman’s choice whether she does. However, the phrase “whip it out” causes a visceral reaction of discomfort. I was having a difficult time articulating why, so I’m glad you brought it up. I feel that it is language that implies brazen behavior and redirects the focus of the discussion while demeaning the woman. And it is used often by other women who are against breastfeeding in public. Such a shame that some women do not support other women’s choices and autonomy, and fall back on using language in their arguments that is really just projecting their feelings towards their own bodies (ie that it would feel uncomfortable, and brazen, for them).

  19. BMB says:

    For the religious folks. I do believe it was the good Lord who designed the human body, both male and female.
    Breasts were attached to the female to feed/nurture/suckle the young on many many levels when the baby is too large to remain in the womb. That is the fundamental purpose of boob/tits/breasts … they were designed to hold the mammary glands.
    The sexualizing of said feeding station came later, after the patriarchal guys became uncomfortable with THEIR sexuality and proclaimed that boobs be bound so they would not feel uncomfortable. (Think missionaries to the islands, etc, etc binding boobs where ever they landed).
    So if an act of God (breastfeeding) is found by you to be uncomfortable to observe, then maybe just do not look.
    The drive against the acceptance of what the body has been designed for is led by the manufacturers of baby formula.
    Get a grip folks.
    Breastfeeding is nurturing/feeding our future.

  20. Jillian says:

    You’re awesome. So glad to know you and love that you are the one in charge of creating my new site. Rock on papa!

  21. T Cameron says:

    I am glad this story has a happy ending, but it makes me sad that Andrea had to go through this.

    I struggle with this personally because I am somewhat uncomfortable “whipping it out” in public. So I like to be covered. Baby DOES NOT. He flings the cover, he yanks on it so much it hurts my neck. I always end up losing the “being covered” battle. (and who could blame him… it’s dark and lonely under there!) So I would have been mortified if someone had come up to me and asked me to leave. I just wish our culture as a whole embraced that breastfeeding is natural and women who breastfeed in public are not doing anything wrong.

    • Joe Valley says:

      Oh, yes, totally. I wish our whole culture embraced the breastfeeding as natural. Here’s to eating in open, well-lit environments! (AKA not under blankets).

  22. bluerockg says:

    I love reading/hearing these kinds of experiences. I’m currently breastfeeding my second child and am re-living the discomfort of breastfeeding in public. In fact with my first, I rarely did it at all. This go round, I’m more conscious of my struggle with this feeling of perceived embarrassment of public breastfeeding and I’m able to deal with it a lot better. I’m encouraged by others’ examples, and the fact that they are standing up/speaking out not just for themselves but their child’s right to eat in public like everyone else. So thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  23. Anonymous says:

    While I definitely support breastfeeding and the right to feed ones child while out and about I do wonder about one thing in this situation. Most pools have a no eating around the pool rule, this rule might have been enforced if one had tried to bring formula into the pool area and most certainly would have been enforced if she had tried to feed her older child a snack, why it would be okay to feed a child from the breast when women who are formula feeding might have been told to feed the child elsewhere due to the no food rule. Why is it okay for her to feed her child next to a pool but not a formula fed baby. This is more of a curiosity then anything else

    • Joe Valley says:

      Anyone else want to tackle this one? I think in this case, no matter how the baby is fed, whether by the bottle or by the breast, that the baby has a right to eat. Their stomachs are so small that they have to eat frequently. What kind of culture would we be living in that would create laws that would, in a sense, prohibit mothers from being in public with babies?

      • Erin says:

        It really depends where she was sitting feeding the baby. Was she on the edge of the pool with her feet in the water or was she over with the bags and towels etc. I suppose there could be some argument for not feeding a baby in the water or on the edge regardless of how he is fed ( bm, bottle or solids).
        However that was not an issue that was brought up in this scenario.

  24. Katie Shay says:

    I read an article about breast feeding in public a couple of weeks ago, and the part that made the most sense to me was “When your baby is hungry, you feed your baby. Period.” People are only offended when they notice. The vast majority of people are not breast feeding in public because they want to voice a political opinion. They are doing it because they are out of the house and their baby is hungry.

  25. Annie says:

    Nice job, but it really isn’t the mother who dictates the breastfeeding, it is the baby. It is really the baby’s rights that are being violated. Baby was being denied food and comfort. Now THAT is violent!

  26. Ken Nottingham says:

    It’s normal and natural to have a bowel movement, but I choose to do that in private.

    • Joe Valley says:

      Omg, are you comparing breast milk to $#!t? One is excrement and one is food, man. Remember when one of the mafia guys in the Sopranos scammed the credit card machines at the Italian restaurant? It caused so much havoc that the restaurant closed, and so Tony approached the guy and said, “You don’t $#!t where you eat. And you definitely don’t $#!t where I eat.” I rest my case. Do I really need to go into this further?

