I just sent the last kid off to school today, and for the first time since school started, I do not have any errands to run. I have a lot of laundry to do, and the house looks kind of like a pit–but no errands, and no calls (yet) from the high school demanding my attention.
Now what? Well, I’ve already been on the Facebook. Not much going on there, actually. I recently added a friend from my high school years–we didn’t go to high school together, but I knew her during that time–a very sweet young woman who has grown into a very sweet woman-my-age-whatever-you’d-call-that. She is new to Facebook, and she likes…everything. And shares everything. It’s all nice things because she’s a nice person. So I have a bunch of inspirational quotes on top of pretty pictures in my news feed, which is fine, but…golly, it’s a lot. I’m happy that Facebook inspires her so much, and I’m grateful that she isn’t political, but I kind of wish she weren’t so easily swayed. Like when someone updates their status to “Thousands of people get cancer and they’re really brave. 97% of you won’t repost this, but 3% of you actually respect cancer patients enough to share this on your wall!” She is always the 3%. Which, again, is fine. I mean, somebody has to be.
This morning she shared a photo from When I get a text from you, I immediately stop whatever im doing to read it that said, “Like if you have an A or an F in you name.” [sic]
This is what I’m talking about. Oversharing. There’s such a thing.
While I was on vacation, I bought a pirate magnet. It says, “WORK is for people who don’t know how to PLUNDER.” I think it would make a good political slogan, don’t you? For any party. Doesn’t matter. It’s just awesome.
This morning I read this story about an American University professor who got scolded for breastfeeding her baby in class. It was the first day of classes, Adrienne Pine’s baby was sick, she didn’t have a backup child care option, so she decided to take the baby to her “Sex, Gender & Culture” class instead of cancelling it. The baby mostly just crawled around, but then “[w]hen the baby grew restless, Pine breast-fed her while continuing her lecture in front of 40 students.” Whoa, Nelly! Needless to say, some students complained. Equally needless to say, Pine’s feelings were hurt, so wrote an essay about her experience.
Pine, who expected that headlines would emerge when a student newspaper reporter asked her about what happened in the Aug. 28 class, sought to frame the discussion with an online essay titled “The Dialectics of Breastfeeding on Campus: Exposéing My Breasts on the Internet.”
In the Sept. 5 essay, Pine wrote that she was “shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy.” She lamented that her workplace had suddenly become “a hostile environment.” She also upbraided journalists at the Eagle student newspaper — which, as of Tuesday afternoon, had not published any article on the matter — and wrote that the tone of a reporter’s questions implied an “anti-woman” view.
Do those sound like fighting words to you? I don’t know. They seem a little pre-emptive strike-y to me. In any case, university officials weren’t pleased.
On Tuesday morning, university officials issued a statement about the incident that seemed to indicate some disapproval of Pine’s actions, generally citing them as a health issue because the baby was sick. But school officials also noted that the situation was one that could confront any parent with multiple responsibilities. The university emphasized that faculty members should take advantage of options such as sick leave, break times and private areas for nursing mothers to express milk so they can “maintain a focus on professional responsibilities in the classroom.”
They also said that her essay sucked. Just kidding. They just didn’t think it represented “professional conduct.” I kind of agree. I mean, not knowing all the facts of the matter, I can only say “kind of” anything. I understand getting miffed over people criticizing your parental and professional decisions, but I think Prof. Pine may have overreacted. Not because she’s a nursing mother whose hormones are probably out of whack and making her hysterical, but probably because she’s got a chip on her shoulder from so many women’s studies courses.
Personally, I would not have been offended or “appalled,” as one (male) student put it, if a professor started breastfeeding her baby in class. I wouldn’t be appalled today, having nursed four babies of my own in various locations other than the privacy of my own home, but I wouldn’t have been offended as an 18-year-old freshman either. Well, I was never an 18-year-old freshman. But as a 19-year-old freshman, I think my reaction probably would have been along the lines of “Well, she’s quite the multi-tasker, isn’t she? Good for her.” Because I’d grown up witnessing many acts of breastfeeding, so it wasn’t like a weird thing to me, and also, I appreciate a laid-back atmosphere in the classroom. And most places. Not all places, just most. At least many. Classrooms included.
So I think it’s kind of weird when people are squeamish about breastfeeding. Pine noted that she did not expose her nipple or anything (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but that’s really not the point. People who are uncomfortable with public breastfeeding are not necessarily uncomfortable with the sight of your breast(s); they’re uncomfortable with the knowledge that you’re using your breasts, regardless of whether or not they can see them. Surely, there are people who are only uncomfortable if your breasts are exposed–people who are otherwise fine with public nursing–but I’m just saying, discretion is not the only issue here. Some people are fine with discreet breastfeeding, but some people are just not fine with public nursing, period. And then there’s the added layer of whether or not it’s “professional” to nurse your baby while you’re working–in the actual act of working (as opposed to taking a break in the mother’s lounge and coming back 15 minutes later).
Honestly, I can’t decide if the professor’s actions were “professional” or not. Is it something I would do? Unlikely. I mean, I’ve breastfed in restaurants, I’ve breastfed in church (in the chapel, not the mother’s lounge), I’ve breastfed at libraries, on airplanes, at parks and playgrounds, in other people’s living rooms, in front of all kinds of people–but there are places where I wouldn’t do it. For example, it never seemed right to park myself in the barcalounger in the furniture section of the JC Penney’s and nurse the baby, even though that would have been super-convenient (and comfy). Is that a weird place to draw the line? I don’t know. Everyone’s line is different, I guess. And I think I would not have nursed a baby while lecturing in a classroom. Unless I was really annoyed about the situation and just decided, ah, screw it, who cares what anyone thinks–which, let’s face it, is not a far-fetched scenario. So I sympathize with the professor. I do.
I sympathize with the professor, and I don’t really sympathize with the students who were upset by her actions. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable to characterize her actions as unprofessional (or “kind of unprofessional,” as some students said). I mean, I get that women can breastfeed and do other stuff at the same time. I learned to do all kind of things while breastfeeding, out of necessity. In theory, breastfeeding does not distract the woman herself from her professional task. And generally, I think squeamish observers who are distracted by your breastfeeding should (metaphorically) suck it up and deal. But aren’t there some times when it may be inappropriate to distract people with your breastfeeding? Especially in your professional life. In theory, an experienced mother could breastfeed a baby while arguing a case in front of the Supreme Court, but is that really professional? Would it be professional in an ideal world? My inner hippie thinks, well, if people respected mothering/parenting/whatever, we’d just get used to people blending their family and professional responsibilities, and then it would be no big deal to argue a Supreme Court case while breastfeeding. But my inner curmudgeon thinks it’s not unreasonable to have child-free zones. You can respect parenting and families and still subscribe to the idea that there are some spaces (outside the obvious strip clubs and whorehouses) where children just don’t belong.
I don’t know. I’m ambivalent, I guess. (Although I think calling the university a “hostile work environment” and publicly criticizing students journalists who hadn’t even published a story yet was a little over the top–that’s a separate issue.) What do you think?
Comment if you have an A or an F in you name. (Just kidding. Comments are open to all.)