The fallout from Barbara Walters on air rebuke of breastfeeding mothers continues (see my post on the story). Apparently, not to be outdone in the realm of exposing oneself as a public idiot, Ken Schram, KOMO-TV’s resident commentator and blowhard extraordinnaire, has entered the fray. Ken’s dinosaur-like comments on women who breastfeed in public ("It’s natural. Well, so is urinating, but most folks don’t up and pee in a glass jar in the middle of the mall.") mark him as one of the world’s biggest bloviators–or at the very least the Pacific NW’s biggest. His commentary is so rich in ignorance, rank prejudice and blatant misogyny that I just had to quote the entire thing:
I’m All For This ‘Cover Up’
June 7, 2005
SEATTLE – It was called a "nurse-in."
150 breastfeeding moms showed up outside ABC studios in Manhattan to protest something said by Barbara Walters.
And just what did she say?
Only that sitting next to a woman breastfeeding her baby on an airplane – no cover, no nothing! – made her uncomfortable.
Now, I know we’re supposed to be living in an enlightened society and all, but I’ll tell you what: When some woman sitting next to you pops it out and starts suckling little Johnny or Suzie, I think it makes MOST people uncomfortable!
Yeah, I know.
Well, so is urinating, but most folks don’t up and pee in a glass jar in the middle of the mall.
Maybe women in general are more OK with breastfeeding in public (though many women tell me no they are not).
But for guys, it is nigh on impossible to switch from breasts as something sexual to breasts as take-out-food.
The "lactavists" who showed up outside ABC to boldly feed their children said their point was that women shouldn’t be discouraged from breast feeding.
But that doesn’t mean new moms should feel encouraged to forget all about modesty, while expecting everyone around them to just go with the flow.
If you think Ken Schram is as big an idiot as I do, why don’t you tell him so by sending him an e-mail?
And for those of you who aren’t from the Northwest and who might begin to think we’re all a bunch of prudish suburban red state trogdolytes, this is what a KOMO TV newsanchor, Kathy Goertzen (and a breast cancer survivor) had to say: "Get over it! What an idiot!" Good on ‘ya, Kathy.
I’ve always wondered what Schram’s bosses at KOMO find in his commentaries that they air them year after year. Maybe it’s time to re-examine his position at the station? Do they really need this guy insulting half their listeing audience? I’d also like to know who the women are whom he claims agree with his point of view. Aside from his wife and mother of course. Unfortunately, they have to put up with his pontificating hot air due to blood and marriage. What about the rest of us? Do we have to too?
UPDATE: Ken Schram aired a second installment on his breastfeeding story noting he’d received 1,000 e mails (as if he was somehow proud of this) in response. Apparently, he’d like some sympathy for being called “ignorant,” “disgusting,” and other choice epithets. He won’t get any here.
He also quoted a sampling of responses and since not a single one was positive (or at least he didn’t allude to any) I can only guess that his foray into being a parenting commentator will be short-lived. And in case you thought he might’ve learned anything–you can forget about it. The title of his commentary is “Modesty is Moot,” which shows he’s completely missed the point. Whether a woman breastfeeds in public has nothing to do with modesty because it has nothing to do with sex. Why can’t he get that through his big, fat skull?
I wrote him an e mail too, but after reading the seriously nasty things that some women had to say to him I hadn’t the heart to give it to him with both barrels. But I did say he had a lot of nerve speaking for all men in saying that we’re offended by a woman “whipping it out” in public. I’m a guy too and I’m with the moms on this one, Ken.
Thanks for posting this! I shared it on my blog and on the Mom2mom forums
Thanks for the commentary. Sometimes it’s necessary to be reminded just how stupid people can be, even if it’s infuriating. Though, I am truly surprised and dissapointed that Ms. Walters would have such a warped view on such things; especially since I usually expect such nonsense to come from her bubble head co-host, Elizabeth, on her talk show, The View.
Just wanted to say that I am a woman, and though I approve of breastfeeding (it’s best for the baby), I am uncomfortable when someone breastfeeds her baby in front of me without covering up… I don’t want to see her boobs. a light blanket is all it takes, why not use it? Modesty is a good thing….
Richard Silverstein says
Well, isn’t that interesting…a woman who agrees with Ken Schram & thinks that breastfeeding is immodest. That’s a head-scratcher to me!
First, no one is suggesting that a breastfeeding woman should fully expose herself or her breasts in a public setting & I personally don’t know of any mother who’d do that. The idea is not to flaunt your body. The idea is to accomplish the goal of feeding your baby in the easiest way possible.
