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I am not sure I can come out for or against this issue, because I can see the positions on both sides, and I am going to lay them out there, and you can use what I observe, to make up your own mind. And I admit, I am going to go all over the place with women's roles in the military. Because to me, it's all interconnected.

If you haven't seen it already, there is a storm brewing over women, breastfeeding in the military. I have been out of the military for a while, so I can't say whether this has been an ongoing thing, or if this is just an issue that popped up after the publication of a certain photograph.

Right now, in this day and age, I will say, that women simply cannot win. We cannot be single, we cannot be chaste, we cannot be sexually active, we cannot be mothers, we cannot stay at home or have a job--really, truly, my observations make it very clear that the forces allied against free women, will be critical no matter what we do as individuals, or as a community.

I had mixed feelings when I first looked at the photograph of these two Air Force Women in Uniform, Breastfeeding. You can view the image here at the Huffington Post.

In a perfect world, on Xmas day, I would say that they should be more discreet. That they owe that to the uniform to respect the service that they are in. But that is not the world we live in or on. That being said, I know why they will be in trouble, and why it is highly likely that their careers will suffer or even be ended as a result. It will be because they allowed this photograph to happen, for a publication, in uniform with their lady-bits [i.e. mammary glands] partially exposed, and more than likely they did not run this by their command Public Relations personnel prior to this. Because usually when a military member is asked to participate in a press event, the command is consulted. Military Chain of Commands do not like surprises. And I suspect that this was a big one.

The article acknowledges that even though there are rules about what one can and cannot do while wearing the uniform, that Breastfeeding isn't covered. Similar issues came to the fore years ago with body modification and tattoos, but oddly enough, I think that this will be bigger and more controversial because it involves, women, and their boobs.

There are a lot of things you are not allowed to do in military uniform -- including eating or talking on a cell phone while walking (these are okay while standing still), keeping your hands in your pockets, chewing gum, holding hands, kissing and hugging (except during homecomings and deployments) -- according to a list of 11 such restrictions on the website of Veterans United. Technically, soldiers are also expected to always have their right hand free so they may salute at any moment.
So why would I have mixed feelings about this, if it appears to be so cut and dry? Because an alarming number of people act as if women in the military do not have normal family lives, or needs, and that this unrealistic imagining extends far beyond that time, to even when we retire or leave the service.

The VA is less than understanding about military vets who have children, and that is especially true it seems of female vets with children. Things have slowly been changing [or so I hear] but not nearly fast enough for my tastes or needs. The attitude I received from the VA was that, "That Baby didn't come with your Seabag!"

People used to and probably do still get very angry at female members who became pregnant while single and serving. Of course back in my day, you couldn't get an abortion even if you wanted one, thanks to the very old, NeoCon War on Women. So you think it's cool if you are married and get pregnant? NOPE, much grumbling there too. So you wait til you get out--STILL NO GO! How dare you get pregnant and think you are entitled to benefits, isn't that what your husband is for? Don't you have some relatives to baby sit for you?

Because the VA and the military are all about being sensitive to this stuff [note snark].

As if, being married for over a decade and getting out, would never lead to me having an infant at the breast and a toddler in tow. So I was unable to make appointments, because the VA was not supportive of my family condition, nor respectful of my needs as a mother to be with my small children and not just launch them like a football at any old homo-Sapien to watch, in order to make said appointments. Because you know it really is all about the VA and not about the Vet. I am sure there are male vets who have encountered similar problems, because there are fathers in uniform too.

And since many Vets are blue collar, enlisted, day care isn't just expensive, if the family is in dire straights, the cost can be prohibitive. And there is also something unbelievably wrong about leaving a child incapable of coherent speech with a total stranger. Call me silly, but that is how I feel about it.

So I look at this picture and I know that they will be in violation of uniform regulations. I feel for them, but I just cannot get angry about it, because I know that they cannot win. That females in the military are still fighting some pretty big fights about the integration of the forces. That there are still a large contingency of politicians and brass who cannot allow us to be fully functional women-soldiers and be mothers simultaneously, or even just non-pregnant women. That hurts their tiny brains. But, at the same time, women who satisfy their fantasy of sterile-Warrior-sHe-males will still get the raw end of the stick, because they deviate from the male, June Cleaver sex fantasies about femininity and sexual purity. How dare we! The nerve of some females!

But what do we expect? The forces are integrated. Women are spending decades in the uniform, and there is no reason for them to have to give up the notion of family, when it's clear that such an expectation is not put upon their male counterparts who spend their lives serving. Men are not expected to avoid marriage and fatherhood, so explain to me how we can put this on women? And a woman who has a child, has the option of breastfeeding. I am surprised when the services officially integrated women in the 60s, and then later allowed women to continue serving during and after pregnancy, that this was never brought up. This glaring hole in the regulations is a testament to the refusal of males in positions of authority to really consider how women serving, will have unique needs as women.

