Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Support breastfeeding in public on Rachael Ray!

Last week Bethenny Frankel appeared on the Rachael Ray Show and discouraged breastfeeding in public, despite being a breastfeeding mama herself:

Guest in the audience: "I'm expecting my second child and strongly thinking of breastfeeding. What are your rules for public breastfeeding, like where is it appropriate?"

Bethenny: "I think, unless you are Pamela Anderson, you shouldn't be showing anyone your breasts besides your husband and your baby."

Rachael: "Exactly."

Bethenny went on to detail how disturbing-to-disgusting it is for women to "whip out a boob" (why is that language always used?) and that breastfeeders should "just keep it private."

Ah, yes. Lovely. Not to mention so unoriginal. (Is anyone else tired of the whole "Keep it at home, girls" trope?)

Boosting my spirits greatly, Maman A Droit had a wonderful idea, which you can read in her post:

Let's get a Lactivist on Rachael Ray!

Let's get someone on the show who's passionate and informed about breastfeeding, who's level-headed and able to talk intelligently about feeding choice (i.e., not someone who's anti-formula feeding), who has a platform for discussing breastfeeding-related issues, and who has proven experience breastfeeding in public uncovered but respectfully and who knows both the legalities and the benefits of nursing in public. Who is that?

Maman A Droit came up with the answer:

Dionna of Code Name: Mama,
Nursing Freedom, and Natural Parents Network!

Read our letters to find out why Dionna's the perfect candidate to appear on the show.

From Maman A Droit:
Some of my favorite pro-breastfeeding sites have called Rachael Ray & Bethenny out on their views … but I wanted to do even more. I want to see if we can turn this into a positive. I want to give Rachael Ray another chance. So I sent this letter to the show's producers at: Showcomments@RachaelRayShow.com

… [her letter at the link]

I'd love for you to send an e-mail too if you're passionate about breastfeeding rights — feel free to use the e-mail I sent as inspiration, and let's try to keep this positive (you know that cliche about flies & honey? I'm a fan of it). Maybe if enough of us write in, they'll try to make it happen!

I've taken Maman A Droit's sample letter and edited it to make it personal for me. I encourage you to edit your own letter, and let's Tweet (@RachelRayShow) and Facebook (The Rachael Ray Show) this as well. Just keep it positive.

Here's my letter:

Dear Rachael Ray,

I think you run a fun and enjoyable show and I love your friendliness and enthusiasm. However, I was extremely disappointed that you agreed with Bethenny Frankel's response, when an audience member asked an innocent question, that breastfeeding is something that should be kept private, and that it's somehow inappropriate to nurse in public.

As a breastfeeding mom myself who supports feeding choice for all parents, I applaud Bethenny's decision to breastfeed, but I also know how very limiting it is for most parents to be told they cannot or should not nurse in public. I feel like Bethenny's response discouraged that audience member — as well as your millions of viewers — from breastfeeding at all. Young babies eat many, many times a day, and saying that a breastfeeding parent should always drop what she's doing to return home or to a private place to feed is akin to suggesting she stay confined to the home for the first year. Not all breastfeeding parents can pump, and not all babies take a bottle or react well to being covered; my baby was one of those. Given breastfeeding's proven benefits, it's crucial that we as a culture encourage nursing parents to breastfeed whenever, wherever, and however they need to. In fact and for that reason, almost every state now has laws in place to protect public breastfeeding and exempt it from public indecency laws.

You and Bethenny are entitled to your opinions, and I do understand where you're coming from. Since breastfeeding is not the cultural norm in the United States, most of us grew up never seeing it, and anything new can make us uncomfortable.

However, in the interest of playing fair, I'd love to see you present the other side of the issue as well. I highly recommend inviting Dionna Ford as a guest on your show. Dionna trained as a lawyer and now raises her son, Kieran, while running several successful blogs on parenting. NursingFreedom.org specifically addresses the legal and cultural aspects of breastfeeding in public. She also has a personal blog, Code Name: Mama, and is a co-founder of Natural Parents Network. Her readership and platform are tremendous. She approaches her topics with humor and sensitivity and puts a lot of effort into thoroughly researching everything she writes. Her experience as a lawyer makes her uniquely qualified to talk about laws protecting the rights of parents to nurse in public. Dionna believes in speaking gently and respectfully about all parenting choices, and she's comfortable and natural in front of the camera and speaking to large groups, which you can see in part from her YouTube channel.

In addition, Dionna's sister, Shawna, was kicked out of Kelly Park in Florida for nursing in public last summer, despite state laws protecting her right to do so. Her sister went from ambivalence on the topic to full-on support of the right for breastfeeding parents to nurse wherever they otherwise have a right to be. It would be a highlight of your show to reunite the two sisters and have them talk with you and your audience about nursing in public, and how far our culture has yet to go to protect the right of parents to feed their children in the way they choose.

