Isn’t it great? We can go out any time we like¹ and go and have something nice to eat and drink. We don’t get berated for the act of eating, and we are pretty much tolerated² by everyone around us.
But if you are a parent with a baby, your child isn’t afforded the same tolerance, it seems. A young mum has started a Facebook page as a petition to get a Council-funded parents’ room in Levin. This stemmed from an incident where she was bottle-feeding her child in a cafe, and was asked to leave. She was feeding her baby because it was screaming.
Now, I don’t know the whole story behind this – whether there were any other people in the cafe genuinely upset by the baby crying. I find it hard to believe there could be any justifiable complaint. But this is a much bigger issue than just this cafe, just this mother, and just Levin. It is a matter of how parents of feeding babies are treated. And it necessarily brings in the issue of breastfeeding in public.
Where you have a baby that is screaming in a restaurant or cafe, I can understand other diners being annoyed or uncomfortable. I’ve been there myself. But there are plenty of things that annoy me. I am an often-offended man, a little like the oft-offended lady. But some things, you just deal with because there is a ton of shit out there that you can get pissed off about – shit that matters. Shit like how parents and babies are treated in cafes and restaurants as an example.
Breastfeeding takes things to a whole new dimension in intolerance. I am astounded at how many people prattle on about not wanting to see women “flop it out” for all the world to see. So while I support them in getting a baby/parent facility in Levin, the only facility that might be needed is a changing-station. Feeding – it is not the parents or the babies that need to change. They are doing what they have done for millennia. It is this pathetic attitude towards them that needs to change.
And while I do not want to diminish the power of Slutwalk, THIS is one of the things that is so important about it. Not just the specific cause, but the general idea of “No! I do not have to change because you want to oppress me. You are the ones that need to change.”
With the greatest of respect to those behind the Facebook page, it is a tiny seed. The problem they face is part of a much bigger problem. Even once you get past the ignorant and selfish attitude of other “diners”, if you aren’t berated for “flopping it out“, you are berated for feeding your baby formula. This “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation just goes to show that the real problem is not with the mothers. It is with those watching.
¹ Recognising the many people whose mobility is impaired and for any other reason don’t quite have the freedom I do.
² And again, I recognise my own privilege in making this statement. Far too many people are persecuted for being who they are.