August 8, 2004


I barely, but polarly, posted yesterday. I took a long drive down to the outskirts of Chicago to do some shopping. That means I was in no position to run into and photograph the protest march for breast milk that took place alongside the Farmers' Market yesterday. Nina has pictures of fruits, vegetables, and breast-promoters. She asks was anyone against breast milk? She asks rhetorically, in the sense of: isn't it silly to march for this because it's completely noncontroversial?

I remember in the early 70s, Ms. Magazine, in its early days, constantly attacked La Leche League, a pro-breastfeeding group. It was considered anti-feminist at the time to encourage women to breastfeed. Breastfeeding promoters had an ulterior motive (according to Ms.): keeping women at home.

Last year, I studied the Family and Medical Leave Act, after the Supreme Court decided that the law enforced equal protection rights. The Court considered whether the federal statute was a remedy for violations of constitutional equal protection rights, and the violation of rights the Court found was that states had given more family leave to women than to men. Key evidence showed that maternity leaves exceeded paternity leaves to an extent that could not be explained by the time of physical disability that follows childbirth (supposedly four to six weeks). I wondered why it violated men's rights to give long maternity leaves to women, considering that only women were physically capable of breastfeeding. A new mother might want to breastfeed for six months or a year. An employer that accommodated the new mother's wish to stay home and breastfeed violates equal protection? I thought it was rather amazing that none of the briefs talked about this subject.

So I think that's an indication that breastfeeding is not treated as important. Sure, go do it if you want, but don't expect a lot of help. I don't know anything about the women who marched in Madison yesterday, but I assume that they are asking for institutions to encourage and facilitate breastfeeding. If they are hoping for long work leaves to allow it, they've got a big problem. But there are still other issues about being accommodated in the workplace (bring the baby to work?) and in various public places (at the next table in at a restaurant?).

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