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Thursday, February 02, 2006Oh the irony of it all...in a store filled with wall-sized images of scantily clad women from a company that makes their living by pushing sex...a nursing mother is told that she can't breastfeed in the dressing room and that she should head to the bathroom next door.
From an article in the Charleston City Paper:
The story goes like this: late last month, Lori Rueger was shopping for a present for a gift for her father-in-law at Mt. Pleasant’s Towne Centre with her 3-month-old when her daughter let it be known it was time to be fed.
Rueger headed over to the Victoria’s Secret, a business that prides itself on understanding a woman’s more private side, and asked a store employee if she could breastfeed in a dressing room. Not only did the clerk say no, even worse, Rueger was told to go next door to Old Navy and feed her baby in the restroom there.
“I said I’m not going to feed her in the bathroom,” Rueger says. “I said, ‘Would you want to eat in the bathroom?’ [The clerk] didn’t say anything. She was like, ‘It was against company policy.’”
Following the incident, Reuger contacted the client relations department for Limited Brands, the parent company of the lingerie chain. According to the young mother, a company representative confirmed that breastfeeding in dressing rooms was against company policy. And while the associate allegedly offered Rueger a bit of advice — get a babysitter the next time she decides to go shopping — she never offered Rueger what she wanted the most.
“I just wanted an apology or someone to say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry about that. It won’t happen again,’” Rueger says. “I wasn’t looking to make a very big deal about it. I’m a very quiet and private individual.”
"get a babysitter the next time..." Holy smokes, are they SERIOUS? Get a BABYSITTER? Wow...I wish she had that on tape. I really do. I'm not one to call for boycotts, but can you imagine the reaction to a 20/20 or 60 Minutes report that had a recording of THAT tape playing? No breastfeeding mom would ever again set foot in a Limited Brands store.
According to Victoria's Secret, this was an issue of an employee, not of corporate policy. From Local6.com in South Carolina:
Victoria's Secret has a "long-standing policy to allow nursing in our stores. We are still for and about women," said Anthony Hebron, spokesman for the chain's parent, Limited Brands.
Whatever. I found other comments by Hebron in other news stories that offer up everything from "the employee misunderstood policy" to "the employee thought the dressing rooms were full."
Now, before you get too up in arms and start planning nurse-ins...be aware that this happened a while ago and a nurse-in already took place. I found coverage in an ABC News story from last year and several other sites covering the issue as early as last summer.
The reason that this is in the news again is because the story was used as testimony this week for a new state bill that would provide legal protection for women who wish to breastfeed in public in South Carolina.
The bill is being sponsored by State Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston with the help of Lin Cook, a post-partum doula and breastfeeding counselor. The pair tried to pass similar legislation in 1997, but it failed due to lack of support.
Senate Bill 4373 is currently moving through the South Carolina Legislature and states, in part:
(A) The General Assembly finds that breastfeeding is an important and basic act of nurturing which should be encouraged in the interest of maternal and child health.
(B) A woman may breastfeed her child in any location where the mother is authorized to be.
(C) Breastfeeding a child in a location where the mother is entitled to be is not considered indecent exposure."
It does not provide the same level of protection in regards to pumping milk in the work place, support for breastfed children in child care or excusal from jury duty, but it's a good starting point.
If you're a South Carolina reader, please consider contacting your representative and asking them to support this bill.