Is breastfeeding in public becoming acceptable? A bill just passed in Washington State designed to protect breastfeeding mothers from discrimination charges and a new book on the emotional effects of nursing both point to yes.
Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. Tami Green, mothers will be protected from discrimination when nursing in public spaces, including movie theaters, parks, malls, theaters, schools, and hospitals. The state - along with 40 others - already has legislation in place that protects women from being slapped with public indecency charges when breastfeeding in public, but the new law will ensure that women are never asked to "cover up" when they are simply feeding their children. While few mothers have formally complained about discrimination, lawmakers say that they feel the bill is necessary because of past instances of discrimination. "Unfortunately we need legislation to enforce common sense sometimes," said Rep. Mike Armstong.
However, Green really hits the nail on the head with her statement about breast-feeding: "We need to remember that breastfeeding is a natural thing and there really is nothing sexual about breastfeeding." It seems that women's breasts have become so sexualized that baring them even in the name is nutrition is considered indecent - at least by the powers that be at Facebook. Seeking to dispel the weirdness surrounding breast-feeding, and to open discussion about the process, Dana Sullivan and Maureen Connolly have collected more than 25 intimate essays about nursing and published them in the book Unbuttoned: Women Open Up About The Pleasures, Pains and Politics Of Breastfeeding.
Dodai mentioned one of the essays on Monday, but yesterday Salon interviewed the editors over email about their new book. In agreement with Washington House Rep. Green, they cite American's "confusion about sex" as the reason women are discouraged from breastfeeding in public. When asked whether she thinks breastfeeding is becoming normalized (as it should be), Connolly responds:
We think that we are already seeing glimmers of just this. I live in Montclair, N.J. where breastfeeding is a perfectly accepted, normal, routine act that doesn't invite all that much attention. Partners, spouses and other children see a nursing mother at a soccer game and it's almost as if they don't see it at all. We think that an act that goes almost unnoticed is the truest testament to the idea that breast-feeding is, in many places, already viewed as perfectly acceptable and routine.
Hear that, Facebook?