As breastfeeding has become normative with 77 percent of new mothers choosing to breastfeed their babies according CDC report, public discussion has shifted from whether or not women should breast feed to whether women should breastfeed publicly.
Mississippi legislature is considering a bill that would allow women to breastfeed publicly without covering their breasts.
Senior physics major Myer Milbrath said he does not care if women breastfeed in public, but does think may they will do so if allowed.
“I don’t feel like many people would take advantage of that, even if [a law was] passed, just because, you know, public nudity and all that,” Milbrath said. “People generally aren’t accepting of that regardless, at least here in the United States.”
Senior interdisciplinary studies major Symora Watts is expecting a child and holds a similar view.
“I feel like breastfeeding is bonding time with the mother and child, and they should be able to have privacy,” Watts said. “I think that if women breastfeed in public, they will not get the privacy they need because people are constantly staring and asking questions,” Watts said.
Madison Etheridge, a sophomore English major, said the legislation would free women to perform a vital, natural function and help the public elevate its approach to the issue.
“It’s about time women have the ability to use their breasts for what they’re designed to do – when and where they need to do it,” Etheridge said. “I think that anyone who has a problem with this has subscribed to the hyper-sexualization of breasts in today’s media.”
Etheridge and Watts each said that businesses should be held responsible if they were to not follow the proposed legislation. Milbrath, however, thinks believes businesses should have a choice in the matter.
“I think that it should be [businesses’] choice, since it is their private property they do own it,” Milbrath said. “It’s like smoking. Even if it’s allowed in the state, private businesses can still say, ‘No, don’t do that here,’ like this university for instance. We have the designated areas for that, even if it’s not illegal.”
On and offline, many have argued that breastfeeding is natural and should be treated as such.
“I do think it’s a step in the right direction for women to be allowed to use their bodies in public for something other than someone else’s viewing pleasure,” Etheridge said.
While the Senate chooses to pass the bill, some, like Ethridge, think its consideration shows Mississippi is becoming more aware of women’s rights.