Here's a story sure to make your jaw drop:
American University professor Adrienne Pine woke up to teach the first day of her feminist anthropology class. Her infant daughter had a cold and a fever, which meant she could not go to day care. This professor was a single mother with no one else available to watch her baby on short notice. She weighed her options: cancel the first day of class (which would disrupt the class schedule and could negatively affect her tenure evaluations) or bring her baby to class. She chose the second option. When her baby became fussy, the professor breastfed her baby, who promptly fell asleep.
Now this has turned into a major controversy, with several students remarking on how "unprofessional" it was to nurse a baby in front of them. One male student--who later dropped the class--commented: “I found it unprofessional. I was kind of appalled.”
How twisted is it that this is even a controversy! You'd think that students in a feminist anthropology class titled "Sex, Gender & Culture" would embrace this as a fantastic opportunity for discussion and exploration.
When I was a graduate student, one of my fellow students brought her newborn to class. All of us, including the professor, were happy to have her baby present. After all, it was a Maternal/Child Health class--hard to imagine a more appropriate setting for a breastfeeding student! I loved watching her nurse and care for her baby while actively participating as a student. She was a great role model for me (and later became a close friend).
What I find most remarkable is the absence of discussion on the most pressing issues: The lack of options for working parents who suddenly find themselves without childcare. The inherent sexist bias that labels lactating as "unprofessional." Nope, we can't think that far ahead. All we can focus on are...gasp...The Breasts. Sexism and gender bias continue to thrive, keeping us mired in these infantile (ha!) debates about breastfeeding.
For further reading:
- Professor Adrienne Pine's explanation of what happened in Exposéing My Breasts on the Internet
- Washington Post article: American University professor breast-feeds sick baby in class, sparking debate