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Nurse-Ins are NOT the First Line of Defense (Or Why Men Run the World)

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Friday, June 15, 2007

I'm tired this week.

Not because Emmitt still wakes several times a night, or because I'm getting only a few hours of sleep. Not because Emmitt is teething, or my laptop is broken and my online time is limited.

(Ok, maybe a little bit because of that...)

But because I'm so frustrated with women and lactivism right now that it's physically exhausting. After this week, I also now know why men run the world.

It started Tuesday. I spent most of the day at a meeting that by all accounts should have been a wonderful example of women coming together to move a great cause forward. Instead, it reinforced my belief that too many women spend too much time focusing on getting things their way to actually get anything of substance accomplished. There's too much focus on who gets credit, who gets say so and "how things have always been done" to have any chance at doing something amazing.

Then after spending a full day offline with computer problems, I returned to an email box absolutely stuffed with reader letters about the situation that took place in Denver at the Elitch Gardens Theme Park earlier this week.

If you aren't aware of the incident, here's a YouTube video of news coverage.

You can also read the mother's original post describing what happened.

Now, let me be the first to say that I think what happened to this mother is horrible. Colorado state law protects a mother's right to breastfeed and neither the park employees nor the police officers had any right to ask this mother to move or to harass her. The mother (and everyone else) is entirely justified in being up in arms. I'm pretty ticked off about it myself.


When things like this happen, we have two choices in how we react.

1.) We can channel our anger into energy and follow proper channels to accomplish something that will have a lasting impact on our society.


2.) We can allow our anger to turn us into shrill, ranting women that gather a few minutes worth of publicity, but ultimately get written off as "those crazy, hormonal moms that want to cause another ruckus."

Tell me...which do you think is going to accomplish more in the long run?

Which is going to protect not only our rights to breastfeed any time any where, but to also change the culture so our daughters and our granddaughters don't even give the issue a second thought?

I want to note that I (along with several other experienced lactivists I keep in touch with) emailed this mom within a day of her original post to offer our assistance. I was (and still am) more than willing to step up and help any mother figure out the best way to approach a situation like this to ensure the best chance at a positive out come.

In this instance, I'm saddened to see that moms have let their anger overtake their rationality and I'm afraid the results are not going to be anywhere close to what they could have been.

Why do I say this?

Because along with watching the flurry of "shrill" emails (and thankfully a few well written, yet powerful ones) I'm amazed to see that a group of moms has contacted the media and planned a nurse-in for tomorrow. I'm amazed by this for several reasons...

1.) They've done this without any input from the mother that was harassed. Thus, they've co-opted someone else's issue without their support or their knowledge. Nurse-ins, when appropriate should happen WITH the original mother's backing and approval.

2.) They've given a single day's notice and planned an event on a holiday weekend, thus ensuring a less than stellar turn-out

and most importantly

3.) They've rushed into a reactionary response without taking the time to work with Elitch Gardens and to give the park a chance to rectify the situation.

In response to the news about the nurse-in, Elitch Gardens has released a statement on the incident:

Colorado State Law provides women the right to breastfeed anywhere. We also allow it in our park. Our concern was not that she was breastfeeding her child, but that she was exposed while doing so making several guests uncomfortable enough to bring it to the park management's attention. We suggested alternative options to Mrs. Skrydlak-simlai for her to continue breastfeeding her son in public while also allowing us to preserve a reasonable comfort level for the rest of our guests. We never asked Mrs. Skrydlak-simlai to leave the park or threatened to arrest her. At Eltich Gardens, we make every effort to provide a safe, fun and enjoyable place to all people, free of discrimination or judgment of any kind and we apologize if we offended Mrs. Skrydlak-simlai.

Now, I want to make a point here that I also made on the Mothering thread.

When you have an issue with someone at work, in your family, or in life...do you find that walking up to them and punching them in the face is a good way to get them to listen to your point of view and to come to a resolution?

No, it usually results in the other person getting extraordinarily defensive and totally unwilling to listen to any point you have to make.

Yes, if you are big enough and strong enough, punching someone in the face will *probably* get you your way. But will it get your way because you are stronger, or because you have actually changed their mind?

As I see it, moms that are new to the issue of lactivism and to the fight for breastfeeding rights have only a few reference points of how to fight the battle we wage daily.

They remember hearing about the nurse-in at The View.
They remember hearing about the nurse-in at Victoria's Secret.
They remember hearing about the nurse-in at Delta.
They remember hearing about the nurse-in at the PA Mall.

Notice a common theme there?

Nurse-ins are what gets news and exposure, but they aren't always what accomplishes changes in policy and changes in attitude. In fact, a nurse-in that isn't paired with a specific call to action and a proposed solution accomplishes little more than a sound-byte on the six o'clock news.

The problem with this is that it often leads to a few angry moms calling for a nurse-in when they hear about something going on. In fact, one of the first responses I tend to see to any breastfeeding in public incident is "when's the nurse in?" or "I'll go to a nurse-in!" (Ok, to be fair, those are paired with oodles of what are often nasty emails to the company.)

Here's the deal though...

When an incident like this happens, we have one (maybe two) shots at press coverage before people get bored and move on to the next sound byte. That means that we have to make the most of that press coverage. Get the most leverage, make the best point, and have the best shot at instituting change.