      • Dave says:

        You brought the odd comparisons in with the tree branches.
        If a man, while watching his kids at the pool, wants to stay close, he should be allowed to pull out his penis and, very non-sexually, very carefully pee into a container.
        It is, after all a very natural and non-sexual act.

        • Joe Valley says:

          Exposing genitals is not same as feeding baby with breasts (secondary sex characteristics).

        • Cecifish says:

          Again, missing the point. The bottom line is that breastfeeding is about feeding a baby, not deficating or urinating. There is really no comparison between the two.

    • Scarlett says:

      So why don’t you go eat in the toilet, Ken. Then you won’t be offended by anything and neither will we. Can you just please think logically about this? The baby is EATING! EATING! It is not the same as POOING! OMG why is this so hard for people to understand. You having a poo – is the equivalent of the baby having a poo. Which, correct, ideally you will both do somewhere hygienic and private. You eating – is the equivalent of the baby eating. Which you should both do where you need to, within reason. And definitely not in the toilet! (Unless there’s some other “private” place at the local pool that you were thinking of???) All these people who act as though babies have some weird and different biology – they are HUMAN and grow up to be JUST like YOU (well hopefully not EXACTLY like you). So when they grow up, they will still poo in private and eat in public. No difference! No change! No problem! You pooing or weeing is not the same as breastfeeding! Because breasts make food, not excrement! You poo privately because it stops other people getting sick! Breastmilk has antibodies, not germs, and makes you well, not sick! So it can be done wherever! Hopefully that explains all the biological stuff now…I can’t believe this is news for some people!

      • Tim says:

        As a society, we do many things specifically designed to impose restrictions on what people can or can’t do. In most cases, these rules are intended to place the needs of the group above the needs of the individual. The rationale behind these rules are quite varied.

        Many of the examples most people can probably readily think of involve placing the lives of others at risk. We place speed limit placards because – statistically – driving too fast is likely to cause injuries. We prohibit smoking in many areas because your need for nicotine is trumped by the general publics need for oxygen. We prosecute assault and theft, impose mandatory evacuations during cataclysmic weather, ban products discovered to be inherently unsafe, and occasionally execute “troubled” people, pets, or wildlife. There are a host of good reasons we do these things and more, and without them societies as they exist today would be very difficult to maintain. It is important to put the needs of the group before the needs of the individual.

        Obviously these rules are not superbly relevant examples to the current scenario; a mother feeding her baby by the side of a pool is posing no imminent danger to anyone around her. However, not every rule we impose has to do with preventing you from harming yourself or others. Many public establishments dictate “No shirt, No shoes, No service” as a courtesy to the majority of the general public who feel more comfortable in a fully-clothed environment. We enforce handicapped parking to assist the mobility-impaired in navigating commercial and recreational venues. We mandate non-truancy because educated people are more able to contribute in the complexity of modern societies. And we restrict the display of sexually explicit material to protect those members of our society who may not be ready or able to handle it.

        I’m a heterosexual man, and I think boobs are a wonderful thing. I would love to see more boobs out in public. I would love to not-be-in-trouble whenever I find the urge to stare at a particularly magnificent pair. And that’s exactly the problem; so would your neighbors 13-year-old son. Fortunately that’s not how society works; your neighbors’ son’s need to be visually stimulated does not trump the groups need to feel safe. Saying that boobs are not or should not be sexual is simply naive. Of course boobs are sexual! Boobs have been sexual since long before the advent of western culture. Have you ever read the Kama Sutra? And those African tribes you’re citing – the gypsies who leave their breasts out all the time? I’ll give you two guesses how their females attain elevated status within their communities.

        I understand the argument for “my baby has the right to feed,” but nobody has attempted to deny your baby the right to feed; asserting that they have is nothing more than sensationalism. They’ve simply asked you to do that elsewhere, and even been generous enough to propose a location where you can go do it. You know, somewhere away from the gaggle of other moms and (more importantly) their children. Some of those children whom, I guarantee, are watching your exposed breast with captivating interest. Why should the needs of your child trump the needs of everyone else at the pool that day?

        I also reject the notion that some kid working as a lifeguard who asked you to move is, either consciously or subconsciously, promoting a patriarchal agenda. He’s observing a behavior that he thinks might be unacceptable in his place of work, and taking the appropriate steps to deal with it:

        1. Ask the patron to stop the action voluntarily.
        2. Consult with superiors if met with resistance.

        Even if the behavior in question turned out to be completely legitimate, this is exactly what he’s supposed to do! If he was telling children to stop running by the pool, would you accuse him of promoting an anti-fun agenda?

        I understand the point this article is trying to make. The law affords you the right to breastfeed your baby in public, and I will even go so far as to say you were correct in standing up for your rights. However, just because the law is on your side doesn’t make everything else black and white. I will not celebrate this insensitivity to common societal decency any more than I celebrate the fact that homosexuals are unable to wed. Just because you were right doesn’t mean you weren’t wrong.