Here’s my problem with what Anon is suggesting. Besides the fact that “modesty” is silly term to use regarding breastfeeding since there isn’t anything “immodest” about a woman breastfeeding in public…why should a woman feel she needs to “cover up” in the way you recommend? This suggests that she’s doing something that should be shielded from public view. And the contrary is the case.
Let me ask you this: how long throughout human history do you think women breastfed “in public” without covering themselves? And how recently has it been since doing so has been considered immodest? I’d say if women breastfed in public without covering themselves for tens of thousands of years and that if it became immodest to do so 100 years ago or so–I’m going to side with human beavior as it was practiced for those tens of thousands of years. I don’t think it’s done poorly by us and I don’t see that considerations of “modesty” that developed over the past 100 years or so have done anything to improve human existence. On the contrary.
Besides, Anon, you should ask yourself–why should a breastfeeding woman be forced to accomodate to your needs or phobias? She’s doing a perfectly natural thing that should be celebrated and not put under a blanket or under a closet. Instead of you asking her to accomodate to you–you should consider the importance of what she’s doing for her baby and accomodate to her.
kathy sweeney says
It is unbelievable that someone would equate breastfeedihg and urinating. Obviously this guy has a distorted idea of the human body. Too bad his little clip might just have the opposite effect than what he was going for. With this kind of journalism, it might just put an end to his career. Let’s hope so.
Makes you wonder who would want to admit that they know this guy.
“Why not use a light blanket to cover up?” I know it sounds easy and simple but for many babies it’s not. Notice I said babies and not women, since it should be about our helpless, vulnerable, precious infants. When I try to breastfeed with something over my baby he pulls off and fusses, repeatedly, until I give up and do it his way. In the end, it creates a much bigger scene.
I’m hoping that all this attention to the “issue” of breastfeeding will create awareness and pride and in the end we’ll come out ahead.
Jane Doe says
It’s odd that we feel it is culturally acceptable to tell women and babies to cover up in public but no one would dare to suggest that Ken Schram cover his face in public, eating or not. We are all so stuck in our cultural point of view. There is no reason I shouldn’t be able to demand that Ken Schram cover his head while he’s out in public, if looking at his face offends my sense of modesty. Maybe his lips are too suggestive, or his cheeks are too sensual. Maybe the sight of his tongue darting out to catch a bit of ketchup off his sandwich reminds me of something that happened in the bedroom, and so he should hide it. Since we get to reinvent modesty every five years anyway, why not? Remember when it was legs (“limbs”) and NOT breasts, that had to be covered up for modesty? Why not men’s faces, now? Or Ken Schram’s left eye?
I do admit that I got a good laugh from reading all of these comments. I wonder if everyone who has posted here is from the US. Well, I am. And I am surely a breastfeeding advocate. My career circles around breastfeeding. All of my children have been breastfed exclusively, until it was time to offer solids. No formula and very rarely, expressed milk in a cup. All of my children have been breastfed into toddlerhood and most even beyond.
So, that all said and done, I believe in discreet nursing…for me. That was how I did it. I didn’t use a blanket coverup because I always felt that it attracted more attention. And I didn’t want to attract attention. I just wanted to feed my babies. And I wanted to be comfortable doing it. I wasn’t one to “whip it out”. I was even able to teach a 20 minute class sitting about 5 feet from the participants and they didn’t even know what I was doing. they thought the baby was asleep.
Okay, so one day I was in the middle of the pool club, and this woman I know “whipped it out” of her bikini to feed her baby. And she was VERY large on top. I do admit I was QUITE surprised. But I remained composed and continued our conversation. I remember thinking however, “I CAN’T believe she’s feeding her baby like this”. BUT as long as she was comfortable, so was I. However, don’t ask ME to feed that way.
Maybe in another country.
Richard Silverstein says
Jane Doe: Now that was funny about telling Ken Schram to “cover up.” In fact, his whole person offends my sense of decency (if not modesty). Why doesn’t he just go shut up & wear a chador somewhere? I don’t find anything about the man appealing, neither of his mind nor his body.
What a nim-nod!
Breast is best says
Get over yourselves, you cannot compare pissing in public to breast feeding in public!
The women that were so incredibly rude to him were wrong… possibly even more so than he was for writing that. They showed a great deal of immaturity, disrespect, and ignorance in saying such things and just sunk down to his level. I wrote to him but instead I wrote to him about the facts regarding public breastfeeding and why it is not always possible to be completely modest. Educating someone accomplishes more than name-calling.
