So I’ve been thinking about the big to-do on Twitter about breastfeeding in public. If you don’t tweet, you may or may not have heard about tweeted comments made by a radio host out of LA. He was at a baseball game, saw a woman breastfeed her baby and commented about it using twitter.
Basically, he said she was rude and shameless for doing it out in the open where everyone could see and she should cover up or go somewhere else. (I’m not going to name him, because I don’t want to introduce more traffic to his website because of his comments.)
There were blogs & tweets galore. Many comments were directed to people who said they were pro-breastfeeding, but think women should be modest when doing it in public, or shouldn’t feed in public at all. Then the debate became a discussion about modesty and who gets to decide what can be considered modesty vs. exhibitionism. And at that point, many people lost interest or gave up after being appalled and insulted by the comparison of feeding a baby and exhibitionism. I’m not sure anyone felt good in the end. Feelings were hurt, tempers flared, letters sent, and in the end, the overall discussion, in topic and in tone, didn’t necessarily promote understanding and acceptance of feeding a baby based on the way the mother decides is best, and being free to comfortably feed whenever and wherever the baby is hungry from bottle or breast.
My take: I don’t think Mr. Radio Guy has the right to have an opinion.
Of course, many people believe anyone present to witness breastfeeding should get to have an opinion about it. Many people also believe witnessing bottle-feeding permits them to have an opinion about that. And people may also have opinions about the opinions. People become expert at opinion-wielding.
I think we live in a culture that allows us to express ourselves about subjects which are none of our business. And that gives many the feeling that their thoughts should be shared simply because they have permission to express them. That isn’t the case.
Using these 3 questions: Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary? it is possible to filter what might not be helpful to the discussion, no matter which side of the equation/debate your thoughts may hold.
It’s not just about what you think. It’s about the impact of your comment. Does it help? Does it bring comfort and support? Does it bring peace? Does it promote love? Are you bringing forward a part of you- authentically sharing with another with no expectation, just to be helpful?
Or are you being critical? Skeptical? Are you expecting others to conform to your standards? Is the comment divisive? Does it purposely breed controversy? Is it ignorant or hurtful?
On consideration of the events as I witnessed them, between blogs, blog comments, tweets, etc., I made a comparison.
Perhaps having an opinion about a woman’s choice to breastfeed in public (and sharing it publicly) could be compared to having an opinion about what someone has in their cart at the grocery store.
They are shopping in public. Their food is in plain sight. They’re not attempting to hide the food in the cart with a cover. Perhaps their physical appearance can be noticed despite their clothes, because they are not trying to hide it- or not doing a very god job of being discreet. Maybe they are feeding children with those food choices. Come on, if everyone can see their figure and the items in their cart, and with children present!, and see how scandalous their choices are… Shouldn’t we comment? Or tweet about it?
I do have an opinion on how I choose to feed my children. And I want the freedom to make that choice myself, and be free to exercise that choice wherever I am. I want other women to be free to make their own choices and be supported in those choices, to be really free to do what fits each woman as an individual. Because I really don’t know why women make the choices they do, and I haven’t walked a mile in her shoes.
There is no right way to breastfeed- or more correctly there is NO WRONG way. Covered, uncovered, naked in the woods. Each woman gets to choose what fits her best. And if a woman is not breastfeeding and you support breastfeeding, please remember 1.) it might be breastmilk in that bottle, 2.) she gets to choose her own way to feed her kids, and 3.) her choice may have had nothing to do with what she really wanted to do– there are many barriers to breastfeeding success that individual women should not be persecuted for.
And while individuals may have the right to publicly share their opinion about everything they see, it isn’t usually necessary or kind. Nor is it supportive of others’ right to choose what fits their life.
So if you want the freedom to make your own choices, in your grocery cart and the rest of your life, consider being quiet for a moment (or longer) and reflect on your motive for sharing your opinion. If you insist on making a comment for whatever reason, consider how best to comment so that you might be helpful and heard so you might have a positive impact.
I choose to feed my children (and grocery shop) in peace. If I can be helpful, I act. And I continue to make the choices that fit me and my family. And I’m not silent about them. So if someone asks me about the items in my cart or about breastfeeding, I’m ready to be truthful and kind. And hopefully that will have the impact I desire.