Show of hands: Who among us breastfeeding moms hasn't gotten a little side-eye when we nursed in public? Or a subtle eye roll? Or even a not-so-subtle finger point? As tough as those can be, Conner Kendall may have experienced a new breed of judgment: the social media shaming.
It all started when the young mama was sitting in a Terre Haute, Indiana, T.G.I. Friday's, getting a bite to eat. Her baby was hungry—it had been three hours since his last meal. With her car parked far away, no nursing station in sight, and no desire to nurse in the pubic bathroom, she decided to breastfeed at the table. She turned away from the crowd and nursed her son sans cover (he fights it and won't eat while under one). Afterward, she pulled up her shirt and figured that was that.
But it wasn't—not by a long shot. That's because a man sitting three tables away with his daughter was so put off by the al fresco feeding that he took a surreptitious photo of Kendall and—are you ready for this?—posted it on Facebook and Instagram as a supposed question for other moms. He wrote, "Ok moms out there.. I know when a baby is Hungry they need fed. [sic] I went to know if this is appropriate or inappropriate as I'm trying to eat my Fridays, there are little kids around.. I understand feeding in public but could you at least cover your boob up?! Your input is needed!"
A friend of Kendall's saw the photo and reposted it on her mom group's private Facebook page, which is where the unsuspecting Kendall first spotted it. Meanwhile, she also received a firestorm of criticism from people who came across the post, which was reposted several times before it was finally taken down. Enraged, she sent the man a private message that she later posted on her own Facebook page. In it, she wrote that by taking and posting the photo, the man "violated the rights of not only me, but my child. ... I get that you felt uncomfortable looking at my breasts. Here is a novel idea, don't look at them." She also said he "inspired me into a call of action. Rest assured, there will be action. Not only by me, the one you violated, but others like me who feel you violated them and their rights. Those that you are degrading by shaming the act of feeding their child."
The man responded with close-minded gems like, "If the baby was going to get hungry then stay home" and "If it's a natural thing then why can't men carry around urinals and use them wherever, whenever? That's a natural bodily function too! Same thing." (Nope. Not even close.)
Perhaps sensing that her conversation with the man was going nowhere, Kendall decided to fight fire with fire and posted an open letter on Facebook, which so far has been shared nearly 73,000 times. In it, she wrote, "Let's show everyone that we will not stand for being put down, shamed, and harassed for simply fulfilling our children's most basic need. We as a society should embrace the fact that God made mothers able to feed our children from our own breasts. We need to educate ourselves, society, and our children on the fact that breasts are not made to sell lingerie, food, clothes, electronics, and just about everything else out there, we were given them to feed our babies, that's it. ALL MOMMIES SHOULD BE ABLE TO FEED THEIR BABIES WHENEVER, WHEREVER, AND HOWEVER THEY CHOOSE!"
Kendall told People.com that the response has been "absolutely positive" so far. There's been no response from the man who started it all.
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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
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Screen shot courtesy of Conner Kendall via Facebook