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Breastfeeding brouhaha

American University professor Adrienne Pine shared with the world recently of how she came to breastfeed her 1-year-old daughter in front of about 40 students on the first day of her “Sex, Gender Culture” class, and the brouhaha that followed.

The nearly 4,000-word post, aptly titled “The dialectics of breastfeeding on campus: Exposé-ing my breasts on the Internet,” included copies of Pine’s emailed back-and-forth with members of the school’s student newspaper, as well as the professor’s shock her actions amounted to a story.

Pine says her daughter ran a fever on the first day of class, so she opted to bring her to work instead of daycare, and when the child got hungry during class Pine “briefly fed her without stopping lecture.”

The professor was offended when, later, a student journalist approached her to ask her about breastfeeding in front of the class. Pine writes:

“AU is … a campus that prides itself on its gender and sexuality inclusivity, a place where students commonly refer to themselves using words like cisgender, and where the male-bodied student body president came out last year as a woman. It wasn’t until some of my undergraduate students saw me feed my baby through my breast that my workplace became a hostile environment. …

I was shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy, and at the anti-woman implications inherent … What did the Eagle, AU’s official student newspaper, think I was? A rice paper painting? A hymen? …

In an increasingly anti-woman national context, I have it easy. I am among the privileged white professional class that legislators would like to see breeding, and I have conformed to my alleged biological mandate. And yet, having worked for many years to build a reputation based on my scholarly and other work, I was loathe to become the victim of the “scoop” of a sexist third-rate university newspaper available online for all eternity, or the darling of a pro-lactation movement that in many ways I find myself at odds with.

As an aside, Pine also used the post to proffer her views on breastfeeding.

“Sure, there are health benefits, but … the whole argument about the breast being more “natural” than the bottle leads down a slippery slope of biological determinism, in which (as anthropologist Sherry Ortner once famously posited) woman is to nature as man is to culture. … So why do I breastfeed? Because it’s a guaranteed food supply for my baby when I’m traveling, it’s free, I can, and I hate cleaning bottles. …

Pine’s piece goes on to detail the back and forth between herself and student newspaper editors, wherein she defends her position that it’s not a story, and the students eventually reply that it is. So Pine one-upped them:

“… and decided the only option left was to exposé my breasts—on my own terms—on the internet. So here’s the story, internet: I fed my sick baby during feminist anthropology class without disrupting the lecture so as to not have to cancel the first day of class. I doubt anyone saw my nipple, because I’m pretty good at covering it. But if they did, they now know that I too, a university professor, like them, have nipples. Or at least that I have one.”

But as of Thursday, The Eagle student newspaper had yet to publish anything, at least online, about the breastfeeding brouhaha.

Click here for Pine’s full account of things.

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