Yesterday I talked in great detail about why I, personally, need to nurse in public. Today I’m going to avoid specifics, and talk about nursing in public from a feminist perspective.
As I hope the previous posts made clear, nursing in public is essential if I want to leave the house with my child for more than ninety minutes at a time. It doesn’t matter why I want to leave the house — I’m not interested in sitting here and justifying each trip out of the house, or discussing whether it’s appropriate to nurse in public at a given location. I just want to participate in society. I cannot participate in society if I am spending a quarter of the time hidden away feeding my child. It’s true that there are things you have to sacrifice when you have a kid. Participation in society should not be one of them.
Although many fathers — including my husband — take an active, hands-on role in parenting nowadays, breastfeeding is the one task they cannot do. Attempts to discourage nursing in public — whether overtly or subtly — are a burden on women. Not only on women, as it affects the entire family. But disproportionately so on women. Being able to freely nurse in public does not magically remove all the inequalities that women face in society. However, it is an important battle for women who have children.
Some people claim that they are “offended” by nursing in public. I don’t want to entirely dismiss them. But in a showdown between a nursing woman and an offended bystander, who has the most to lose? The worse case for the offended bystander is that he or she has to see a baby being nursed. The worst case for the nursing woman is that she is unable to participate in society. From this, I would argue that it’s more important to protect the right of the woman to nurse in public, than to protect the offended bystander from seeing something that he or she deems unsavory.
Luckily, 44 states agree with me and protect the right of women to nurse in any public or private location.