Naked breasts on statues are a yes. Breastfeeding an actual human with real boobs is, apparently, a no.
Photo by Haylee Sherwood/Flickr.
Head to any world-class art museum, and you’ll see plenty of statues from the age of antiquity. The figures, especially the Greek ones, tend to be either scantily clothed or completely naked — marble breasts bared for all the world to see. But if you’re a woman visiting a museum with a hungry baby that needs to be fed from your flesh and blood human breasts, you might be shamed by an employee for doing so.
At least, that’s what happened this week to a breastfeeding mom while she was visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The woman, who goes by Vaguechera on Twitter, took to the social media platform to explain that she’d “flashed a nanosecond of nipple while breastfeeding and was asked to cover up.” Yeah, that staffer must’ve missed the memo that folks really, really appreciate a mom’s effort to keep her baby from doing the full-on hunger howl in public.
But what made her tweet go viral was how she cleverly pointed out the irony of the marble breasts being acceptable while her human pair were not. Along with her initial comment, Vaguechera tweeted photos of the many statues at the museum of bare-breasted women.
Her witty response has been shared on Twitter more than 7,500 times and liked about 15,000 times so far. But she wasn’t finished calling out the museum for shaming her. Throughout the rest of her visit, she tweeted more photos with brilliant captions justaposing her experience with all the boobs on display.
But what’s also admirable is that Vaguechera went on to educate folks about why what happened to her matters.
“Reason it's important: embarrassment about #breastfeeding one of most common reasons that women give up,” she tweeted. The World Health Organization has found that breastfeeding saves the lives of about 800,000 children every year, but whether a mom chooses to breastfeed is completely up to her, and it’s no one else’s business. However, if she decides to nurse her child, that choice shouldn’t be stigmatized.
But if our cousins across the pond are anything like us, there might not be full support for breastfeeding in public. A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about one-third of Americans think that it’s “embarrassing for a woman to breastfeed in front of others.” Combating that attitude and building a “landscape of breastfeeding support” is one of the reasons that August is National Breastfeeding Month in the United States, and the first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week.
And Vaguechera shouldn’t have been shamed by the employee. The U.K.’s Equality Act 2010 says “it is discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding,” and that “applies to anyone providing services, benefits, facilities and premises to the public, public bodies, further and higher education bodies and association.”
To that end, Tristram Hunt, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, tweeted a classy apology to her.
“Our policy is clear: women may breastfeed wherever they like, wherever they feel comfortable & shld not be disturbed,” Hunt wrote. Vaguechera replied that she accepted his apology and then made a suggestion that plenty of places other than Victoria and Albert would probably be wise to adopt: “Staff training maybe,” she wrote.