American Professor Objects to Hostile Workplace and “Anti-Woman” Attitude After Students Object to Her Breast-Feeding In Class

The Washington Post has reported on a controversy at American University involving Professor Adrienne Pine who drew complaints from her students in her class “Sex, Gender & Culture” after she breastfed her baby in class. The university has criticized Pine but the controversy has produced a national debate on the propriety of a professor bringing a baby to class and breastfeeding in front of students as she lectures.

In defense of Pine, this was the first class and the baby was sick. She did not want to cancel class and did not have child care options.

Pine allowed the baby to crawl on the floor in the class and was observed removing a paper clip that she found on the floor from her mouth. The baby also had to be shooed away from an electrical socket. She then breastfed the baby in front of the students.

When students complained and the student newspaper sent a reporter, Pine reportedly was angry and described the query and tone as “anti-women.” She proceeded to go public with an online essay titled “The Dialectics of Breastfeeding on Campus: Exposéing my Breasts on the Internet.” Ironically, in publishing the essay, Pine insisted that she was “shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy.” She said that she considered even the inquiry about the incident to have created “a hostile environment.” Pine insisted that these objections from students missed the point of a feminist class:

In her essay, on, Pine summed up her view: “So here’s the story, internet: I fed my sick baby during feminist anthropology class without disrupting the lecture so as to not have to cancel the first day of class. I doubt anyone saw my nipple, because I’m pretty good at covering it. But if they did, they now know that I too, a university professor, like them, have nipples. Or at least that I have one.”

The university criticized Pine for not taking leave in such a situation to take care of a sick child or arrange for child care. It further criticized the online essay as unprofessional.

I have often allowed students to bring their kids to class when they find themselves in a bind. (I actually enjoy having the kids in class). I tend to agree with the university over the need to take a leave on such a day rather than bring a sick child to class. I am particularly concerned with the response of Pine to the student journalists and the suggestion that such inquiries constitute a “hostile workplace” and “anti-woman” attitude. Not only are these journalists looking into a campus controversy but they are exploring objections from students. Colleges are places for such debates and, as indicated by the response of the university, there are legitimate questions raised by the controversy.

The EEOC defines a hostile work place as

“A hostile work environment is created when an employee is continually harassed, and has documented employment decisions that are biased according to race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or socio-economic class.”

As general as that definition may be, it clearly does not encompass a campus controversy over a professor bringing a sick baby to class.

What do you think?

Pine is an anthropology associate professor whose academic bio describes her as “a militant medical anthropologist who . . . has worked both outside and inside the academy to effect a more just world.”

Source: Washington Post

75 thoughts on “American Professor Objects to Hostile Workplace and “Anti-Woman” Attitude After Students Object to Her Breast-Feeding In Class”

  1. PS.

    Baby care centers have their norms and can still argue internally????? Baby care centers have their norms which are arbitrarily enforced accdg to availability of child care personnel that day, the receiving persons mood, the mood of the mother, the mood of the baby, the weather, the wind direction—–many pertinent factors.

    The worse thing to happen that day. Your computer has gone down or the system has been changed for the third time in a week.

    The absolute worst is slightly sick crawler and the day care won’t accept for care.

  2. Lots of good and half-good ideas here, says a hypothetical Dad. Should be mandatory reading for all JT males.

    More baby visits? Damn right. These “let’s have fun and not grow up” students need to be force-fed reality. Even BD does.

    How little we know of the facts and how quickly we are to harshly (at times) judge.

    Thanks all.

  3. Anthropology is one of those odd majors. The topic or subject matter does not really qualify as a science and is beyond the pale of history or political science. Usually one finds a lot of apology in the students and so called professors of anthropology. They say things that they dont mean and are mean about things that they say. We can study ants, or roaches or dog fleas and learn nothing of importance in life except to stay the hell away from all three. I would not be offended if she breast fed the little brat and would rather have that in class than watch the brat eat the cotter pins on the floor.

  4. Blouise,

    I don’t know whether she pumped or not. There are a lot of things we don’t know about the specifics of her situation. I speculated on one.

  5. Elaine, Blouise, Thanks for the information, such things are terra incognito to me. Thanks Ms. B for getting a learned response, above and beyond.