A video clip of half a dozen (or even dozens and dozens of) angry breastfeeding moms shouting "Try eating with a blanket over YOUR head!" doesn't accomplish much. Sure, it enrages the people that already agree with us, but for those against us? It simply reinforces their belief that we're nothing more than a bunch of hormonal women with too much free time looking for something to complain about.

On the other hand, a well-thought out, properly planned nurse-in complete with talking points, media kits and moms experienced in public relations can result in news coverage that shows dozens of moms, feature thoughtful, articulate commentary and arms reporters with facts and data that make it far more likely they'll craft fair and balanced coverage.

When we jump on things without thinking them through, we run the risk of created wasted opportunity.

That's fine, you say. You're telling us what not to do, but you aren't offering up anything constructive other than to say "you shouldn't do that."

Ok, here's my advice. Take it for what you will.

If you ever find yourself facing a situation like this, here is what I suggest.

1.) Know the breastfeeding laws for where you are located. If possible, carry a card that cites the exact law in your state. If you are approached, calmly point out the law and ask them to leave you be. When you are finished nursing your child, ask to speak with a manager and calmly inform them about what happened.

2.) If you are threatened with arrest by the police, tell them that you will be happy to leave as soon as you get their names and badge numbers. (Whether they have the right to ask you to leave or not, if you refuse, you can be arrested for trespassing and/or resisting arrest.) When you return home, call their supervisors and calmly inform them what happened.

3.) Once you've done one and two, work your way up the chain of command seeking resolution. Write down names, dates and details about each conversation that you have.

Keep in mind that employees are often speaking their own minds, not that of their employees. Think of the number of times your children have said something that made you want to crawl out of your skin from embarrassment. Imagine if people held YOU directly responsible for what they've said rather than approaching you and giving you a chance to rectify the problem.


IF you've done the first three and have been unable to come to a resolution, I suggest the following:

1.) Contact someone with a public relations or law background that you trust. You might do this by going through LLL, your state breastfeeding coalition, or sites like mine. Work with them to formulate a plan. Figure out what you want and what the best ways to accomplish it might be.

2.) NOW you take the issue public. This is when you contact the media, the moms and everyone else for things like letter writing campaigns and press coverage. You give companies a chance to see how unpopular their policies are and to change them. Set a deadline for resolution.

3.) If you still haven't accomplished a change, now is the time to CONSIDER a nurse-in.

If none of the above work, then it's time to turn your attention elsewhere and to channel your frustration toward things that will change the culture. No matter how badly we want to get our way, we're not always going to and we must accept that. We do our best, we fight our hardest, and then we swallow the bitterness and we find new ways to work. We help other moms, we form coalitions, we lobby for legislation...we do the things that work.

But above all, we must maintain our focus and our civility.

Shouting gets you noticed, but it rarely earns respect.

When I ran into my problem with the Pork Board earlier this year, I didn't sit down and fire off angry emails and blog posts the moment it happen. I sat on it for three days. I considered my options, I spoke with trusted advisors, I weighed their advice and then I formulated a plan.

When Robin Neorr was discriminated against by City Kids day care because her daughter was breastfed, she spent more than a month trying to resolve the issue before approaching the media. Even then, no nurse-in was planned because the time simply wasn't right. Instead, Robin banded together with other mothers to launch the Ohio Breastfeeding Coalition. City Kids still has not changed their policy, but Robin is thinking long-term. She's focusing on creating programs, lobbying for legislation and introducing new options that will not only eventually force City Kids to change their policy, but will also create a more positive environment for nursing mothers in Ohio.

Robin understands that patience is the name of the game and that outrage needs to be channeled into determination.

We're not going to change the world overnight, but we ARE going to change it. Every group that has ever struggled for rights and acceptance have had to wage a long battle to get what they rightly deserve. Why should we expect to be any different?

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  1. Anonymous Anonymous | 3:49 PM |  

    As always you are the voice or reason and experience. We have made so much progress with private, under the radar work that women don't realize that the Victoria Secret and Delta events were the result of many weeks of work and negotiations that did NOT result in moving the company and therefore bringing negative press attention was the option of last resort. I too made a few salty comments about no wonder men rule and we still don't have maternity leave or equal pay or breastfeeding rights.

    FOJ-friend of Jenn

  2. Blogger Ali | 4:39 PM |  

    Amen, sister. I am so frustrated that women will drive across state lines at a moment's notice to attend a nurse-in, but these same women will not call their representatives when breastfeeding bills are on the line. (Yes, I'm from MA, where we have four bills pending.) And if you dare to question this behavior, they jump down your throat for "having a problem." (As on MDC, when the nurse-in at iParty was being pulled together - thanks for helping out as a voice of reason there, BTW.)

    Meaningful change cannot be achieved with these tactics, and it takes away from the impact of a nurse-in in those instances where it is truly warranted.

    My hero of the week - Jesse Chandler, who was the mom ejected from a Victoria's Secret in Boston for bf'ing. She helped organized a nurse-in last year - and this week she testified before a legislative committee in support of a NIP bill. Go, Jesse, go!

  3. Blogger Darlene | 4:50 PM |  

    Now if we just had that brand of level-headed think-it-through-before-you act advice in more areas of our life (and our politics, to be sure) wouldn't the world be so much less chaotic and more geared to problem solving? Jennifer, I really admire your approach and you are absolutely right on every point.