Breastfeeding is fine, though I prefer the stance of CLSH. And if in a room with a breastfeeding mom, fine. But unless it is a close relative or friend, I would not be comfortable seated as closely as you are in an airplane. While it is nowhere near urinating, it is a level of intimacy.
As for Kathi Goertzen, coworker of Mr Schram mentioned above, she is not a breast cancer survivor. She had a non malignant brain tumor, which is monitored twice a year still, and the surgery to remove could’ve effected her vision, but other than a slight drooping of one eyelid, similar to a very mild stroke effect, she looks as good as she ever did.
And while Ms Goertzen and her husband have 2 daughters, I don’t believe she ever made public whether she nursed or bottlefed.
On one last note, I support you lactation expert’s right to choice, but I would like to know why so many of you look down on women like me who were not able to do so because of health problems, which would’ve resulted in my babies being malnourished. I was giving them the best start I could, but to this day find people who expect me to apologize for not being able to do it the “right” way.
And, I believe the modesty thing goes a bit farther back than the past century. more like several hundred years. It hasn’t been all that long since pregnancy itself was not an appropriate topic of conversation, and a bit further back, women were confined toward the end of their term, and even during monthly cycles. Not saying it was right, but it is true.
Can we all agree to just be happy to have these babies, and to have choices, and not react to every little thing. No one is stopping you from nursing in public, they are giving an opinion. It only becomes a fight if you are silly enough to take the bait. Sit back and do what you please, and let’s cut Barbara some slack, she was raised in a different time, she is in her 70’s, people! And Elisabeth is very pro-breast, but she said she prefers the modest approach. Just leave it at to each his own, and spend your energy on your babies, you can influence their lives. You aren’t doing a thing to change the others.
Richard Silverstein says
I stand corrected about Ms. Goertzen’s medical history. I read the information in an online forum & didn’t verify it. However, my post made no reference to whether or not she breastfed her babies & I wasn’t claiming that she did.
I think a phrase like “why do so many of you look down on women who did not breastfeed” is a dicey supposition because it assumes that I & every commenter are La Leche League activists–which I’m not & I’d guess that most of the commenters here aren’t either. I would never look down on a mother for not brestfeeding if she couldn’t do so. I wouldn’t look down on any decision a mother made in that regard, even if she could breastfeed & wasn’t doing so. Patti, you never have to apologize to me (though I can’t speak for others) for a decision that was yours to make in the first place.
What I object to is people (especially for media figures like Schram & Walters) who express displeasure with mothers who do breastfeed. That is a wholly untenable position especially for someone who has the ear of the viewing public.
Regarding another portion of your comment about women’s “impurity” during their menstrual cycles: one of the more troubling aspects of my own Jewish tradition is the BIblical custom (from the days of wandering in the desert) that women having their period had to remain outside the Israelite encampment (I think for 7 days). But I’d guess that most ancient civilizations & traditions had similar beliefs.
I do think you underestimate the impact that the bigoted opinion of a figure like Barbara Walters has on the public. When she expresses disgust with a breastfeeding mother sitting next to her on a plane, tens of millions of people (including young pregnant women who’ve never breastfed before) hear it, take notice & possible act accordingly. Yes, Barbara is from a different time & she’s entitled to her benighted personal opinions. But she’s not entitled to spread them on the air. Once she does that she’s fair game.
I completely disagree when you say that those protesting Walters’ “aren’t doing a thing to change the others [by which I assume you mean Schram & Walters]. Besides, changing Walters’ & Schram’s minds isn’t at all the purpose of the protest. The purpose is to educate the general public that breastfeeding is good & that no public figure has the right to denigrate it. The NYC protest I’d say did that admirably.
I’m fascinated by this discussion, having been in DC this summer soon after Barbara made her comments. Here in Europe it is a pretty hot topic too, though Barbara might be disappointed to know that not too many people know who she is. Ken Schram is virtually unknown also.
Patti, nobody looks down on you for doing the best you can for your babies, thats all any mom can do. As a ‘La Leche League activist” I support every mothers right to have the best information possible on infant feeding, and every mothers right to make her choice based on that information. And if you cannot feed your baby yourself for health reasons, that does not make you any less “good” as a mom. Nobody is handing out medals here!
Richard, I agree with your last paragraph about educating the general public, and I think that is the really important thing in all of this. Mothers who choose to breastfeed should be encouraged and supported and not denigrated. No mom should be made to feel responsible for other people’s hang-ups!
Why is it that when breasts are to be used sexually it is a crime to be modest, but if breasts are used biologically and functionally it is a crime not to be modest?