Sure, sometimes that comes up when people criticize the presence of females in the military. You know all those bloody rags from our menses, and cramps, and unplanned pregnancies, and hot monkey sex we are supposed to all have in the coat-closet, indiscriminately. Oh sure that comes up in that context, but none of it is addressed seriously. Women are not given the benefit of the doubt to contribute to ways of dealing with the genuine issues. How can we? When we are weak, immoral sluts intent on ruining the military service with our ovarian weirdness! [more snark]. And this mindset is infectious. You as a woman try to distance yourself from all of that. You start to hate other women and yourself too, and other women hate you. Because in that world, we are all convinced that every other woman is fucking it up for the rest of us.

Don't stand out. Don't stand up. Don't talk back, don't do anything that could be construed as requiring special treatment for your female-ness, and that includes cramps, pms, pregnancy, boob-problems, hygiene issues in the field, rape, harassment, etc., You are female, but you hide it in some weird way, hoping to be accepted by the men as one of them. Though when I was in, that almost never happened. When I was in you were either a Dyke or a Slut. [Please note that this is not meant to be an insult to gay women--at that time, if that label stuck, I would have been forced out of the service and would have lost my benefits, so it was a big deal and a sad one at that for a lot of different reasons].  Women who have been in more recently, feel free to offer your testimony, though I have heard from others over the years in uniform, that not much has changed.  

I will say, while I served, I dealt with pregnant female co-workers and I grumbled the whole time. Because I was not a pregnant female, I was deemed the one to take up her slack, when she was forbidden to lift more than 5 or 10 lbs of material, when she was no longer allowed anywhere near cleaners, or solvents or other hazardous materials, or when she had watches to stand, I stood them. I felt unappreciated by her and others. I felt like I was being punished. And probably she did too. I got extra work, she got shut out of being a working part of the team, both are signs of a loss of status, or so it felt at the time. But, that might have been due to my age and lack of experience. I can imagine though, how similar thoughts in males expected to take up this slack, might blossom into genuine bitterness. Especially if they thought women had no business in the service to begin with. This also happened to me while I worked in a barracks for a time. All the females except for myself were pregnant. So I did all the work. They were forbidden to any of it, because they were pregnant.

Could they have done the work? Some of it sure. But the military likes to make it difficult for women to fit in. So they go overboard with safety measures, to make sure that everyone knows you are pregnant, helpless and a hopeless mooch on the system. That way, everyone can feel justified in hating you while you are gestating and being female, because you get special treatment for being weak and female.

As a young service-woman, I didn't understand this "special treatment" of pregnant women, and I resented it. I didn't get the politics of it, or even that there were cases where it might really be called for.

 I think it would have been different if there had been more solidarity between females in the service, in general, but there wasn't. There was no guidance, no explanations, only an undercurrent of hostility and blame.  So you felt very little loyalty to your fellow female co-workers. Add to that, the notion that getting pregnant while in uniform was shameful at that time, that such a woman was ruining for all us toughs, and that created a lot of tension between women in the uniform.

When you are young, you imagine that everything is black and white, this or that. Women join the military to be something other than a home maker, something other than what your mom was, because you wanted to be outdoors, you wanted to get dirty and be in a wholly other place, deemed "proper" for women. And during that whole time, you were given a lot of shit from males, especially young ones about your alleged place in the world, your proper role, and so motherhood, and being a wife were things that you despised, that implied ownership and non-personhood. Because the men made it very clear, that you belonged, barefoot and pregnant in a kitchen with a baby on your teat. And that role somehow made you unfit for service, weak, and ridiculous.

As a mom now, I get how wrong that is. But as a young, barely out of my teens female, I would not grasp that until much, much later. But here we are. It can no longer be denied that women get pregnant, that they get married and start families. And that this doesn't have to be a total inconvenience to the Military or the VA, unless they like it that way. Which I suspect they do. Because these institutions are still angry at us for not being men, and angrier still, if we act like women. And it doesn't seem to matter how long you were in, or what you did, or how long you were out, or anything at all.

Their dislike and disapproval of our kind, is the root of it all. And so these women breastfeeding, while I am sure it will create temporary waves, I don't think it will make anything better or worse. Females are being raped on their way to the showers and bathrooms in war zones by their fellow service members. Rape is the ultimate sign of of a bitter hatred. And women have been trying for decades to get the DoD, to straighten up and fly right with regards to rape and harassment of women and what has happened?

Not much, not enough, since this is still a pretty huge problem.

More attempts to keep us out of combat, even though we are already there. A VA that is still not equipped to handle the increasing numbers of female veterans, even though we have female vets in every era going all the way back to WWII. So I don't see how breast feeding will be so wrong that it could eclipse an innate hateful disapproval of women in the service at all. And given our society's inability to separate the act of breastfeeding from sexual foreplay, I foresee problems for these ladies regardless of their best intentions. Maybe if other female service members and their civilian counterparts rally for them, some good might come of it, but on the whole, I bet these women will be made an example.