    Women working together from a logic-based foundation get so much more done and earn more respect than (to use your word)shrill insistance and in-your-face combativeness. Emotional outbursts let off a lot of steam but then you end up with nothing just hot air. The sane approach is not always the one that appears to get the fastest reaction.

    I think your readership has such respect for you because of posts such as this one. I'd have you on my problem-solving team anyday!

  4. Blogger Michelle, Isaac, & Evelyn | 5:16 PM |  

    thank you very much for your well collected thoughts and insight. It never fails to amaze me your tact and ability to look at the whole picture. Very few people in today's world effectively look at the 4,000 ft view. I find it very refreshing to have someone put my thoughts into words and action.

  5. Blogger Cagey | 5:31 PM |  

    Excellent advice how to handle any situation where you might be asked to leave while nursing your child when legally, you shouldn't have to.

    A month back, I did call our law enforcement for recommendations on how to handle these situations. The officer I spoke to did suggest carrying a copy of the statute in question and as such, I do have a card that lists the Kansas law regarding this.


  6. Blogger Lesley | 7:36 PM |  

    Very well said, very sound advice.

    I really wish you'd had a chance to say it, and have it be heard, before going and contacting the media about a half-baked nurse-in. For the sake of the mom who was offended...I hope tomorrow's nurse-in is not the debacle I suspect it will be.

  7. Blogger amygeekgrl | 9:02 PM |  

    i really appreciate you being the voice of reason. obviously, you've been around this sort of thing for a WHILE now and you know what brings about change and what doesn't, what gives you your 5 minutes of fame and what gives lasting results. thank you for sharing this with us. it's easy to get up in arms when this sort of thing happens to another mama, but i can see how having patience and not reacting emotionally is really the way to go to achieve longterm results.

  8. Blogger Anna | 10:23 PM |  

    Very well said, Jen, as usual.

    I would like to suggest one addition to your "what to do" list:

    File a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission for your state (or the state you're in, if away from home) immediately.

    It's not about suing. It's about making sure that when the company tells you, "we will put an affirmative policy in place and train our employees," they actually do it.

    This doesn't preclude one from continuing to try to resolve the issue directly with the company - by all means, continue those efforts. This is just a way to ensure that, if you do come to an agreement, it is on file with an agency who has the power to enforce it and follow-up if necessary.

    An enforceable agreement is what will ensure that the issue not only is resolved for one mother, but that no other mother will have to endure a similar experience.

  9. Blogger bflaw | 10:40 PM |  

    Moms should also call the State Atty. General to file a complaint in situations such as this. Also, no, employees often are not saying what their employers would want, BUT it is the employer's duty to train the employees and educate them in these matters.

  10. Blogger The Lactation Sensation | 10:41 PM |  

    This is definitely hitting the nail on the head! I so often worry that mismanagement of events like nurse ins portrays breastfeeding moms in a negative light.

  11. Blogger Nique | 1:59 AM |  

    I am just still so amazed that I seem to read about this type of thing happening so often in America.

    I live in Australia and even if people don't like you breastfeeding in public they normally don't complain not in this way. I think we actually have it really good in Australia to do with breastfeeding rights.

    I think it it is great what you and other women are doing in America to get more rights for breastfeeding. I still don't get how people have a problem with breastfeeding in public but have no problem with women wearing such revealing tops that you see more of their breasts then a breastfeeding mother. Its a funny world we live in.

  12. Anonymous sinead@breastfeedingmums | 5:01 AM |  

    Well said, Jen! It's such a pity more people aren't as rational and level-headed as you are about this whole issue.

  13. Anonymous Niki | 5:27 AM |  

    I just wanted to comment & tell you that I completely agree with you. I calm, reasonable voice is much more likely to be heard than those angry, shrill voices. This is something that unfortunately is going to take time to become acceptable to the general public because of how our society has been trained. Those angry, shrill voices will get lactivists nowhere because the socially trained general public has also been trained to tune out what they don't find reasonable.. & I think we can all agree that's where it looks like this ball is rolling.

  14. Blogger Lesley | 5:46 AM |  

    Jenn, I just realized that I did not edit my comment very well. What it should have said was:
    I wish you'd had a chance to say and have it be heard before WHOEVER CONTACTED THE MEDIA ABOUT A NURSE IN went and did so. When I re-read it, it looked like I said you had gone and done that, which didn't happen nor would it make sense given the content of your posts. Just wanted to clarify.

    I also wanted to add that as long as women's group are going off without organizing, the states are not ever going to have a female president. These types of things confirm the image that we're hormonal and crazy and not to be trusted in positions of power.

  15. Anonymous Jane | 7:41 AM |  

    Thank you. I must admit that I've been feeling exceptionally uncomfortable about this whole situation. I believe in breastfeeding. I breastfeed my 4 year old and 2 year old. I do it in public. But I don't think that breastfeeding in public in such a way that you make people uncomfortable - and then turning around and punching them in the face with words for being offended helps the cause any at all. I am ashamed of these mothers and feel that this whole situation has turned back any progress we've made to make BFing in public acceptable. So I'm glad I read your post as it said so eloquently what's been bothering me! I support BFing, and public BFing, but I don't like the way this situation has been handled.

    Thank you!

