A new group of activists have joined the fray of fighting for women’s rights; their goal to nurse without shame or scorn where and when they choose or need. Cleverly touting themselves as ‘lactivists’, they’ve put Barbara Walters under fire due to some insensitively ignorant comments made by the long-time reporter and current co-host of ‘The View’. On the May 17th show new mother and co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck returned to the show and the discussion turned to her discomfort at nursing her daughter Grace. When the topic of breastfeeding was brought up, Walters related a story about a recent plane trip she’d taken, where a woman sitting in the next aisle over nursed her child. Walters stated: “It made me very nervous, she didn’t cover the baby with a blanket. It made us uncomfortable.” Further offense was taken at what was perceived to be an almost celebratory or congratulatory response to Hasselbeck’s decision to give her daughter formula.
According to the NYTimes, nearly 200 protesting mothers showed up quickly afterwards, babies and boobies ready to fire back at Walters insensitive comments with what is referred to as a ‘nurse-in.’
They stood nursing their babies in the unmistakably public venue of Columbus Avenue and West 67th Street. They held signs reading, “Shame on View,” and “Babies are born to be breastfed.” [...]
But the rally at ABC is only the most visible example of a recent wave of “lactivism.” Prodded by mothers who say they are tired of being asked to adjourn to the bathroom while nursing in a public space, six states have recently passed laws giving a woman the right to breast-feed wherever she “is otherwise authorized to be.”
Adding further insult onto injury, Walter’s spokesman related bemusement at the protests, attempting to dismiss the commentary as singular and not reflective of Walter’s overall view on nursing. Interesting that this isn’t her ‘view,’ when she as a co-host spewed it out for public consumption on the national show, ‘The View.’
Despite the attempt at back-peddling that is going on with ‘The View’ folks, the controversy has had the benefit of generating attention on prejudice and reprehensible behavior towards nursing mothers. These situations getting more discussion time will hopefully lead to greater acceptance and understanding.
In interviews and Internet discussions, hundreds of women recount being asked to stop nursing in public spots, including the Children’s Museum in Huntsville, Ala.; a knitting store in the East Village; a Radisson Hotel lobby in Virginia; a public bus in Los Angeles; and a city commission meeting in Miami Beach.
As a nursing mother, my take on the situation is fairly personal ““ I’m offended at the unaccountable offense. When I nurse my child, I do so for her. Her comfort and hunger are the first priority. The next priority is my comfort while carrying out the task. The last thing I worry about, or should worry about is someone attempting to sexualize (which is where the squeamishness comes from) the tool I use to feed my child.
Additionally, the ignorance about how important nursing on airplanes is for the child is unexpected from a woman reportedly as intelligent as Walters. When it comes to protecting my child’s ear drums from rupturing, or even discomfort, my child is always going to come first. (When she wouldn’t nurse on the plane when we visited my folks at Christmas, the result was a 102.5 temperature and a trip to the emergency room).
So I’ll answer Ms. Walters ‘view’ with a quote from another celebrity that celebrated infants and children with more aplomb and grace:
“I will do it on a plane; I will do it in the rain. I will do it here or there, I will do it anywhere.” ““ Dr. Suess