Carry On, Sister

by on April 25, 2011



New here?

You'll probably want to hear about how I became an accidental lactivist first. And maybe see some of the media coverage.

Over the next few weeks I'll be talking about what happened after the hoopla. My thoughts on the news coverage, what's happening with the human rights complaint, why people are sending me hate mail for breastfeeding, and more. Check back often.

When I first put up this blog, I thought maybe 30 people would read it. And I would know them all. Try almost 14,000 so far. And I definitely don’t want to know them all.

Why? Because some of them are truly horrible people.

I was kicked out of a store for breastfeeding and this blog has been a great way to get my story out. It’s also been truly inspiring the wonderful positive response I’ve received from complete strangers. Just go to my original post and read the comments.

On the other hand, there are still some people in this world who think that the best way to keep a woman quiet is to threaten her with violence. Yes, even for breastfeeding.


Now I’m not talking about the people who respectfully disagree with me. I don’t actually expect the whole world to agree with me, I just expect them to respect the law.

I’m also not talking about the people who post anonymous comments on news sites. People who are so ashamed of their opinions that they can’t take credit for them by using their real names can’t really be taken seriously. As a friend mentioned to me, “Trolls can’t help but be a disagreeable species.” (Thanks S.!)

I’m talking about the people who have singled me out for personal attack.

Now I’m a pretty tough cookie (or I like to think so), but some of the comments and emails I’ve received have been truly awful.

Individuals have written to me in the comments of my blog to tell me I’m a “whiny feminist b%$ch”. They’ve told me that I’m “not a lady”. They’ve told me that I’m responsible for “the decline of traditional values.” Yes, all by myself. Who knew a single breastfeeding mother could do that in one afternoon at the mall?

People have singled me out on twitter to tell me that they think breastfeeding in public is like masturbating in public.

After my story hit the news I also started getting hate email. Individuals have written to tell me they want to come to my house, and expose themselves in front of my children. And much worse.

Now I know what you’re thinking… those things sound horrible, but it’s not really violence, is it? Yes, it is.

The United Nations defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

Threat of physical, sexual, mental harm? Check. Threats of the same against my daughters? Check. Arbitrary deprivation of liberty? Check.

Now are there worse cases of violence against women? Of course! And this blog post is not in any way intended to diminish the injustice of those instances. But there should be no cases.

And yes, don’t worry I have logged and saved all the email addresses and ip addresses just in case. Though I think it’s discouraging that I now have to save a file full of letters describing the violent and often sick things that individuals want to do to me and my children on my own computer.

All this for breastfeeding.

And of course the next question you probably have: “So why bother? Why go through all that?”.

Because it’s important. Because too many mothers have have had their human rights violated. They’ve been disrespected. They’ve been shamed. They’ve been threatened. How do I know? They write to me to tell me.

We live in a world where large newspapers think it is appropriate to publish columns that publicly shame breastfeeding mothers, by name.

We live in a world where journalists feel comfortable asking me directly if I staged a breastfeeding incident.

We live in a world where I can tell by the search terms that people follow to get to my website that there are some very sick people out there with some very disturbing views on breastfeeding.

I am very lucky. I am privileged enough to know my rights. I feel comfortable talking to the press. I speak two languages well enough to manoeuvre through both the media, and the Quebec human rights tribunal. I am technically savy enough to know how to use twitter and to set up a blog to tell my story.

But how much harder would it be if I were a new mother, or a young mother, or a woman of colour, or an immigrant mother, or a differently abled mother, or a single mother, or a gay mother, or a poor or homeless mother? How much easier would it be to shame me, or silence me, or threaten me?

Of all the wonderful messages of support I received, one stood out. It was from a stranger. She wrote to tell me that she had fought for the right to breastfeed her children in public 30 years ago and had hoped the fight was over. She could have been my mother.  “So, Sister, carry on and know all women who know the joys of holding their babies in their arms and to their breasts support you”.

In 30 years from now, one of the young mothers I’ll see out there could well be my daughter and I sure as hell hope I don’t have to tell her that the fight isn’t over yet.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. –  Mahatma Gandhi

At least we’re at the fighting stage. Next comes the winning.



17 comments

Wow… I’m ashamed to live in a society that treats women this way. I’ve also read some of the nasty comments left at the end of blogs, columns, etc. It’s really disgusting. I’ve got your back, and thankfully, thousands of others do too. Thank you for standing up for what we shouldn’t have to stand up for. I didn’t breastfeed in public until this incident happened, actually. And now I do so, proudly. Thanks for that, too. You’re just awesome to me :)

by Valerie Gouin on April 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm. #

Big hugs, sister, big hugs.

by Kathryn on April 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm. #

Thanks. Hugs accepted!

by Another Mother on April 26, 2011 at 1:12 pm. #

Grace a des femmes comme toi, aujourd’hui, j’ai allaité mon garçon dans la serre des Papillons en Liberté. Sans recevoir un seul regard surpris, choqué ou désapprobateur…

by Catherine on April 25, 2011 at 4:49 pm. #

I cannot tell you how sorry I am that you have to endure such stupidity. I think that you are a great mom, doing what all great mom’s (and dads) do…taking care of your child.

Sorry that you have to fight the fight in public – you deserve better but more so does your child…after all the little one was just hungry…I hope that better days are ahead for all of us on this NON-ISSUE. (what should be that is).

Best.