  16. Blogger Jennifer James | 8:33 AM |  

    I recently attended corporate media training for a company I represent as a parent spokesperson. All of your tactical advice is right on the money. People have to understand how the media works in order to make noticeable changes. Staging nurse-ins without an agenda will solve nothing.

  17. Anonymous MamaJ | 1:54 PM |  

    I attended the nurse in this morning. It was my first nurse-in and first time being interviewed on television about nursing in public. I went without my hair done, wearing a dirty shirt and work out shorts. I assure you I didn't go to be inappropriate, to hog media attention, or to anger anyone at Elitch Gardens.

    I vehemently disagree with you that women should not have gone for several reasons.
    1. EVERY local media outlet was present- wether you like it or not, or wether you feel it was "organized enough" or not. I did not contact the media (I just found out about the entire thing this AM) but we knew they would be there. THAT is reason enough to go- in this case, it was better to support whatever limited efforts had already been made rather than sit around critiquing the nurse-in efforts!
    2. The women I talked to there, including myself, were NOT there for "media attention". We all have a common cause here, ladies. Why in the world do you think it's okay to drive a wedge and call names like "reactionary"? So now we have evolved to the point that nurse ins must be well organized and staged? That's NOT THE POINT OF NURSING IN PUBLIC. I do not STAGE when I'm going to feed my baby!

    3) I am in shock at how many women are so eager to agree with you. The work you do IS wonderful, but are we all supposed to be sheep?
    Peaceful protests that are of a grass roots effort should never be called names or critisized. Can another nurse-in be staged with the help of the woman who initiated the complaint? Yes. Great. Let's do that. But her complaint is not the primary focus- the primary focus should be the right of women to breastfeed in public. Period. Let's not miss that point!

    "Meaningful change can not be achieved" with WHAT tactics? Nursing in Public?

    I'm saddened that women have determied the "right" and "wrong" ways to protest.

    Tell you what. Put out a dress code. Let's make sure that everyone who protests does so in white t-shirts. And please, shave your legs. We don't want them thinking we're some sort of hippy group! If your annual household income is below 30K or if you are not college educated, please stay home. We want to make sure everyone who speaks about breastfeeding is literate and says the right things. The things WE think are effective. We'll determine when, how, and why you contact your representatives. Just don't do ANYTHING until WE, the GREAT ONES, tell you to.

    Now THAT is a level-headed response we should all endorse, right?

    Heavean forbid there is any passion in response. All of the women who were there this morning are simply not as good as you, dear lactavitst. We are clearly not "prblem solvers" but are the problem.

    Excuse me while I forget that women are supposed to support eachother and their right to breastfeed in public.

    Guess I better go check the dress code first.

  18. Blogger The Lactivist | 2:01 PM |  

    I'm glad that you had a good experience this morning.

    I'm sad that you've missed the point I am trying to make.

    I also hope your realize that there is no "let's do another nurse-in with the mom's support" because another nurse-in will not get the press.

    The press has a short attention span.

    I also hope that this morning's nurse-in does not diminish the coverage that is given to the Denver event planned on the 24th.

    I don't expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I think that people should only do the things that I approve.

    But let me remake the point that I made in the original mothering thread.

    When it comes time to fix a broken transmission, to draw up legal documents or to cook a complicated dish, most people turn to a mechanic a laywer and a recipe.

    Sure, you can do each of those things on your own, but the greatest majority of people will run into problems and/or will not do them as well.

    There's a reason that experience is valuable.

    I'm not saying that this nurse-in will not accomplish something. I'm simply pointing out that it *could* have accomplished more and it *could* do damage whether those involved realize it or not.

  19. Blogger The Lactivist | 2:03 PM |  

    Oh and to note, I never said anything about nursing in public.

    I simply cautioned that the press should not be called for such events without proper planning and execution.

  20. Anonymous jwig | 2:58 PM |  

    I am amazed that there seems to be such a division with women who have a common goal. The word bossy comes to mind with what I've read on MDC and here. Women are being passionate about their right to breastfeed. That's great! We all think that's wonderful. But I feel like there is this air of supperiority around this issue, the 'right' way to do things, and it upsets me.

    You may think they have their energy mischanneled and are doing things in the wrong order. And yes, you have experience. But what true harm is their enthusiasm doing?

    Speak your wisdom. You are a true asset to the breastfeeding community, and you have skills and talents that most of us don't. I just wish I sensed more respect for the women who passionately wrote letters and nursed in, even though it might not be the 'right' order. Applaud their energy. Tone down the righteousness.

  21. Blogger The Lactivist | 6:50 PM |  

    You know, I sometimes feel like I'm talking to the wall.

    I don't mean that as in I think I'm speaking with stupid people. The passion and the intelligence of women that disagree with me often shine through.

    What I mean is, I get the distinct feeling that people are not reading the posts that I've made before responding.

    I've explained why this type of rushing forward "hurts" things. In fact, I've explained this time and time again to women in these situations in the past. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't. Sometimes disaster follows, sometimes something amazing happens.

    I'll repeat once more, no one is saying that the nurse-in might not accomplish anything, we're simply saying that it could have done so much more.

    I guess part of the difference in th two perspectives comes from your goal.

    Are you in this to get attention (not for you, but for the incident) today, or are you in this to wage a long-term battle?

