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Why I'm "Harsh" Toward the Lubbock Nurse-in

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.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Regulars here know it's nothing new for someone from the Lactivist movement to come in and call me mean or harsh. I knew what I wrote on Thursday wouldn't be popular, but I strongly felt it needed to be said.

I just finished writing a response in the comments of the original post that further clarified my line of thinking and I realized it probably needed to be it's own post.

breastfeedingmominlubbock wrote in the comments

I'm a little surprised by your harsh criticism to be honest. Some of the other options you mentioned sounded like great ideas, but to call nursing mothers "pouting" because an "apology" was given does not make sense to me, and is offensive.


I appreciate the suggestions for other actions. I just don't feel it's appropriate to call names when people in Lubbock are finally standing up for something as important as the right to breastfeed in public. Let's help each other out with suggestions, not call each other names!

Here's my response.

I completely stand by my statement that to have a "protest" of something that has already been "remedied" is pouting.

I realize that those who attended in Lubbock are very happy with the outcome. I think that's fantastic.

But I also look at these issues on a broader scale. A victory in Lubbock that makes it harder to win a victory somewhere else does NOT advance the movement as a whole. Until women start looking at these issues on a national and even international level, we're going to have a hard time building a cohesive movement that really incites change.

See, while the women who were involved in Lubbock were glad to go, those outside the area are going to see the news of this and say "wait, why were they protesting something that was already remedied? sounds like a bunch of women who just want to raise a ruckus.

That hurts the movement as a whole and contributes to the stereotype of lactivists as "shrieking harpies with too much time on their hands."

(I have no doubt those who attended are glad they went. It's a great experience and provides a nice feeling of empowerment. I won't doubt that at all...but feeling good and causing change are not the same thing.

To note, once it was planned and started to spread, I have no problem with women gathering together to nurse, despite the fact that the city already apologized.

We had this happen last year on the east coast when a woman was told she couldn't nurse in a shop selling party supplies. Some women jumped the gun and planned a nurse-in before the woman had a chance to work her way through management. By the time the nurse-in was due to take place, management had apologized and taken action to put new policies and training in place.

A nurse-in there would have been much like the one that took place in Lubbock. A protest after things had been resolved.

Thankfully, the women at that nurse-in reversed course. They called the management to see if they could change focus to a "nursing rally" that was a celebration of the management's positive changes. In other words, instead of a protest, it became a "we're happy to do business with you because you are willing to change your ways for something better."

They issued new press releases, management came on site for the event, a big party was had and the press was quite positive on all sides. It was a fantastic way to salvage what could have been another eye-roller to those outside the movement.

I would have fully supported something like this in Lubbock. It would have been a great way to accomplish the benefits of yesterday's nurse-in (drawing attention, sparking debate, showing power in numbers and mobilizing nursing moms) without also bringing on the negatives (making the movement look like people who can not be pleased no matter what.)

Beyond that, the "press release" that was issued via Mothering was appalling. I know that sounds harsh, but I'm sorry, it's true. I didn't make it more than a paragraph in before I was shaking my head in sadness.

The content was all over the board, it was completely unprofessional, it had no focus. It basically looked like a giant rant from a random person on a message board.

As a marketing professional AND professional blogger (not this site, my day job) it killed me.

We can spend all day talking about the passion and sincerity with which this event was planned, but passion and sincerity do not win over the general populace. There's a reason marketing and PR professionals exist. It's because they know how to frame a message to appeal to the most people.

There are quite a few of us in this movement with the experience and knowledge to put those types of releases together. (In fact, the media kit that was put together entirely by volunteers for the Delta nurse-in was VERY impressive.)

Had someone simply asked, I would have been happy to call on my contacts to help put together a press release. I have no doubt that dozens of other lactivist moms with marketing and PR backgrounds would have done the same.

This movement has GOT to get beyond the idea that any action is good action. It's not. The wrong type of action can hurt the movement as a whole. It's fantastic to see women getting motivated and wanting to do something. I love that, I encourage that. But we've also got to encourage a more organized, logical approach to these things.


  1. Blogger Maria | 7:21 AM |  

    I agree with you on the pouting. From the outside looking it, it looks like women who just want to be seen nursing. I know that is not true, but that is what it looks like, and in my own lactivism, I am hit with that comment a lot-- that "we" just want to cause trouble.

    BTW-- I enjoy your blog, and whatever direction it takes, I am sure it will be interesting and well-written.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:50 AM |  

    I think there are much bigger issues in Lubbock here than just this art. It sounds like the gov't there has been doing some "moral policing" and breastfeeding got lumped in with all the other "sexually immoral" things the mayor is trying to squash. So I don't think this issue is just about this situation.

