Sunday, February 22, 2009

Nobody puts baby in the bathroom

Today Jordan and I went to Denny's in Asheville to support Crystal Everitt and all nursing moms. (For good pictures, go here; see links at bottom of post for video.) We arrived around 12:30 after picking up lunch elsewhere. No one had gathered yet at that time, but it was easy to tell a couple of people were waiting in their cars for the nurse-in to begin. We started talking to one mom who had driven in from Greenwood with her one-year-old son. She even brought a sign (I wish I had made one). Around 1:00, Crystal and the others, mostly from Asheville, arrived and began assembling. To my surprise, there were about as many men as women there! (So much for this being just a bunch of exhibitionist women "showing off." Bang goes that theory.) I was so proud and thankful for Jordan not only being there, but being involved and interested. He even raised some good points in the post-nurse-in discussion, and it meant a lot to me. The Asheville crowd was so prepared. They had been in contact with the police to find out what our rights were as far as being there, and knew where Denny's property ended and public property began.

Once all the lactivists, reporters and photographers had shown up, Rick Pate, Denny's regional director, came out to speak with Crystal. He asked if they could "chat." It was clear he wanted to do this alone--not in front of all those cameras and people--but Crystal wisely told him she would talk to him right there. With a crowd of supporters behind her, Crystal listened to his insincere backhanded "apology." He stated that his goal was to create a dining environment which was "inoffensive for everyone." He said, I believe, that this included Crystal and other nursing mothers. He said we were all welcome to come in and eat lunch and nurse our babies. Then the questions came. Crystal handled it beautifully and knew just what to ask. I couldn't believe how cool and collected she was, especially being put on the spot. She said it seemed to her he was saying women could breastfeed their babies, but the management of Denny's was going to tell them how to do it. He claimed that's "not what he said." She asked if he expected women to go nurse in the bathroom, and he said that wasn't what he said either. Crystal asked, "Where did you expect me to go, then, if you wanted me somewhere more 'private' and the restaurant was full? My car or the restroom?" He didn't have an answer and kept talking in circles. Most importantly, he declined to reassure us that no more mothers would be asked to leave for breastfeeding their children, and this was unacceptable. He refused to give any information about supposed complainants, what was or wasn't done to correct the manager responsible, and refused to share video footage of the incident. At the end of the exchange, he'd made a fool of himself (with Crystal's help) while making it clear than Denny's had every intention of continuing to allow its staff to harass and discriminate against nursing mothers.

Therefore, the nurse-in continued. We knew we could be arrested for trespassing if we didn't get off the property, so everyone filed into the 3' wide grass-and-bushes area right in front of the restaurant. Some moms nursed, but Suzi wasn't in the mood and it's difficult for me to nurse her while I'm standing up. It was also cold and windy, and flurries of snow swirled through the air. We got lots of attention from passing cars--and once, or so I heard, the finger.

By 2:00 they decided to adjourn to a (much warmer) meeting place at a local cafe. Possible next steps were discussed because, seeing as how the police were ready to arrest Crystal for trespassing, more does need to be done. The North Carolina law states that breastfeeding is allowed "notwithstanding any other provision of law." To me, this means it should trump trespassing laws, but some say it is only referring to public indecency. There needs to be clarification, or better yet, an enforcement clause so that businesses will think twice before allowing their employees to humiliate a mother. Some states do have provisions for enforcement in their breastfeeding legislation, but this is lacking in North and South Carolina.

What other legal activity could get a person kicked out of a restaurant? If someone was smacking loudly with his mouth open, burping, or farting, and I complained to management about it, they would probably offer to seat me in a separate area of the restaurant. Several times before in restaurants other than Denny's I have complained about cigarette smoke, being seated too close to the smoking section. They don't go over and extinguish the person's cigarette with a cup of water. They move the complainant. So, assuming customers were genuinely offended by seeing part of Crystal's breast, I'd say these other examples set a precedent for the action which should have been taken. If the manager had wanted to maintain an "inoffensive" family-friendly environment for everyone, she should have offered to move the offended parties. Instead, she blew her top, probably over some personal hang-up she had with breastfeeding, and made a scene. Denny's caused the problem. Not Crystal Everitt.