    We're fighting a cultural war here. Despite what you see in the movies, the way to wage a war is not to charge blindly in with guns a blazing.

    In fact, that's a great way to get most of your troops wiped out.

    The way to wage a war is to strategize, to be patient and to strike when opportunity presents itself.

    Instant gratification feels better, but it doesn't accomplish as much.

    Unfortunately, patience does not run deeply in our culture anymore. We tend to want what we want now. After all, we can worry about tomorrow another day, right?

    If that's how you want to look at it, then go for it. No one says you need my permission to do anything.

    But don't for a moment expect me to support women that co-opt another mom's issue and that charge forward with nurse-ins without even taking the time to ask the opinion of the woman it happened to.

    You call *me* condescending and yet you have no problem with the fact that these moms didn't care enough about the mom who actually suffered the humiliation to wait and do what SHE wants?

    Sounds like a little bit of pot/kettle phenomonon going on here...

    I'm just asking people to have a little perspective.

  22. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:17 AM |  

    I think your point might be a lot better taken by many if you stop bundling it with internalized misogyny ("why men run the world," 'the US will never have a female president this way,' etc). Although I appreciate the strategic advice buried under all that unnecessary dreck, when I hear women slagging womanhood I automatically shut my ears on general principle.

    In reality, the reason men run the world is because they don't cannibalize each other with self-hating taboos on assertive behavior. They don't waste energy on rap-group navel-gazing on the truly masculine way to approach things (I am thinking of that awful, "don't be shrill, be a calm goddess" post somebody made on the original MDC thread). They just act.

    You have to accept that inasmuch as this is a grassroots movement, you (you collective, the informal leadership elite) are not going to be able to control every situation, nor will there be universal respect for your prestige and authority. Things will sometimes go down otherwise than you would like them to. It seems to me that the most productive way to deal with this is in a spirit of constructive criticism and collegial respect for individuals who would like to independently advance their own roles in the movement, just as you yourself have. Acting like the whole movement is going to fall to ruin because you didn't get your ideal, perfectly coordinated media event in this one instance isn't going to buy you much credibility. It was a local, seasonal attraction, not a national corporation. People in the local area didn't think they needed to wait for guidance to come down from Ohio, Canada, or wherever before acting, and that's their judgment to make. It apparently hasn't occurred to you that, given that they were able to summon local media coverage (which is all that is really needed or realistic to expect, given that it is a local attraction) and a decent turn-out on twenty-four hours notice, maybe "they" (whoever organized this) are the local leadership in their community. In all that you and others have said, I have yet to see a meaningful rationale for why you and your peers have to be consulted for local actions five states away.

    And put a lid on the "what's wrong with women" stuff. It doesn't seem like very good strategic thinking to attack the foundational insight of lactivism - namely that there's nothing wrong with women and our bodies - in order to score points off other activists. And it creates doubt about your fitness to lead a movement of women.

  23. Anonymous Anonymous | 9:44 AM |  

    I agree with you that a rush to action is not always the answer. But these woman were tryignt o support Kristen. Unfortunately I alos was until I read some of her comments on the issue. I am in support of woman nursing anywhere anytime. I am in support of the woman doing the nurse in, yes more time and organization would have been nice but they were doing what they thought was right and being supportive of this woman. Now I read that she has said she is looking at a lawsuit and she is not happy with the nurse in. I think it is unfortunate. A lawsuit is not the answer.
    I know what you are saying and I do hope that something can be organized better and recieve even more positive coverage but please applaud these woman for doing something. Some might not agree with how they did it, but still it was something. And Kristen you should really be thanking them for their support.

  24. Blogger The Lactivist | 10:48 AM |  

    It is not difficult to summon local media coverage for a nurse-in on the heels of a story that has already gained news coverage.

    That doesn't mean it's a good idea.

    As for the experience levels of the moms involved, I have no idea what their level of experience is, nor have I ever claimed to.

    As for playing off of stereotypes of women, I firmly stand by what I wrote. Women...a number of women...have a very hard time putting their rational thinking hats on overtop of their reactionary haste.

    I'm not even saying that ALL women, or the greatest majority of women, in fact, I'm simply saying that the LOUDEST women often fall into that trap.

    I'm not doubting intentions. I'm not doubting passion, I'm not doubting the ability to have an impact.

    Again, (and I suppose I need to keep repeating this) I'm simply suggesting that there are BETTER ways to do things.

    I'd love to hear your input on my example about punching someone in the face to get them to listen to your point. I'd love to know why you feel that an immediate nurse-in with just 24 hours of planning (when a much larger event had already been planned for two weeks later) was a good idea.

    Are you judging based solely on the intentions, or are you looking at the greater picture and what would/could be accomplished?

    I'm not sure where you got the idea that I think I'm the queen of all lactivism or that everyone needs to bow to my beliefs and commands.

    I'm new to this game. I've only been in the lactivist community for 18 months. 18 months...that's hardly a blip on the radar.

    I have learned the things I've learned in two ways...

    1.) By watching, observing, inquiring of and learning from the women who came before me. There are women in this country whose names are known by few, but who quietly work in the background to help guide, educate and empower women that find themselves in situations like this. Most of them are nameless and like it that way. Their years of experience and their wisdom are incredibly valuable resources that we should latch on to and listen to.

