Professor Adrienne Pine brought her 1-year-old sick baby into her “Sex, Gender and Culture” class at American University on Aug. 25. In the middle of her lecture the baby began to fidget, so what did she do? She decided to expose her breast and nurse her child in front of 40 students. Twitter exploded into controversy when a student in the classroom, Jake Edward Carias, tweeted that his “total feminist” professor began to breastfeed during the lecture, ending the tweet with the hashtag “#wtf.”
As a young woman with no parental experience and as a current college student, I think Carias had every reason to be freaked out. Society puts up with the public display of breastfeeding everywhere, from shopping malls to restaurants. Why push it any further? Professor Pine pushed it quite a bit further to the level of absurdity. There is nothing wrong with a woman breastfeeding a sick child, yet for a teacher to so blatantly disregard the feelings of her students in the classroom is outrageous. Her students are paying for an education, not a floor show. Would it be okay for a lawyer to breastfeed in the middle of a trial, or a politician to unbutton her shirt while giving an address to the public? No, because it would deter any woman from doing her job effectively.
A working mother with a 1-year-old infant to take care of understandably has a lot on her plate. I gladly champion any woman taking on the responsibility of raising a child and working a full-time job. I agree with Pine in only one of her actions: when her baby is sick, nothing is going to stop her from caring for it. But there has to be at least some give and take, and if a mother is to be completely dedicated to her kid, she’s going to have to take a day or two off work. Yes, it has to be incredibly hard to care for a baby and pay for one too. Yet a true demonstration of a good mother is being able to handle these two aspects of life in the most respectable way possible. It’s not to knowingly make a spectacle in front of a classroom of students.
Pine’s reaction to a reporter from the college’s newspaper questioning her was almost as absurd as the action itself. The journalist, Heather Mongilio was “careful, respectful and thorough” stated WashingtonPost.com. She was obviously not trying to pry or offend the professor. However, Pine automatically assumed that there was going to be an anti-feminist article about her, and responded with an online essay titled: “The Dialectics of Breastfeeding on Campus: Exposéing My Breasts on the Internet.” In this essay she wrote that, “If I considered feeding my child to be a ‘delicate’ or sensitive act, I would not have done it in front of my students.” The administration of the school then reportedly stated that a sick child had no place in the classroom and avoided the breastfeeding issue completely, according to HuffingtonPost.com.
Honestly, Pine blew the entire situation out of proportion. She attempted to turn one unfortunate circumstance into a public feminist statement. At this point, I feel like she is just using her child as an excuse to make her extremely liberal views known to the world. There are laws that protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, but is a relatively expensive private school considered public? Is it the same as breastfeeding at an Applebee’s or inside a crowded department store? I don’t think so. In public places the audience has the option to look away if they are offended. In a classroom, students pay good money to sit in class and intently watch their professor lecture. It’s simply not fair to them.
Coming from an old fashioned family with very conservative views on what’s proper and what’s not, my viewpoint is unchanging. I am not anti-feminist but I do strongly believe in propriety in the workplace, and that there is a time and place for everything. I can’t help but wonder what Pine’s mother and even grandmother would think of all this. Was she raised to believe that thrusting her personal life into the faces of college students was okay? What was unacceptable yesterday may be acceptable today, but propriety is one thing that is never going to change.