Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Twitter argument of the day: Breast feeding in public

I hate Twitter. All the great energy and arguments that were once found on my threads have migrated there. One such argument took place this morning and I, who have also migrated to Twitter, participated.

It started when @azigra brazenly flashed a photo of someone breastfeeding her child on a subway. I think he did this because the woman is some kind of celebrity and also some kind of Jew, and @azigra was hoping to provoke a knife fight over the "is-she or is-she-not Orthodox" question. Or maybe not. Its hard to parse motives on Twitter.

Knives did come out, however, to settle the "is-breast-feeding-on-a-subway appropriate" question. As often happens on Twitter, the pros and cons of both sides were politely discussed in overwhelming detail. After everyone had said their piece, we took a civilized vote before publicly renewing our vows of friendship.

Also, I was accused of being anti-woman.

I'm not sure why.

I tried to make it perfectly clear that I don't think mothers who breastfeed in public should be arrested. In fact, here is exactly what I said, "I don't think mothers who breastfeed in public should be arrested." I also don't think they should be abused, or harassed or insulted in anyway. I won't even raise my eyebrows at them.

But the fact that I tolerate it politely doesn't mean I think breastfeeding in public is okay. In a society, we tolerate lots of things we don't think are okay. Here are some of the other things I tolerate politely but really don't think are okay
  • People who scream boruch hu u'varuch shmo during Birchas Kohamnim
  • Men who rush out of shul to fetch their hats the moment musaf kedusha concludes
  • Egg salad with onions as the first course on shabbos.
  • Obese rear ends that have been uncomfortably squeezed into a pair of skinny jeans 
But the fact that I disapprove of these things doesn't mean I think they should be outlawed. I'm one person, with one opinion. Society is not obligated to pay those opinions any attention, and I am not asking for anything other than a fair exchange of ideas. Afterwards, follow your heart.

In most cases, you're free to do as you please, and in most cases I'm not going to stop you. Public breastfeeding is one of those situations.  You can do it, if you must, but I'm not a sexist barbarian for silently disapproving.

UPDATE: The Twitter argument is still raging. Its become increasingly clear that this isn't merely about a woman's right to do as she pleases, a right I've already conceded in the case of public breast feeding. The Twitter militants on the other side of this argument not only want the absolute right to do anything they want anywhere they want, they also insist that I like it. My willingness to tolerate it quietly isn't good enough. I have to applaud it, too.

Search for more information about sexist barbarians at 4torah.com


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