Friday, April 27, 2007

Woman Sits in Middle of Aisle in Party Store to Breastfeed, Cries Discrimination When Booted.

Mother upset after being kicked out of store for breast-feeding her baby
Melissa Tracy was shopping at iParty on Pleasant Valley Road in Weymouth with her husband and her 8-week old son, when her infant became hungry and fussy. Instead of leaving the store, Tracy, 40, sat down in the middle of the aisle and discreetly breast-fed him.
. . .
After being asked to leave the store, Tracy called the corporate office, which apologized and offered her a gift certificate. Tracy refused however, saying that what they want is for companies to provide areas for breast-feeding if it is a problem.
Umm.. does anyone have the right to sit down in the middle of an aisle in a store, for any reason? If not, do we need to carve out a right for women to do so if they are breastfeeding? This pushes the limits of how far this politically-correct rampage can go.

A related incident just happened in Florida, which has a law mandating restaurants allow breastfeeding.

Mother Asked To Leave Houston's Restaurant For Breastfeeding In Public
"I want all women to be aware of it," she said. "We do have rights and there is nothing wrong with nursing your baby in public."

According to a Florida law, women have an unconditional right to breast-feed anywhere, public or private, covered or uncovered.

"This is the most natural thing we could do for our babies and I just wanted to be heard that we have nothing to hide," Bertucci said. "We really don't."

While the law states that women have an unconditional right to breast-feed anywhere, personal opinions are still vary about public breast-feeding.
I'm a bit ambivalent on the law in general (although a cogent argument can be made for letting market forces settle this; unlike racism, this does not reach a compelling enough level to strip property rights)

However, there is a big flaw in the Florida law in that it does not distinguish between the act of breastfeeding to feed a child and the act of ostentatious breastfeeding to make a political statement. There is a difference, and many women who cry necessity are purposefully eschewing discretion to make their political point.

This is going too far. Why should women have such a right, not only to use their babies and their breasts to make a political statement, but to do it on private property?

An argument could be made that this is a Constitutional violation. The Supreme Court has held that a California law forcing shopping centers to allow political speech is not such an interference, but that was based on the nature of shopping centers as the modern town square. Without that law, there would be few places for people to speak, ergo the allowance was necessary to make the First Amendment meaningful.

We have no such mandate here. The right to 'political breastfeeding' in a restaurant is not necessary to free speech. Restaurants are not mandated to accommodate any political speech. I do not have the right to wear a 'fuck the war' tee shirt in an Arbys, a "meat is murder" tee shirt in a steakhouse. They have the right to kick me out, and I have the right to protest outside.

The law is problematic even if you do not term it as political 'speech'. The law is designed to promote breastfeeding, and to allow women to feed their infants wherever they want. But the law goes further than is necessary to accomplish this aim by including uncovered breastfeeding. The baby gets just as fed when a woman uses a blanket. Therefore, by including the ostentatious type of breastfeeding, the law infringes further on the property rights of the restaurant owner than is needed. The Florida legislature did not do a good job of balancing the interests here.

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12 comments:

Heather said...

Oh please... I am a happily childfree woman, but I don't see the issue. There's nothing unsanitary or dangerous to a passersby about breastfeeding in public, unlike say sneezing in public without covering your mouth-- something that, afaIk, no one has ever been asked to leave a store for. Should a woman be allowed to give her kid a pacifier or cracker in public? Of course. Then the only issue here is that some people have weird societal taboos about breasts.
Don't look if it bothers you.

child-free.com said...

Not looking doesn't unblock the aisle. It might actually be a bad idea if you don't want to trip over the person sitting there.

It also has nothing to do with the right of a restaurant owner to decide what happens on their property.

Anonymous said...

As far as the hazard issue: I addressed that in my sneezing comment-- sure the store owner could ask the woman to move or the sneezer to cover his mouth, but in either case the issue is clearly *not* breastfeeding.

As for cafe owners rights-- do private property rights should trump other issues of civil liberties?
So if a cafe owner doesn't like people of a certain racial background or people who "disturb" others because of their style of dress...

Vinny C said...

heather
"Then the only issue here is that some people have weird societal taboos about breasts."

My issue isn't about breasts. It's about 1)blocking an aisle in a store, and 2) allowing store owners to decide what bevaviors they can and cannot enforce.