I think that when we allow women to be whole, complicated human beings, that it will be easier to truly integrate our armed forces in a meaningful way, and maybe our society too.

2:41 PM PT: I think I could have represented my position better. I am all for breastfeeding. I don't have a problem with women pumping at work or any of that. My ambiguity comes from the photograph. Sorry for any confusion on this.

Update to the story:
HLN-Military Mom's Catch FLak for Breastfeeding.

The Chain of Command for these women have stated the following:

"Military regulations prohibit the use of the uniform, title, rank or military affiliation to further a cause, promote a product or imply an endorsement...I want to be very clear that our issue is not, and has never been about breast-feeding. Our issue is that the uniform was used by an outside entity to further their cause - and with all of the attention this has received, it appears that they succeeded."
This is the same regulation that states, that active duty personnel cannot wear their uniform to protests or to campaign for a politician. Why? To maintain objectivity. when the military is allowed to use the uniform to endorse a political view or a protest movement, etc., it gives Americans the impression that the military is backing something with the implication of potential force. It's a pretty good regulation if you ask me, because it avoids the kind of problems often encountered when living under a  Junta. And it also allows the members of the military to maintain diversity in the ranks.

There are other interesting statements in this story, it's worth the read and the discussion.

Originally posted to GreenMother on Thu May 31, 2012 at 11:09 AM PDT.

Also republished by Sexism and Patriarchy and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My mom used to wear my dad's old fatigue jackets (14+ / 0-)

    I imagine that wives have been doing so for generations... while caring for and even breastfeeding children. All that is new is that the people wearing them earned them.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu May 31, 2012 at 11:23:13 AM PDT

  •  It's a common problem (22+ / 0-)

    That young single women resent pregnant women or women with kids among their coworkers. They feel that there are special perks or consideration given to them, or that their workload increases.

    What I tell them is that every one of us will need special accommodations at some point in our lives. Perhaps not for children, but for:

    - buying a house
    - medical care for a friend or parent or pet
    - various emergencies, like broken plumbing or car accidents
    - our own health crises
    - pursuit of a special personal goal

    We need to fight for everyone to have access to the personal time and flexibility that they need while still being productive and useful workers.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Thu May 31, 2012 at 11:27:28 AM PDT

    •  Yes, well, you and I , and hopefully others (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Renee, doingbusinessas, LSophia, DvCM

      will teach our children better, so that they understand.

    •  They 'feel' that way because (13+ / 0-)

      it's true

      They feel that there are special perks or consideration given to them, or that their workload increases
      The only that will change is if everyone is given the 'personal time and flexibility' to do what they consider important, not what society, and the employer, has deemed important. As it stands now, that's not the case.

      "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

      by eXtina on Thu May 31, 2012 at 12:20:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It depends workplace to workplace (12+ / 0-)

        but the answer is not to stop perks for people with kids, it's to recognize that Allison's need for flexibility to deal with her mom with cancer or take her dog to the vet is just as important as Belinda's need to have a particular day off because it's a school holiday. And for heaven's sake, to stop glaring at a woman who leaves promptly at 5 to pick up the kids at day care while a guy who takes the afternoon off to watch the kids play soccer is actively lauded.

        When I was in my twenties, I was an active sport competitor, and I took days off or flexed hours to train and to compete. My coworkers accommodated that. And in return, I was happy to work various school holidays and the week between xmas and new years' and to cover for people with kid emergencies.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Thu May 31, 2012 at 01:24:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  people, men and women, with kids (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, vtjim

      generally are cut a lot more slack in the workplace than their childless coworkers.  Late to work because of blah, blah, blah...
      Need to go home early because of the kids...can't come in today at all for the same reason.  

      People who choose not to have children have their own crosses to bear going through life...including an assumption by many that they must be selfish pr afraid of responsibility.  In the workplace, it is often assumed that a childless worker's free time is less valuable than that of their baby toting coworkers, and that there's no reason to doubt their willingness to do their own job and pick up the slack for their coworkers who are off due to "family obligations."

      Oregon: Sure...it's cold. But it's a damp cold.

      by Keith930 on Thu May 31, 2012 at 10:58:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Something else that cuts both ways (3+ / 0-)

        I felt ill used when forced to stand extra watches and the like,

        but after having kids, I don't think that a woman, who has given birth recently is going to necessarily be on the top of her game. Some could make it work, but at what cost to her physically?

        I am not saying that women are weak, I am just saying that giving birth and being pregnant are events that require tremendous amounts of energy, and sometimes we underestimate that.

