A breastfeeding mom stood her ground when a museum manager told her she needed to go “somewhere private”
Just when we thought stories about moms being shamed for nursing in public couldn’t get any worse, another gem is making its way around Facebook. This time, the mother who was told she “couldn’t” nurse her child was in a rather ironic setting — a museum with exhibits that celebrate women’s rights. Because literally nothing is sacred and everything is terrible.
Mom Emily Locke took to Facebook on Monday to tell the world about a situation she found herself in while taking photos for her sister’s wedding over the weekend. The mother of three took a break to nurse her 9-month-old. They were at the Western Reserve Historical Society, a museum that features exhibits about the civil rights movement and women’s rights. “A museum that has nude female form on display as art, but could not see the art and beauty of a woman nursing her child,” Locke explains.
The irony is both infuriating and ridiculous.
Locke describes the scene when a female museum employee approached her with the news that she was “not allowed” to do “that” here. “That” being the ever so scandalous act of nursing an infant. “I responded that I was actually legally allowed to nurse my child. She said it was against the museum policy and I had to stop. I refused and she said she would have to get her manager. I said I would be happy to speak with her manager.”
Oh no she didn’t. The employee was a woman. A woman scolding another woman for breastfeeding her child in public among exhibits about women’s rights. And as it turned out, the manager was a woman too. Wow.
The manager comes over and explains to Locke that the museum had a private area where she could do “that” and like a total boss, Locke says, “I said I was fine where I was, and told her that legally I could nurse my child where ever I was permitted to be.” She also notes that she wanted to be where her other two children were and where the rest of the family was taking pictures. The manager’s response was infuriating — she explained to Locke that this was a “family” museum. Locke came back with the perfect response; “I explained this is a family moment.”
The manager told the mom she was just trying to “protect the innocent children” and considering the only other children around were Locke’s, she was legitimately confused. As she notes in her Facebook post, she was nursing a child. Not wandering topless.
In the end, the manager stared at the mom and said “I guess there is nothing I can do then,” to which Locke responded, “I guess not.”
Locke explains her disappointment that the manager and employee treated her as though she was doing something disgusting or hurting the innocence of her children. It’s not only ridiculous and ignorant, it’s offensive and hurtful. But as Locke goes on to say, worst of all, this might affect another mom in a totally different and damaging way. In this instance, the nursing mom was a confident one who knew her rights and had already nursed three kids. But as points out, if the manager tried stopping her, it’s probably happened to other moms as well. Ones who might not be as bold as she was.
“Perhaps mothers getting out in public for the first time. Perhaps mothers struggling with figuring out how nursing will fit into their lives. To be treated with such disgust and disrespect could hurt their chances of being successful at breastfeeding. That is wrong.”
If this had to happen to anyone, it’s fortunate it happened to someone like Locke who knew she was doing absolutely nothing wrong. Looking back on my nursing days, I’m grateful no one ever harassed me for doing it in public. I was always nervous, as I was often breastfeeding my infant while trying to keep my toddler in one place and if anyone had shamed me that way, I probably would’ve packed up and gone home, sobbing in my car. It’s easy to say before it happens that you’ll speak up for what’s right but when someone actually tells you that nursing in public is something you shouldn’t be doing, it could definitely be jarring.
Fortunately, the museum has since issued a public apology, where they claim they’ve reached out to Locke personally as well.
It’s wonderful that they’re acknowledging they were wrong, but it’s utterly ridiculous this is still happening. Moms can breastfeed their kids anywhere they’re legally allowed to be. You’d think the managers and employees of a museum celebrating women’s rights, of all places, would be cognizant of that fact.
Kudos to Locke for speaking up for herself and for sharing her story so more moms can feel emboldened and handle it the right away if it happens to them.