    At the same time, when I Googled this and looked at the art I personally found this to be about way, way more than breastfeeding. Way more. So it bothers me that lactivists have jumped on it and made it a BFign issue. That really misses the point and trivializes the depth of the censorship. To me this case is about so many things that are wrong with this country, BFing being the smallest aspect.

    And, as you said....the art was allowed in so protesting doesn't prove the point it could have...unless you live in Lubbock and possibly understand something about the climate there that we don't. (I don't live in TX, so I don't know. I just got the impression that there was more to this).

  3. Anonymous nursingmominlubbock | 8:01 AM |  

    Thanks for your response. Perhaps the "nurse-in" should have been called a "nursing rally". Frankly, that was what the spirit of the gathering was. It's funny how vocabulary can be so important in matters such as these.

  4. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 8:07 AM |  

    nursingmom, I completely agree.

    I hate to nitpick semantics, but when it comes to public perception, it makes a world of difference.

    The press release (I don't know if you read it) was a rambling list of complaints and semi-demands. It doesn't offer up a clear goal and the fuzzy goals it does offer weren't things the people in charge could really control.

    The keys to a good "action" on something like this are:

    1.) Get press (you guys did this)

    2.) Have a list of demands that can actually be met by the people you are demanding it of (you guys didn't really do this)

    3.) Have a clear purpose (while you started off with one (to protest) that purpose vanished by the time the event took place.)

    Again, please understand that I'm not trying to put down the people who worked hard with the goal of accomplishing something. I'm simply trying to get people to understand that we have to look beyond intentions and really focus on results.

    We're gaining ground, but we'll gain it much faster if we build up an "army" of thoughtful, well-spoken nursing moms with clear, concise goals and an understanding of how to reach them.

    That's what I'm trying to do here. Help equip women to move forward with more productive actions so the next generation of nursing moms doesn't have to deal with the problems many of us have.

  5. Blogger Natalie | 8:48 AM |  

    Jennifer, your past two posts are beyond excellent. While your blog is wonderful, I would love to see your marketing strategy for this nurse-in subject turned into an article for Mothering Magazine and/or New Beginnings. I read those magazines on a regular basis and so many of their articles and stories helped me attain my goal of a natural waterbirth and encouraged me to nurse past one year. I think many nursing and/or pregnant mothers, and lactivists who also read and benefit from the magazines, would benefit from what these past two posts have been about. I don't know if you regularly submit articles...if not, this subject is worthy.

    You are a smart, valuable asset to the breastfeeding and lactivist community.

  6. Anonymous nursingmominlubbock | 9:54 AM |  

    Thanks for the specific advice. These comments will be helpful for the future.

    I thought I'd give a quick update. I just spoke to someone who attended the nurse-in. She said she felt like the whole community came together in support of breastfeeding, and it was a really positive experience (again, more like a nursing rally).

    I hope people outside of Lubbock can appreciate this, and see that while the leaders of this event might not be the most experienced, the intentions were good as were the local outcomes. There were numerous positive comments (no negative ones) about the gathering on the local news last night. I doubt they would have been talking about the benefits of breastfeeding on local TV in Lubbock had a group of nursing mothers not gathered at the Buddy Holly Center.

    Hopefully the rest of the country can appreciate this for the positive gathering that it was.

  7. Blogger Ali | 10:11 AM |  

    I'm curious - where and how was this nurse-in organized? I didn't see it on the Mothering boards, though I've been distracted by other matters for the past couple of months. As for the press release, was this the one published on Mothering's website as an action alert, or was there another document?

  8. Blogger Ethel | 11:28 AM |  

    I just commented on your previous post before reading this . . . only to find that you'd already stated my own sentiments about positive nurse-ins here, and even showed an example of where nursing moms *did* it (Yay, nursing moms!). Wow. Changing a nurse-in to a nursing rally . . . that is beautiful. And I'm awed to hear that breastfeeding moms and a smart, well-meaning business managed to accomplish it together.

