I stood up for myself today. It was hard and my heart is still pounding, with fear and anger and embarrassment all rolled together.
Sam and I went to Will’s office for a potluck lunch. Everyone there loves Sam, and he and I were the only non-employees invited (but we were explicitly invited).
Sam was passed around for a while and loved it, but after a while he became overwhelmed and started to cry. I held him and he calmed down a bit, so I sat down and gave him a boob, both for comfort and because I thought he was probably thirsty. We were seated around the corner from most of action, though technically (due to the odd shape of the space) in the middle of the room.
Will’s boss said, “Oh, he was hungry!”
I replied, “I think he’s just overwhelmed. But this fixes anything!”
Then she walked closer and said, sotto voce, “It might not be a good idea to do that inside, for the legalities…”
“Actually,” I said, choosing my words carefully, “California law says that I may breastfeed in any location, public or private, as long as I otherwise have a right to be there.” (Remember: invited.)
Her response: “Well, people may be uncomfortable.”
“Ann,” I said, “no one can even see anything.”
“Would you turn your chair to the wall?”
“No. It’s the law, Ann. But if anyone tells you they’re uncomfortable, we’ll go outside.”
I am still furious. It was scary, standing up to her — mostly because I have no interest in causing problems with Will’s employer. But the fact is that she was WRONG and had no right to ask me to change what I was doing. And NO ONE was uncomfortable except her. In fact, immediately after our conversation a middle-aged man who’d been about ten feet away from us the whole time said, “I can’t believe that in this day and age anyone — especially a woman — would say such a thing.” He went on to tell me that he’d had no idea Sam was nursing until she made a stink, effectively pointing it out.
It is unbelievable to me that employers do not know the law. I wonder how she would deal with an employee who wanted a place to pump. Five dollars says she’d send her to the bathroom. (I know I like my food prepared in the bathroom.) It should be mandatory that management be aware of the laws so that this sort of thing doesn’t happen.
What if I’d been a more timid person, or hadn’t known my own rights? What if I had backed down to avoid confrontation? Why is feeding my son treated as a shameful act?
This is why so few women breastfeed. There is not enough support. And when we aren’t encouraged to take care of our own children, there is really something wrong with the world.