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.