I don’t often get on my soapbox about things – I really don’t. I like to give people and situations the benefit of the doubt, waiting for them to play out before I form opinions or get ranty. Which is what I was doing with a story I read in The Independent yesterday morning.
In a nutshell, a breastfeeding mother was at Sports Direct’s Nottingham store and sat down to feed her son while her husband shopped. Totally innocuous, until a member of staff forced her to leave the store because she was breastfeeding. According to news reports she was left crying on the busy shopping street outside, I imagine feeling embarrassed and trying to feed her hungry baby in the rain.
This is NOT ON in so many different ways.
Firstly, it is illegal for businesses to discriminate breastfeeding mothers under The Equality Act of 2010, so Sports Direct have broken the law. Secondly, the incident was in January and the mother concerned has contacted the store five times with no comment or apology. The story broke in local and national press on Thursday… still nothing.
I loved that I was able to breastfeed Hux, which is exactly what I’m doing in both these photos so Sports Direct might like to AVERT THEIR EYES OMG. I took him everywhere with me, feeding him at the local rugby club, in restaurants, in cafe’s, in shops. It was my right to: if the guy next to me on the bench at Euston station could eat his Gregg’s sausage roll then my baby was going to take a minute to enjoy his lunch, too. Though let’s be honest, my baby’s lunch would have been a whole lot more nutritious.
But I was always aware that I was breastfeeding defiantly. I kept in mind that there could be some jackass who might challenge what I was doing and I would never have put my breast away without a fight. Actually, I would never have put my breast away: I knew that as a woman feeding her child it was my legal right to do it wherever I wanted at whatever age they were. It’s not a provocative business, every breastfeeding woman I know is fully capable of feeding her child without titillating (excuse the pun) or exposing anything untoward. Lest us forget this is what our breasts are there for, after all. We are mammals and breasts were there long before bottles.
We as a society will never move forward with our collective attitude towards breastfeeding – that it’s wrong to do it in public, it should be kept behind closed doors – until attitudes change. And if one of the biggest clothing retailers in the UK are going so wrong with this then how will the rest of the public learn? It was wrong of Sports Direct to discharge the breastfeeding mother from their shop but it is unforgivable that they have not given an apology or an explanation. As a society that has embraced public urination – I dined opposite a public urinal on Hoxton Square a few weeks ago – how is this show of defiance from Sports Direct still acceptable?
They need to man up, apologise for the embarrassment caused and take a good look at their staff training. And I wonder what will happen the next time a member of their PR team gets challenged breastfeeding a baby in public?