    • Lauren says:

      Ken…The next time you decide to eat a s#!t sandwich with a tasty glass of piss on the side, please, feel free to do so 😉 It is only natural!
      I’m seriously sick of this argument.
      & I’m so sorry Andrea had to deal with that. It makes me so mad. However, it seems you were able to educate some people, which is great. Even if it was crappy (no pun intended?) to deal with.

  27. Dave says:

    “Here’s the deal: every time you prevent a woman from choosing what she does with her body, you are acting in a violent manner.”

    So breastfeeding really has nothing to do with this. Truly your wife, your kids, you, or anyone at that pool should not be told what they can and cannot do with their body. No man (or woman) there should be asked to wear shorts or underwear.

  28. Pamela Davis says:

    I can remember being really mad at the age of five when my two young male friends got to go shirtless and I couldn’t. It still bugs me fifty years later.

  29. Connie Smith says:

    After reading your post and learning what baby groups you align with it appears your wife went to the pool wanting to start a conflict, bingo blog material. These woman-made BFing scenes do nothing to help women. The suffering you millennials endure is beyond compare!

    • Joe Valley says:

      Here’s the thing, Connie Smith. This article does do a lot to support women’s choice to breastfeed with confidence in public. In fact, we are merely asking for what the law already protects. The state of Missouri actually puts out new law tomorrow that further clarifies the protection mothers receive about breastfeeding, so it’s not like this kind of thing is a freak side-show topic.

      As for your accusation that my family staged this event, I refuse to accept the accusation, and I feel angry that you’d even suggest it. I find your comments disregard the awkwardness and fear that my family encountered in this situation with the community center.

      I am not sure how your comments work to unite the two sides of this argument. In fact, I don’t even see how your ideas have clarified your own position. If you have something that works to clarify your position on the matter, then I welcome your ideas.

  30. Kensey says:

    Awesome, awesome, awesome! Way to go, both of you!!

    And bravo for doing it in a firm, yet kind, manner.

  31. Cecifish says:

    Thank you, both Joe and Andrea, for sharing your story! I have really appreciated the discussion. As a new mother of a now 5 month old, I have definitely benefited from living in a community of confident mothers where breastfeeding in public is normalized, and in which each woman is respected for her choice to do so or not. I did not know how I would feel personally, and find that my comfort level changes depending on the situation. I just trust my innate feelings and go from there. The instances I tend to regret are those when I leave a social situation unnecessarily due to my anxiety about what others would think. Better when I make the decision to leave based upon my own comfort…sometimes it’s just nice to have some time alone with my daughter–especially now that she’s so interested in what’s going on around us! Anyway, it’s extraordinarily empowering to see other women breastfeeding as it normalizes it…and society as a whole benefits, including all the families and children that witness it as being normal.

    As a side note, there is another side to the argument. There are a couple of generations (starting in the 50s, my grandmothers’ generations) where birth was moved into the hospitals and became part of (and dictated by) the realm of a medicalized, male-dominated culture. And formula, a product of science, was starting to be marketed as the best things for babies (because science was obviously better than nature, and women were just perceived as products of their “hysteria”). Prior to that, there was no other option than to breastfeeding, and birth was Supported by other women. I was surprised to find out that one of my grandmothers did not breastfeeding at all. The other did not for long because of her “supply” (which obviously decreased because women were not taught about breastfeeding. So, we are products of generations that were TAUGHT by by the medical profession and industry (@%#&$” Nestlé, by the way) that breastfeeding was not good. All the comments about patriarchy, sexualization, and violence against women are right on. Just wanted to also underscore that many women have been taught these ways…and as a society, we do not teach respect and tolerance as much as we should.

    Thanks again!!

  32. HBACingMama says:

    Joe,
    I’ve never seen your blog before, but I think I love you. Wonderfully written and dead-on. Kudos to you and your wife!

  33. almondunicorn says:

    I’ve always found one glaring hole in the arguments of people who argue against breastfeeding based on the “sexualization” of women’s breasts. Sexualization is subjective. You can’t say that breasts (but only female ones!) were absolutely definitely created to arouse men. However, there is absolutely no denying that (most) female breasts create milk for their babies. You would have to be a total idiot to deny this. So why do we so often let a subjective interpretation of breasts trump an absolutely objective observation about them? Why is it more important to hide them due to some nebulous ideas about sexualization than it is to use them for the purpose that we are 100% certain they were made for?

  34. Laurie says:

    So for those above whose mouths are found to be lewd or profane will you do the rest of us a favor next time you choose to eat in public and drape something over your head? Seriously! Your stupid and selfishly prudish behavior does not impress the rest of us as being either spiritual, moral or admirable. Get over yourselves and let a woman feed her baby without trying to insert your opinion that was not asked for. You don’t want to be offended? Go home. Shut the door. Lock it and don’t come out. Then neither of us will be offended!

