“I breastfeed in public and have never been harassed.”
“You all must be do something different than me because I have never experienced this.”
“People don’t say anything to me because I don’t just whip it out.”
“She needed to be more discrete and classy about it.”
Let me explain something to you. Your personal experiences do not change someone else’s. Just because something hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened to someone else. You are not the center of the universe. Further, when a woman is a victim of harassment of any kind it is wildly inappropriate, inaccurate and unsupportive to suggest that she did something to bring that on.
I have never been robbed. That doesn’t mean that someone else hasn’t been. That doesn’t mean that the person who was robbed did something to bring the robbery on. That doesn’t mean that I behave in some way that is better than someone else that prevents me from being robbed. That doesn’t mean that robberies don’t happen every day. Just like the harassment of women. Turn on the news. It’s all public domain. It’s luck of the draw. The stories are not being made up.
We are not the center of the universe. We are not the axis upon which Earth spins. Things are happening all the time to people that don’t happen to others. Breastfeeding women are being harassed, asked to go to the bathroom, asked to cover up and a million other things. If you want to ignore the facts and live in blaming-the-victim-ignorant-bliss then that’s fine, but your argument smells a bit too much like “she shouldn’t have been wearing that short skirt.”
I have never been in a serious car accident. I have never been raped. I have never been abused by my parents. I have never been to Mexico. And you know what? I have never been harassed while breastfeeding in public. Does it make sense then for me to deduce that these things do not happen in other peoples’ lives? Does it makes sense for me to tell myself (and everyone on the internet) that I am doing things right and everyone else is doing things wrong?
There is no right or wrong way to breastfeed. Your opinion about how someone else should breastfeed is inappropriate. It’s actually very hurtful to the breastfeeding cause as a whole. If you choose to breastfeed in a certain way then we are all here to stand up for your choice. No matter what it is. We do this for everyone. This is the heart of this cause. Women should feel empowered to breastfeed no matter where they are no matter how they want. Despite what you or anyone else thinks. Despite how you yourself would choose to do it. “I support breastfeeding, but (as long as you cover, as long as you are discrete, as long as my husband/kid can’t see you, as long as you stop by 1 year old, as long as you act classy, as long as you don’t just whip it out, and whatever nonsensical limitations you want to try to put on someone else based on your own personal feelings) means you do not support breastfeeding.
Instead let’s try being grateful for the positive experiences that we have. Let’s try being thankful for the lack of negative experiences we have with a certain situation. How about:
“I am so lucky; my support and good thoughts go out to those who suffer.”
“I am so happy I have not had to deal with that type of harassment. I will continue to confidently breastfeed in public to do my part to stand up for other women.”
The reality is everyone has different experiences in the world. Believe them, support them, stand up for them.
Abby Theuring, MSW