This is not about breasts. Breasts are hanging out all over the world, but how many people do you see going up to buxom bikini-clad beauties on the beach and telling them to put a towel around it? Not many. How many of these keep-it-modest whiners would go into Victoria's Secret and ask them to please take down their display posters because the bulging breasts are just too explicit for the 12-year-old boys passing by? None that I know of. Nope. This is about breastFEEDING. These people are grossed out by the act itself, particularly when the child being fed is over a certain arbitrarily chosen age. And who suffers? The mothers, but more importantly, the children. Children who should have been breastfed but whose mothers didn't think it was socially acceptable. Children whose mothers wean too early because they are terrified to nurse in public and give formula instead until their supply dwindles. Children who could have avoided illness with their God-given birthright of mother's milk, but were denied the chance. And, ultimately, this closed-mindedness hurts our entire society.

I could go on. Oh, believe me, I could. In particular, I have opinions about the effects of a mother's decision not to breastfeed on society as a whole. I will save that for another post. In the meantime, if you are still confused about why babies need to breastfeed in public, please read my detailed explanation here.

Interesting video footage:

Rick Pate is stumped!
Protester explains things, passersby reacting in background
He couldn't say what he said, only what he didn't say
Whistling a slightly different tune


Vicky said...

WOO-HOO Jenny! You definitely need to post this an your newspaper blog if you have not already! I am proud of you and Jordan! We will talk this week!

baby carriers backpacks said...

It is great to see women standing up to the most important thing for a child's development. MOM'S MILK!!
Hang in there. Many of us out there pulling for women like you!! Stay strong

AzĂșcar said...

I love reading this first hand account. It's been so great to have Crystal as a face for public nursing--she is so together and so right!

One funny point, at my local mall a few years ago some mothers DID protest at Victoria's Secret for displaying indecent posters.

Anyway, based on what I'm hearing, I don't think I'll ever eat at another Denny's, not until their management comes out of the 1950s.

Anonymous said...

They should've had a different spokesperson--this guy was completely insincere, repetitive, and ignorant about breastfeeding politics. Their official policy about "creating an environment that's nonoffensive to everyone" is complete crap. Just using the word 'offensive' in that context makes my blood boil.

MaryAnne said...

Thanks for this post, I completely agree that our society needs to start accepting public breastfeeding. Please keep us updated on your local situation!

half pint pixie said...

Thanks for the update, Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I am totally in favor of breast-feeding and think it is the best thing. But such a beautiful, God-given thing gains ugliness when women make it "their right". What would God want? I personally breastfed all 4 of my children with great success and w/o anyone knowing it sometimes. I do NOT want my husband children or I having to eat a meal staring at a woman's breast. You have to note many woman do not know how to nurse beautifully, or modestly. They just want to "whip it out" and that is just not appropriate.

Jenny said...

I am sure God would want a baby to eat without angry people trying to throw a hot blanket over his head. After all, He did give us necks that can turn our heads one way or the other if we don't like what we are seeing. Besides, I feel that children are a priority for God. I don't think He'd have given us the gift of breastmilk if He didn't intend for all mothers to use it, and the way some people have shamed women for breastfeeding has caused certain new moms to use formula instead without even trying. I think it's fine that so many moms can nurse without anyone knowing. Usually, I can too. That doesn't mean I should expect every other mom to do just what I do. All moms and babies have different needs.

Anonymous said...

The blessing is they make so many blankets now w/ tiny little holes in such beautiful designs to cover up. If you do research (which I am sure you have) our foremothers covered up (modesty) in ages past. WE did not have these issues. I just want moms to make sure it isn't just an issue to argue over or just to prove a point. Any mature mommy that truly is a modest God fearing woman wouldn't want her breast exposed as that goes against the Bible. Again, I am ALL for breastfeeding and again successfully breastfed all 4 of my children till 2 years old ... but think we need to keep it a beautiful thing as God intended and not just an opportunity to strike one for womankind. We will not win people over nor help them understand out cause if we make it a hate issue. God tells us in His world not to offend people and if we do we will be punished. I pray all make a wise decision ... all said, I still would not want to eat while staring at a woman's breast ... that is what strip joints are for. :-) Blessings - Shelly

Jenny said...

Adrienne said...

WTG! It was really nice meeting you Sunday, and your post is much more eloquent than mine lol! Do you mind if I put a link to this on my page?

Melissa said...

Good for you! Stand up for what is right! I am proud of you!

Diane said...


It was great meeting you last weekend. I think we really got our message out there!! I was the one with the 7 month old in the sling. You have done a great job with your website. I hope that our daughters never have these problems and that they feel proud to breastfeed anywhere at any time. I sure do!!


Candace April said...

Shelly--Which passages and what research? I'm genuinely curious. Every photograph from days gone by and every painting or sculpture I've seen, including those of the Blessed Virgin show breastfeeding without a cover.

Infonut said...

Love your term "lactivists"