    I can only hope to one day have the type of insight that these women have.

    Until then, I make do with

    2.) My professional experience. I am a marketer. I make my living teaching companies how to relate to consumers, how to gain positive media coverage and how to win people over to their way of thinking. This is what I do. This is what people pay me to do.

    A lot of that knowledge applies to situations like this.

    You don't have to like me, you don't have to respect me. In fact, I stand in amazement at how positive the comments on my blog generally are. I'm surprised that I don't rile more people up.

    But unless you are a regular reader here that understands the history of my stance and viewpoint on issues like these...

    Unless you take the time to realize that this post was a long time coming and that THIS event simply served as the catylst for me to make these points to those who come here to listen...

    Unless you are open minded enough to look past what you simply see as criticism and to understand that there is some truth and some value to my points...

    Then I wouldn't expect you to feel any differently than I do and I imagine we can both be thankful that we have the right to believe as we wish.

  25. Blogger The Lactivist | 10:53 AM |  

    And Kristen you should really be thanking them for their support.

    Did I read that right?

    I (and even worse, Kristen) should be THANKFUL that women stormed ahead of her, co-opted her experience for their own cause and completely disregarded her opinion on the matter?


    Did I miss something here?

  26. Blogger Michele | 1:03 PM |  

    Jenn, I totally agree with you regarding the comment left that Kristin should be thanking the women who planned the nurse-in at Elitch Gardens yesterday.

    I was thinking about this situation earlier today, and if this had happened to me and I was Kristin, I would be quite disappointed that others had ridden the wave of my upset, humiliation and anguish to rush ahead and stage a nurse-in in my name on my behalf. I don't think it's supportive or helpful AT ALL.

    I am so relieved to hear that the nurse in yesteday went relatively well, considering that it could have been a disaster. And, it also could have been even MORE successful, perhaps garnering national or international media attention, if the advice of seasoned lactivists was taken.

    I'm all for passion and dedication, but if we really are to make lasting changes in our society and culture, we must heed the wisdom of our more experienced sisters-in-arms who know how to play the game and play it well.

    Thanks, Jenn, for having the courage to write a timely and thought provoking post.

  27. Blogger evil cake lady | 1:04 PM |  

    jenn, it looks like the link to kristin's posts at mothering.com is dead...looks like the thread had been deleted but with some searching i was able to find where it went...

    for those women who are upset about the views expressed here about the nurse-in, i think they really should take the time to read what kristin was asking everyone to do--because it throws this whole discussion into perspective...

    good bloggery, lactivist!!

  28. Blogger Cairo Mama | 1:44 PM |  

    The behaviour you describe is not unique to women, rather, it is common in a grass roots group dynamic with no established power structure (or a loose one). I've seen men do the same thing in several grass roots organizations and oranizing efforts on many different causes. It is counterproductive, but it is not uniquely female, and not, therefore, the reason men rule the world.

    I agree that organizing a nurse-in on someone's behalf without their involvement and without going through the other steps is not the best way to achieve meaningful change, but I've seen men do similiar things.

  29. Anonymous Anonymous | 5:06 PM |  

    Yes she should thank them for their support and yes sometimes it is Ok to rule with passion. They were doing what they thought was right and well and Kristen is ungrateful. I am a firm believer in breastfeeding, I have done so with my own 3 children. I understand your frustration that some woman jumped the gun but they were doing so to help not to be greeted with disbelief and ungratefulness. That is where people lose in this. People who are behind the right to breastfeed should support those who are trying in whatever way they can to show support.
    As far as the punching in the face that is violence and I do not believe is the right thing.
    Also I have read your blog before but this is the first time I truly think you are wrong in a rush to judgement. I am not trying to be cruel, I just think these woman deserve t=some thanks for doing something.

  30. Anonymous jwig | 5:33 PM |  

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but Kristen posted on MDC about the event, and sent the email address for people to write to. Yes, she wasn't asked about the nurse-in. But by leaving the email and asking for that support, wasn't she opening up this can of worms?

  31. Blogger Sarahbear | 8:27 PM |  

    I get what you're saying. Very good points have been made.

    Unfortunately, in the internet community, people tend to get offended by things far more quickly than they would had they been said in person. I believe it's got something to do with the fact that you can't gauge how a person intended something to be taken since you can't hear voice fluctuations or see body language/facial expressions.

    I felt the need to respond to the remark that Kristen should be thankful that all these women went out to support her.

    First I have to wonder how many women at the nurse-in even knew the name of the woman they were supporting? How many knew the details of the situation? It was planned on such short notice and there could have definitely been a better turn out if people had been given more time/it had not been done on a holiday weekend.

    Also...was Kristen even aware of/present at the nurse-in?

    Put it this way...what if Kristen is a modest woman and doesn't really associate herself with 'lactivism' for the very reasons that Jennifer mentioned? What if she thinks lactivists are a bunch of loud, pushy suburban moms with too much time on their hands? Now this entire nurse-in is going to be associated with HER and she's going to have to endure the negative comments regarding the event because SHE has to live in that area.

    In the end of her news interview she mentioned that she left the park crying because of the incident. It might have been a bit more considerate if people had given her time to at least let her embarrassment about the situation die down a bit before they drew more attention to her.

  32. Anonymous vivaprenda | 11:05 PM |  

    Quote from Anonymous -
    "Yes she should thank them for their support."

