Rights and more rights

I began reading with interest the recent letter concerning the breastfeeding incident at Denny’s, until the writer began to list the virtues of breastfeeding the infant and the benefits of bonding and nutrition [“Milk of Human Kindness,” Feb. 25]. In no way do I want to negate the benefits of breastfeeding, but I feel that listing the benefits is missing the point.

I believe the point of argument concerns the appropriateness of feeding the infant in public without taking into account the other people [around you]. I do not wish to walk in a public right of way and see someone’s butt crack exposed—be it male or female. I also am tired of looking at the top of boxer shorts or thongs. I believe that some municipality has recently outlawed the exposure of underwear. I do not consider it appropriate to expose anyone around to views of underwear or butt cracks. I know that it is easy to turn your head to escape the sight—which I do. That being true, it is extremely difficult to look away when sitting in a small dining room, perhaps with children, if perhaps the breastfeeding mother is directly in front of the viewer. The mother should also consider the feelings of others, and merely turn or otherwise cover the child until lunch is over. I do not [support] asking the mother and child to go to a bathroom to finish, because we all know the condition of most public restrooms.

I understand that the mother in question asked for an apology from Denny’s, which she received. Now she and her support group are asking for a written policy for all Denny’s restaurants, supporting the right to breastfeed in public. Although I support the right of mothers to feed their children in public, I also support the right of others not to have to view the sight or move their position—giving up their rights to someone else.

— Kent Obergfell
Asheville

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12 thoughts on “Rights and more rights

  1. BusGreg

    With all due respect, feeding a baby is nothing to be ashamed of, quite the contrary it is natural and beautiful. To see offense in this most natural of situations is nothing more than an absurd notion of modesty and warped sense of sexuality. There is nothing sexual in a baby being breast fed.
    As far as butt cracks are concerned, get real, the Country is falling appart and that is what concerns people???

  2. Kriss

    Equating breastfeeding with boxer shorts, thongs, underwear, and butt cracks really speaks volumes about the distorted view of breastfeeding this writer seems to have.

    “I do not wish to walk in a public right of way and see someone’s…”

    The operative words here are “public right of way.” The “public” has a right to appear in any way it chooses in public as long as no law is being violated and no one is being harmed. Perhaps if you are unable to accept what other law abiding citizens may be wearing or may be doing while in that “public right of way,” then perhaps it is you who has the problem – not them.

    “The mother should also consider the feelings of others…”

    Yes, we’ve heard all this before. You’ve really got this backward. The only feelings a nursing mother should be considering are those of her baby. Those around her should be considering *her* feelings, not the other way around. A nursing mother deserves respect, not selfish judgment.

    “I also support the right of others not to have to view the sight or move their position—giving up their rights to someone else.”

    The “right” not to “view the sight”? There is no such “right.” Nobody has a right to not be offended. Did you think you did? So there’s no “right” that is being given up by anyone. There is however an actual right that you would like to take away from someone, and that is the right of the mother to breastfeed in public in any manner she chooses. She has that right under the law. You do not have a right to have your overly sensitive eyes shielded from it.

    And I would love the writer to explain how the sight of a mother breastfeeding does any harm whatsoever to him or anyone else.

  3. “The operative words here are “public right of way.”

    Denny’s is not a public right of way it is a private business. A privately owned business should be able to dictate it’s own dress code, some private businesses will not let you in to dine if you are not wearing a coat and tie, is it my right to not wear a coat and tie? yes, but i can not go to these places.

    Breastfeeding is awesome and nothing to be ashamed of, I think it is a very foolish policy for Denny’s to have, but I support there right to use there private property as they see fit. If you want to fight this issue the only legitimate recourse is boycott Denny’s.

  4. Kriss

    “Public right of way” was the letter writer’s words, not mine. I took that to mean anywhere out in public. Perhaps he only meant a street or sidewalk, I’m not sure. But regardless, if a private business is open to the public, then if you are there, you are, by definition, in public. And my point was that when you are out in public (on a street OR in a private business) you are likely to occasionally see things you’d rather not see. And you have no particular right to be shielded from those sights that may be unpleasant to you.

    But what does breastfeeding have to do with dress codes? There is no way any business could legally institute a dress code that would in any way preclude a mother’s right to breastfeed her baby in that business. The right of a woman to breastfeed her baby in public doesn’t compare in any way to your analogy of a coat and tie requirement. The reason is that there is law that specifically gives a woman the right to breastfeed in public as well as private places. There is no law that specifically gives you a right to not wear a coat and tie.

  5. Piffy!

    I’m confused why everyone “against” breastfeeding (or against this particular incident, or whatever) just assumes that this woman’s breasts was flailing about. I was not there, and I dont have the facts, so I’m obviously not going to make that kind of assumption. You could equally assume she was being very discrete.

    And considering the amount of cleavage i can see just about anywhere, anytime, the notion that a woman breastfeeding is “offensive” is just absurd. Grow up. Do you avert your eyes from a beautiful woman’s cleavage? I doubt it.

