Excuse Me, Waitress. I Don’t Believe I Ordered a Breast…


Around these parts, breastfeeding has figured prominently in the news of late.  Specifically concerning Crystal Everitt, who on a recent Sunday at Denny’s restaurant, breastfed her child with her entire breast exposed, just as the after-church crowd was sitting down with their families to enjoy a leisurely lunch.   Having been an enthusiastic breastfeeding mama myself, I’ve tried to keep…ahem…abreast of this situation—by reading not only news reports, but local message boards where people are clearly passionate about the subject.

Here are the facts, as I understand them:  She was breastfeeding at Denny’s with an entire breast exposed.  A few nearby diners (with families) spoke to the manager, the manager quietly and politely requested that Ms.Everitt cover herself, she refused, and an ugly scene ensued with police finally being called.  She left the restaurant and soon called the press who, like Pavlov’s dogs, promptly began to salivate.  She was interviewed by the local TV station in one of those trendy hipster cafés feeding her child (again with her breast exposed, no doubt shocking some of those who had turned on the noon news to watch while they ate lunch).  Later, she led a protest at Denny’s with other breastfeeding moms (again on a Sunday) where a manager from Denny’s apologized—-and she refused to accept his apology.  The story was all over the local print media, as well.  Local columnist Edgy Mama wrote in the Mountain Xpress: “People, listen to me for a moment, kay (sic)? Breasts, like udders, are food-conveyance devices…no need to…warm the fricking milk.  Boobs are natural bottle warmers.  How cool is that?”  Well, Edgy Mama, I’ll grant that it’s pretty cool but I was amazed at how many of the women supporting Everitt asserted that breasts were ONLY for feeding babies and not to be associated with things like pleasure.  And I couldn’t help but think, “Dang, ladies…y’all have missed out on some FUN!”

And, yes, as someone who breastfed frequently in public, I do have an opinion on the situation and although that’s not really what I want to talk about here, let’s go ahead and get it out of the way.  In fact, I’ll just cut and paste from the short comment I made on a well-known local blog:

“…And as someone who also grew up around a lot of older and more conservative folks, I know that many of them have more modest proclivities than I do. And I don’t see that as either good or bad—it just is. So, when I was out in public, I threw a light cover over exposed areas when I nursed. It was no big deal and caused no harm to my baby and no one ever, in all the times I nursed in public, had anything negative to say. It seems to me that those who take the defiant stance of refusing to cover themselves are making a judgment about those who have more modest tendencies and that they are trying to impose THEIR values on others. And I wonder, if their objective is to promote breastfeeding, if they’re not antagonizing people more than winning them to their very worthy cause.”

I also wanted to add that I find it interesting that Ms.Everitt just happened to be there right at the time that local church-goers would likely be sitting down there with their families.  I find it curious, as well, that she asserts that all she wanted to do was to breastfeed her child because if that were truly her objective, I think she would have simply gone ahead and slipped a light cover over her breast,  her child (and the other diners) would have eaten in peace, and no one (except those nearby) would have been the wiser.  Instead, an unpleasant scene was created, the police showed up, and I’m quite certain her baby was distressed by the whole encounter.   But, of course, had she covered herself, she wouldn’t have gotten to be the Noble Breastfeeding Martyr, would she?

But, as I said, that’s not really what I want to discuss.  What I really want to talk about here is respect.  And tolerance.  And understanding.  All attributes that most political progressives and liberals would like to smugly think of themselves as having.  I know, because I am a liberal.  A blue-collar liberal.  And I was appalled at the tone that so many of those who would call themselves “liberals” took in the debates that played out on the local message boards and blogs.  Particularly here and here in the Mountain Xpress forums.  It was pretty ugly with “entopticon” asserting that another commenter had a “mental disorder that makes them freak out when they see a breast” and that they were “deranged” and “warped” and had a “diseased mind” because they dared to speak of having courtesy for others who might be uncomfortable with an exposed breast in public.  Then “entopticon” (who took every opportunity to demonstrate his vastly  superior intellect *insert eyeroll here*) insulted the intelligence of another commenter, and later resorted to calling those who disagreed with him “right-wing extremists.”  And, yes, one commenter did call Ms. Everitt “an attention whore,” but he later apologized.

