Ethics Quiz: Positive Devlopment Or Slippery Slope?

This ad will run on the NBC Golden Globes Award broadcast:

A similar commercial had previously been rejected by ABC.

Cowabunga! Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:.

Is presenting this commercial on a prime time broadcast network a positive development for society?

Or, in the alternative, is it feminist grandstanding by NBC? Will it inevitably lead to graphic male enhancement ads?  If women can be topless in this commercial, on what basis will anyone be able to argue that breast-bearing shouldn’t be routine in entertainment programming?

More Breast-Feeding Ethics

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?”

Two thoughts… Continue reading

From The “Things I’d Prefer Not To Think About” Files: The Daughter’s Breast Milk

Georgia on the right, her two patrons on the left…

An ABC News story from 2009 turned up on my ethics radar.

Tim Browne, a retired teacher and musician from Wiltshire, England, was diagnosed with colon cancer. He was operated on a week before his daughter’s wedding, but  the cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes. Doctors said it was terminal.

While he was undergoing chemotherapy, his daughter suggested an unconventional treatment: her breast milk. She had seen a TV report about an American man who had  made a miraculous recovery from prostate cancer by drinking it. Soon Tim was having his morning cereal with daughter Georgia’s milk.

Georgia was nursing her 8-month-old son Monty and offered to set aside a few ounces of milk every day for Browne. Browne started calling Monty his “milk brother.” “If I have a lactating daughter, why not take advantage of her? As long as Monty didn’t mind,” Browne said.

There’s no evidence that breast milk really does treat cancer, but doctors said that as long as Browne believed it did, the succor might have a genuine placebo effect.

What do we properly call a father consuming his daughter’s breast milk? Is that too close to incest for comfort?Does it matter if it’s close, as long as it isn’t quite? Continue reading

Ethics Dilemma: What Can Be Done About People Like This? [Poll Included]

Hold on to your skulls…

Social media can spread stupidity like a viral plague. Is there anything  ethical and constitutional  that can be done to protect the imperiled children addled  mothers like this may raise?

[Related Ethics Alarms posts here (feeding kittens a vegan diet) and here (dogs).]

The Breast-Feeding Professor

“Uh, Captain? Captain? We really need you up in the plane, now—we’re under attack…”

This story reads as if it were invented just to cause arguments on Ethics Alarms.

Adrienne Pine, a professor at American University, was faced with a choice: stay home and care for her baby, who had a fever, or take the child to class. She chose to take the infant to the first meeting of her “Sex, Gender and Culture” course, where the child spent her lecture alternately on her mother’s back or crawling around the room, or, at one point, being breast-fed by the professor. Pine’s Full Mommy breast-feeding act was commented upon by the school newspaper, and Prof. Pine responded to inquiries by a student reporter with a dismissive, “…the baby got hungry, so I had to feed it during the lecture. End of story,” and a defensive and defiant  blog entry. She sees nothing wrong with her conduct, and regards the controversy as proof that ” a feminist anthropology course is necessary at AU.”

That’s playing the ol’ Mommy Card with gusto, Professor Pine.

She is dead wrong, as a matter of professional ethics. As a college professor,Pine has limited demands on her time, and the one thing that she is required to do is to devote full attention to her students in class. With an infant, an ill infant at that, in her care, she could not do that. She had a pure and unresolvable conflict of interest, and it was a breach of her duty to her child (at one point a student had to tell her that the baby had a paper clip in her mouth) and a breach of duty to her students (if they were watching the baby, and later that breast-feeding exhibition, they were not able to give full attention to her lecture). She had a choice to make: do one job or the other, because it is impossible to do them both at the same time. Continue reading