    It was actually an issue I wouldn’t have thought much about in the context of the story focusing instead on the actual situation, or my labor/humanist thoughts between the business v humanist dynamic which I tried to explain in an earlier posting.

    I was kind of blind-sided by the issue, the baby was brought to work and fed and allowed to crawl around and do baby stuff. Then the school paper reporter shows up, she freaks and now it’s a big controversy. It shouldn’t have even been an issue IMO.

    Boobs; our country is schizophrenic about boobs. Put ’em in a low cut dress and getting a good look at them is a sport; stick a baby on one of ’em, even discretely, in most public places and somebody is gonna’ get exercised. Juvenile behaviour.

  6. lotta,

    Not very … she may also have wanted to keep the child with her in order to keep an eye on the fever situation.

    I have a good friend who owns a childcare facility so I called her to ask. She said that each state has its own laws and here in Ohio it’s 100 degrees F or more under the arm. That’s pretty low grade but daycare centers can’t be responsible for monitoring the condition.

    My youngest never ran a fever except when teething. She’d have a very bad cold and no fever then with absolutely nothing wrong with her except a new tooth coming in, she’d hit 101 F.

  7. lotta,

    I was not in the habit of taking my daughter’s temperature when she was young unless she appeared to be sick. An elevated temperature is usually an indicator that the body is fighting some type of infection or illness. I don’t know what the temperature of the professor’s baby was. It appears most people are focused on the fact that the professor breastfed her baby in class–not that she brought a child who was probably sick to class. That said, I wish there were more and better daycare options for working mothers/parents in this country.

  8. Blouise, It wasn’t specifically, the linked article said she did not feel she had good child care options that day. The discussion about day-care is actually a tangent. If she had a regular baby sitter or nanny a baby with a fever shouldn’t be a problem but it might well be at a day-care center which I have read have rules about not taking babies with fevers on a day to day basis. I have read stories where parents dropped their children off and been called very shortly thereafter to come and get them because they had a fever and were in disputes over it. But I’m out of my depth in motherly waters.

    It’s really an academic concern for me- if the baby was well enough to nurse and crawl around and alert enough to spy, catch, and try to eat a paperclip, how ill could it be?

  9. Elaine, What’s a fever for a baby? Do they run hot or cold or ‘normal’? I have read that day-care facilities (if they’re worth taking your baby to) won’t take a baby with a fever but no explanation of what that fever was: 1 degree above normal, 2, 3? I don’t know. I have always been told by even my own doctor that utile a (my, the better half) fever gets to 101 don’t worry, take aspirin and drink liquids, even though I run cold 96+to 97+. Doesn’t matter- call me at 101. This is more than one personal doctor and work nurse and doctor that I trusted.

    Like I said, I’m a hypothetical parent. I have though observed a couple of relatives with their babies and kids but didn’t babysit. Help me out, what’s a fever with a baby or for day care purposes? I don’t know, but I can imagine that a baby might be unwelcome at a day-care but not sick enough to require more than extra fluids and a nap. That could be entirely wrong.

  10. I keep rereading the article and I can’t find any mention of daycare. Could someone point it out to me.

  11. bettykath,

    How do you know she hadn’t pumped and forgot it in the rush (cranky child, first day organization, no day care, child sick but how sick etc.) If she ordinarily used day care or a sitter she would have had to pump and all breastfeeding mothers I’ve ever known have spares in the refig.

    From what information I have in this post coupled with my own experience with children and my experience with new mothers … I’m on her side. Now, I doubt I would have written an essay about it but then I never had the guts to go work in Honduras nor conducted any extensive research on the impact of corporate health-care and health-care technologies on labor practices in the U.S.

    Bet her child is going to have a very stimulating childhood.

  12. Lotta.

    “…the baby had a fever but was healthy enough to be crawling around so the magnitude of illness may have been enough to keep it out of day-care but not serious-serious.”

    The baby was too sick to take to daycare–but not too sick to take to the professor’s classroom? That doesn’t make sense to me.

  13. You know, There seems to be three general positions on this thread- Meh?, no big deal – bad business and unprofessional – sick babies belong at home.

