A Professor and Her Boob

I listened to a podcast the other day about this “hot” issue taking the internet “by storm.”  Basically, a professor had a sick kid she couldn’t take to daycare, so she brought her baby to class.  Where said baby put a paper clip in its mouth, investigate an electrical outlet, and then, when truly fussy, was breastfed to sleep by its mother (who is also leading a class full of university students).  Here is a Salon Article that captures some of it, but I actually first read the professor’s diatribe before forming my full opinion.  If  dear old dubbaya didn’t teach us anything else, haven’t we learned the futility of a preemptive strike at thin air? Le sigh . . .

After reading all sides of this, including the professors’ entire article (rant) and listening to a radio panel discussion, I find Professor Pine (whine) plainly wrong.  She’s not at all wrong for breastfeeding in public.  All women should be able to feed their babies with their breasts anywhere a baby would eat a bottle.  And that is a point, babies feeding from bottles, breasts, or paperclips, don’t belong in college classes – ever.  The professor is not wrong for breastfeeding, but she is wrong for bringing her sick kid to class.  She herself reports that she caught her baby’s cold herself, so I wonder if her TA or students did too.

People get sick, people’s pets die, people’s cars break down, and real people, even uber-professionals, sometimes miss work.  Even robots break down.  Professor Person has family sick leave and many (MOST, really) US working women don’t.  She dis-empowered herself and other women by NOT USING her leave.  Just like Ms. Yahoo is dis-empowering other professional women by declining her maternity leave.  We are one of the worst nations on the planet at providing parental leave (parental not just maternal), so those blessed with it shouldn’t treat it like a curse.  She wants to be seen as a powerful professional instead of just a mom – then TAKE YOUR POWER and use it.  Set the right example – you’re a teacher, it’s in the job description.

I work in a professional environment and people of both genders respect their peers and superiors who set boundaries and priorities.  That is an attribute of confidence and power, not gender.  Be a grown up – a mature gender neutral grown up and use your leave. That’s what it’s there for, dear gender neutral person. Do you think professors in Denmark or Norway wouldn’t take their leave because they might get a bad student review? Um, I doubt it.  If you don’t like our culture, make good change by ratifying the positives, like actually having leave, by using it.

Some crazy people say modern women should never have to choose between their children or their work – never! Who with the what now? Dear god/goddess/whatever, seriously? Everyone has to make choices every day.  That’s part of being a grown up and setting priorities.  Everyone has to choose regardless of gender or circumstance.  By not embracing her privileged choices this professor slaps those without such privilege in the face.

Also, please do read what the professor actually wrote. Her bullying and marginalization of the reporter was offensive and demeaning.  The professor has clearly pulled a power play to bully this student and demean the other students who question the professor’s questionable judgement.  At its very root, this issue is not about gender or motherhood, this is about an adult’s decision making ability, which in this case is clearly very poor.

Seriously, if she thinks she couldn’t cancel class because of teacher evaluation, her rude and disrespectful approach to her students and young people in general is going to do far more damage than if she had just empowered herself with the benefits she has at her disposal and stayed home.  This is like the annoying coworker  who only has to work a 40 hour work week working 60 and producing nothing more,  just so they can whine about how much more they work.

Prof. Pine, you ARE a professor, you’ve got your gold star. Stop being a “gender victim” and get back to work.  And if you can’t get back to work, take your freakin’ leave and be thankful for it. Stop being a victim of your own poor prioritization skills and blaming everyone else.

Oh and last thought – there is NO way that kid goes to daycare every day and doesn’t take a bottle containing either breast milk or formula, or that she could leave it with a sitter the entire next day (read her article) without it taking a bottle.  So, the idea that she “had” to breastfeed right that second is a red herring.  But again her breastfeeding at all, is a moot point.  The baby shouldn’t have ever been in that class. I wouldn’t bring my sick pet to work, and I certainly wouldn’t bring my child.  It’s a disrespectful distraction to the students and to the child.  Make a choice, or someone will make it for you.  Grow up and be an adult, and then start treating your students like adults.  This isn’t about gender, it’s about responsibility, accountability, and making good choices. There’s your teachable moment.

Wyvern Witch out (but you don’t have to be a Wyvern or even a parent to see my point, just a rational adult).


  1. I see your point and I agree with you. The breastfeeding shouldn’t be an issue – but the baby shouldn’t have been there. Truly – when you are distracted by your sick and whiny toddler getting into everything, how good of a job are you doing anyway?? But I wish the college students in that class had whined about the sick kid being there and not about the breastfeeding because that gave her a huge soapbox to stand on!

    It does upset me how breastfeeding is seen as “taboo” here. I spent the summer in Ecuador. A can of formula costs more than some families make in a week so breastfeeding isn’t a “choice” it’s the only way to feed your baby. And they aren’t exactly discreet about it. There aren’t “nursing shawls” and specailly designed nursing shirts and bras. And you know what – that’s okay!

    It’s a breast for goodness sakes. If you can’t handle seeing a mother feed her child in the way God intended, then you are the one who has the problem. I embarrassed many doctors while Maddy was in the hospital by being in the middle of feeding her when they would walk in. They would turn all red, mumble, “sorry” and turn around and go back out! I figure some of it is that we were blessed because Maddy had already established breastfeeding before her diagnosis that she breastfed right up to the day of her surgery and went right back to it when she was extubated and I could hold her again. I’m sure they are more used to feeding tubes. But still, you would think a doctor wouldn’t get so flustered about this. It didn’t bother me – you truly couldn’t see any part of me.

    For a culture that is obsessed with “boobs” it amazes me how this is still such an issue!

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