  •  Just my opinion (23+ / 0-)

    If a woman is willing to put on the uniform and defend the country, the country should support her right to feed her children. I think the photo you linked to is beautiful.

    "Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Desmond Tutu

    by KelleyRN2 on Thu May 31, 2012 at 11:32:56 AM PDT

    •  It is. But it's going to cause and already has (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Renee, LSophia, DvCM

      caused a stink.

      Maybe things will turn out better than I anticipate. I am always happy to be wrong in that regard.

    •  I see nothing wrong with the photo, (4+ / 0-)

      although it makes me tired. I remember that is the most grueling type of schedule when breastfeeding. I can't imagine working at the same time. And the one has twins!

      The longest I was able to "hang in" was 4 months. 2 of my daughters just kind of weaned themselves in favor of the bottle and the last, the doctor put on a super concentrated formula even though she was a trooper and an easy nurser because she was expending more calories eating than she was taking in.......

    •  breastfeeding=FEEDING A BABY (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KelleyRN2

      Lest we forget.

      Why would feeding a baby ever be controversial?

      Only in a society which hates women could such a thing be possible.

      Breasts belong only in the pages of Playboy, after all, for the pleasure of men, and certainly not anywhere in public for the nutritional needs of babies.

      Too bad babies don't have their little selves a billionaire lobby.

      WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For May: Martyrs of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Spring 1912.

      by JayRaye on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 10:57:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I nominate this baby to lead the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KelleyRN2

        Babies Lobby

        Their slogan: FEED ME, RIGHT NOW, THIS VERY SECOND!

        ps: my babies would not accept a bottle.

        WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For May: Martyrs of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Spring 1912.

        by JayRaye on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 11:08:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You don't normally have your baby on the hip (0+ / 0-)

        at work in the military.

        The photograph seems like a dare to me. As someone who has served, daring the larger command structure with a publicized photograph is not a wise thing to do, if one values their career.

  •  I think we need to rework our definition of (18+ / 0-)

    discretion.

    We wrongly consider the sexual aspects of female breasts before we consider their value as a source of food.

    Poverty = politics.

    by Renee on Thu May 31, 2012 at 11:39:29 AM PDT

    •  I don't really have the answer to that in the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Renee, LSophia, DvCM, Carol in San Antonio

      military context. The military is different than the civilian world because of the need for unit coherency, mission readiness and a healthy chain of command.

      So sometimes things that work great in the civilian world do not work so great in the insular military community. Right or wrong.

      So it can take time to hammer these details out. But that being said, there has to be a will to solve these problems, and the military has not been on the ball in really, genuinely attempting to solve the issue of misogyny in the ranks.

      Sure some new regs have been put out, but without a chain of command enforcing those regs, they are nothing but words on paper.

      •  Well, I think part of what will change the (18+ / 0-)

        misogyny in the military is our changing culture outside the military.

        I was a breastfeeding mother for many years. I did not hide in the bathrooms to feed my kids. Sometimes kids pull off the breast suddenly. Sometimes kids will not stop moving the blanket that you throw over your shoulder to be less visible. Sometimes kids need food while you are out in the world. We need to stop sexualizing breasts and get over it. IMO, the word discrete is a shaming word that means don't show the world your boobs. Sometimes that is impossible when you are breastfeeding your kid. This is zero shame in that.

        Poverty = politics.

        by Renee on Thu May 31, 2012 at 11:49:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I disagree. I breastfed too, and had the same (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Renee, DvCM

          issues you discuss.

          I did not hide in bathrooms either. But I did try to find a healthy compromise when in public spaces.

          But sometimes it cannot be helped. Wiggly babies and errant breezes being what they are.

          I do not think that women should be under house arrest either, when breastfeeding because someone might see! gasp

          But I am not sure that this publication was appropriate given what I understand about military regulations and culture.

          •  I'm not sure what part you disagree with. (4+ / 0-)

            I do not advocate flashing people for the heck of it. But as you say the babies do not always cooperate.

            I don't feel qualified to address the military culture angle from the military perspective. I can only say that I think a wider change would positively influence the military culture on this issue.

            Poverty = politics.

            by Renee on Thu May 31, 2012 at 12:43:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I don't agree that discretion is shaming (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Renee, greenbell, DvCM, Rumaikiya, tobendaro

              Part of a social contract is that when you expect accommodation, is that you also offer it to some degree.

              I do my best, you acknowledge that, and we both understand that we live in an imperfect world with wiggly babies and errant breezes.

              So my discretion isn't out of shame. It's out of courtesy.

              •  That is fair. I think this is a complex topic. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                GreenMother, DvCM

                It isn't that I happily flashed people. And I didn't mean to imply that if someone is trying to be discrete the they are ashamed.

                But that word carries some baggage. It is used to shame people sometimes. I was trying inartfully to point that out.

