Sunday, October 09, 2005

Some more from Tunbridge Wells

After posting the last post, I rather belatedly got round to doing something I'd been meaning to do for several days, which is write a reply to the recent article 'Lactose Intolerant' on public breastfeeding, by Christine Flowers.

(Edited even more belatedly, to a) get the title right and b) change the link, since the Philly Daily News seems to take you to a sign-in page rather than to the article itself, which is something I always find rather a pain. Instead, I've linked back to Hathor's blog, where I found it in the first place. With apologies to anyone who's been trying to read it in the past couple of weeks.)

Anyway, here is a copy of the e-mail I sent her:

Dear Ms Flowers,
I recently read your article on public breastfeeding in the Philadelphia Daily News, in which you expressed the view that breastfeeding women should either find places out of the public eye to do so, or else pump milk at home to take with them.

It's not quite clear to me whether you genuinely don't realise how much more difficult this would make breastfeeding, or whether you simply don't care. (If the former, I'd recommend 'Getting Off The Back Room Team' for a good account of the problems that caused one new mother, formerly of your way of thinking, to change her mind. And that's even before we get to the issue of what mothers breastfeeding a second or third baby are meant to do with their small children while sequestered in the toilets for the time it takes them to feed their baby.)

However, the simple fact is that preventing women from breastfeeding whereever they happen to be with their babies does, indeed, make breastfeeding much more difficult. The result of this is a marked reduction both in the number of women who breastfeed at all and in the length of time for which they breastfeed. Thus, far more babies are denied the health benefits of breastfeeding.

Your policy on public breastfeeding is, therefore, harmful to the health of babies. And, yes, I'm afraid that does indeed trump your discomfort at the thought that an infant might be attached to a nipple somewhere in your immediate vicinity.

If public breastfeeding is to be banned because people feel that they have an inalienable right not to be discomfited, there's also the small matter of where it stops. I have known people who, on identical grounds, feel that Bibles should be banned from hotel rooms, or even that shops selling religious items should be banned from public streets altogether. There are people who feel that couples of the same sex should not be allowed displays of affection, and there are people who feel this way about couples of the opposite sex. There are people who feel that women should never venture out in low-cut dresses or above-knee skirts, lest the eyes of others be offended by a glimpse of exposed flesh - there are, indeed, people who feel that women should appear in public only when veiled heavily from head to toe, or not appear in public at all.

And there are people who feel that it would be better if we all accepted that living in a free society means that people will sometimes do things that conflict with other people's personal preferences, and if we wish to be able to continue doing things that other people might dislike, we may have to accept that others will sometimes do things we dislike.

In response to the hackneyed analogies with smoking, loud music and urination that you were about to trot out again, I would like to point out the simple and obvious difference that seems to have escaped you: It is not possible to avert one's ears from sound waves or one's nostrils from smells. The laws of physics prevent it.

It is, however, perfectly possible, and indeed astonishingly easy, to avert one's eyes. Why not try it next time?

(I note that two weeks down the line, she still doesn't seem to have replied. Lost for words, maybe?)


At October 11, 2005 8:04 PM, Blogger Trista said...

Aaack! Ok, I don't know if you have figured this out, but I am one of those people who like to leave regular comments on people's blogs so they know that I'm still around and paying attention. But I got behind and now I need to catch up on my reading your lovely posts. So, hopefully tomorrow. Till then, please know that I at least looked at the shape of your typing and I must say it all looks fascinating!

At October 13, 2005 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...



Your fan in NYC

At October 22, 2005 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah -

I ditto the 'Brilliant' comment.

Then, again, I hope you knew that!



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