Good Lord. 

As a blue-collar liberal who voted for Gore, Kerry, and Obama, I’ve often torn my hair out over some of my blue-collar friends who vote consistently against their best interests and I’ve wondered why they did so.  And I’ve often seen liberal commentators lamenting the same thing and wondering why they can’t win over the blue-collar constituency, baffled as to why liberals are seen as “elitist.” 

Well, it’s complicated and I don’t fully understand it myself, but what I do know is that liberals are often seen as elitist because they…so often are.  The one thing that came across to me in reading the message boards and comments concerning the breastfeeding brouhaha was that many of the people (whom I’m sure would call themselves liberals) came across as just plain contemptuous of those who were offended by an exposed breast.  They weren’t content just to state their own viewpoints—they resorted to name-calling and general attacks on conservative people and so-called “right-wing extremists.”  And, yes, I know that personal attacks are also a favorite tactic of those like Rush Limbaugh and his ilk.  But when we, as liberals, resort to the same thing, we are not only exposing our own prejudice and intolerance, we are playing into the hands of those like Rush Limbaugh, who will twist our words into something even uglier.

“Extremists” and “fundamentalists” come in all shapes and sizes…and political and religious persuasions.  It would behoove us all to acknowledge and contemplate the meaning of liberal which includes (in my American Heritage dictionary) “open-minded and tolerant” as well as “tending to give freely; generous.”  Contempt often breeds contempt, just as respect and courtesy often breed respect and courtesy. 

To quote “Think of Others” who also commented on the Mountain X-press forum:

Me Vs.You is ultimately what is going to end this planet.  Let’s try to reach a middle ground on the easy stuff!  Peace out.”

Yeah, I’m with him.  Let’s try to reach a middle ground or at least begin to try to understand each other’s feelings.  And so-called liberals need to examine their own prejudice and intolerance, seek to overcome their contempt for those who think differently from them, and remember that not all “extremists” are right-wing.   

Peace out.


26 Responses to “Excuse Me, Waitress. I Don’t Believe I Ordered a Breast…”

  1. Margie Miller Says:

    I think just our of respect for others and their children, covering the breast with a light cover would not have hurt her or her baby. It would have saved a lot of brouhaha.

  2. Sharon Says:

    Do those people have enough to do? My goodness, a lot of blood got going, didn’t it? As a liberal who nursed her baby in the middle of Chicago’s O’Hare airport 34 years ago or so, “with a light cover” and no brouhaha whatsoever, I say that pancake mom should have shown a modicum of courtesy, and everyone else needs to move on. I agree with you and Peace Out. Have to stop talking now; I need to catch up on the other blogs and message boards. This is feistier than the argument in the Richmond paper a couple of years ago about whether squirrels were hateful varmints or adorable Disney characters.

  3. ginger Says:

    What a great post! Let’s all try tolerance, especially tolerance of the weaker, ignorant poor soul. What a concept!

    I breastfed thru WalMart (back when I used to shop there), church, restaurants, malls, wherever. Not so difficult to be discreet. What got my goat was the people who were so grossed out to just know that was going on even if they couldn’t see anything. I tolerated them because I figured that their ignorance was culprit. And hoped that maybe if they were around a few more discreet breastfeeding moms and a few less crying babies they would be less ignorant and more tolerant!

    Thanks for the well written article. Wonderfully encouraging reminder to live in peace! Peace back at ya.

  4. Sharon Says:

    When I said I had to stop talking so I could catch up on the other blogs and message boards, I meant the ones you mentioned in your post. Have now done so. There is certainly a lot to think about here, including my own prejudices and yes, elitism. I’m snobby enough to get upset about a message that “wondered how that would have went [sic].” We have to try very, very hard to start accepting each other, and working on our own stuff. Thanks for this very thoughtful post.

