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Maternal Instinct by armyofone(m): 11:19am On Sep 13, 2012
Feminist Anthropology Professor Blasted for Breastfeeding During Class

Anthropology professor Adrienne Pine. (Photo: American University)It's a dilemma that many working moms face: What do you do when your child is too sick to go to school but you have a can't-miss obligation at the office?

For Adrienne Pine, a single mom and an assistant professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C., the choice seemed clear. When her infant daughter woke up with a fever on August 28, the first day of Pine's class on Sex, Gender and Culture, Pine decided to bring her baby along.

Related: 9 things you should never say to working moms

Everything went smoothly for the first part of the 75-minute long lecture. Little Lee hung out happily for a while, strapped to her mom's back, crawling along on the floor by her feet, and being held and rocked by a teaching assistant, who insisted on helping even after Pine told her that babysitting wasn't part of the job description. But then the baby grew restless. Without stopping the lecture, Pine breastfed her child briefly, and the baby fell asleep.

Related: Alberta politician brings baby to work, in spite of complaints

The next day, Pine discovered that some of her students had complained. And she received an email from a reporter at the school newspaper asking to "discuss what happened in class." What started out as a run-of-the mill working mom's dilemma has since mushroomed into a massive discussion about breastfeeding in the workplace.

Pine, who describes herself as a militant medical anthropologist, says that she wishes the incident wasn't considered "newsworthy." In an essay she posted this week on Counterpunch.org, she writes that she has always tried to distance herself from lactivism, sees the benefits of both breast and bottle feeding, and doesn't think of breastfeeding as "a sacred or delicate feat." She breastfeeds her own child, she explained, "because it's a guaranteed food supply for my baby when I'm traveling, it's free, I can, and I hate cleaning bottles. … it has just been the easiest way (for me) to make sure the baby gets fed."

"I had no intention of making a political statement or shocking students," she says she told a reporter for The Eagle, the school's newspaper. (Pine did not immediately respond to a request for an interview with Yahoo! Shine, and has declined to speak to other news outlets. The Eagle has not yet published their story.)

"If I considered feeding my child to be a "delicate" or sensitive act, I would not have done it in front of my students," Pine wrote. "Nor would I have spent the previous year doing it on buses, trains and airplanes; on busy sidewalks and nice restaurants; in television studios and while giving plenary lectures to large conferences." Pine, who has worked at American University for four years, says that the controversy has created a hostile working environment for her.

Some students were unfazed by the feeding. "She did what she had to do. She's a mother, and she needed to take care of her child," sophomore Nia McCarthy, who was in Pine's class that day, told WJLA-TV. "I don't think anyone was too distracted. She let us know that she was about to do it, so I wasn't too surprised. I think she handled it in the most professional way that she could."

Other students -- male and female -- disagreed.

"I feel like it was really unprofessional of her," Jeff Williams, a senior, told WJLA. "I feel like she should have at least stepped out of the room."

"I think what's inappropriate is that she brought her child to class in the first place," said sophomore Sarah Mireles. "It's very distracting to a lot of the students."

Officials at American University said that the school does not have an official policy about breast-feeding in class, but seemed to weigh in against Pine's decision to do so.

"A faculty member's conduct in the classroom must be professional," the university said in a statement on Tuesday. "Faculty may maintain a focus on professional responsibilities in the classroom by taking advantage of the options the university provides, including reasonable break times, private areas for nursing mothers to express milk, and leave in the case of a sick child."

"We're guided by federal and DC law, which do not prohibit or allow breast-feeding in certain environments," university spokeswoman Camille Lepre said in a second statement. "For the sake of the child and the public health of the campus community, when faced with the challenge of caring for a sick child in the case where backup childcare is not available, a faculty member should take earned leave and arrange for someone else to cover the class, not bring a sick child into the classroom."

In a country where female soldiers are reprimanded for breastfeeding while in uniform, is it fair to assume that breastfeeding at work -- even a feminist anthropology class -- would be OK?


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Re: Maternal Instinct by armyofone(m): 11:26am On Sep 13, 2012
I really don't know what to say here. I think women should be given more flexibility at work. Stay home if baby is sick/can't find sitter.
I think she could have rounded up the class. We all like that half day to go chill at Java cafe anyway.

I'm a fan of breastfeeding but can't imagine feeding and teaching college student grin
Re: Maternal Instinct by Nobody: 12:21pm On Sep 13, 2012
The least she could have done was to step aside and feed her baby. Will she dish out a plate of food and eat while teaching her students?
Nobody's saying breast-feeding is unnatural, but c'mon . . .
Re: Maternal Instinct by maclatunji: 1:38pm On Sep 13, 2012
Women shouldn't be made to feel that breastfeeding or taking care of their children is undesirable or "uncool". In this case, the lady shouldn't even be lecturing yet since she's still nursing. Her focus should be on her baby.

I understand that for several reasons this ideal may not be possible but it should be encouraged.

I also agree that employers should provide places where breastfeeding mothers can nurse their babies in private and peace. Motherhood is beautiful, let nobody seek to demean or belittle those who choose to be housewives because of their children.

I don't support ladies removing their boobs indiscriminately in public though all in the name of being baby-friendly. Discretion is advised.
Re: Maternal Instinct by EfemenaXY: 2:35pm On Sep 13, 2012
^^ Well said.

They ought to have provided a mother and baby room.

Most work places - even corporate ones have such rooms for discrete breastfeeding and expression of breast.milk
Re: Maternal Instinct by Kobojunkie: 3:00pm On Sep 13, 2012
I don't believe this story lays it all out as it should have been. A whole assistant professor in Anthropology does not have her own space or area in the school, yet PHD candidates in many schools have assigned study/research areas/rooms of their own? Come on!
Re: Maternal Instinct by maclatunji: 4:21pm On Sep 13, 2012
Kobojunkie: I don't believe this story lays it all out as it should have been. A whole assistant professor in Anthropology does not have her own space or area in the school, yet PHD candidates in many schools have assigned study/research areas/rooms of their own? Come on!

Do the research and bring us the full gist. I know it is easily within your capacity.
Re: Maternal Instinct by TheMadame(f): 5:10pm On Sep 13, 2012
Breas/t feeding is lovely and a natural way to feed an infant. It is healthier,economical and natural bonding between mother and child. However,there is a need for it to be done decently. Wiping out your breasts in front of an anthropology class looks like undue feminism to me. She should have sought a quiet corner to feed her baby.
Re: Maternal Instinct by dayokanu(m): 5:39pm On Sep 13, 2012

Do you mind feeding me like that too?
Re: Maternal Instinct by kay9(m): 3:17am On Apr 06, 2013
I'm wondering why this woman bothers to clothe her upper body at all. If she doesnt see anything wrong in going half-nude in public, why not bare them bosoms permanently? Afterall, the same explanation will serve: she's not making any statement, these are just ''baby food''.

Re: Maternal Instinct by kay9(m): 3:22am On Apr 06, 2013
Can't believe the word ''kn0cker$'' is censored. grin

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