Monday, 22 June 2009

Breastfeeding in the Boardroom

On another blog, I read some people having a brief and petty discussion about breastfeeding in public.

It seemed to be that the favourite opinion was along the lines of - "I believe women should be allowed to breastfeed in public, but there are some places that they just shouldn't do it, they should know it's inappropriate, for instance in work meetings, like I was in a meeting recently and this woman whipped out her boob and breastfed and I just couldn't concentrate, so that is wrong. But otherwise I support breastfeeding in public."

Now this stance comes with a few problems, as I see it, but I think it's a popular one, mainly because many people like to think of themselves as very tolerant and liberal folk, but at the same time they don't want to see themselves as too liberal and they certainly don't want to be seen as too revolutionary and don't want to see boobies all over the place. This is a nice crowd-pleasing response.

I discussed this at length with Mr Coffee, including whether women ought to have rights or restrictions re: breastfeeding.

However, a conundrum comes to me from the so-called crowd-pleasing stance.

It is all very well to say "Breastfeed in public, dears, but in your place, and not in my sight" but then - it raises certain issues and questions:

Where is appropriate?
In whose sight, then? And if in no one's sight, then it's not exactly public, is it?
The "in the boardroom is inappropriate" argument is interesting because women have often be critiqued for:
a) women don't breastfeed enough, they give too much bottled milk
b) women work too much and don't take on a mothering role, they aren't truly feminine (which has a stigma in itself)
c) if a woman has lesser earning capacity than a man it's her own fault, because she took time off having children, and you can't expect a company to pay a person who has given less time and value to the workplace.

So you have several positions:

a) if the woman sits in the boardroom childless, there's a stigma: she's childless, what happened to her?
b) if the woman sits in the boardroom having shafted her kids to a nanny: what kind of mother does that? Not really mothering, is it?
c) if she brings them in and bottlefeeds them: there's the group that will sigh that bottle milk is not nearly as good as natural breast milk, is that a good way to raise children?
d) if she brings them in and breastfeeds them: that's inappropriate
e) if she stays at home and looks after the kids: she loses in the boardroom game and that's her own fault

It seems to be a rather silly game, and of course there are the sneers everywhere, and risks and stigmas attached to whatever choice you make, so what about someone just saying, what the heck, do what I want to do? And maybe some people recognising, especially other women, that their queasiness about breastfeeding could be stopping women from doing well in business.

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