Boobs On A Plane?! Breastfeeding Mom Told To Cover Up On American Airlines Flight
What a way to celebrate National Breastfeeding Month: a woman who was recently told to cover herself while breastfeeding on an American Airlines flight has learned that the airline's policy actually supports telling women to cover themselves while feeding their children. Uh, what?
As shared on Hannah Butta's Facebook page, a woman and mother (who wished to remain anonymous) described the situation she encountered a few weeks ago:
According to the woman, no other passengers voiced complaints to her or her husband, and she did not hear any complaints made to airline staff, either. Rightfully incensed about the treatment she received, she wrote to American Airlines and received a letter that stated:
Although I guess it makes sense that American Airlines can set their own policies, I'm shocked that the airline would even have a policy saying that "we ask that breast-feeding be done with certain discretion and a sense of modesty," considering that the majority of US states have laws which state that women can breastfeed in any public or private location — without using a cover. (P.S. American Airlines, breastfeeding is just one word...no hyphen necessary). I'm not a lawyer, obviously, but I think airplanes are considered private property, so shouldn't they be covered under these kinds of laws? (The woman in question was on a flight from Los Angeles to Virginia. California allows for breastfeeding anywhere and Virginia exempts breastfeeding from public indecency laws). Interestingly, American is the only airline with an official policy on breastfeeding, at least according to this 2012 article by travel advocate Christopher Elliott. This also isn't the first time American has offended a breastfeeding mom.
Regardless of their policy, it sounds as if this mom was shamed by American's flight attendant, which is never appropriate. It also sounds as this mother was in the optimal location on the plane for "modesty," in a window seat with her own husband next to her. I understand that some people may not want to see a woman breastfeeding, but that doesn't mean that people's personal preferences should infringe on her right to feed her child whenever and wherever she wants. Using public transportation (hell, going out in public!) comes with an inherent risk that you might see or experience things you'd rather not see or experience, from a parent disciplining his or her child, a person wearing inappropriate clothing to a person using offensive language and yes, a woman breastfeeding.
While concerns about politeness and modesty aren't unjustified, breastfeeding is a normal, natural act, a normal, natural process. Yes, breasts are secondary sex characteristics and yes, breastfeeding is a highly-fraught issue in our culture, but requiring a woman to cover up while participating in the nourishment of her child will always strike me as borderline misogynistic. Let's hope that drawing some attention to this mom's experience will force American Airlines to rethink their outdated, offensive policy—or at least how they communicate it to their customers.