Thirty to forty adults and their children and grandchildren today protested the lack of breastfeeding discrimination laws in Western Australia. The group, organised through Joyous Birth and Facebook, rallied outside Premier Colin Barnett’s office in Cottesloe.
Many passers-by were supportive. Despite the peaceful nature of the gathering, however, local business owners were reportedly not impressed.
While other states in Australia have explicitly added breastfeeding discrimination to Equal Opportunity laws, Western Australia has held back on this clarification. Unfortunately, this leads to situations like the one Mandy Crabtree found herself in at the Hyatt Regency a couple of weeks ago.
Interviewed on 6PR, Ms Crabtree explained that she and her seven month old had been in the “Cafe” buffet eatery at the Hyatt when Taj became hungry. Ms Crabtree asked whether she could move to a quieter, unpopulated area of the restaurant to feed the baby. She was told to leave.
WA is the only place in Australia that protects the right of a restauranteur to evict women and children for breastfeeding.
Liberal Premier Colin Barnett promptly ruled out considering the clarification of anti-discrimination laws to include breastfeeding, saying that women should use courtesy and feed in a discreet, “modern” way. I’m not sure what “modern” means in this context, except that I’m pretty sure it involves some sort of plastic. We wouldn’t want to be like those primitive folk, after all, would we? This is Perth! We’re white! We’re Modern!
But there’s a chink in Barnett’s armour. He’s done an about-face today, reluctantly agreeing that he might vote for laws protecting the right of mothers and children to breastfeed, though he still maintains in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that such a law isn’t “necessary”, and refuses to introduce such legislation himself.
Continued community protest is essential to push this process along.
Though Ms Crabtree has received a lot of community support, she and the cause she didn’t want to have to champion have also received ridiculous and virulent opposition. You need only read the comments at The West’s blog “Should breastfeeding mothers be protected under the law?” to see that opposition to this law comes from an entitled and sexist place. A sampling:
If I dine at a restaurant of any standing (fine dining) and it is assumed that this took place in one of those eateries in the Hyatt then why should I be subjected to someone breastfeeding a child. Firstly its my right as a diner to be able to dine with a degree of decorum and that includes not having to put up with screaming babies annoying uncontrolled children. Leave the child home or dont go out.
I also have a right to be able to enjoy myself without something I don’t want to witness taking place. I can’t believe you would suggest the Equal Opportunity Act should protect women […]
They think that the world revolves around them and their baby, and that we must all rearrange our lives to suit them.
While I totally support breast-feeding infants and the right of women to breast-feed in (most) public places, at the same time I am put off my food watching someone else breast feed. This is why i do not support legislating to allow women to feed in eateries.
I appreciate that breast feeding is natural, but step away from the hippy ideal that you should inflict it upon strangers at every opportunity. Oh, and I REALLY dislike paying for an expensive meal and adult atmosphere then having screaming food-throwing kids thrust upon me.
But for arguments sake: if you knew you were going out and you think the ‘b-f’ word might be an issue and you know that you’ll have to feed the bub while you’re there, why not transfer it into a bottle before you leave home?
If I go out for dinner I do not want to see children running around let alone breast feeding mothers and if I am paying top dollar for it then I am entitled to that. There is no need for a another special law to protect breast feeding mothers we already have to many protecting every half wit out there who just wants to proof a point.
You can see from these forums that there are plenty of people who would prefer not to see baby stuff happening in an expensive restaurant.
Breastfeeding is good for mum and child but hey lets do it with commonsense and without the usual baloney from the tree hugging, unwashed, hairy armpitted brigade.
For the majority it seems to be about life choices being forced on others in adult places. Would you take a 2 year old to a strip club?
“Not necessary”, Premier Barnett? Oh, it’s necessary. It might not directly affect you and other rich white men, but it’s necessary.
Newsflash, folks. No, make that two newsflashes. Three. Four.
1 – Mothers don’t expect you to “rearrange your lives” around their breastfeeding. They expect you to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not one thing. All you have to do is sit there. Why is this so difficult?
2. You do not have the right to go out in public and never see anything you don’t want to see. Breastfeeding? It’s going to happen. Gay folks holding hands? Yup, that’s likely to happen too. There are even people with disabilities out in public these days. And you might cop the odd glance of plumber’s crack or glimpse of exposed ankle. No matter how you feel about these things, everyone else has a right to exist and a right to take part in the commercial, political, and cultural life of this lovely State.
3. Breastfeeding babies are, by definition, not screaming, running around, or throwing food. Oops, your fuckknucklery is showing.
4. It’s “breastfeeding”. Or just “feeding”, if your tongue stumbles at the thought of OMGboobyboobies. Not “the b-f word”.
The exclusion of breastfeeding women from public spaces is sex discrimination. Breastfeeding should occur wherever mothers and children are. Breastfeeding is not obscene, breastfeeding is not sex, breastfeeding is not excretion. Breastfeeding is food, and to attempt to prohibit it – where adults are eating, at that! – is just one more way in which women are not permitted to live the full, public lives that men are.
Confinement to the domestic space is also a factor in mothers choosing not to breastfeed, or to wean earlier than they wish. At a time when Australia’s breastfeeding targets are nowhere near being met, this is a health issue as well as a sexual discrimination issue.
Western Australia needs to get with the program and no longer sanction this flavour of discrimination against women.
[Photos reproduced with permission from protest organisers]