Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Harassment of breastfeeding mothers - is it a peculiarly British failing?

The breastfeeding picnics that took place on Monday 21 July 2008 generated media coverage both before and after the events. The aim was to celebrate and assert the right to breastfeed in public and to call for better legal protection against harassment.

The fact that protection is needed was demonstrated after the event. According to organiser, Morgan Gallagher, speaking to Community Newswire today:

---extract begins

Ms Gallagher explained: "On the way home from London, two mums were harassed on the Tube, in two separate events. One mum was tutted at loudly for feeding her crying baby [another] was shouted at by a male commuter who 'didn't want to see that'.

"No wonder mums are inhibited from breastfeeding. In Scotland, the law was followed by a very thorough campaign to let everyone know that this was utterly unacceptable."

Negative remarks were also left on the comments pages of local newspaper websites in Oxford and Bournemouth in response to stories about the picnics.

Ms Gallagher added: "The hatred is frightening. All it takes is one article in a local English newspaper to scratch the surface, and it all comes pouring out.

---extract ends

It is odd why some British people should be so perplexed by breastfeeding in public. In Brazil, the land of topless samba dancers, where breasts are sexualised at least as much in the UK, breastfeeding in public is not only commonplace, but people react as if I am asking a stupid question when I enquire if they ever have any negative reaction from other people. Certainly Brazil has an imaginative breastfeeding promotion programme, but this does not include laws to protect breastfeeding mothers because the attitude encountered in Britain just does not seem to exist.

I'd be interested to know what people in other countries think. Are the British particularly odd in this regard, or are mothers harassed where you are?


Caro said...

Here in Denmark if I get any reaction at all, it's a smile.

Anonymous said...

If only it were the same here Caro.

I am pretty happy to feed out and about and only had one negative comment but after the remarks on the Oxford Mail website I'm half expecting to bump into one of the horrid people that are making those remarks.