  9. Anonymous Vince | 11:27 AM |  

    Okay folks, once again, as I stated on this blog at another link, I'm Vince Gonzales, president of the Lubbock ACLU. I took it upon myself to organize this event. PRIOR to the Art Censorship ever being done, women started discussing the pervasive discrimination they are victimized by in this community when they breastfeed in public on the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal's blog Woman to Woman. The unrest began in September. The straw that broke the camel's back was when the City of Lubbock banned the artwork, and in particular, that of a nursing mother and child. When the plan was hatched, it was BEFORE the City decided to uncensor the art. The ACLU did step in on behalf of the artist and the artwork, challenged the City and won. I sent out dozens of e-mails to various Mother's rights organizations for help and advice. Most offices were closed during this period of time. I decided to set up a "list serve" for the woman on the blogs who stated they wanted to conduct a nurse-in. With little or no replies from the "lactivist" organizations for help (the few exceptions were Salem Hamilton with Birth Without Boundaries, US Breastfeeding Network, Mothers Acting Up), I decided to ask the State ACLU to step up. Again, due to the holidays, offices were closed. On January 1, I decided that the local chapter of the ACLU would sponsor the event with Birth Without Boundaries. By this time, the art work was not part of the picture, it was the discrimination and lack of teeth in the laws that exist. Linda Smith with US Breastfeeding Network put me intouch with folks to provide the language of Philadelphia's city ordinance implementing fines for discrimination against nursing mothers and our focus started to move into a new area. With a new voice, the "nurse-in" did develop into a celebration of the City's decision to allow the art (no one has seen it hanging in a city facility yet) and an opportunity of these 30-40 mothers to collectively nurse with no fear of recrimination and discrimination. It was a joyous and significant event, especially when the City of Lubbock called and asked how they can help. The situation is ripe for asking the City to pass a law similar to that of Philadelphia, making the City of Lubbock the second city in the nation to have a law like this. Additionally, the message is out, these moms will not allow themselves, or others, to be treated as second class citizens in Lubbock, Texas. We weren't lactivists, we are moms and dads who stood up for the thing that was most precious to us...our children. Sorry if we did not line up with your agendas or political motivations. No harm was meant, we were just loving our kids and standing up for our right to do what is best for them! Vince Gonzales

  10. Blogger Jennifer Laycock | 11:40 AM |  


    Thank you for taking what I've said and meant completely out of context.

    Perhaps some day people still stop being so defensive and actually listen to what I'm saying.

    I'm not saying anything negative about the people who attended the nurse-in. I think any time people come together to stand up against a wrong or to celebrate the correction of that wrong, the world wins.

    But even with the best of intentions, we have to learn to be open to constructive criticism of how and why things could be done better and how what we do in one place impacts what happens in other places.

    Maybe at some point you'll stop reading what I'm writing as "you all suck" and start taking my thoughts and advice for what they are. Insight from someone with a heavy background in marketing and PR as to how an event can BETTER be planned to have an even BIGGER impact both locally and on a broader scale.

  11. Blogger JudyBright | 7:06 PM |  

    Maybe at some point you'll stop reading what I'm writing as "you all suck" and start taking my thoughts and advice for what they are.

    Don't hold your breath, sweetie. Reasons being:

    1. The ACLU is perfect, and is therefore above questioning and criticism.(insert winkie here)

    2. They use people who think that the ACLU actually cares about their little causes to advance their own agenda.

  12. Anonymous Jake | 5:44 PM |  

    Hold on there JudyBright, I don't think this is quite fair. I think your first point is true but is a problem with many organizations and is certainly not unique to the ACLU. I disagree with your second point. One of my frustrations has been with the original ACLU press release not adequately addressing the issue that IS a major part of the ACLU agenda - freedom of expression. I don't know why Mr. Gonzales has not included it in his posts here but I found a release on the ACLU of Texas web site saying that the ACLU had launched an investigation into the Buddy Holly Center censorship last year. The City of Lubbock's decision to change its censorship policy came after the ACLU's action. Looks to me like enough for the ACLU of Lubbock to have claimed some credit for the City's policy change. I don't understand why it didn't do that in the original press release concerning the nurse-in. So the ACLU had already done something important to further its agenda, an agenda I value highly, before the nurse-in was announced.

    When I first saw the press release, I wondered aloud why the ACLU would do a nurse-in and not the more effective legal response to censorship. Well, it appears that they had. After reading that, and reading Shelly Gonzales' blog from which this action seems to have evolved, I do not question the motives of the ACLU of Lubbock or its president, Vince Gonzales. I also believe that he contacted other organizations for help and I am sorry he did not receive the help and advice I think he needed. I wish I had known he needed help.

    There is a lot that we can all learn from how this event came together. I really hope we take the opportunity to learn it.

  13. Blogger Ahmie | 6:47 PM |  

    m not reading Vince's response here as defensive, just as presenting his point of view. Are the rest of us missing something from a conversation going on elsewhere?

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