From the article: "Instead of leaving the store, Tracy, 40, sat down in the middle of the aisle and discreetly breast-fed him."

You can't do anything discreetly by sitting down in the middle of an aisle. She essentially said, without words, "Hey, look at me! I'm breastfeeding my baby and you can't say boo to me! You can't come through this aisle because I'm breastfeeding my baby and it's the most important thing in the whole wide world! Please challenge me on this so I can play the role of the victim! But for the love of God won't somebody PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO ME?!?"

The restaurant case is a bit different. I don't like the idea that the government can dictate to store owners that they must allow a certain behavior. Stores go through a lot of research and a lot of money to set a certain atmosphere and ambiance to attract and retain customers. Breastfeeding may not be part of it. Especially if 1) food is involved; and 2) it's not done discretely. Either way, store owners have rights to regulate a lot of behaviors of their customers... clothing, whether or not they bring pets, outside food or drink, roller skates. I don't see why breastfeeding should be in a protected category to this degree. It's a very small percentage of people dictating what must be done by everyone else. I'd almost call it Tyranny of the Vocal Minority.

Heather said...

As far as the hazard issue: I addressed that in my sneezing comment-- sure the store owner could ask the woman to move or the sneezer to cover his mouth, but in either case the issue is clearly *not* breastfeeding.

As for cafe owners rights-- do private property rights should trump other issues of civil liberties?
So if a cafe owner doesn't like people of a certain racial background or people who "disturb" others because of their style of dress...

Vinny C said...

heather

If it is the style of dress, then yes, I would support the cafe owner in keeping out people on the basis of wearing that style of dress.

It happens all the time, from the basic "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" to the dress code for certain dance clubs.

If there's a restaurant in a city with gang problems, I'd have no issue with them if they said "Nobody's allowed to wear red or blue in here." If there was a restaurant in downtown Manhattan, I'd have no problem if they asked a person to leave if they had an "I Love Bin Laden" t-shirt. If there was a vegan restaurant, I'd have no problem with them banning customers from wearing visible fur and/or leather.

For me, it comes down to a question of behavior vs. state of being. One's skin tone, one's visual acuity (or lack of it), one's mobility... none of these things are behaviors, and therefore shouldn't be grounds for discrimination. Wearing inappropriate clothing (or not wearing any clothing), being rude and/or obnoxious, or pretty much anything else that the owners feel detract from their business, are (or should be) fair game. That includes breastfeeding.

My solution, of course, would be both age limitation (no kids under 3) and a strict noise and disturbance policy for the restaurants who don't want breastfeeding done on premises. I don't feel the need to ban all children... if they are well-behaved, I don't care if they are there or not. And after 3, they don't wear diapers... so, none of that smell.

I think they're potty-trained by 3, anyway. Meh, what do I know... I got snipped to avoid having to remember these things.

Anonymous said...

I am mother of two and I nursed both my children in public. I didn't use bottles, my breast and milk was all my kids needed. This is an inherent trait as a mammal, breastfeeding our children. Not unlike the color of my skin being discriminated against, I have the RIGHT to feed my child as necessary WHERE EVER! Personally, I would not have left the restaurant. I would have said, Make me.. Of course, most women use discretion when nursing, and most of the time people cant even see skin!!! So get over it!

Vinny C said...

anonymous
Not unlike the color of my skin being discriminated against, I have the RIGHT to feed my child as necessary WHERE EVER!

This is one of the things that bothers me most about this discussion.

Look, if you're black, you're black. You're black in the morning when you wake up, you're black in the shower, you're black when you drive to work, you're black when you sit down to eat in a restaurant, you're black when you go to sleep. No matter what clothes you wear, you're black. Same as if you're white, Asian, Latino, Samoan, whatever. Whether you love it, hate it, or are anywhere in between, you're always that race.

When you're a breastfeeding woman, you're *not* *always* *breastfeeding*. It's an action, not a state of being. There are times when you are not doing it. I can tell a person not to breastfeed in my living room, just as I can tell them not to yell in my living room, curse in my living room, or eat on my couch.

Try this: "You can come into my living room, but only if you're not breastfeeding." Now try: "You can come into my living room, but only when you're not black." Now try: "You can come into my living room, but you have to take your muddy boots off first." Two of those can be done. One can't.

