Check out my interview with Tel Aviv Radio by host Amir Mizroch, starting at 30 minutes. You can see the picture by Amir Schiby that I mention in the interview.
Last month, a mother visited a Petach Tikva mall with her two small children. The baby got hungry. While the mother knew of a nursing room in the mall, it was “claustrophic and small,” and on a different floor. So she went off to the side, sat down on the floor with her toddler, and began to feed the baby. After a few minutes, the mall manager, accompanied by a security guard, approached her. The manager told her that she could not nurse the baby there and that she should go to the nursing room. The mother tried to explain but ultimately felt so humiliated that she left the mall.
This incident and others sparked a breastfeeding protest, the first of its kind in Israel. From November 11-13, people switched their Facebook profile pages to photos of breastfeeding mothers. On December 24, “nurse-ins” are scheduled for malls throughout the country. In Tel Aviv, nursing mothers gathered at Kikar Rabin to protest harassment.
Israeli is breastfeeding-friendly. Most moms I know have never been criticized for breastfeeding in public. However, this could be changing.
While Mizroch was clearly on the side of mothers, an astounding level of disgust and hostility has been aimed at breastfeeding mothers in the Israeli press. One talk-show host harangued the protest’s organizers, in the most obnoxious way possible, about how breastfeeding mothers ought to be more considerate toward people like him who do not want to see such spectacles.
I’m all for being nice. But in our society, we don’t require people to give up their rights in order to be nice. And babies have a right to eat just like every other human being. Mothers have a right to be out in public with their babies in tow, and feed them however and wherever they choose. Mature adults who value consideration ought to show some for nursing mothers and babies.
Asking breastfeeding mothers to move is sexual harassment, because it makes breastfeeding into something sexual when it’s not. Eating does not need to be hidden.
Tamar Zandberg of Meretz has proposed a law protecting the right of mothers and babies to breastfeed everywhere, regardless of the amount of breast exposed. This is necessary, because otherwise the complainant can argue that the mother was not nursing discreetly enough.
For the record, the mothers harassed at Sirkin, the post office, and Cafe Greg were all religious mothers who took care not to show skin. Exposure is not the issue.
I’ll share the full text of the proposed law when it becomes available.
As part of the protest, I asked a stranger if I could photograph her with her baby. The mom turned out to be long-time internet friend and blog fan, Maya Norton.
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