  35. Nichole says:

    Bravo for you and your family!!! I’m a nursing mom in Idaho, and unfortunately there are no laws protecting breastfeeding moms. I think a huge point is that although women’s breasts are sexual, it would be nice if we could all work together to credit them for what they are….food! I’m not saying people can’t be attracted to them, but to live in a society where I can nurse in public without the fear of being harassed would be great. I do not go out of my way to make people uncomfortable, or subject myself to stares and rude comments. Idaho does not protect my right to feed my baby so unfortunately someone can ask me to leave and I have to.

    • Ridiculous! Our country should have a consistent federal law that protects breastfeeding mothers. If I were you and anyone asked me to stop breastfeeding, the other person would be sorry in the end. You should consider contacting your law makers about getting a law protecting breastfeeding in place.

      • Nichole Goff says:

        There is a group here in Idaho trying to get a politician behind this rally. Sadly none of them have spearheaded the campaign. I do know that if your asked to stop nursing and leave, technically they can get the police involved and have you arrested for trespassing.

  36. NewMom says:

    My daughter is 5 months old, and she can’t breathe well if I cover up while breastfeeding. Not to mention how hard it is to get her latched on if I can’t even see her face. I usually try to feed her before we go somewhere so that she won’t be hungry while we’re in public or I will bring a bottle of pumped breastmilk if I can. However, sometimes I’m not as prepared as I like to think I am and I don’t have an extra bottle or even an extra blanket to cover her up with. And I’m not going to let her starve or sit there screaming and feeling hungry and neglected with me two inches away from her. So I “whip it out” as it has been so eloquently called. And you know what? With my baby at my breast, her head actually seems to cover more skin than almost any bikini top I have ever seen. In fact, I’ve had people be surprised when she finishes and I mover her and cover up because they thought I was just holding her at my chest while she’s sleeping. To clarify that: they think that her body is simply in front of an existing shirt. There is nothing immodest or offensive about that, is there? So what’s so insanely offensive about the two seconds of nipple flash before and after a feeding? You honestly probably won’t even notice it UNLESS you’re LOOKING for it.

    Additionally, if they’re so worried about offending patrons, they should have thought twice about the mother they were offending by telling her SHE was the object of offense. I see plenty of women come into the restaurant I work at with EXTREMELY low-cut shirts and booty shorts, and I’ve never had a guest complain about them and ask that they cover up a little more. But the second that a baby joins in at dinner with their family at a table…guest complaints all around asking me to ask the mom to cover up. Sorry, but just because a baby isn’t using a spoon or fork to enjoy their meal doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate. It’s not like we breastfeeding moms are insanely stoked to “whip out” our lady parts in front of a bunch of people we’ve never met who are most likely judging us either mentally or out loud. And we most certainly aren’t standing on the table, jiggling our bits and asking for everyone to watch us feed the tiny humans we brought for show and tell. It’s not like we’re feeding our babies JUST to spite society and see how many people we can offend. Cut us some slack. We’re sustaining human life with only our bodies. Can’t we all just appreciate how amazing that is and leave it be?

  37. amy lisa says:

    Even though I think it is awesome for moms to breastfeed…. why couldn’t she cover up her boob? Honestly I don’t want to see anyones breasts and it’s not because I think it’s wrong or i’m a prude. It’s just basic common sense… no one wants to see your baby drinking from your breast so just cover it up!

    • OMG I am so with you. I don’t like seeing other peoples boobs either. And I breastfeed my babies but covering up is easy and respectful;) only saw your comment after I posted mine

    • Lauren says:

      Most people’s breasts ARE covered/masked by the baby’s head (unless you’re in my unfortunate situation of HUGE breasts and a teeny baby, haha). Not much more to see than in a bikini top or on a lingerie billboard. I had a pretty ingenious solution for covering the extra skin though, I had a singlet/shirt combo going on most of the time as I was more self-conscious of exposed belly than I was of exposed breast! Shirt up, singlet down and baby in the middle! Perfect! No cover needed and I was comfortable.

      Having said that though – no one is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to look. Look away or move away. Remember it is not ever about you. It is about that baby and his/her right to eat.

    • Erin says:

      If you don’t want to see someone’s breast then you probably shouldn’t be going to a pool… Or a beach… Or a bar. Bikinis and low cut tops expose more breast everyday than a baby’s head in front of a breast.

  38. stacy hancock says:

    well done! by both of you. not everyone can stay so calm and collected, or have their wits about them to STAY WHERE THEY ARE. reading your experience feels like a good way to prep if we have any issues next summer. thanks!

  39. Dawn Lotharius says:

    Just so you know you two are HEROS!!!!!! MWAH!!!!! <3

  40. Heidi says:

    This was really refreshing to read. Thank you as a woman to a man for understanding. And for saying so. Thank you for standing up and thank your wife for being an outstanding woman and mother. You both are great partners.