  5. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    You are an inspiration and I will think harder and be more careful before I open my mouth. I’m a liberal too but this is a good reminder, though hard to admit, that it doesn’t necessarily mean I am tolerant enough. Sounds corny maybe but the way you think reminds me of Obama.

    As far as breastfeeding, I breastfed all over the place too. I used to have a sling and I could walk through the mall and shop while the baby was nursing and no one knew. It’s the respectful thing to do. That lady sounds like she was trying to prove a point by strong-arming her foes. It doesn’t work, does it?

  6. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    Beth, I tried to make comments on your daughter’s Lucky Pennies blog but it wouldn’t let anything go through.


  7. Judy Says:

    I don’t think what this woman did would have bothered me but I am sure there are plenty of people it would bother. Like you said she could have put a blanket or something over the breast. I, too, am a Liberal. I think we should all try harder to get along and not make such a big thing out of something so trivial. There are so many other things in the world today to worry about other than some woman’s breast being exposed!
    Great post.

  8. wesleyjeanne Says:

    I have nothing to add: you said it all. You go girl!

    Peace out indeed!

  9. pticester Says:

    Well said, Beth.

  10. Crystal Everitt Says:

    I am the mother you are blogging about. I am not sure why you think you have the facts as you were not there. Why you choose that side of the story, I have no idea. You do not have a clue what happened, but it doesn’t really matter. I am interested in part of your argument anyway.

    You put more importance on someone that could look away, than on the comfort of the mother and child. You think the mother should do what she is told, to make someone else feel better. It is the body of the mother/baby you are suggesting be controlled. Why not the eyes of the one that is looking? It is extreme to try to control someone so you feel better, when you could just look away.

    I am not trying to, “force my values on others”. In fact the situation is reversed.

    I agree with your feelings of, “can’t we just all get along”? Let’s not try to control one another so much, eh? You enjoy a meal with your family at your table, and let me do the same.

  11. June Says:

    Your words are my thoughts exactly!

  12. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Crystal: I’m glad you commented. First of all, as I said in my post, I presented the basic facts, as I understand them. They were the basic facts culled from the countless news reports, including the Asheville Citizen Times. As far as I know, you did not dispute any of the basic facts I presented. I’m not sure what you mean when you say “Why you choose that side of the story, I have no idea.” What side? I just reported the facts that were substantiated in almost all the stories I read and heard.

    And, no, I wasn’t there. But had I been, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have even noticed or even cared if I had. You said, “You enjoy a meal with your family at your table, and let me do the same.” I’m not sure where you got the idea that I would have been aghast at your bare breast. I wouldn’t have. As I mentioned, I breastfed in all kinds of public places (and you will notice that several of my commenters did, as well). But my point was, there are many folks who do have more modest proclivities. I grew up with a lot of older folks like that who, by the way, have no problem with breastfeeding, but are embarrassed by a bare breast. So out of respect for their feelings, I was discreet when I nursed in public. It was not difficult.

    You mentioned “the comfort of the mother and child,” as though those of us who are discreet are causing discomfort for our children. Neither I nor my child were ever uncomfortable. But I’m quite sure my child would have been extremely distressed to have been in the middle of a scene like the one that took place at Denny’s (that was widely reported in the news media). Had you simply covered yourself, as politely requested by the manager, your child (and the other diners) would have eaten in peace.

    You said “You think the mother should do as she is told, to make someone else feel better.” Yes, in fact, as a citizen of this planet who seeks to promote the cause of peace whenever possible, sometimes I do things that might not be precisely what I want—to make others feel better. Especially something as simple as the request the Denny’s manager made of you. I don’t see it as someone trying to control me—I see it as showing kindness and goodwill to my fellow human beings. And as far as promoting breastfeeding, I’d venture to say you likely didn’t win many converts. As the Denny’s manager said, women breastfeed in their restaurant all the time. So this wasn’t about the right to breastfeed at all. It was about your right to do whatever you please–with little regard for the feelings of others.

  13. chris Says:

    Jeez, whatever happened to common courtesy and being mindful of the feelings of others? I discretely nursed my babies in public in the 70s. People’s reactions were lovely, many smiled to see me nursing. Other people simply looked elsewhere. It does seem that Crystal has an agenda in addition to simply feeding her child.

