Victim Blaming a mother
Last night I came across the story of a mother who had a horrible incident in Primark in Leicester. The mother was shopping with her twin infants, when one started to cry needing a feed. The mother found a quiet spot and began to breastfeed her 9 month old daughter, at which point she was approached by the store security guard. He challenged her, and she stood her ground stating her right to breastfeed anywhere. This is where this story becomes unbelievable. The security guard then snatched the feeding child from the mother's arms and walked out of the store with her, saying that if she wanted her child back, the mother would have to leave the store! (You can read the account in the mother's own words in the attached image).
So, my reaction was one of total anger. How dare this man put his hands on a feeding child. How dare he leave a mother vulnerable and exposed and frightened! What on earth made him think that this was an acceptable thing to do. To me it read like straight male violence. This man assaulted this woman, kidnapped her child and acted like he was in the right. The poor mother must have been distraught, I know I would have been.
Initially, all the responses I saw were in a similar vein to mine. Then I saw the original post on facebook, and that's where it started. "How could any mother let someone lay hands on her child, let alone snatch her from her arms?" and the implications that the mother was lying for some imaginary payday from compensation. This is victim blaming pure and simple, and it made me very sad.
There are further circumstances that the mother used in the replies to her facebook post which 'justify' why she 'didn't stop him'. She had another child with her for one. But none of that matters. The mother is not to blame here.
Lets think about the scenario - you are a breastfeeding mother, your infant starts bawling for a feed when you are out in public. You find a quiet spot, because you know there is a chance of confrontation when feeding in public. You start to feed your infant and are confronted with a man in a uniform demanding that you stop. You are scared, angry and already defensive. But you are also intimidated. That's the reality of the society in which we live, men in uniforms are intimidating. And women can NEVER reliably predict how a man will react if challenged. This is a highly stressful situation. But no-one in their right mind would predict that the security guard would snatch the child. And when he does, the mother freezes, again a perfectly normal and reasonable response.
The one in the wrong here is the security guard. He was wrong to try to stop the mother feeding, he was wrong to try and intimidate her into leaving the store and he was certainly wrong to remove her feeding child from her breast and walk away with her. It is that simple. There is no-one else to blame.
It makes me sad that some people automatically believe a woman is lying for some kind of profit rather than believe a man could be violent (and there is no arguing that removing a child from it's mother breast is anything but a violent act). Especially when there is overwhelming evidence which shows men's propensity for violence. Personally, I choose to believe women, because the probability is that they are telling the truth.
I hope that this mother gets some satisfactory response from Primark and that the police deal severely with the security guard. But I won't hold my breath.