Thursday, September 20, 2007

Carnival of Feminists #45

Thanks to Jender and the Feminist Philosophers for sponsoring Carnival of Feminists no. 45!

And also, for posting an update on the breastfeeding rights case.

Sophie Currier has had her day in court, and she lost. Boston Globe article here, and Sophie Currier's "Accomodate Nursing" blog is here.

As Jender notes, the comments on the case all around are mixed and sometimes dismaying, including those at the MomsRising site I've linked to.
What are the issues raised?

1. Ignorance.
How many people know what pumping milk is like except by having pumped? For one thing, there is a lot of variability in how long it takes mothers to set up the pump, relax enough to have the milk flow, pump the milk, restore one's dress and composure, store the milk, and clean the apparatus. Twenty to thirty minutes is not unrealistic. How often also depends on the mother and on the age of the baby, but once every three to four hours is about right.

2. Fairness.
Is it fair that one test-taker should receive more breaks or a longer time to take the test than another? First, I do not see why it is relevant that Dr. Currier has an accomodation for another reason that is unrelated to this reason.
Second, if the test is set up so that a score below a certain level is failing while a higher score passes, then she is competing against the test, not against other test-takers. The question is whether she is competent to practice medicine, not whether she is more or less competent than the person sitting to her right.

3. Privacy
One proposal was that she be allowed to pump but not in private. That is ridiculous. At the same time that breastfeeding privacy was being questioned in this case, there have been several recent cases in which a mother was thrown off of a plane (Delta Airlines) for breastfeeding and a mother was asked to cover up at Appleby's. It now sounds as though Dr. Currier will be offered a private room.

4. Mothers and work
A frequent comment is that mothers should not expect that they can both breastfeed a child and be employed outside the home. To Dr. Currier, the courts have essentially sent this message, saying that she should plan to take the test when she's done breastfeeding. What can I say to this? Where can I even start?
But the reality of course is that some jobs are not easily compatible with breastfeeding or mothering. Dr. Currier says she did try to take this into account. It is the reason she had children while in medical school rather than wait until her residency.
So what this court decision comes down to is that it pressures women with young children to stay home with them.

5. Support breastfeeding
Since foregoing employment is simply not an option for many women, either because they need earnings to support their family or because they are heavily invested in a profession (academia, medicine, law) which prevents women from taking time off, this court decision effectively discourages women from breastfeeding. The current medical recommendation is to nurse babies for a minimum of one year. WHO recommends nursing for two years. The public sphere in the US needs to catch up with these recommendations.

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