                Poverty = politics.

                by Renee on Thu May 31, 2012 at 01:17:15 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I believe courtesy is not making (0+ / 0-)

                me feeding my child about you or your own body shame.   A baby's or young child's needs for nourishment AND comfort should absolutely be number one. And as a mother my ONLY concern.

                •  You might think that is your only concern, but (0+ / 0-)

                  when you sign that contract, you are agreeing to follow all lawful orders, even ones you don't like. So short of someone telling you to jump off a cliff, or drink paint thinner, you are going to do as you are ordered, or face formal reprimand.

                  And when formal reprimand comes down the pike, things get real interesting. If the command decides you are no longer trustworthy, [as in they cannot trust you to follow orders] then it's time to find a way to separate you from the service.

                  If you piss them off right and proper, they will dock you pay and confine you during that process. And then soon, you and baby will be without a job, most likely without medical benefits, or pay, and it could even get worse.

                  So you can talk all the smack you want about your only concerns. Military members have additional concerns. We temporarily give up some of our rights in the service.

                  Now if you have an issue with someone using regs to harass you or prevent you from pumping breast milk, you can challenge that. In the Navy you can ask for a Captain's Mast [they call it by other names in other services] but you damn well have your ducks in a row. Because you are waking all the sleeping dogs, hoping they don't take you for the proverbial pork-chop.

                  And even if you do it right, you set yourself apart. And it will cause you issues down the line, and that is directly proportionate to the rank of the people you called out.

                  Being in the service really is a different world. And these women knew that. It's not always a fair one or even a good one, but it has it's own rules. They stepped over a line for themselves and maybe even made trouble for others.

                  Maybe something good will come of this, it certainly will force the commands in all branches to make sure they have formal policies and regulations regarding breastfeeding. However, I don't know how that will turn out.

                  And if those regs are screwed up, then it could take a long time before someone is able to come along and make them right. And who knows how many careers will have to be thrown under the bus to get to that point.

            •  I agree with this though: (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Renee, DvCM, Debby, snpsmom
              I can only say that I think a wider change would positively influence the military culture on this issue.
              But oddly, sometimes it's the military that leads the way to big changes in society.

              Why do you think the NeoCons fought so hard against the repeal of DADT?

              Because the military becomes a validating force for Gay Culture if they are allowed to openly serve. Suddenly the jingoistic excuses of what it means to be a patriot can no longer assume that being Gay precludes that status of equal citizen.

              The same is has been true with women in the service, with Ethnic minorities, and religious minorities. Though most of these battles are still ongoing.

          •  I don't compromise when it comes to my (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ladybug53

            baby's needs and my comfort. Breasts are for breastfeeding.  My son who was raised around me nursing him to 3.5 years and all his younger sisters nursing and all my students and clients coming over an openly nursing around him and who is now a teen doesn't have this weird creepy disgust of breasts not in a sexual format.  Not to say he isn't a healthy normal boy with burgeoning sexuality, but he was raised to know that seeing a small amount of a breast skin or a quick nipple flash as a happy baby popped off to smile at him as he walked by does not freak him out.  Its all in what is NORMAL for you and I nursed openly and without shame (without trying to cover or trying to not cover, just exposing just enough to get the job done) because if more and more of us refuse the prudes suggestions that we be cloistered or in bathrooms the more it becomes NORMAL.  Even one year ago at age 13 he would come in at night while I was nursing his little sister to sleep and kiss her cheek (while she was still latched) and say goodnight without any discomfort.  We have to change the culture by making it more open.  I contributed 11 years of indiscreet, but not indecent because it isn't, breastfeeding to the cause.  All weaned and dryed up now, but when I see an openly nursing mama in public I give her a thumbs up and a big smile as I pass by.

            •  If you were in the military, then you would (0+ / 0-)

              follow lawful orders because you are contractually obligated to do so.

              So perhaps, it's easier for you personally, to not compromise over this issue. Someone bound to the service might not have so many options.

              •  Some laws are unlawful because there are (0+ / 0-)

                certain inalienable rights that are not covered in our constitution, as the Founding Fathers made sure to mention.  Perhaps when Abigail Adams reminded him to "remember the ladies" they had some of these in mind.  Only idiots and Republicans would believe that nursing a sweet hungry baby while in a military uniform somehow disrespected the uniform.  Preventing the soldier from nursing, in light of all her other sacrifices, disrespects the soldier.

                 

        •  this being a photo op changes things for me (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GreenMother

          I'm a (still) breastfeeding mom, so I definitely get the challenges that can come with keeping the breasts concealed and the feeding accomplished. But this was a staged photo op, and I don't think having the one mother's breasts front and center in a photo is the best way to make a persuasive pro-breastfeeding point. The reality is that her breast shape in the photo is an erotic shape and I'd be surprised if there weren't many people who view the photo who respond as such. I don't think she shouldn't breastfeed in public when she needs to because of that, but I think the photo would have been a better advocacy photo with just the other mother.