    Do the people who feel as though they were right/had the right to plow ahead (all but forgetting the mom in question in their haste) understand that they have now made some women LESS likely to share their stories when they encounter difficulties such as those K did because they might not want to deal with the possibility of this situation repeating with them as well?

    Such a monumental lack of respect was shown to this mother when OTHERS took it upon themselves to decide how they would "help" her story unfold. Can you IMAGINE how awful this would have been if this same series of events had transpired with the family staying in the Houston Ronald McDonald's House?

  33. Anonymous Aruni | 9:25 AM |  

    I have never participated in a nurse-in but am very supportive of breastfeeding. Nurse-ins are not my way of supporting the cause. I would probably be quite taken aback if a group of people I did not know used my name without my knowledge to stage a rally.

    I can see both sides of this issue but the main things I wanted to say is:

    + No one should ever expect someone to thank them for doing something on their behalf when they were not consulted. To me that's like saying "you should be thankful that I spanked your child because now he will behave better" I don't believe in spanking, but I do believe in strong discipline. IMHO, Spanking is a short term fix not a long term solution.

    + As much as I respect Jenn, I have to agree that the reasons behind your "why men run the world" statement in context of this issue is inappropriate. I have worked with great women who are highly capable of running things beyond their households. I think giving credit to people with passion like this is worthwhile. Maybe their approach is not perfect but beginning with praise for the things they did right and then giving some suggestions on how to have more of an impact (IYHO) when future such situations arise might have been even more powerful. With any grassroots movement, it goes through a toddler stage where people react with passion because they are still learning how to grasp the big picture. Personally, I think encouragement with feedback is the way to go. It's hard to do that consistently when passions on all sides run high, but you have now become one of the perceived leaders of the cause!

    Also, 'the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world.' We women really have far more power than men have had by helping to shape our children's attitudes and how they relate to the world. Our children are the ones who will grow up and 'run the world' someday.

    Finally, based on some recent research, people should be laughing while breastfeeding to help reduce the amount of allergies in their kids: http://babblesoft.wordpress.com/2007/06/18/laugh-it-up-while-breastfeeding-and-you-may-help-improve-your-childs-allergy/. So maybe the next time a nurse-in is organized women can laugh while they are breastfeeding for the health of their babies! :-)

  34. Blogger Eilat | 11:17 AM |  

    This reminds me of when I was in graduate school at Columbia and the "activist" undergraduates would always be screaming about some cause on the steps in front of the library. I had to pass them every day before work and they were always shouting some political slogan, all organized and passionate. I wished these kids would just go to class and focus on becoming educated people. And, from grading some of their papers, they could use a few hours in an English class. Maybe then they could write an articulate letter to the editor of a newspaper to get their point out. Or they could focus on actually making a real difference by working towards improving whatever injustice they were screaming about. I guarantee that not a single injustice was improved from the screaming on the Columbia library steps.

    I liken this to the case of these lactivists. Passionate, but misguided. And wasting a lot of good energy.

  35. Blogger Beth | 12:21 PM |  

    I have breastfed both of my children for 5.5 of the last 8 years. I have always considered myself a breastfeeding advocate, but not necessarily a "lactivist." On Friday night, my dad forwarded an email to me about a "protest planned at Elitch Gardens" in response to a woman being harrassed while NIP. This was the first I had heard about it. I read the 9news article, and came to MDC to see what was going on. I did not get to read the original thread, so I knew nothing about the arguments/discussions about how to proceed, only that the thread had been pulled. Here is what I did know:

    1. As of Friday night, the mom involved in the original incident posted that she was tentatively okay with a nurse-in under two conditions - that it be peaceful and no one get arrested, and that people state that they were there to support her.

    2. The mom involved had given an interview to Fox news. This says to me that she was aware of media involvement.

    3. 9news was reporting that a nurse-in was planned for the following morning.

    And you know, something clicked for me. I thought, "Maybe I could make a difference by showing support for that mom and for the larger issue of normalizing breastfeeding within our culture." I've never stepped out of my comfort zone and gotten involved before. I knew that Kristin had those two concerns mentioned above, but I thought the first was unfounded, as I assumed it would be a peaceful event, and I was HAPPY to go along with her second concern - to go in support of her.

    And no one has answered this question for me: What if no one had shown up? Isn't it better to go, and show a united front since the event had been planned already? What fools would we have looked like then?

    Regardless of if someone SHOULD have contacted the media, they DID.

    Regardless of if someone SHOULD have planned a nurse-in, they DID.

    Sometimes you just have to roll with it and go with the flow. I am so confused and hurt by the response to this whole thing that I really have no interest in being involved with this movement now, even though I feel I have valuable gifts to contribute.

    I get bashed for doing what I thought was a good thing? I just wanted to show support for another mom and an issue that is important to me and people say I'm publicity hungry? As a matter of fact, it is extremely hard for me to GO OUT OF THE HOUSE most days as I have acne. The thought of being in front of all those cameras actually made me a little ill.

    And as far as the larger event planned for the 24th - I had no idea about it until I attended the nurse-in! I am planning to go to help set the breastfeeding record, but otherwise wouldn't have even known about it.

    And how did this nurse-in hurt the cause? It prompted a dozen or so moms to get involved. I've seen a lot of positive comments OUTSIDE of the "lactivist" community, but not within it.

