Unleash the fury... or not.

Hell hath no fury than that of a mob of angry mothers reading their Facebook timelines!

This is what is happening today and again, much like my last post, I find myself faced with the dilemma of just staying out of it and letting the internet have it's way with the whole thing and jumping in and attempting to be a voice of reason. 

So, obviously, I am jumping in...

It's Spring Break and the Easter long weekend in our city. The weather is not that great for a lot of outside activities and that being the case, practically EVERY indoor playground or play place in the city is packed with kids and families just trying to make it until Tuesday when we can all get back to normal and....

Oh My God! Now I GET why my kids love recess so much! (SO much energy, so little jumpy castle/playground structure in my house!)

So, let's just say you are a mom of three young kids and you decide to go to a local play place. One of your kids is only seven months old and at some point during your time there, as infants are apt to do, he gets hungry. So you feed him. With your breasts. Because that is the way you do it. And you can't really go to the lovely little quiet room that the establishment has set aside for just such a case, because you also have two older kids who are quite happily playing and who are NOT hungry at this very moment and you have to stick around where they are and supervise. So you nurse your baby. No biggie. 

But another mother at the establishment sees this and is uncomfortable about it. She decides to go and complain about you to the management. She gets quite angry and confronts both you and management and it gets ugly. Words are exchanged, some of them racist in nature, some perhaps misunderstood, some arguably seen as unsupportive and unconstitutional of a mother's rights. One need only imagine the heights of everyone's emotions during this incident. 

The employees and management try to defuse the situation as best they can and/or know how to. They ask the complaining/racist mother to leave (they are in fact very supportive of breastfeeding in their establishment), and they offer you, the nursing mother, a space to get away from the conflict. You are angry and you refuse and decide to leave of your own accord, feeling judged, shamed, insulted and discriminated against. 

And then, emotions still high, you take to Facebook and write about your experience and ask everyone to share it and boycott said establishment because of your terrible, horrible, awful, very, VERY, bad experience there.  

And the internet complies. In droves. 

In a matter of less than 24 hours, one mother's shaming experience has gone viral. 

And another mother's business and livelihood is likely going to suffer because of it. 

People are flocking to said business's Facebook page and leaving 1 star ratings. Not based on their own experiences or opinion of the establishment, but because they saw a post about one person's unfortunate time there and decided that was enough/all the information they needed. 

Please know that I am not diminishing that nursing mother's feelings or her right to be angry about what happened. She has a protected human right to breastfeed her child anywhere and anytime she needs to and was completely correct in her assertion of these rights. I fully support her and all mothers who need to feed their babies, however they choose to do so and where and whenever they need to do so. 

What I fail to see as helpful for anyone in this situation is the shit storm of epic proportions that is falling upon a local, family-run business that specifically caters to families and children in our city. This particular play place has made it a priority to have a nice, comfortable and quiet room for mothers and babies IF THAT IS WHAT THEY NEED/WANT. This is far more than any mall, big box or department store that attaches it's "Mother's" rooms to the bathroom does. Where is the outrage at the mom who made the complaint and the racist comments? Where is the acknowledgment that management asked this person to leave, because HER behaviour was unacceptable in their establishment? 

Did the staff and management of this facility do everything right in the heat of the moment during this incident? No, they did not. Does there need to be a concrete policy in place for just this kind of incident. Most definitely. Was some of the conversation that occurred between the nursing mother and the staff taken out of context or misunderstood? Well, honestly, we'll never really know that, so it's no use contemplating it and getting into a big he said/she said debate over it. 

What I do know, is that this establishment is being as pro-active as they can be in regards to responding to this incident and has set up a Breastfeeding Information session for later this week and is trying to work with the mother in question to apologize to her and move forward from this. I will be at this event to both support the mother and her right to breastfeed her child wherever and whenever AND to support a local family-run business and help them become an example of a breastfeeding-friendly organization with full policies and procedures in place for all employees and patrons. I encourage all those who are planning to come to this event to keep both of these objectives in mine.

But, I've got one more thing to say...

And it goes back to that word, shame (and again, please see my last post for more on that). 

These days, our immediate reaction to "bad things that happen to us" is to pop it up on social media and gather ye thy mobs and pitchforks and torches and ATTACK! If and when we feel shamed in any way, our knee-jerk reaction is to fight back with more shame. 

In an interview about her book "Women & Shame", Brené Brown says;

...the greatest challenge to developing shame resilience is the way shame actually makes us less open to giving or receiving empathy. Shame protects itself by making it very difficult for us to access its antidote. When we are in shame, reaching out for empathy feels very dangerous and risky. And, when we are in shame and someone reaches out to us, it is unlikely that we will be willing to dig deep and find anything besides fear, anger, blame and confusion.

Today, I have seen so much anger and blame and confusion online. It's messy, it's disheartening and it's frustrating as well. Because in all of it; all the comments, the news interviews, and the shared posts, empathy is the very last thing that anyone has on their minds.  And it is the one thing that is needed most in these kinds of situations. 

Social media is a great way to get your voice heard and I would never take that away from anyone, especially women, mothers and marginalized and oppressed communities or peoples. I would just really like it if along with the "making of a big fuss", there also came a "making of a big effort to find a solution to all the fuss". And by solution, I mean one that moves everyone forward, that makes us all better human beings and that doesn't resort to tearing down people and places and threatening to drown us all in the big bad sea of shame. 


The life-preserver we all need thrown out to us at these times. 



P.S. Are you or do you know of an organization that would like to become a Breastfeeding Friendly Community Partner? If so, please check out this handy Toolkit created by the good folks at BACE, The Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton.