It’s hard to say it more plainly. Mothers have a right to breastfeed wherever they want.
There is no reason under the sun why babies cannot be breastfed in parliament, at workplaces, on Fredrick Street, at cricket matches, at church or temple, in malls, on Harris Promenade, at Maracas, on the Avenue and in NAPA.
There is no reason under the sun why these places should be defined on male terms, suited solely or mainly to male bodies and responsibilities.
Equality means making all spaces also defined on female terms, suited to female bodies, and to women’s multiple responsibilities as workers, mothers, citizens, community members and participants in culture.
Equity means not making women choose between work and family or watching a performance and quietly breastfeeding her baby. It means enabling her to speak in parliament while she is breastfeeding, if that is what she chooses, because when she’s at home no one stops her from speaking while breastfeeding. Women’s brains and their bodies can perform different roles at the same time, in public and in private. Mothers rock out like that without a fuss every day.
And, there is no difference between the home and the House of Parliament. If the family really is the basis for the nation, then the House, the state and the nation need to be more family friendly or stop and check their own hypocrisy.
Breasts were not put on the planet for men’s pleasure, though they are just as sexual as ears, necks and knees. Women evolved breasts to feed babies, babies who go on to be productive workers in our current capitalist system, who grow into the citizens that define our nation, whose right to good health is a public responsibility.
Once you get over the tiefhead that the meaning of women’s bodies should be defined by men’s desire for them, and that it is men who therefore set the rules for women, then it’s obvious that breasts are as carnal, offensive or vulgar as elbows. They are a natural part of how women reproduce and nurture life. We have to trust and empower women to use their best judgment about where and what is right for them and their babies.
Feminist advocacy has long campaigned for spaces like breastfeeding/breast-milk pumping rooms in malls and workplaces so that women have somewhere quiet and discreet to go if they choose. The key point here is that they must choose.
Banishing women to seclusion despite their own choice isn’t progressive policy. It’s a denial of choice and an act of domination. It feels like an experience of violence. I’ve competently breastfed while giving workshops, while shopping in a store in the mall and at public functions. If anyone had ever stood up over me and forced me into isolation supposedly for my own comfort, I would have felt like they were putting a shame on me that I did not feel, and punishing me for being a mother and for inconveniently having a woman’s body.
The mothers, grandmothers, women, fathers and men, who are clear that babies have a right to feed wherever they are, know that the shame is now on NAPA for being ignorant and demeaning.
Ineffectual murmuring in the hallways of the ministries of health and gender has not stopped NAPA from defending the indefensible, which is particularly insulting given that there is absolutely no written policy justifying administrators’ responses thus far.
There is no reason under the sun for NAPA and the Ministry of Culture’s failure to publicly apologize and to immediately affirm a commitment to a non-sexist, taxpayer-funded facility.