  41. Hi. I just gotta say this. I think all this stuff about patriarchal society and male domination has it’s place (like 1920s England) but it’s over analyzing in this case. Absolutely the mom shouldn’t have been asked to move- that is silly. And no one should ask her to cover up…because there is no law against it but she should be doing in out of respect for others. Seriously people get so darn woman’s lib about BFing. I just breastfed 2 babies and will breastfeed my 3rd and out of respect for all those around me (especially those who would get distracted or feel embarassed) and in being modest myself, I think a nursing cover or receiving blanket is in order. They are cheap and easy to carry and use. It’s just plain polite and respectful to cover boobs in all contexts in public. Why be so activist about it? Boobs even shock me when I don’t expect to see them and u see toms of them- I’m a nurse. Quit over analyzing and remember that women’s lib or not, the old man walking by will feel awkward and the teenage boy walking by with his buddy will point and chuckle. This is just how it is. Breastfeed on your roof if you like but in reasonably close proximity to ‘the public’ cover up. It’s polite

  42. But yes sorry…I definitely agree this couple did extravagantly well in managing the situation. I just think those situations just illustrate to us that female breasts do make people feel awkward so even though we have the ‘right’ to bear them to feed babies let’s spare others the awkwardness of seeing them when they don’t necessarily desire to;) breastfeed with pride- I know I will…but is it really that hard to cover up?

    • Lauren says:

      Here’s an idea – next meal you eat, eat it with a blanket over your head! See how you like it! It’s hot, hard to breathe and you can’t see anything else. Not to mention it is incredibly disrespectful to the baby, especially if they are not happy with the cover.

      Some babies will happily feed under a cover. For some, it’s essential as they find the world a bit too distracting to feed effectively. Some will absolutely not! My daughter even at just a couple of months old would not have a bar of it! Not to mention it’s darn hard to latch a child with a cover on when you have only been doing it for a little while and you are on the larger side, breast-wise! Most women don’t show much anyway when feeding – the baby’s head covers most of the action AND for those who do like to be covered you can get nursing shirts/singlets etc which allow you good access to the important bits without exposing the rest of the breast.

      After all is said and done, it is only the woman who needs to be comfortable with the level of skin she is showing. I’m personally never going to be someone who can pull my whole breast out in public – but I’ve found ways around it which are respectful to my baby. Everyone else can move along.

    • Ruth says:

      In many cases, yes – for both mother and baby, as several people have already commented.

  43. Mindy says:

    This is an incredibly empowering piece. Thank you so much. Breastfeeding shame in America is truly unparalleled throughout the world. It’s truly absurd how twisted our view of human sexuality is. Bravo to Andrea and what a strong, thoughtful family! I truly am inspired Thank you!

  44. Alishadelynn says:

    I’m really so tired of the polite breast feeding advocates who are clearly the more educated, civilized beings in these scenarios trying to “explain” to these backwards idiots why breast feeding is okay.

  45. You are an awesome father! My husband would have done the same for me. Fortunately, no one ever asked me to stop breastfeeding in public. (And I say fortunately for the other person.) Hopefully someday breastfeeding will be normalized again, and stories like these will be in the past.

  46. Elizabeth says:

    I am a Certified Lactation Consultant, a doula, and a developmental psychology student. One of my classes this semester is Gender Psychology. This encompasses so much of what has been covered in my class so far. I will be sharing this with other students in my class. Thank you for an eloquent way of saying what I have been trying to say for a long time.

  47. Beth says:

    It’s amazing how they were so quick to try to move your wife and baby on the off chance that someone may be offended. They aren’t too worried about offending the mom who is breastfeeding, are they?

  48. Debbie Burgett says:

    I wasn’t able to read all of the comments, so maybe someone already mentioned this. But can you imagine the OUTRAGE it would spark if a woman was asked to cover up or leave the premise because her low-cut top or short skirt or bikini was turning on or might turn on the men present? Since when is our culture OFFENDED by getting turned on? It’s not. And that’s the real issue here.

    Our culture IS very sexualized and doesn’t want anyone regulating that. So a woman feeding her baby IS offensive because it desexualizes something that, especially men, do not want desexualized. How DARE she use what we want to lust after to feed a baby! Feel free to show us your cleavage or anything else, Lady, and let our imaginations go wild. But don’t spoil our daydreams! Don’t show us a baby nestled where WE want to be! That’s not sexy! Go home!

  49. Sara says:

    I love this Joe. I’m a mom of three girls, oldest born in 97 and I breastfed all of them exclusively. Unfortunately, there were not as many champions for BF mothers 17 years ago….at least not as vocal. I was a young 22 year old first time mom and i will never forget this: I was in the customerservice area of Elder Beerman (dept store), feeding my 3 month old, I was covered by a blanket and an employee asked me to move to the bathroom. Seriously? she wanted me to nurse on a toilet? i asked her if she would like to eat her lunch sitting on a toilet! HA!
    I was promptly asked to leave. Very sad. Hooray for you and Andrea…..and to all the naysayers, guess what? If its so offensive…you don’t have to look. You have free will to turn away. …..I will never understand why this is a controversy…..this IS common sense people!

