Back when I was in some popular “crunchy” mom groups on social media, Nurse-Ins were (and I’m sure still are) all the rage. Usually a Nurse-In was set up when a business had asked a breastfeeding mom to cover up while nursing, and a group of mothers would go to that business and sit outside of it nursing any way they deemed fit (however demure or flamboyantly that ended up being), claiming they were window shopping so they wouldn’t get in legal trouble. A lot of the mothers would get excited, ecstatic even, when there was a possibility of a Nurse-In. Even some of the mothers I had a great deal of respect for participated wholeheartedly. They thrived on talking about breastfeeding rights, and regularly invited me to join them.
I never did. I didn’t want to. But that alone would never be a good enough reason for them (and when put to the test, wasn’t), because many acted as if a person who didn’t physically show up at a business to feed their baby because another breastfeeding mom had been wronged there was worthy of the highest form of social justice warrioring to “educate” on why it is a necessity to keep our breastfeeding rights.
Instead of telling them I simply didn’t want to go, I made up excuses, saying I had prior plans or was busy. The truth is, I just don’t want to insert myself in the business of other people. Now that I’ve gotten away from the enraged, oppressed motherhood culture, I have realized that I had other reasons that I hadn’t yet fleshed out for myself for not wanting to go. It was mere “gut instinct” at the time, not something I could articulate while constantly being asked to tax my adrenals and sacrifice my decent blood pressure to be angry on behalf of someone else solely based on one side of the situation.
After a while, I removed their ability to invite me to these protests, because they could not take a hint and I wanted to avoid being lampooned as an unsupportive disgrace to the breastfeeding community. I decided that I’ve already disgraced the breastfeeding community enough (which other mothers vocally told me after I started breastfeeding covered, refused to post breastfeeding pictures online and wrote an honest list about things I wish I knew before breastfeeding), so what could one more post really hurt?
Here are some of my reasons for refusing to attend a Nurse-In (besides that I really just don’t want to)
1. As I Christian, I find the situations are generally handled improperly.
While not all of the parties usually involved in breastfeeding tussles are Christian, to consider involving myself means that I must consider the conflict from the perspective of the bible. The bible specifically states what to do when faced with conflict with another person. In all of the Nurse-Ins I’ve been invited to, I have never found enough information in the invitations and in articles to suggest that there has been due diligence in resolving the conflict in a loving, Christian way.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
In many of the stories I’ve heard, it generally goes from the two persons having the conflict (the breastfeeding mother and the business employee or owner) to Facebook (in our social media happy culture), to the hundreds of angered women who think they have enough evidence to justify a protest outside of a business that they may not have even heard of, let alone patronized before.
Obviously, all situations like this are different, but the ones I’ve seen appear to have been escalated and blown out of proportion in order to justify attention-seeking behavior (and in fact, some websites suggest you contact the media so they can also attend the nurse-in and garner more exposure).
2. I don’t know the whole story, and likely will not get the whole story after it has escalated to the point of staging a protest.
Does the woman remember exactly what the person representing the business said, or does she just remember how she felt about it? When you are surrounded by women who intentionally look for people who might be giving you the slightest disapproving glance while breastfeeding, you start seeing it, sometimes when it isn’t there. I remember going through that, and as soon as I cut ties with that toxic paranoia, I never noticed it again (and I still breastfeed my nearly 18-month-old son). I’m not saying that all of these women are lying, but I am saying there should be due process to find out the facts.
In addition to the fact that I strongly believe in getting the whole story before carrying out any sort of justice, I’m also not a judge. In a situation where a mom has been asked to stop breastfeeding or cover or move, they have the legal right to state the facts and refuse, and often times if you are confident about it, the situation will never materialize into anything more than taht. If someone has done something illegal (violate a woman’s right to breastfeed) or continues to harass you after you’ve stated the law, it needs to be taken to someone with the authority to dispense proper justice, not (or at least before) vigilante revenge via physical intimidation in a swarm of angry women on the front lawn of a business.
3. Bearing false witness.
Another behavior of which these women engage in during these situations is leaving Yelp reviews and Facebook reviews on a business’ page, despite some having never been to the business. I am strongly convicted that this falls within the biblical command not to bear false witness against your neighbor (as taking part in this means you are rating something you’ve heard the business did via the media usually, rather than their products or service). It directly affects the business and employees in a negative way and for a small business, could completely destroy their livelihood.
4. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
To be sure, some breastfeeding moms are (and have historically) been oppressed, but breastfeeding is protected in public in the majority of states these days and, unless you are a mother, I wouldn’t expect you to know that asking a mom to cover up because that was what was respectable years ago is now met with ire. Breastfeeding mothers can do whatever they want, even after being asked to cover up, because they are protected by law.
But just because you can do whatever you want (stage a protest) doesn’t mean you should.
“I have a right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. – 1 Corinthians 10:23
5. Protests have given breastfeeding moms a bad reputation.
Once upon a time, I was with my son in a store and had forgotten the diaper bag at home that had my cover in it. It was a popular store and I asked an employee who was maybe a decade older than me if they had a nursing room so that I could nurse my son in privacy, explaining that I had left our cover at home.
That poor woman turned pale as a ghost. She stammered, “No ma’am, and I know I’m not supposed to tell you this, but I was modest about breastfeeding mine too and there is a nice family bathroom in the back you can use.” The amount of convincing that it took to calm her nerves about the fact that she thought I would be angry about that was horrifying. I listened to her explain the horror stories she’d heard and seen about breastfeeding moms and nurse-ins and told her I agreed with her sentiments and that there was nothing she needed to be worried about from me.
Then I took off and breastfed my son in a bench in a cozy spot by the bathroom where we were undisturbed except a few older employees who cooed over him and told me how they remembered that stage with their little one.
This hasn’t been the only time something that this has happened, where a person expected some sort of visceral reaction to anything they said about breastfeeding. A lot of people from previous generations find themselves unable to talk about breastfeeding at all for fear of inciting a knee-jerk reaction, or worse, incurring nurse-in at their business when they’ve done nothing but voice the norm for their day and age. If you ask someone who is not currently a mother of a nursling what they think of the current state of affairs surrounding breastfeeding in society, you might be shocked to find how negative their opinion is based on events like nurse-ins.
Perhaps it is time to rethink the approach when the outcome of breastfeeding protests is bullying people into silence instead of genuinely trying to educate them, or, *gasp*, listening to them talk about what it was like when they breastfed, just to get some perspective on how truly “oppressed” we are. Maybe some perspectives, no matter how much any one segment might disagree with them, is what modern breastfeeding really needs.
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