  14. Pat Says:

    Really enjoyed reading your wise and articulate post…as well as all the comments.

  15. Debi Kelly Van Cleave Says:

    In the hopes that Crystal might understand, I didn’t only nurse my baby in a sling in the mall. I nursed both my children until they could drink from a cup. They didn’t have anything but breast milk for quite a few months. I was very pro-breastfeeding. I even belonged to Le Leche. But… even I would feel uncomfortable seeing someone’s breast right in the wide open. Even my sister’s. Maybe that stinks and maybe it’s not “normal” because they’re just a body part, but that’s the way it is in our culture for whatever reason. And it doesn’t even matter what the reason is. The fact is, some people are uncomfortable and embarrassed and I wouldn’t want them to feel that way. So I was discreet. I wouldn’t ask a mother to go anywhere else to nurse her child. I think it’s terrible when I hear mothers being forced to go into other rooms and even bathrooms. But breastfeeding moms should be respectful by keeping their shirt close to the baby or simply throwing a receiving blanket over their shoulder. It’s no biggie. It’s just being courteous.

  16. Betsy Says:

    Wooo Beth, I walked in on a hornet’s nest, didn’t I???? As an old woman —who breast-fed her babies MANY years ago, I just think that we all need to have RESPECT for each other when it comes to things like this. Just a little wrap of some kind would be all that would be needed. How hard can that be? It seems as if Crystal is out to make a point that she should be able to do whatever SHE wants to do in this world.

    That’s an attitude I see happening more and more in this country. So many people are only out for themselves and what THEY want. That’s what has happened to our economy. People have gotten greedier and much more selfish. There’s no loyalty anymore. I truly feel sorry for my grandchildren—who will be paying for all of this crap…

    If we–as a country–don’t begin to care about each other more and respect one another for our differences, I’m not sure what the future holds for any of us. It doesn’t matter whether we are liberals or conservatives, we ALL have been raised with different values.. And that’s okay.. If we were all alike, it would be pretty darn boring.

    One thing we all need to remember is that IF someone sticks a Bible up our nose, that certainly won’t make us more religious. In fact, it will turn us off. AND–if someone exposes their breasts in public places, that won’t make anyone who feels uncomfortable become more tolerant of the situation. AND–if a gay person flaunts him or herself on TV or in a public place, that doesn’t make any of us more tolerant. YES—we are all different and that’s okay… BUT–we all DO need to think more about those who are NOT like us, and instead of forcing our beliefs on them, we need to back off and be more respectful.

    Thank God we are all different. That is what has made this country so great —UNTIL NOW.


  17. Going Crunchy Says:

    Oh! Interesting!

    I see both sides of the issue – and Beth, what a wonderful post that you wrote. Thoughtful and constructive, pondering and respectful on an issue that seems to rile people up just as fast as other hot topics.

    I nursed Lio easily, but could not for Luke due to a breast infection. I had to pump for Luke, and could only manage it about 2 months due to the condition.

    Around home I was totally hanging out, and even nursed while in a sling. In public I used a light receiving blanket both for my modesty and public feeling. I refused to go anywhere like a bathroom or private place, and made no bones about nursing in public. But I did use a little blanket and was fine.

    I agree the breast is for the child’s benefit (though whoot! for the fun) – and our society needs to lighten up because we’ve sexualized breasts so much that we don’t see them for what they are anymore. I’m not one to freak when I see somebody nursing in public – by far. It doesn’t bother me – but it can for others so I think just being aware of all of the dynamics should be important.

    I do think being advesarial about it doesn’t help anybody. If anything it is placing that one child as the centerpiece for what was probably at leat 50 people. How the child feels? Yes, important. How other people feel as well? Yes, important.

    Had I been in the resturant I probably would have been standing right there by Cristal as a Mama – supporting the right to nurse wherever she wants. But if I was a friend I would have probably said, Girl……we have to consider others as well as ourselves. Shannon

  18. CountryDew Says:

    Excellent post, Beth. A timely microcosm of an issue that is an excellent example of the problems of our times. I agree with you – live and let live and let’s stop all the fighting and bickering.