Right now, those of us who breastfeed are feeling like outsiders from your show. We really like you and would love it if you could show us some goodwill, and I am positive your viewer numbers from our online parenting community would go up if you did! Please consider having Dionna Ford or another breastfeeding advocate on your show sometime soon, so we can tell our side of the story.

Thank you!

Feel free to use our sample letters and edit your letter however you'd like. Remember, send your emails to showcomments@RachaelRayShow.com and let's get this breastfeeding party started!

Further reading:

Will you email the Rachael Ray Show? What else can we do to counteract this negative cultural message?


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I'll just reiterate what I said on MamanADroit's post - when she emailed me about this, I listed off several other breastfeeding advocates who would be a much more incredible voice for breastfeeding mothers. But if, by some remote chance they do ask, I will do everything in my power to make everyone proud. ;)
Thank you for the vote of confidence Lauren!

Angela DiGiovanni | Living Out Loud said...

Wow - that was pretty brazen of both of them to say that out loud since it's such a controversial subject. I wonder if either of them regretted it after saying it on national tv. Can you imagine all the letters Rachael Rae must be receiving?

Heather said...

Aw this is disheartening to hear. Why is it viewed as inappropriate? I just don't get it.

Once I was breastfeeding my daughter in the store, she needed to nurse so I sat down on one of the low shelves. Someone passed me, an older lady, and she smiled and said "good for you."

That made me feel good! Since then, I try to pass on the same encouragement to women I see breastfeeding.

Anonymous said...

This coming from a woman who peed in a bucket in her wedding dress on national television?? I was a big fan of Bethenney til now. With a Mama as busy as she is, how has she not breastfed in public?

Mama Mo said...

Oh, I would LOVE to see Dionna on Rachel Ray :-) I personalized and sent an email. Thanks for the template!

Unknown said...

Okay so, I would never breastfeed in front of others, BUT only because I'm SUPER shy about my anatomy- I would be fine with going to the nursing lounge to do so though.

HOWEVER, that said, there is NOTHING at ALL wrong with public breastfeeding- I mean seriously, if I was at lunch with someone & their baby got hungry I wouldn't blink an eye if the mama "whipped out a boob" and nursed them without so much as a pause in her sentence. I ADMIRE those women who can do that. So shame on Rachael Ray {who has pissed me off with her closed-mindedness previously} and that frankel chick for saying those discouraging remarks!

Carla Schmidt Holloway said...

Tweeted, Facebooked, and emailed. Lets hope this makes an impact.

RuthMItchell said...

I would be more than pleased to email Rachel Ray about this subject. Besides the fact that I am a breastfeeding advocate (Public, private and otherwise!!) if your full plan came to fruition, not one but TWO of my daughters would be together, with two of the cutest grandsons anyone could ever ask for!!! ( Personally I think that Grandma, who breastfed all three of her daughters should come along to make it a THREE generation episode!!!).
Seriously...I do think this is a great idea, whether Dionna or some other thoughtful Mama would be the spokesman. There is no reason for us to sit idly by and allow others to tell us where and when we can feed and comfort our children!!! Thanks for a great idea!!!

Anonymous said...

This is such bs. I am so tired of hollywood deciding what is appropriate...really pamela anderson is preferable-I find her a bit offensive. I told Rachel Ray if she is offended to feel free to put a blanket on her head.

I never liked her show anyway. LOL

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martha said...

I have several friends who chose to be stay at home moms with their children and did not want to spend the $ on a pump since they were breastfeeding their children. Breast milk in a bottle will not keep unless it is stored properly and if your out and about for a day who wants to deal with taking a cooler for it.

jenny of all trades said...

Just sent my email. Thanks for the head's up and the encouragement to do something about it. I don't watch her show as she annoys the living daylights out of me, and I'm not surprised she said something inappropriate about this topic. But I kept my email polite and even encouraged them to have fun with the topic - have a fashion show with nursing-friendly clothing and products!

lea said...

I am going to give R Ray some slack here, only because this is how I felt before I had kids. Most women (more so career women; mtself included)do/did feel this way at one point. Before I had children I was very much against breastfeeding in public, natural parenting, homebirths etc.It was not until I became pregnant and educated myself about those things that I changed my feelings.
Face it, RR has no children and BF is an idiot so they have no real opinions. It is hurtful because there are naive people out there who are going to take their word for it without educating themselves.Once they/you have kids, opinions can change dramatically.I know I am living proof.

Jamie said...

Odd that someone so concerned about modesty and not making others feel uncomfortable is fine posing nude for PETA or peeing on a stick on national television!!!!!!! She's had WAY more exposure than I could ever dream of nursing in public!!!!!

Unknown said...

And yet again...why I prefer to watch Ellen instead of Rachel Ray.

Frankly I had no respect for Bethany Frankel and this just reiterated the reason why.

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