A recent YouTube video has exploded onto the Internet, after a Texas mother was ordered to stop breast-feeding. The female manager of a Burleson recreational center demanded the mother relent, for the sake of “decency.”
Outraged, Lucy Eades retaliated, firmly indicating that her actions were entirely lawful.
Meanwhile, the woman’s husband seized the opportunity to film the moment on his cell phone. However, following a heated exchange, the husband stepped in and ordered the woman to leave his wife:
“OK, I’m gonna ask you to quit talking to my wife, that’s what I’m gonna do. If you wanna do something about it, call the cops and tell them to do it. Otherwise, leave me alone.”
Speaking to WFAA, Eades explained her confusion over the matter, highlighting that she had never before received such criticism. The mother then went on to describe the long list of locations where she had previously breast-fed her young children, including a shopping precinct, a parking lot and a Target store.
During the incident, the worker showed little regard for diplomacy or decorum, and continued to argue her case:
“It’s not you. I can tell anybody walking in through the door wearing a sports bra or a bathing suit top that you need to cover up.”
Tackling this point of contention, head on, one could argue that the recreational center worker is unable to differentiate between a scenario where a provocatively clad woman enters her institution to that of a mother who is simply attempting breast-feed her child out of necessity. Many would argue, it cannot possibly be just to order a mother to stop breast-feeding, for the sake of decency, based upon this faulty logic.
Perhaps the worker was personally offended by the bare-breasted display? It stands to reason, either the worker was unaware of public breast-feeding laws, or she allowed her own sensibilities to cloud her judgment, which negatively impacted upon the interaction she had with her customer. Regardless, in a recreational center, you would expect a more enlightened stance and reasoned approach to the situation.
However, the recreational center had very young children in attendance, who formed part of a holding camp. Trying to reason from another perspective, is it prudent to expose this young age group to such scenes? During a live broadcast, ABC News discussed the story, which transpired during World Breast-Feeding Week. The network confirmed that it is perfectly legal to breast-feed in public, and subsequently cited a response from Burleson officials, who stated that women were within their rights to do so, as long as the incident does not impinge upon another individual’s freedoms. Based upon these auspices, the recreational worker could then defend her position by arguing that some parents would not wish to subject their children to a woman breast-feeding her child.
Indeed, according to WFAA, Burleson attempted to defend the actions of their employees on these very grounds:
“To be respectful of everyone’s rights we asked the women to cover up. There is nothing in the law that prohibits the city from requiring a mother to cover up. We also offered a room in an attempt to be more accommodative. The city did not attempt to prohibit breastfeeding and we fully support the freedom of mothers to breastfeed as long as it doesn’t infringe on someone else’s freedom.”
This is certainly a point of ambiguity, however, and raises many questions. How do we define an individual’s subjective freedoms? If these freedoms are somehow affected, how is the situation resolved? Lastly, during such a case would a mother and child’s freedoms not be violated, if the mother was denied the right to breast-feed in public?
Many would posit that such freedoms could be a huge source of conflict and it would seem difficult to distinguish one group’s set of morals from another.
Looking at Eades’ viewpoint, she maintains that breast-feeding is a natural act, and is what “… breasts are for.”
Simply put, ordering mothers to stop breast-feeding, for the sake of “decency” is simply confusing the issue. The acts that a mother can and cannot legally do, in a public place, should be clearly spelt out in black and white.
By James Fenner, London