  19. Clara Melvin Says:

    Hi Beth, we are on the same page concerning breastfeeding! I answered your question about the sultana cake on my blog…under the cutting of the trees.

  20. blueridgebluecollargirl Says:

    Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments. I wanted to reiterate that I am passionate in my support of the right to breastfeed your child in public—as I said, I did that myself countless times. But I am equally passionate in my desire to bridge the great divide in this country—the divide that is only getting wider. And it’s getting wider in part because, so often, we cannot seem to acknowledge that even if we walk a different path in our journey from other pilgrims, we don’t have an exclusive claim to the truth. And when we fail to acknowledge that, we cease to respect and show courtesy for those who walk a different path and may even come to have contempt for them and their beliefs. And that only serves to widen and deepen the gap.

    And we need to get over the idea that making small concessions for the comfort and well-being of our fellow pilgrims diminishes us. No, it enlarges us—it enlarges our hearts and our minds and the circle we live in to include some of those who think and feel in different ways from us. And when we do that, we sometimes find that we have more in common with them than we think. And that may not only help to bridge the great divide, but may bring all of us a little closer to finding truth.

  21. colleen Says:

    Maybe the nursing women didn’t have an examples of it and now the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. I learned by example from watching adult women, like my mother, use a blanket to cover herself while a baby was nursing in public. I’m not even sure I knew back then what was going on under the blanket but when my time came to mother I knew what to do when out in public. If someone bothered me while discreetly nursing my baby I would be perturbed but I don’t think it helps to ask for trouble by not being discreet, if that was the case.

  22. Jeff Says:

    And you say that others write so much better than you?? Sheesh!! That was one fine post – well organized, written, and phrased. I found it extraordinarily interesting that the subject of your post tracked you down and gifted you with her opinion. It is so typical that she also did not respond to your rejoinder. I agree with the other posters who commented along the lines of selfishness, making a point, and so on. And yes, we all need to learn to be respectful of others viewpoints – liberals can be particularly clueless in this respect, since they often think they are only expressing what should be completely obvious to everyone else. I see no purpose whatever in antagonizing others – it surely doesn’t win any converts or friends. Yet lots of people delight in doing so. I have written several posts about tolerance for the political views of others – there is often a logic in other’s belief systems that we need to take the time to understand. Right now, I’m reading a book entitled Spirit and Flesh, by James Ault. It is a fascinating account of a sociologist who did a study of life in a fundamentalist church.

  23. Myrna Says:

    As another blue collar liberal woman, I would like to say thank you so much for giving words to my own thoughts and opinions. I have been a longtime lurker here, but this post so movingly expressed my own humble opinions that I had to let you know how much I enjoyed, as well as everything you write about. BRBCG you ROCK!

  24. Wednesday Says:

    The acts of love and elimination are as “natural” as breast feeding…
    What next…

    My expereince, neither liberal or conservative have any corner on the word twisting or name calling… or having affairs or any other thing…

    But… having seen a lot of it in action lately, it totally baffles me to witness the SS tactics of those who, pretending to a liberal issue, act in an offensive, aggressive and abusive manner. Just as depressing are those who allow it for fear of being called…. conservative…
    saw a client in our business abuse an employee, a young Vietnamese man, for his McCain button… tore him down in a very loud and personal way and told the business owner that if he did not remove the button she would not continue as a customer and would tell all her friends (agree with me politically or I will ruin you?). Admittedly a campaign button may have been inappropriate at work, but he was so thrilled to be in a country where he could express a political opinion without being beaten… silly boy… that we did not insist he remove it. He paid the price in a very public humiliation. I later learned that she is a teacher. Scary. I saw a lot of that last election. It was sad.

  25. Gerardo Balbin Says:

    Curious to see obamas next “great idea”

  26. Debi Says:

    Oh good grief, what is it President Obama’s fault whether or not women breastfeed and other people’s reactions to it?

    Oops. I just farted. That damn Obama!

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