Here’s the story (x)
So, this is a story from an American perspective. I used to work at a museum and women would constantly come up to me (a woman, and one of the few non-teenagers on the floor) and ask me, shyly, if we had a “place” they were “allowed” to breastfeed.
I took great delight in informing them that we did have a “private room” in the toddler area for such use if they required privacy — but that they were more than welcome to breastfeed their children wherever they liked on the museum grounds, and that if anyone — another guest/a misinformed employee — gave them grief or told them otherwise, to inform them to come see me. I lost count of the number of women (many a good deal older than I at the time) who, when told they were “allowed” to breastfeed wherever they liked without fear of being shoo’d away by an employee, stared at me in awe and said “Really? We’re allowed to do that in public?”
Now, keep in mind, the museum I worked at was aimed towards families with children. You’d think such a place would allow breastfeeding — only apparently, not everyone thought the same (kudos to my workplace for that, btw). So I did some researching, and was happy to see that no states have laws in place strictly forbidding breastfeeding in public. But…
If a state does not have a law protecting breastfeeding mothers, a privately owned store or restaurant can lawfully ask a nursing mother to leave the premises. If the mother refuses to leave, the owner can call the police and have her arrested for trespassing. Without a law protecting a nursing mother, a woman that is breastfeeding in a public park or state owned property risks being asked to leave by the police and in some instances has been charged with some form of indecent exposure. (x)
This ties in quite well with the double-standard on indecent exposure when women choose to go topless on a hot day and can be (at the very least) verbally (or worse) harassed or arrested, yet men are free to run around without shirts all they like without anyone blinking an eye or looking twice (well, okay, if you think he’s attractive, you might look twice. But I doubt you’d yell a sexual invitation across the street or call the police.). Hell, even with clothes on I don’t have to explain to anyone how women get harassed (re: Everyday Sexism Project) on a daily basis.
It saddens me greatly that this is still an issue (breastfeeding, among other things). Women who breastfeed are exercising a biological function. Breasts were not created for men to leer at, grab, fuck, or otherwise manipulate. Sure, some men (and women) like to do those things, and some (most?) women like to do it too (or at least are happy to allow it) with their partners. But female breasts evolved with the specific purpose of feeding our young. It’s the healthiest way to feed a child, and I applaud women (who are able) to do so for the health of their children.
Do you really think an infant gives a damn if its mother is in the middle of a museum tour with her family or at the supermarket buying food or at work meeting? No. When baby is hungry, baby is hungry. It should not be a fucking spectacle whenever a woman has to feed her child, no matter where the fuck she is.