P.

by Peter Bailey on April 25, 2011 at 5:30 pm. #

It should be a non-issue. It should be like walking – lots of people do it, no one pays much attention. Luckily, for most people it already is.

by Another Mother on April 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm. #

I truly can’t believe how horrible people are! I really don’t know what else can be said!

by Julie on April 25, 2011 at 5:32 pm. #

I live in the U.S. so I probably can’t sign the petition. This is just a word of support for you and your lucky baby. I’m 72 now, but when I had babies, I nursed them everywhere and I do mean everywhere. Good luck.

by Pat on April 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm. #

Shannon,
We all fight together and we stay strong. What some people may not realize when they send these horrible emails is that they are possibly committing a criminal offence. We have asked the government for laws to protect public breastfeeding and most times the government doesn’t believe they are needed. Well you are providing the proof that it is needed 100%. If you wish to present this to our provincial government I will help you get in touch with the right people and depending on the elections May 2nd I am happy to also bring this to the federal ministers. I have sent to each of the candidates a letter asking what they intend to do to support breastfeeding mothers and to implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. I mentioned that millions of mothers will be asking that question on voting day when making their decision. We know it takes a village to raise a child, it also take a village to support the mother and family of that child. I am happy to be part of your village. Way to go girl!

by Carole Dobrich on April 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm. #

Thank you for being strong and representing all of us who stand, not behind you, but beside you ready to fight.

I’m sorry that there are such idiots in the world…I mean how the HELL do they think babies are SUPPOSED to be fed? How did they do it back in the caveman days? Sterile plastic baggies filled with formula in plastic bottles with latex-free nipples? Sheesh!

by Canadian Army Wife on April 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm. #

Luckily, in the history of human life, 99.99999999999% of people have agreed that babies should be breastfed whenever possible. A teeny tiny minority thinks otherwise.

by Another Mother on April 26, 2011 at 1:18 pm. #

J’ai toujours allaité mes enfants en public mais avant cet incident si une salle d’allaitement était disponible je m’y rendais pour les allaiter. Depuis cet incident, j’ai changé mes habitudes. Étant une femme de couleur (mi-noire, mi-blanche) si j’ai pu m’asseoir en avant dans l’autobus quand j’allais à l’université, fréquenter les mêmes écoles et boire dans les même abreuvoirs que les “Blancs”, et si je peux m’afficher publiquement avec mon conjoint “Blanc” c’est parce qu’un jour un “Noir” s’est dit ça suffit et un mouvement de masse s’en est suivi qui a amené la Société dans laquelle je vis à évoluer. Alors depuis cet incident je me fais un devoir d’allaiter en public en dehors des salles d’allaitement qu’elles soient disponibles ou non. Aujourd’hui j’ai allaité au IKÉA sur un banc dans le corridor menant au comptoir de service (tous les bancs au service étaient pris sinon je me serais installée là) à côté d’un homme âgé et en face d’une famille avec des ados en train de manger une crème glacée. Ensuite je suis allée chez Costo et devinez quoi ma fille a encore eu faim alors je l’ai allaitée à la foire alimentaire en piquant une jasette à un homme qui attendait en ligne au comptoir de service et qui ne s’est jamais rendu compte que j’allaitais. Je le fais parce que j’espère qu’un jour mes filles auront la chance d’allaiter en public sans se poser de question ou se sentir mal à l’aise et que mon fils se sentira à l’aise que sa conjointe (s’il en a une) allaite en public et qu’en fait la Société se sente mal qu’il en fut un jour autrement…

by Annie on April 25, 2011 at 7:30 pm. #

C’est vrai. Ça suffit. Pour nous et pour nos enfants. Merci d’avoir partagé votre histoire et votre courage.

by Another Mother on April 26, 2011 at 1:21 pm. #

Though I wish this was a fight no woman had to fight, I am proudly behind you and believe wholeheartedly breastfeeding, whether in public or not, is the most natural loving thing we can do for our babies. Stay strong, there are many, many women like me behind you. Our daughters will hopefully never have to endure any of this nonsense because of voices like yours.

by Angela on April 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm. #

So sad all of this is happening to you, specially because you where feeding your baby… it’s ridiculous how people can react to such good values!! I support you 100%!!

by Kelly on April 25, 2011 at 8:08 pm. #

Je te remercie de persévérer et d’être “le visage” des femmes qui allaitent et qui ont le droit de le faire! Je suis vraiment désolée que tu reçoives autant de désagréments et d’énergie négative. J’ose espérer que les encouragements sont beaucoup plus nombreux.

Ton histoire m’as permis d’arrêter d’être stressée et d’enfin sortir avec ma poupoune au lieu de rester cachée chez moi. Tu m’as donné du courage. Ma petite est sevrée, mais je compte bien sortir dès le début avec mes prochains enfants!

by Julie on April 25, 2011 at 8:19 pm. #

This is crazy. I am so sorry you are being subjected to yet more discrimination. You are, as you said, one tough cookie. I am one of the many mums who wrote my story of recently being kicked out of a place for breast feeding. Just four short months later, and just outside of montreal.
I am not nearly as technically savvy as you, but I’ve managed to hack out my story on a very basic blog page, http://www.nipblues.blogspot.com
I’m hoping to generate enough interest to do another nurse-in soon.
Thanks again for being strong enough for all of us.

by Kama Hamilton on April 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm. #