          Also, if the women didn't get permission from their superior officer to do the shoot, I think it's reasonable for them to get punished for it. But presumably they weighed the pros and cons and the risk was worth it to them.

  •  Why did you name this diary 'on the clock' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, DvCM

    if this is specifically about the military?

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Thu May 31, 2012 at 12:25:00 PM PDT

    •  Because in the military, you are always on the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eXtina, cassandracarolina, DvCM, saluda

      clock.

      You can be called up to work at any time, day or night. On weekends, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.,

      So it's about a different sort of job that doesn't end at 5 pm when most people punch out. They are always on call for daily emergencies, or stop-loss for bigger manpower gaps.

      •  I interepreted it as 'on the job' (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling, DvCM

        and that it would be about breastfeeding at work.

        "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

        by eXtina on Thu May 31, 2012 at 12:38:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Now that is an interesting thought (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DvCM

          What kind of military would that be, if in peacetime and in non-hostile areas, we had daycare close enough that *That could be a possibility?

          There are lots of stereotypes about military structure and functionality, and I haven't quite sorted out in my own head, which are structurally necessary and which are just habitual mindsets.

        •  To follow up, obviously this would not be possible (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DvCM

          in an aircrew or on a ship or other deployment.

          The problems that women have consistently run into is that they often get preferential shore duty/INCONUS billoting, meaning their jobs are less likely to put them in isolated, deployments and duty stations.

          Males were pissed and rightfully so. Because it was unfair. Men get married and father children, why should single females get all the cush duties in the states while all these guys are rotated from boat to overseas to aircrew?

          It pissed a lot of women off too. I didn't join for a desk job. I wanted to be on a boat or a plane and did eventually go overseas. But that didn't stop the bitterness that ensued because of the reality that even though I was junior enlisted, that I often got a better pick of jobs than senior enlisted, married men with kids.

          So I am not sure how some of this will be hammered out. I am not even sure we could get it perfect if we tried. But trying would be a start.

          •  Trying is what matters (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            GreenMother, julifolo

            Talking about it means at least it's no longer "sit down and shut up." And yes, the dialogue will be controversial for a long time while the attitudes and all the attendant consequences, both positive and negative, are reasoned and experienced out.

            And it has immensely far-reaching implications. Our culture frowns on abortions, yet also frowns on accommodating women (and men, too!) who have children, so its military has the same cognitive dissonance.

            We say, "there are just some places where X is impossible" and come to find out, generations later, that "impossible" was a relative term. Once enough attitudes changed, the thinking started going in new directions with it.

            I don't know if the two service members were in or out of regulations, but it seems that sometimes there's a need to break regulations in order to challenge them and bring up the subject that starts the change

            How does the Republican Congress sit down with all the butthurt over taxing the wealthy?

            by athenap on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 08:08:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Hence the reason for this diary (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              julifolo

              I am in emphatic agreement with you over:

              And it has immensely far-reaching implications. Our culture frowns on abortions, yet also frowns on accommodating women (and men, too!) who have children, so its military has the same cognitive dissonance.
              Thanks for commenting, because yours is a great one!
        •  The issue with that is (5+ / 0-)

          that if a woman is not permitted to breastfeed or express milk during her work shift, it will likely force her to give up breastfeeding altogether.

          •  That is true. But I am not sure if the issue was (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            eXtina, DvCM

            best served by the photograph. I have mixed feelings about it. Because the issue cuts both ways. I think most people want it to be black and white, for a position to be cut an dried and some matters do not lend themselves well to that mindset.

        •  I interpreted it (0+ / 0-)

          as feeding on a rigid schedule which, in my experience, is a ridiculous expectation of breastfeeding. It's a complex diary with a lot of angles.

          It is about breastfeeding at work, if your work is the military.

          Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. --Mark Twain

          by Debby on Thu May 31, 2012 at 09:05:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  You might be surprised about how many civilian (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DvCM

        jobs are that way too. As it happens, I've never had one that wasn't.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Thu May 31, 2012 at 01:27:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, with all the modern inconveniences of (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          DvCM

          technology, work intrudes on private lives. And many employers abuse that.

          But in the military, you cannot quit. You are contractually obligated to honor your agreement with the threat of jail and loss of benefits if you fail to satisfy certain legalities.

          And the military can pack you up on short order and ship you out. Many single Military moms have to create custody agreements with a third party just in case, they are deployed at a moment's notice.

          Not many civilian jobs do that.

      •  I guess I don't understand how being on call (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DvCM

        is all that relevant to breastfeeding.

        I mean, you get the call, you stop, you hand the child to someone, you go.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Thu May 31, 2012 at 01:30:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Because if you do breastfeed, you have to pump (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          tbirchard, DvCM, Debby, ScienceMom, JLan, tobendaro

          that un-nursed milk off ever so often or you get engorged breasts which are very very painful. And that can and often does lead to infection which can make you run a very high fever. [ask me how I know ;) ]

          So you need a place to pump.