  50. Tim says:

    As a society, we do many things specifically designed to impose restrictions on what people can or can’t do. In most cases, these rules are intended to place the needs of the group above the needs of the individual. The rationale behind these rules are quite varied.

    Many of the examples most people can probably readily think of involve placing the lives of others at risk. We place speed limit placards because – statistically – driving too fast is likely to cause injuries. We prohibit smoking in many areas because your need for nicotine is trumped by the general publics need for oxygen. We prosecute assault and theft, impose mandatory evacuations during cataclysmic weather, ban products discovered to be inherently unsafe, and occasionally execute “troubled” people, pets, or wildlife. There are a host of good reasons we do these things and more, and without them societies as they exist today would be very difficult to maintain. It is important to put the needs of the group before the needs of the individual.

    Obviously these rules are not superbly relevant examples to the current scenario; a mother feeding her baby by the side of a pool is posing no imminent danger to anyone around her. However, not every rule we impose has to do with preventing you from harming yourself or others. Many public establishments dictate “No shirt, No shoes, No service” as a courtesy to the majority of the general public who feel more comfortable in a fully-clothed environment. We enforce handicapped parking to assist the mobility-impaired in navigating commercial and recreational venues. We mandate non-truancy because educated people are more able to contribute in the complexity of modern societies. And we restrict the display of sexually explicit material to protect those members of our society who may not be ready or able to handle it.

    I’m a heterosexual man, and I think boobs are a wonderful thing. I would love to see more boobs out in public. I would love to not-be-in-trouble whenever I find the urge to stare at a particularly magnificent pair. And that’s exactly the problem; so would your neighbors 13-year-old son. Fortunately that’s not how society works; your neighbors’ son’s need to be visually stimulated does not trump the groups need to feel safe. Saying that boobs are not or should not be sexual is simply naive. Of course boobs are sexual! Boobs have been sexual since long before the advent of western culture. Have you ever read the Kama Sutra? And those African tribes you’re citing – the gypsies who leave their breasts out all the time? I’ll give you two guesses how their females attain elevated status within their communities.

    I understand the argument for “my baby has the right to feed,” but nobody has attempted to deny your baby the right to feed; asserting that they have is nothing more than sensationalism. They’ve simply asked you to do that elsewhere, and even been generous enough to propose a location where you can go do it. You know, somewhere away from the gaggle of other moms and (more importantly) their children. Some of those children whom, I guarantee, are watching your exposed breast with captivating interest. Why should the needs of your child trump the needs of everyone else at the pool that day?

    I also reject the notion that some kid working as a lifeguard who asked you to move is, either consciously or subconsciously, promoting a patriarchal agenda. He’s observing a behavior that he thinks might be unacceptable in his place of work, and taking the appropriate steps to deal with it:

    1. Ask the patron to stop the action voluntarily.
    2. Consult with superiors if met with resistance.

    Even if the behavior in question turned out to be completely legitimate, this is exactly what he’s supposed to do! If he was telling children to stop running by the pool, would you accuse him of promoting an anti-fun agenda?

    I understand the point this article is trying to make. The law affords you the right to breastfeed your baby in public, and I will even go so far as to say you were correct in standing up for your rights. However, just because the law is on your side doesn’t make everything else black and white. I will not celebrate this insensitivity to common societal decency any more than I celebrate the fact that homosexuals are unable to wed. Just because you were right doesn’t mean you weren’t wrong.

    • Joe Valley says:

      Great points, Tim, although I obviously disagree with your nuances about patriarchy and how you say I was wrong in my actions. I think the heart of your argument, and our disagreement, focuses on the dual meaning of breasts: sexual stimulation and food source. Here’s the deal with that: just because breasts have meant sexual stimulation in the West does not mean that a mother should curtail her natural relationship with her baby. The very reason why public breastfeeding in tribal cultures isn’t taboo is because they have managed to delineate the multiple meanings that breasts have for them. I feel confused as to why you would even say, “I’ll give you two guesses how their females attain elevated status within their communities.” What I think you are saying is that breasts have sexual value in their culture. However, I think what you have actually done is present a THIRD meaning for breasts! Social status. What a wonderful notion I have overlooked. Yes, I think the same is true in our Western culture, as well. Big breasts certainly have a certain kind of value, don’t they?

      See, Tim, breasts can mean many things. For me and my family, the dominant meaning for Andrea’s breasts are the food source of our baby. I will show respect for my son’s need to be fed and nurtured; I will protect his intact continuum of care.