  6. Kriss

    “And considering the amount of cleavage i can see just about anywhere, anytime, the notion that a woman breastfeeding is ‘offensive’ is just absurd.”

    I agree completely. What I think the problem is with most people who complain about this, is not some glimpse a some small portion of a human breast, something most people see everyday anyway, but just the idea of what the breast is being used for at that moment. The fact that it’s being used for its natural purpose, that is to nourish an infant, is somehow more disturbing to a few people than the breast’s more common purpose nowadays of being a blatant sexual object. If anything, it seems like a more appropriate reaction in people should be a feeling of happiness and joy at the sight of a young mother and child doing what young mothers and their infants have done since the beginning of time. An opposite reaction from anyone is really inappropriate and certainly disrespectful to the nursing mother.

  7. Piffy!

    >>”The fact that it’s being used for its natural purpose, that is to nourish an infant, is somehow more disturbing to a few people than the breast’s more common purpose nowadays of being a blatant sexual object”<< I keep saying that all she needs a nike sponsorship in breastfeeding and everyone will be cool with it. Maybe Budweiser. I bet you can see more cleavage on the waitresses at Denny's than you could on the breastfeeding mother. I wonder if these same people are equally offended by exposed ankles and necks?

  8. ” The “public” has a right to appear in any way it chooses in public as long as no law is being violated and no one is being harmed.
    whew so I do have the right to not where a tie.

    Public = Street right of ways, Sidewalks, Post Office, Courthouse, etc.
    Private = Denny’s, Church, private residences, etc.
    I am not defending anyone’s right to not be offended. I will restate that I am personally not offended by breastfeeding, and if it were up to me then women could breastfeed anywhere, the problem is I do not own Denny’s. I defend Denny’s right to enforce it’s own stupid policy because it is private property.
    You do not have a right to eat a Denny’s. Ever seen the sign “we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone”
    Don’t like Denny’s breastfeeding policy? Dine elsewhere.

  9. Piffy!

    “I defend Denny’s right to enforce it’s own stupid policy because it is private property. ”

    even if that policy is against the law? Even if it isn’t actually a stated “policy”?

  10. Ashevegasjoe

    Look, I love breasts, I wish they were all exposed. But, it really comes down to belief systems. I think it’s absurd to think Jonah survived in the belly of a “big fish”, but a lot of people do. These same people want to raise their children to fear the breast, and I support it entirely. Have respectt for the puritans, wear some sort of blanket or cover, like 99% of the other breastfeeding moms and there would be no issue. It amazes me that people are so invested in this made-up conflict when our economy is in the crapper. It is so easy to be respectful of both sides, this whole thread is tiresome.

    And if breast feeding is so healthy, how does it compare when the mother is eating at Denny’s?? I mean, if you drink beer, the baby gets beer. If you eat crap, does the baby not get crap?

  11. You are correct I should not have not used policy. The actions of Denny’s was not against the law. The law protects mothers from indecent exposure prosecution, but it does not override the right of the business owner to refuse service. Please remember I support public breastfeeding.

    AVJ – you are correct I got caught up in this silly “made-up conflict”, I am usually more cautious, thanks for the wake up call.

  12. Kriss

    JMAC wrote: “whew so I do have the right to not where a tie.”

    Of course you do. I never said you didn’t. What I said was, “There is no law that specifically gives you a right to not wear a coat and tie.” That does not mean you don’t have the right. IANAL, but I believe in the United States – quite often referred to a “free country” – there has always been the premise that citizens have a right to do anything they want, that is, unless there is a specific law that denies or restricts that right. It’s not the other way around, that is, it’s not that we have no rights at all unless otherwise specifically granted. However, in order to avoid the possibility of certain important rights of people being denied by others or unfairly legislated away, many rights have in fact been specifically granted or “enumerated.” The North Carolina law giving a mother the specific right to breastfeed in public is one example. That does not mean that absent such a law she would not have a right to breastfeed in public. However, without such a law, her actions might have been citable under other statutes, such as laws against indecent exposure.

    “Public = Street right of ways, Sidewalks, Post Office, Courthouse, etc.
    Private = Denny’s, Church, private residences, etc.”

    I think you are only going by the very narrow definition of public vs. private as it relates to government owned vs. non-government owned. With the exception of a private residence – and possibly some churches – each of these you listed is open to the public, and the same laws and rights apply to you wherever you are. As to the right to have someone ejected from a premises, a government agency has just as much right to tell you to leave as a private business owner does. In fact, even on a street or sidewalk, local law enforcement has a right to have you removed under certain circumstances.

    “Ever seen the sign ‘we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone'[?]”

    Yes, I’ve seen such signs, but not recently. They were quite prevalent in many businesses back during the civil rights struggles in order to keep out blacks who were attempting to get served in previously white-only businesses. Nowadays, such a statement by any business is false – because they indeed do not have a right to refuse service to “anyone.” I’ve been in that particular Denny’s a number of times, and not only have I never seen such a sign there, I am quite sure that no Denny’s would ever post such a divisive statement.

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