I happened to be feeding the baby while watching Sunrise on Friday, when host David Koch (Kochie) passed comment on the story about a breastfeeding mum who had been asked by lifeguards to move away from the poolside (where she was supervising children AND feeding her baby). Kochie took the problematic stand that he supported breastfeeding mums BUT… And it’s the “but” that is the issue at hand. The thing is, in Australia, the right to breastfeed in public is protected by law. That’s it. There’s no qualification on that right, no footnote that says you have to cover up, be “discreet” or “modest”. There’s no part of the law even saying you have to feed SAFELY (one of Kochie’s arguments was that the mother of the story was, basically, being irresponsible by feeding on the side of the swimming pool – it’s really a diversion from the issue, but if you want to argue the point, in fact no, that’s STILL HER CHOICE, and if she was supervising other children, also a necessity. So yes, please Kochie, “leave duty of care aside”).
The thing is, many women choose to be “discreet” while they are feeding. They try to find the parents’ room, they use a muslin drape, they sit back from the crowd. That is both their right and, most importantly, THEIR CHOICE. And for me, there is the key word – choice. How, when and where a breastfeeding mother CHOOSES to feed her baby is the thing – if she wants to be discreet, her choice. If she is happy to let it all hang out, ALSO HER CHOICE. And, under Australian law, no-one else gets to dictate to her what her choice must be.
Sunrise helpfully put the segment from this morning’s “debate” on the topic online (which also includes Kochie’s original comments from Friday, but not the later discussion he had with his “angels” on the issue, which is separately here). I have to say I was a bit disappointed by the Sunrise webgoblin who seemed to be favouring the tweeters supporting Kochie more than the other side in the #sun7 hashtag retweets this morning, and the coverage throughout this morning’s show really didn’t seem to be taking it seriously. And while I think Sam Armytage herself wasn’t on Kochie’s side, I take issue with the way she opened the questions this morning to Amy, “…this is obviously an emotional issue…” Actually no, it’s LAW. About as far from emotion as you can get!
What really interests me about people who are “offended” by breastfeeding is that they rarely seem to be offended by women in low cut tops or bikinis. And they are quite okay with front page and headline news photos/footage of Tony Abbott in his little speedos (I don’t want THAT image in my face, but that too is Tony’s personal choice and you know what? Also not illegal.) [Thanks @MissBaileyWoof on Twitter for making that comparison!]
Well done to the Destroy the Joint team for getting behind the Sunrise Nurse-in this morning, and for pushing the issue through the social media circles over the past three days, as well as to the women who organised it. It really does seem crazy that we still have to have these discussions, on a process that is both protected by law and is one of the most natural things in the world! In the end, if you don’t want to see women breastfeeding in public, you have a very simple option: don’t look.
Storify on the topic from today.