USA Today reports one of those head-scratching stories that make you realize just how much stupidity there is out there in both the corporate world and among the general public. Millions of nursing mothers along with the AMA and other public health agencies are telling the world how important it is to nurse babies. But there are still some people living in the 1950s who think it’s offensive or indecent or some such malarkey. How else can you explain this?
Emily Gillette, her husband, Brad; and their then 22-month-old daughter, River, were removed from an Oct. 13 flight from Burlington, Vt., to New York after a flight attendant asked Gillette to cover up while she was breast-feeding the girl.
Freedom Airlines operated the Delta Airlines flight.
Gillette, 27, filed a complaint against both airlines last week with the Vermont Human Rights Commission alleging that the airline violated a state law that allows women to breast-feed “in any place of public accommodation.” The airlines have until Nov. 27 to respond, Gillette’s attorney, Elizabeth Boepple, says…
The Gillettes, of Espanola, N.M., boarded the flight shortly before 10 p.m.. They had been in Vermont visiting friends and were headed to New York to see other friends and Emily Gillette’s sister.
Gillette took the window seat in the second-to-last row, she says, and her husband took the aisle. She began nursing River, using one hand to hold her shirt closed. She says: “I was not exposed.”
But the flight attendant approached, tried to hand her a blanket and asked her to cover herself, she recalls. “You’re offending me,” Gillette quotes the woman as saying.
“I’m not doing anything wrong and I will not cover up,” Gillette says she said in response…
The flight attendant walked away, Gillette says, and a few minutes later, a ticket agent boarded and said the flight attendant had ordered them removed…
“No woman should ever be ashamed of breast-feeding,” she says. She wants “both airlines to create policies that protect a woman from being harassed for feeding her child on an airplane.”
Say it, sister!
What was the airlines’ response?
Delta is working with Freedom on an investigation, Delta spokesman Anthony Black says. “Delta supports a mother’s right to breast-feed-slash-bottle-feed her babies on our aircraft,” he says.
Blogging Baby quotes Freedom spokesman Paul Skellon saying:
“A breast-feeding mother is perfectly acceptable on an aircraft, providing she is feeding the child in a discreet way,” that doesn’t bother others, said Skellon. “She was asked to use a blanket just to provide a little more discretion, she was given a blanket, and she refused to use it, and that’s all I know.”
If Paul Skellon is butt-ugly and flying on my plane, do I have the right to hand him a blanket and tell him that the sight of his ugly puss is making me want to puke? And then to throw him off if he doesn’t?
Seems to me that Freedom Air has a ways to go before it enters the 21st century. Should we call it ‘Unfreedom’ Air? Or how ’bout “Hostile to Nursing Mothers Air?” Or “Don’t Fly This Airlines Air?” As Emily Gillette so eloquently says, no woman should be made to feel ashamed of an inherently natural, human act. One that God intended for mother’s to do.
And how did Freedom deal with the execrable flight attendant?
Skellon said the airline investigated the incident, and the flight attendant is still employed.
I’d say she needs some retraining at the least. Disciplining her would be even better.
What does Gillette hope will happen:
“I don’t have any kind of high expectations. I’d really love to see them make a donation to an organization I choose. And, yeah, I want another trip with my family.”
If I were her, my legal agreement would include first class tickets anywhere Freedom Air flies; and the same flight attendant would attend me throughout the flight including during breastfeeds.
Since Gillette bought the ticket through Delta, if it DOES support a woman’s unconditional right to breastfeed, why doesn’t its subcontractor? Does it allow airlines like “Freedom” (I use the word advisedly) to maintain policies which contradict those of Delta? Here’s your chance to tell Delta what you think: sign the Momsrising petition to defend public breastfeeding.
Apparently, Freedom Air is in some doo-doo because Vermont state law prohibits precisely what their flight attendant did:
Robert Appel, executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, said…that breast-feeding is protected under the Public Accommodations Act, meaning that a mother is allowed to breast-feed in public.
UPDATE: MomsRising just sent out this email update about its petition campaign:
In less than a week the petition gathered over 20,000 signatures telling Delta Air Lines that breastfeeding mothers should be supported, as well as supporting the Breastfeeding Promotion Act before Congress. Over 20,000!
Emails and calls from MomsRising members, as well as regular updates about the high number of petition signatures, pushed both Delta and Freedom Airlines to issue statements underscoring their commitment to allowing women to breastfeed onboard planes. Freedom Air also noted that the incident would serve as a training opportunity for all employees.
DELTA AIRLINES STATEMENT: “Delta Air Lines supports a mother’s right to breastfeed her baby onboard our aircraft. We regret the decision to remove the passenger from Flight 6160 as it was not in keeping with Delta’s high service standards, and we are coordinating with Freedom Airlines to ensure that they deliver the level of service we expect for all of our customers.”
NEXT STEPS: Right now, Delta Airlines is contemplating officially supporting the Breastfeeding Promotion Act which is currently before Congress. So please give Delta a call to thank them for taking a strong stand on behalf of breastfeeding mothers, and encourage Delta to actively support the Breastfeeding Promotion Act.
I’m pleased to say that when a Fred Meyers employee tried to pull that crap on another mother, the company admitted a mistake:
Chris Musser of Portland, who was at the demonstration today, said she was approached by a Fred Meyer manager in the spring who said customers had expressed discomfort.
“Babies are vulnerable members of our society and because of that we take care of them as best as we can, and we make allowances for them,” she said. “Babies do things that we don’t let grown-ups or older children do. They need to be accommodated. Just as a society, it’s something society does for the next generation.”
Fred Meyer spokeswoman Melinda Merrill said the encounter was “an unfortunate situation” and said Fred Meyer has retransmitted its policy to store managers and will make sure all employees know of it through paycheck enclosures or other communications from managers and through orientation training for new employees.
So nu, Delta? What’s keeping you? Tell us what your flight crew did was wrong. Tell us it won’t happen again. Just to ensure that Delta hears us, contact their customer service folks and let them know that you not only don’t fly airlines hostile to nursing mothers, but you’ll tell other people not to as well.
This subject might seem far afield from my normal posts, but it’s really not. I have 3 young kids who’ve benefited enormously from breastfeeding. My wife breastfeeds in public places and I support her fully. The reason for my special interest in this subject is that while visiting a relative my wife breastfed in their living room. My own mother was scandalized and left the room in a huff. That started a downhill slide in my relations with her which have never recuperated from that slight. If anything, they’ve gotten worse. No one should feel ashamed about breastfeeding period. And I don’t care if my own mother tries to tell me otherwise.