      • Tim says:

        >> Here’s the deal with that: just because breasts have meant sexual stimulation in the West does not mean that a mother should curtail her natural relationship with her baby.

        This is simply not true. The sexualization of boobs is not a Western thing – hence my comment about the Kama Sutra. Do you believe that the Indians of 2500 years ago were being directly manipulated by a western “patriarchal agenda”? The sexualization of boobs is a human thing. Boobs are sexual! They are also a source of food, but before they can be used as a source of food, they must first be used to attract a mate.

        >> Oh, and what’s with this whole idea of protecting children from the vision of a breastfeeding baby?

        An average five year old? Fine. An average thirteen year old? Whole different ballgame, and don’t pretend you don’t remember ;-).

        • Joe Valley says:

          Tim, when you use a winky face, are you saying that it’s cute for teenagers to admire the sexual value of breasts? And are you also saying that these very same teenagers should be protected from a breastfeeding nipple? I find this quite confusing, because it appears you are saying two different things.

          • Tim says:

            >> Tim, when you use a winky face, are you saying that it’s cute for teenagers to admire the sexual value of breasts?

            I did not intend to imply that it was cute. I intended to imply that I, for one, do remember. I remember being 13. I remember being hormonally out-of-control, and I remember becoming physically aroused at even the suggestion of stimulation. I remember the un-prompted erections in the middle of class even without any suggestion of stimulation. I remember my female friends suddenly blossoming into womanhood… and I remember the temptation.

            I also remember the ignorance. I remember considering intercourse without even awareness of condoms. I remember the adolescent giggling at the slightest mention of anything to do with that “sex” stuff; not only did this giggling usually revolve around boobs, it usually started there. I remember three girls in my 8th grade class having an idle, pointless, and frankly stupid conversation about how “wearing skirts makes for easy access.” Despite its stupid nature… I remember being enthralled by every word of that conversation.

            I remember on multiple occasions becoming so aroused that literally nothing else in the world mattered – not pregnancy, not STDs, not the forthcoming disapproval of family and friends, and not the life-altering ramifications of any of the aforementioned. I was ready to have sex now, and that was where that particular line of thought ended. A person in this frame of mind (which I would wager is most teenage boys… and many teenage girls) isn’t going to see a breastfeeding mother; he’s going to see a breast. And he’s going to giggle. And he’s going to make dumb jokes. And he’s going to get aroused. And he’s going to do something about it.

            And for some of them, there will be consequences.

            I remember being that age, and in hindsight I understand and appreciate the protections I was afforded. I also remember that there was absolutely nothing cute about it.

    • Joe Valley says:

      Oh, and what’s with this whole idea of protecting children from the vision of a breastfeeding baby? Where has our culture gone when people actually think this?

      • Cecifish says:

        In fact, I believe it is normal and healthy for other children to be exposed to breastfeeding. It then normalizes a normal, healthy way to feed our babies. They get exposed to so many hypersexualized, photoshopped images of breasts in the media all around them. Breastfeeding, again, is normal and healthy.

      • T Cameron says:

        I’ve always found it strange that our country is totally fine with horrible acts of violence and especially violence against women. Gruesome murders portrayed on shows like CSI several nights a week. But flash a nipple on tv and by God the nation is in an uproar and the tv network gets slapped with an FCC fine. Those are family values?

    • Joe Valley says:

      Tim, you wrote, “I will not celebrate this insensitivity to common societal decency any more than I celebrate the fact that homosexuals are unable to wed.” Wow. Dude. I wasn’t sure what you were saying here, so I broke it down to logical conclusions. Here is what I came up with: You will celebrate the prohibition of homosexual marriage more than you will celebrate an exposed breastfeeding nipple. You believe homosexual marriage and public breastfeeding are both culturally insensitive. Do I have that right?

      • Tim says:

        >> You believe homosexual marriage and public breastfeeding are both culturally insensitive.

        No, this is not even close to what I meant. Despite many people’s beliefs, marriage is not a religious or personal institution. Marriage is a legal institution: when I wanted to have a wedding, I went to a church; when I wanted to get married, I went to a courthouse. I do not celebrate the fact that homosexual marriages are illegal in much of this country. I think it is a criminal dehumanization and an unconstitutional denial of the legal rights and privileges associated with marriage. With that in mind… “I will not celebrate this insensitivity to common societal decency any more than I celebrate the fact that homosexuals are unable to wed” means I do not celebrate either.

        The rest of the paragraph is talking about how you shouldn’t necessarily breastfeed in public just because the law says you can. This context provides the necessary information to interpret the above; just because the law says homosexuals are not allowed to marry doesn’t make everything else black and white. IE: you can be right, and still be wrong.

