Sex in the News: Nurse-Ins

If you were in a Target on December 28, you might have seen a group of women breastfeeding openly in the store. Across the country women staged a “nurse-in” at Target locations in solidarity with a Texas mother who says employees harassed her while she was breastfeeding in the women’s clothing section.

Michelle Hickman organized the nurse-in through a Facebook group after the incident at the end of November. Public indecency laws vary state-to-state, but in 45 states there is a specific part that allows women to breastfeed in public. In others, including Michigan where a group of mother’s were prohibited by a mall to hold a nurse-in, public indecency and nudity laws look at breastfeeding as different than indecent exposure.

As a childless student, the options for breastfeeding are far from my mind. But it’s women such as Hickman, that are standing up for women’s rights everywhere. “Designated” nursing areas are not always the most comfortable (really Target, you’re suggesting changing rooms?) and women should be able to nurse as they please.

I started really thinking about the idea of public breastfeeding after going to the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh. An artist at Carnegie Mellon University created the “Milk Truck,” a mobile breastfeeding unit. The idea is that if a woman is breastfeeding in public, let’s say a restaurant, and an owner asks her to move to the bathroom. She doesn’t want to breastfeed in the bathroom (essentially you’re asking a baby to eat in the bathroom) so she contacts the Milk Truck. The Milk Truck (which looks like a food truck with a 3D breast on the roof) pulls up outside, giving the woman a comfortable place to feed her baby. The owner of the restaurant gets a pink breast truck outside, leaving them to ponder whether women should be allowed to breastfeed in their restaurant.

Being asked to breastfeed elsewhere is something that only affects women. It’s a natural part of life for most people, so why is it still considered indecent?

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