See, you can have muddy boots. You can wear muddy boots on the sidewalk, on the street, wherever. Hell, I might even allow them in my hallway. But I don't want them in my living room, and I don't want you standing on my couch with them.

You see the connection?

I realize the state can make restrictions on "places of public accommodation," like stores, much more than on a person's home. But the similar principle applies.

This isn't about "getting over it". This is about the government forcing businesses to carve out an exception to what they can and can't restrict, based not on inherent qualities, but on an action. And that's something I'm not going to "get over," because I see it as setting a very dangerous precedent.

child-free.com said...

I don't understand this insistence that whether or not someone should be disgusted is relevant. It is not.

Should someone be put off by a person wearing cutoff jeans and sandals? A cogent argument could be made that one should not. This alone does not mean we should pass a law banning restaurant dress codes.

We cannot tell people what they should and should not be disgusted by. It has been hundreds of years since mankind has realized there is no point to arguing about taste. Time to catch up, folks.

I don't find breast feeding disgusting. But I realize that those who do cannot change this fact. We have to deal with the fact that they are, and move forward.

Yours is the equivalent of trying to end a welfare debate by saying "Well, they shouldn't be poor" It is avoidance of the issues, and it is pointless.

And for those who are just stating "I have a right to breastfeed everywhere" and "it is a civil right" - no, you do not, and it is not. It is an open question of whether breast feeding rises to the level of something that needs that much protection. Instead of debating that question, you assume it has already been answered. This is yet another avoidance technique.

I have a right to be vegan. Do I have a right to eat vegan food in every restaurant I want to? Can I force the restaurant owner to add vegan items to his menu? No. I cannot even force him to allow me to bring in my own food - the equivalent of what is being argued here.

Instead, I have to find restaurants that already accommodate me.

It is different from race. First, race has a special status. It is especially protected by our constitution as the underlying purpose of the Civil Rights amendments. Unlike motherhood or veganism, it is not a choice. But moreover, the problem of racism was enormous and widespread. There is no equivalent here, so using Godwin's Law's cousin does not answer the question in the least.

Blackie Lagoon said...

There's a certain kind of woman who has never had any power her whole life, and then...Mommy. She is suddenly handed a big social brass ring in the form of a baby, and by golly she's going to make the rest of the world bow down.

The fact is, millions of women breastfeed their babies in public, but they do it in such a way that it's not a "LOOK AT ME! I'M IMPORTANT NOW! I GIVE MILK!" issue. When you plop yourself down in the aisle of a store to ostentatiously breastfeed you are making a spectacle of yourself, and people are going to get annoyed with you. They're going to get annoyed if you plop yourself down in the aisle of a store and lovingly rearrange the contents of your purse, too. You're being a pain in the ass in either case. Get over it.

Most people couldn't care less about breastfeeding if it isn't an obvious ploy for attention. However, when a woman walks around a crowded art opening with two huge veiny breasts flopped out and a baby latched on to one of 'em, trying desperately to gain eye contact with people, it's more about her than it is about the Miracle of Milking. I saw this little scene in Seattle, and everyone was avoiding her, I'm sure in large part because they didn't want to get into a dispute with this grandstander. We were there to see the art, not to debate public breastfeeding, but she was obviously spoiling for a fight that she was sure to "win", holding the Mother Trump Card.

Anonymous said...

Of course, sitting in the middle of a shopping aisle is not a sociable or even reasonable thing to do. But sitting at the bench behind the checkout area, (where husbands tend to wait for wives) would be entirely reasonable. Of course, some people would object to that as well!
The fact is that tiny babies have tiny stomachs and if a mother is to do any of the normal things - such as shopping for groceries - it will very soon come time for her to feed in public.
That's just the way it is.
And all the fiddling with blankets really just makes the job more difficult, sometimes a whole lot more difficult.
It would be better if EVERYONE would just grow up about the issue.

Majo said...

We should see the issue of "public brestfeeding" for what it is: pathetic! it is only a ploy for attention. A man would then have exactly the same right to whip out his...(you know what if public, if he really feels the need. maybe even be sucked out by a woman in puyblic??? After all, all of them are biological funcions. There are always reasons for decency. Dignity is the real preserve of the childfree.