Monday, July 03, 2006

It's no Secret, Victoria

The latest brouhaha (or bra-ha-ha?) isn’t about breastfeeding. It’s not about public exposure. It’s not about whether a mom can leave home without a bottle, or whether anyone “wants’ to see her feeding the baby.
This issue is about discretion and about respect.
To summarize, a mother was shopping in a Victoria’s Secret store and her baby became hungry. She asked to use a dressing room to nurse the child, and the store staff refused. She offered to tuck herself into a back area of the dressing area’s hallway; again, they told her no. They offered her the employee bathroom, which was less than sanitary, and she said that was unacceptable. When she called later on to follow up, the store manager managed to insult the mother by telling her that customer’s might be offended by the sight of her breast.
The sight of a breast? In Victoria’s Secret? How absurd.
I’m not going to address the choice to breastfeed and its positive effects on babies’ health. I’m not going to tell you that the manikins, catalogs, and displays at this shop show more breast than any nursing mother I’ve known. Both are true, but irrelevant.
This is about discretion. The mother wanted to discretely feed her hungry baby. She asked for an opportunity to do so, and she was refused. She asked for another discrete alternative, and was again turned down. She was then shown an unsanitary, unacceptable place to nurse, and chose to leave instead.
This is about respect. The mother wanted to respect others around her and feed the baby promptly, preventing a noisy scene. She wanted to respect others in the store by nursing her baby out of sight of the customers – in a dressing room or an unobtrusive corner. She wanted to maintain her own self-respect by handling the feeding chore in a more private place. The store staff refused her. The store manager further alienated her with his disrespectful comment.
Yes, we live in a society where discretion is rare, and respect often rarer. When a customer asks for a chance to be discrete and is met with a disrespectful response, the store will lose a customer, guaranteed. When the store manager responds later with an even less respectful comment, the store is likely to lose not only the individual customer, but damage its national image in the process.
Discretion and respect, folks. Think about it.
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