Friday, March 28, 2008

Staying A-Breast of Human Rights

Good news for mamas and babies who don't want to live in seclusion until the kid is weaned. The AP reports:
The Vermont Human Rights Commission ruled there are grounds to believe Freedom Airlines discriminated against a woman ordered off a plane after refusing to cover up while breast-feeding her child. ...

The panel found grounds to believe that Freedom Airlines, a subsidiary of Mesa Air Group, Inc., "violated Vermont's prohibition against discrimination against women breast feeding in places of public accommodation," said Commission Executive Director Robert Appel.
First off, how fucking cool is it that Vermont has a Human Rights Commission? A quick Google search on "Ohio" and "human rights" turned up a hit for Ken Blackwell (who served on the UN Human Rights Commission! WTF?) and a colleague of mine here at the university who's got an intriguing project on human rights and feminist ethics. But no Ohio commission for human rights. Maybe one exists; but doesn't the name matter? How can we get one of these?

And how ironic is it that the offending company is called Freedom Airlines?

Here's the incident that sparked this case, again according to the AP:
On Oct. 13, 2006, Gillette, her husband and their then 22-month-old daughter, River, were headed to New York. While waiting at the gate to take off, Gillette, seated next to the window in the next to last row, began to breast feed her child.

She says a flight attendant handed her a blanket and told her to cover up. She refused. A short time later they were removed from the plane.
If you're reading my blog, you probably already agree that this is just silly. America really stands alone in so thoroughly sexualizing women's breasts that we're scandalized when they're used to give a child a healthy start.

What I want to add is how impractical a blanket usually is. Both my boys - but especially the Bear, who was born with his eyes wide open and pretty much hasn't closed them since - would never settle for eating under a tent, at least not once they were able to lift their heads. I mean, try throwing a large beach towel over your head during dinner and see how much you enjoy your meal! Better yet, move your plate into the bathroom and then savor your towel-bedecked meal. That's what babies and mamas are repeatedly demanded to do.

This kid was nearly two years old, so you can imagine how gladly she would've accepted a blanket over her face. Of course, if she'd thrown a tantrum as a result, that might've gotten her ejected, too. Then again, if your kid just repeatedly says "bye-bye" and you refuse to dope her with Benadryl, that alone can get you booted these days.

It doesn't have to be like this for nursing mamas and babies. I did most of the early care and feeding of the Bear in Germany, where he was born, and you know what? Breastfeeding in public was just a non-issue. Like most civilized people, the Germans recognize that sometimes, a breast is just a breast. And that mother's milk is a human right.

LOLmama and well-nursed LOLkitteh from I Can Has Cheezburger?


Sugarmag said...

Yay! Happy dance about that ruling. Yeah, I couldn't believe that case where a mother and child were kicked off of a plane after the child said, "bye Bye plane" all of the other passengers said that the kid was not bothering them. I hate flying. Cute picture, by the way.

Sungold said...

I know - all these cases of kids and their entourage getting kicked off have made me think, "There but for the grace of the Ceiling Cat ..." The Tiger once yelled for most of a trans-Atlantic flight. We were working hard to distract him, but he was still too young to explain why he was upset. The other passengers would've hit the eject button on us - over the mid-Atlantic - if they could've.

I thought of you when I wrote this post, Sugar Mag! I knew you'd be glad. :-)