Fear and Breastfeeding in Las Vegas is the name of a blog entry from The Leaky Boob, a “lactivist” (love the word) blog about breastfeeding. It’s a great story (go read it) of a breastfeeding mother standing up to a restaurant in Las Vegas that questioned her breastfeeding of her child there.
I also think it is related to barefooting (though, of course, I can find that just about everything is related to barefooting).
It’s a story we’ve all heard quite a few times. A mother is breastfeeding in a restaurant when a manager comes up and asks the mother to cover up.
Of course, as the writer of a blog, the mother was well-informed about the law. In Nevada, breastfeeding women are protected from such harassment. Here is Nevada Revised Statute §201.232:
2. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breast feed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.
What of course makes this most ironic is that this was Las Vegas, whose whole business model seems to be premised on the exposure of bare boobs. Here’s a picture, from the blog entry, of a poster just outside the cafe, and a picture of the mother feeding her baby.
Barefooters will be familiar with the excuse given by the manager: the mother “would be making others feel more comfortable as there had been four tables that complained about what I was doing.”
Why should the comfort of those other customers have precedence over the comfort of the mother and baby? Why do they have veto rights? (And why should the “comfort” of other customers have precedence over the comfort of going shoeless?)
Can we get into a complaint battle? Some customer complains about the mother breastfeeding, or my being barefoot, and then we get to complain back about a tattoo, or messy hair, or maybe a religious symbol? Pretty soon, if we worked hard at it, we could empty out the whole place.
In this case, the mother was protected by the law. Unfortunately, barefooters are not, even though they are just as well-behaved as any other customer.
[Note: if you are reading this blog for the first time, I am a barefoot advocate. There are loads of data that shoes do bad things to our feet, and I prefer to go barefoot (for that and other reasons). Contrary to what many people believe, it does not violate the Health Code to be in a restaurant barefoot. Bare feet do not emit magic death rays that affect food, or contaminate food in any way. Yes, bare feet have been on the floor, but then so have your shoes, exposed to the same stuff. It's not like I'm trying to eat with my bare feet, after all. And myths about how dangerous it is to go barefoot are just that: myths.]
Of course, the excuse, for both breastfeeding mothers and barefooted patrons is, “I don’t want to have to see that while eating.” Yet, in regards to breastfeeding mothers, you’ll see more breast in a low-cut gown at a fancy restaurant (not to mention what was out there for all to see in Las Vegas). And in regards to bare feet, somehow nobody ever complains about this:
[Photo from Wikipedia Commons.]
It’s not the sight of the breast or foot, it is just conditioned ignorance raising its ugly head. (And of course, if bare feet really did constitute a health risk by emitting dangerous pathogens, flip-flops would be equally banned.)
Now, the mother was able to tweet it as it happened and got a lot of support from other breastfeeding mothers (oh, if only the barefooting community was as large and committed), and eventually the higher management of the cafe got in touch with her to see what they could do. And they did a great job of trying to make it right (oh, if only management when it comes to barefooting were so willing to discard their prejudices), even to the point of increasing their training programs to make sure that breastfeeding mothers were made welcome.
The blog entry ends by noting that the Flamingo Hotel and Casino asked for tips and suggestions on how their staff should handle such situations in the future.
My answer is that the staff should be educated, not only in the law, but in how to handle any complaining customers. They should be trained to ask the complaining customers how they’d feel if they were asked to stop, let’s say, sneezing, or blowing their noses, because it was making others uncomfortable. And then the staff could re-affirm that they care about all their well-behaved customers.
And it would be extra nice if the staff would do the same if any customer complained about barefooted customers: explain that it is not against the law, and that a bare foot exposes no more than flip-flops that are perfectly acceptable.