    I can’t speak to the last proposition because all of my children are hypothetical but I can see that that may be correct. OTOH, mothers should know their babies, the baby had a fever but was healthy enough to be crawling around so the magnitude of illness may have been enough to keep it out of day-care but not serious-serious.

    The attitude that no personal distraction should intrude on business is an industrial model. There are jobs that are unsafe for children and they shouldn’t be in that environment, that I readily concede. But why not in other business models? (Considering that women get paid less for the same work I would think it would be the least an employer should do, but that’s a different issue).

    The industrial model was born when single women worked full time in industry or service, and when they got older and married they stayed home if possible. If not, they played by the industrial rules. Those rules were rescinded to the point that some companies provided day care and the government mandates leave for maternity/child care but its just a modification that reinforce the industrial model of a strict separation of private and public- which is entirely geared toward business. It is anti-human. There should be no difference between the people and any other piece of equipment.

    I see documentaries all the time about those poor, backward, third-world countries and the women with breast-feeding children are just going about their lives with their children breast-feeding under a shawl while mom shops in the market, do their farming and cleaning and home or village based manufacturing. In the open-air markets they are selling things and working in their shops and cleaning fish and cooking at their carts. It’s quite civilized.

    Mothers have gone about their labors with a baby in a sling on their back or chest since mother and baby Homo Sapien sapiens began. It would make for happier working mothers possibly and a happy worker is a loyal, productive worker. Considering the cost of day care for infants it would make for economically better off working mothers.

    ***It would make for better babies IMO. I pass by a storefront daycare on front regularly and there were about 9 infants in their own little beds asleep or just laying there staring and looking around. (They partitioned the space and made it private so I don’t see them any more.)If that goes on for any length of time that’s child abuse, IMO, as a hypothetical mother.

    That’s the industrial model of child rearing and reinforces the industrial model of employees as mere equipment. It lets nothing distract from the performance of ones duties on the job no matter how menial or ‘safe’ or sedentary the job even if the infant is put in a situation where it’s brain is growing tremendously but its inputs are deprived. Maybe our kids are stupid because we start many them out in a intellectual desert and it harms their brains. Just a hypothetical parent speculating here.***

    Why should a woman not have the ability to carry her baby around and nurse it and bond with it and have it stimulated by the world around it at work if it is possible. The teacher in question and many teachers, with a little foresight, could have her baby with her at work all the time if she so chooses. So could a single male parent with an infant child.

    I don’t think that’s a necessarily good model. I’d like to see it loosened up, a lot. I think it would be a healthy step for business to do so.

  14. Blouise,

    family is no help if you haven’t pumped. She should get a pass for the first day and then put in place a backup plan for the future. Otoh, attitudes don’t always change by a one time experience. Maybe baby in the classroom should happen more often.

  15. Elaine,

    I knew what you meant. 😉

    I wonder if the Professor has family nearby to help out in these kinds of emergencies or if she’s totally on her own

  16. MikeS: Hear hear. Or should I say lactate-lactate.

    Bron and Nick: ROTFLOL. Nearly snorted my coffee as someone used to say in the mornings.

    Bron, are they your lyrics? Have you considered writíng for off-Broadway?

    OT OT OT

    My NC niece shocked me tonight. NC has over 160 women killed by ex-husbands every year. One did it only 2 blocks away today and then killed himself. They locked down the office until the all-clear came.

    Cause for a blog?

  17. What are you an ass man then, Mike? Or is there no lead left in the pencil? Lighten up, lifes too short.

    1. “What are you an ass man Mike?”
      I seriously never judged a woman by her specific parts. The whole person was the most important to me. As for my pencil lacking led all I can say is that few I’ ve been with have found fault. Perhaps it was because I looked for friends before I looked for lovers. I’ve also have never been to a strip club, much preferring to have those paying me attention doing so because it brought them plessure to bestow their gift of intimacy with me.

      The breast obsession that I see is infantile and don’t get me started on breast enhancement. 🙂

  18. This was all about this professor making a statement. That being said the American males obsession with breasts as sexual objects excluding their reproductive functionality is silly and immature.

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