      • TessBo says:

        The irony here is that virtually every society that has ever lasted has naturally happened upon heterosexual marriage because only heterosexual coupling has the power to bring about new life, a new life which needs both parents. Homosexual marriage? That has nothing to do with the specie’s well-being. We need hetero sex, need babies, need breastfeeding, and need a way of binding fathers to their children (marriage). We don’t need a way of binding inherently sterile couples to each other. It might be a nice idea for those couples emotionally, but it has nothing to do with the nature of humans or society.

        But also, what Joe said. It’s really not clear if you’re for gay marriage or not, because you make it sound like a negative and an aspiration.

        • Tim says:

          >> [We] need breastfeeding.
          I disagree with the premise. We need to *feed* our babies. Breastfeeding is definitely an excellent option which provides many benefits beyond simple nutrition (immuno-development and familial bonding come to mind). And it’s cheap too!

          Many families survive without it, nonetheless.

          >> We don’t need a way of binding inherently sterile couples to each other.
          So then I suppose any man who elects for a vasectomy should be denied marriage as well, unless said vasectomy is reversed? How about women who have undergone menopause? The genetically sterile? How about victims of testicular or ovarian cancer? Veterans who have sacrificed the ability to use their reproductive organs for their country?

          What if any of these things were to happen while the couple was already married? Should they be legally bound to divorce?

          The fact is that *millions* of married, heterosexual couples fail to either produce or care for children every single year, including many tens of thousands of couples who were actively trying! Of course none of these groups should be denied the legal, tax, estate, medical, employment, and housing benefits that come along with marriage (and i’m sure that list is not all-inclusive… that’s just what I could come up with off the top of my head). So if the argument centers around a capacity for child-rearing… how are any of these groups any different from homosexuals in that respect?

          >> It’s really not clear if you’re for gay marriage or not.
          Well then my apologies. I hope the above clears up my position!

    • Debbie Burgett says:

      I REALLY appreciated your comment, Tim. Especially your honesty when you see a “particularly magnificent pair.” Great wording. Brought a smile. And while my particular comment focused on the double-standard in our culture (how everyone is welcomed to let EVERYTHING hang out EXCEPT for a nursing mom) your comment really reflects my heart.

      If each individual in a society can just decide that what they view as their “rights” can and should trump the welfare or needs of the group, oh dear. And I fear we’re raising the next generation to believe just that and sadly, will face the consequences as a society down the road.

      However, in this one particular case, I believe it would be VERY BENEFICIAL to the whole group, if the stigma and “hush, hush” often associated with breastfeeding in public could be completely erased and instead, it became seen as the most normal, natural, wholesome, sweet and loving thing a mother could be doing with her baby–whether she’s sitting at another table in a restaurant or right next to you on the subway.

      In this particular case, I believe it would do the adolescent boys of our culture a WORLD of good if every time they turned around, instead of seeing mammoth Victoria Secret ads plastered for their eye-full, instead they saw moms everywhere happily nursing their babies. Talk about elevating moms, elevating children, and elevating families to the level they should be.

      They say the breakdown of the culture starts with the breakdown of the family. Well, I believe we can see the truth of that all around us. So maybe it’s time to make a change and start elevating what’s important. Let’s bring breastfeeding out of the closet for good–and put sex back in the bedroom where it belongs! I honestly believe that one trade wouldn’t hurt anyone in our culture one little bit! 🙂

  51. Abe Fisher says:

    I agree with nearly everything you say, except for your use of the word “violence.” I understand where you’re coming from with the word, and I would never argue that all violence must be physical, but it just seems to me that there are better words available, ones that get the point across just as well, if not better, without running the risk of misleading anybody.

    My suggestion would be “oppression.”

  52. Kathy says:

    I find the stance on allowing breastfeeding in public – blaming people for be bothered or offended – to be a little silly. Yes, it’s natural. You know what else is natural? Taking a dump and having sex – neither of which you would want right in front of you on a plane, on a beach, or in a restaurant; trust me. I don’t see anything wrong with politely asking a mother to cover up, which in no way harms or puts off the child. If you had to relieve yourself on the side of the road, you would probably go behind some bushes, face away from traffic, or have a nice friend hold a towel up for you. You wouldn’t just whip it out for the whole world to see “just because it’s natural and no one else has a right to tell me what to do with my body.” I certainly understand that this is an emotional issue, but come on people, think this through.

    • Lauren says:

      Again with the urination/defecation argument – seriously?! Breastfeeding is NOT comparable to going to the toilet. Nor is it comparable to sexual intercourse. We don’t urinate or defecate in public because it is UNSANITARY and spreads disease. We don’t have intercourse in public because it is a private and intimate moment between two people. Breastfeeding is neither of those things. Breastfeeding is a baby EATING. The only thing that compares with it is you eating. Or me eating.

  53. Julia Valentine says:

    “Joe Valley is a feminist web designer working from home while supporting his young family.”
    This brought a tear to my eye. Thanks for beinng un afraid to identify as a feminist. The younger generation rocks!

  54. Doing web design from home doesn’t require nice pants and doesn’t require pants either.

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