  36. Blogger The Lactivist | 5:13 PM |  

    Ok, let's clarify a few points here.

    1.) I am not criticizing the moms that showed up at the nurse-in. I am suggesting that the moms who PLANNED the nurse-in were not making good choices and should reconsider what they were doing.

    2.) If you weren't able to follow the original threads, Kristin did not contact the media. She came to MDC for help and input on her situation. A reader of her thread took it upon HERSELF to forward Kristin's story to the media, including a link to the MDC thread. This, in my opinion, was an invasion of privacy. Kristin spoke with the media because they hunted her down looking for the story. She should have been given the respect to approach the media in her own time.

    3.) Kristin said on the MDC thread that she wished the organizers would hold off on the nurse-in until things were clearer and the nurse-in could be better planned. She then said "but if it must go forward, I hope..." and finished with what the previous poster mentioned.

    4.) This nurse-in and these letters stood to hurt "the cause" in two ways.

    First, they were sent so quickly and without any direction or specific goals that they were mostly attacks. This put Elitch Gardens on the defensive immediately. Anyone that knows anything about public relations knows that the way an issue is approached in the the early stages will set the tone for all future communication. Thus, when people react in anger and haste, they make it MUCH more difficult for the mother to have a civil conversation with those higher up in the company to see about bringing about meaningful change. THAT damages the cause.

    Second, the media plays a powerful role in the outcome of these events. At the same time, the media is fickle and has a short attention span. By short, I don't mean they have to report on it immediately, I mean that they will only report on it so much. Sure, this event got a lot of press coverage, but the coverage it got was uncontrolled and was NOT sparked by Kristin. That means that she missed out on her chance to get her message across and that any larger impact that could have been made by a well organized and well attended nurse-in was destroyed. You don't get coverage for two nurse-ins for the same incident, so you have to make what you do get count.

    You might note that I've said over and over that I respect the passion of the moms involved here. I understand why they were upset, why they wanted to help and I don't doubt their sincerity.

    What I criticized was the fact that even after people more experienced in handling these types of situations calmly and patiently pointed out the reasons it would be wise to hold off, and even offered specific suggestions of what those same moms could do to have a better impact, they charged ahead anyway.

    Then, when I posted to point out that they were being impulsive and petulant, they came to my blog to be...impulsive and petulant.

    I wonder...how many of those who were at first gently, and then more harshly criticized ever sat down for a single moment to ask themselves if those of us trying to slow them down might have ANY point?

    Because from my point of view, it looks like the answer to that question is none.

  37. Blogger Beth | 8:17 PM |  

    I totally understand everything you're saying and for the most part agree.

    I guess I just wish I would have known about the incohesiveness and infighting within the lactivism community, because I certainly would not have gone. Even if the criticism is aimed at the planners and not those (me) who blindly followed, it still hurts. I'll retreat back into my safe little world now.

  38. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:54 AM |  

    I agree with Jenn on her post & comments.

    All she is saying is that the nurse-in COULD have given better results whether that would mean more women who would've shown up, longer on-air piece or more on-air coverage (multiple days, not just 1 day's worth).

    So basically, what Jenn is saying is that there is room for improvement when nurse-ins are hastily put together.

    Why is it shameful to analyze a situation to see how things could yield better results?

    Why is it considered overly critical if I said that the event could've been better if the organizers gave more than 1 day's notice?

    People are allowed to reflect on past actions to see what worked and what didn't or what could be changed for the better. In any other situation, we call it maturity.

    I guess in the breastfeeding movement, it's called 'attacking your fellow compatriots'...

    I'm just in awe that there are people who post that Jenn is unsupportive simply because she's pointing out things that could've been managed better.

    So I guess the next time my child brings home an F, I should pat her on the back and say 'I love your passion!'

    Hello, what parent thinks like that?!!?!

    You bet your behind I would talk with my child to see what can be changed to help her get a better grade. Is it the teacher, is it the material? Is it her time-management skills are lacking?

    Am I then attacking her passion if I do that? Am I being cruel or negative b/c I expect better from my child and I want to help her?

    Anyway, I guess I read Jenn's blog differently than others...

  39. Blogger Kat | 12:20 PM |  

    Having had an experience with my own nursing discrimination a few months ago at the hospital I am cared for by, I can relate to this from the point of view of actually having been in this position. When it happened to me I knew I needed to do something but not get carried away. There is a fine line between standing up for yourself/ your cause and making public perception of your cause even worse.

    I chose to speak with hospital administration first, go to the media second. I never really considered a nurse-in as a viable option because quite honestly I think they rarely project a good image of breastfeeding women. The news story by the local news was sufficient, to the point, and did what I intended..... raised awareness within the community that mothers and children are to be treated with respect.

    It's been a couple of months now and I still get people stopping me on the street, saying they saw the tv coverage and thanking me for standing up for myself and other women and babies. I have my dignity, the message was conveyed, and that's what matters.

    I had a lot to lose in my choice to react to this. I was in negotiations with another hospital for my new Doula position and knew full well that my decision to go public would impact that..... thankfully it impacted it in a positive way and I am seen by the hospital staff as an advocate for mothers and babies, which is what my job as a Doula is about.

    I agree that these things need to be handled responsibly.

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