Too Much Breast for Victoria’s Secret?
We clearly still have a widespread cultural boob complex on our hands.
An employee at a Victoria’s Secret store in Austin, Texas, recently told a customer—who was about to purchase about $150 worth of merchandise when her 4-month-old started fussing—that she could not breastfeed her baby in one of the store’s dressing rooms… but was welcome to do so in a nearby alley. (She ended up feeding her baby in a neighboring restroom.)
These kinds of stories, as common as they unfortunately are, always surprise me. I just don’t understand how anyone finds nursing a baby offensive, let alone when it’s done discreetly in a dressing room. But at a dressing room in a Victoria’s Secret store (by all appearances a very boob-friendly establishment…)? In Austin (in my experience, a very pro-nursing town)?
As the story hit the press, speculations that the mom may have staged the incident circulated, a classic blame-the-victim response that could only be conjured by naysayers who’ve never experienced life as a breastfeeding mom to a 4-month-old baby. She was out, with her baby, shopping for lingerie: That’s a major accomplishment right there on a lot of levels. I’m pretty positive feeding her baby in a public restroom was not next on her to-do list that day.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret’s spokespeople state that the company’s policy is in fact pro-breastfeeding, and that moms are welcome to nurse their babies anywhere in the stores that they like. While that one employee clearly missed the memo, the company has taken appropriate steps in the aftermath of this incident to make it right. They’ve issued an apology to the mom, and they’re making an effort to inform all store associates of their law-upholding policies—breastfeeding in public is protected by law in Texas. When I called the store in question to ask about what happened, I was told that Victoria’s Secret does not want to be perceived as being anti-breastfeeding (The person I spoke with also mentioned that she’s a mom). This is certainly a marked improvement over, say, the Hollister company’s non-response when a mom was kicked out of a store for nursing her baby, an incident that sparked a nationwide nurse-in.
In any case, we still clearly have a widespread cultural breastfeeding complex on our hands. Krisdee Donmoyer, the blogger and activist behind Keep Austin Nursing in Public, says, “The best thing we can do with our outrage over this is to contact our legislators and (politely, even though we’re outraged!) tell them that our nursing in public laws need to be stronger. Most states need improvement of their laws, and really, a federal law is in order. As it stands, moms who are traveling may think they know their rights, but when they cross a state border they may lack the protection they’re accustomed to.”
Have you ever been told you couldn’t breastfeed in a public place?
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