          And then if you can, you put that milk in a container and store it.

          Or else you decide to dry the milk up and avoid the inconvenience, despite the many health benefits of breastfeeding, which includes bonding, the immune enhancing benefits of colostrum, lower chances for chronic allergies, etc.,

           Its the issue that all breast feeding moms deal with everywhere.

          I know active duty moms that breast fed. I gave one friend my very expensive breast pump after she had a C-section so she could pump milk for a premie.

          I hope that most people in a command position allow this whenever possible and feasible. I understand that it's the military and sometimes it's just not possible. But I hope that some do not use the excuse of it being the military as a reason to deny women the ability to help enhance the health and wellbeing of their newborns.

          Keep in mind, that in most cases, Military women, unlike their civilian counterparts do get maternity leave if they request it, and the new fathers too.

          Of all the things I have to bitch about, regarding my time in the military, this I can say. When my husband was able to take leave to be with me after the birth of our first child, that was truly wonderful and helpful.

          If at all possible, Fathers should get to be with their newborns too.

  •  Nice diary (5+ / 0-)

    I was never in the military, but I did combine breastfeeding and work (and child care and work; still doing that now) and I appreciate the challenges of trying to do both at the same time.

    It is not easy.

  •  Thanks for out and saying this: (11+ / 0-)
    We cannot be single, we cannot be chaste, we cannot be sexually active, we cannot be mothers, we cannot stay at home or have a job--really, truly, my observations make it very clear that the forces allied against free women, will be critical no matter what we do as individuals, or as a community.
    These days, whatever a woman does, she's wrong. And, let's not forget, the biggest sin a woman can commit is to show signs of aging.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Thu May 31, 2012 at 06:08:45 PM PDT

  •  I think they're bizarre photographs in that (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, snpsmom

    yes, they're moms, yes, they're feeding their kids naturally and in the most healthy way possible, and yes, they happen to be employees of the US military.  If all these things came together in a candid snapshot it wouldn't be strange-- it would be a slice of life.  But these are staged photographs, and that's kinda weird, especially knowing the many restrictions on behavior while in uniform.  

    That's one more thing to add to my long list of small problems. --my son, age 10

    by concernedamerican on Thu May 31, 2012 at 07:47:42 PM PDT

  •  thanks for your observations (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elfling, GreenMother

    I was particularly struck by your understanding of your young self. A respect for yourself then, though you have grown sense. Nice to hear.

    "Eating your seed corn is not a good business model." - FishOutofWater

    by saluda on Thu May 31, 2012 at 08:10:46 PM PDT

  •  These photos are great! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Debby, 207wickedgood, loblolly, ScienceMom

    Don't see any problem.

    At a restaurant a long time ago, some lady told me to nurse my baby in the bathroom.

    I told her that she should go & eat in the bathroom.

    My baby was under a blanket, but she was still sooo very offended.

    Seems very strange to me for anyone to be offended by a baby being fed in the best way possible, with mother's milk.

    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For May: Martyrs of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Spring 1912.

    by JayRaye on Thu May 31, 2012 at 08:37:13 PM PDT

    •  This isn't about nursing in bathrooms (0+ / 0-)

      It's about professional conduct in the military uniform.

      It bothers me, but at the same time, the military has been mucking things up for women in general, that I am not sure that it matters any more.

      I just don't see the pay off for adhering strictly to the rules. Because I know that even when you are the ideal, it's still only "good for a girl" and it isn't counted the same and it won't save you any trouble.

      The longer I have had to think about this image. To my knowledge while in Uniform and after getting out but still being associated with the military, I cannot recall anyone ever taking their child to work in uniform and nursing, or nursing in uniform ever, where anyone but a spouse could see. Ever.

      And IMHO, most of the problems women have in the service is caused by the policies and cultural weirdness, but [as a previous commenter put it] squinty-eyed-fundies, I don't believe this photo will help the cause of women in uniform in general, nor that of nursing mothers.

      I could be wrong, and how cool would that be, but I doubt it.

      •  What could possibly unprofessional (0+ / 0-)

        about feeding a baby?

        When nursing a baby in or out of uniform is "unprofessional" then we need to rethink our attitude towards women and their breasts.

        Every single person in uniform, male or female, had a mother who's breasts were filled with nutrition for them on the day that they were born.

        WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For May: Martyrs of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Spring 1912.

        by JayRaye on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 06:49:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Because it's in the uniform (0+ / 0-)

          What could be unprofessional about kissing your spouse or significant other? Because it's in uniform.

