As some of the commentary on this post has again shown, there are some topics that many people are incapable of thinking about objectively and dispassionately. Breast-feeding is evidently one of those topics, and by complete coincidence—you think I plan these things?—another breast-feeding controversy has raised its nippled head.
The Dutch airline KLM is under fire for its policy regarding breast-feeding mothers in flight. The policy is that breastfeeding is allowed onboard as long as no other passengers are offended by the practice. Otherwise, mothers are asked to use a blanket, or retreat to the rest rooms.
“To ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this,” the airline clarified in a tweet this week.
In ethics, this is called a “reasonable and fair policy.” I would have avoided the term “offended.” Mothers who just flip out a breast and allow a kid to chow down in public—sometimes kids as old as five, in one restaurant episode of my own experience—aren’t being offensive; they are just deliberately or negligently making others around them uncomfortable by engaging in an intimate act and exposing body parts that society generally regards as warranting some cover in polite society. No, it’s not offensive. Immodest? Yes. Rude? Yes. Inconsiderate? Yup. Defiant? Sure. It’s also feminist grandstanding. Using a blanket to partially keep the activity between mother and child is hardly an unreasonable requirement, that is, unless one believes that nobody else matters, and civility is an outmoded construct.
The argument for punishing KLM—of course, there is the threat of a boycott–is pretty much the same from all critics. Well, not all critics: here’s a bad analogy from Chris van Tulleken, a doctor in London:
“For the comfort of passengers from racist or homophobic backgrounds would they ask people to cover skin and identifiers?”
- Is there any topic where progressives won’t resort to playing the race card to avoid a fair discussion?
- No, Dr,. but I suspect most passengers would want to see male-on-male fellatio covered up on a flight, whether they were homophobic or not. You see, the issue is whether something makes people uncomfortable for legitimate reasons, as in “I did not book a flight to watch your biological functions in action.”
Most of the angry defenses of breast-feeding in mid-air, however, echo Catherine Noone, deputy leader of the Irish Senate, who wrote, “Breast feeding is the most natural thing in the world and shouldn’t make anyone of any culture uncomfortable. Shocking response from KLM.”
- Wait—I thought the emerging progressive consensus was that if anything “offended” anybody, that was enough to ban the conduct or words involved, and the standard was entirely subjective. Now the argument is that being made uncomfortable only matters if the breast-feeders of the world say so? I’m confused.
- Who is anybody to tell me or anyone else what we are allowed to find discomforting? Why is openly breastfeeding different from saying “fuck” or “cunt” in public, or talking too loud, going topless, or any number of other activities that are considered uncivil, immodest, or rude? It isn’t. The hypocritical bias toward this particular conduct is the familiar feminist chic and the “Think of the children!” rationalization.
- OK, breast-feeding is natural: stipulated. I wouldn’t say that breastfeeding is “the most natural thing in the world”—it’s exactly as natural as defecation, urinating, flatulence, sexual intercourse, and masturbation, none of which I care to see on my flights.
If “it’s natural” is all the open-breast-feeding advocates have—and it is—then they don’t have a case.