          The uniform signifies that you are not in the regular world. That you are taking on a different persona to some degree. So there are certain behaviors you give up [temporarily] while you wear it, or behaviors that you do not undertake when in public view--like Public Displays of Affection, breastfeeding, etc.,

          Some commands won't allow members to wear working uniforms off of their post while in town. It's a big hairy deal.

          But as another commenter posted above, this does need to be talked about. I am unsure of the outcome, but at least it is being addressed.

          •  Seems like (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JayRaye

            men get to do quite a range of undignified or un-military things while in uniform.  Drink, party, even rape.  Not seeing a lot of issues on that.  Women nursing, one of the most natural things a human can do, whatdoyaknow, a controversy.  The attitude of nursing being out of the ordinary, odd, or somehow hidable, puts it in the same category of human acts as defecation or scratching ones genitals in public.  Hmm, come to think of it, scratching ones genitals in public is actually more acceptable.  In uniform too!  

            And she's good at appearing sane, I just want you to know. Winwood/Capaldi

            by tobendaro on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 08:50:56 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Seriously, (0+ / 0-)

            You are going to equate PSA with FEEDING A BABY?

            Unreal.

            WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For May: Martyrs of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Spring 1912.

            by JayRaye on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 09:15:11 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  When I was in the Navy (5+ / 0-)

    and I had my daughter (on a shore tour - non-deploying), the command I was at had a room just for nursing mothers where we could go and express milk.  They even had a pump available, but I brought my own.  During lunch I got to visit my newborn who was in daycare less than 5 minutes from my office, and I usually breastfed her, eliminating one pumping session per day.

    I have to say that the Navy wasn't a bad experience for me being a parent, surprisingly.  The folks in the command were supportive and happy for me.  They made it as easy as I think it could have been.  

    That being said, there is a long way to go in Navy culture in supporting families, as in the rest of the military.

    As to the photo, who cares?  I just can't get worked up over a photo op.

  •  We hate dandelions because we can't (5+ / 0-)

    control them and we really hate to be reminded of the fact we are mammals.  

  •  Insightful diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother

    on the ongoing gender misunderstandings our society seems to perpetuate.

    I think we all need to be more generous with each other and we need to expect our employers to be more generous with us. That we all work so hard  and that this work is more often than not detrimental to our family relationships and especially our young children, is wrong.

    Parents and people without children should all be on the same side regarding quality of life issues. We all have needs, although  different ones. Working people need to recognize this and not allow themselves be pitted one against the other. We have more in common than not.

  •  When I was in the Navy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother

    I was allowed to use a breast pump at 4 hour intervals in a quiet room. During my pregnancies, I was on light duty, no difference between me and someone who had hurt their back or sprained something. As soon as I was off light duty, it was back to work as usual.

    That said, I do think that image violates uniform regulations, which is a completely different issue.

    Economic: -8.00, Social: -6.92 "Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." Eleanor Roosevelt

    by snpsmom on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 05:37:43 AM PDT

  •  Somehow this controversy is progress (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, ladybug53

    As a grandmother who breastfed three daughters, somehow, I'm glad to see that the debate has progressed from whether it was OK for any woman to breastfeed discretely in public,  to whether it is OK for women in the military to breastfeed in uniform.

    Good thing we've still got politics in Texas -- finest form of free entertainment ever invented.- Molly Ivins

    by loblolly on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 05:41:33 AM PDT

  •  I think you hit the nail on the head here (0+ / 0-)
    and more than likely they did not run this by their command Public Relations personnel prior to this
    This is where the issue is. Generally speaking if its not in regulations it should be brought up to your superior before anything is done. At least this is what I am told from family members who have served.

    That being said however, there are times where putting something in the spotlight can bring about positive change.

    --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

    by idbecrazyif on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 06:28:52 AM PDT

    •  Sure it might bring positive change, but that (0+ / 0-)

      might not save their careers.

      They might not be kicked out, but advancement opportunities could dry up, and their careers could die a slow painful death unfortunately.

      •  It is terrible heres to hope that maybe (0+ / 0-)

        something good comes out of anything bad that may happen to them.

        --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

        by idbecrazyif on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 09:26:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I think the VA is trying to be family friendly (0+ / 0-)


    One of my perceptions of the VA is that as an organization I think we are working on being more family friendly. I personally have had several appts where children have been in attendance as well as watched children for vets to enable their attending appts with MH providers.

    •  Well, I think that's great, but that is not (0+ / 0-)

      the treatment I received. And under the circumstances, you will understand if I took it real personal.  I am glad to hear that somewhere out there, someone is trying to change things. Who knows maybe when my kids are grandparents, it might even be widespread, but I don't hold my breath.

      That's experience talking from my part. Life is short, and when dealing with recalcitrant organizations, I have a limited span of patience.  Especially when it seemed to me that their only goal was to trigger me over and over, while pissing me off simultaneously.

      I used to think it was just my bad luck, til I heard much of the same, or worse from others.

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