Bothersome babies and breast feeding
Posted by Cate on March 11, 2009
When I read news reports like this one about Shayne Sutton being told off for leaving a council meeting to express milk for her three month old baby I honestly wonder what year we are in.
Interestingly, the matter was raised by a female pollie, Families and Community Services chairwoman Geraldine Knapp, highlighting my suspicion that women in power are often more critical of other women.
Families and Community Services chairwoman Geraldine Knapp was the first to raise the issue, accusing Cr Sutton of “arrogance and contempt” for the chamber by absenting herself.
It seems rather like a gendered attack to me. When I go to meeting at my workplace, meeting are most often interrupted by people moving their cars (to avoid a parking ticket) , a cigarette break or to attend to a mobile phone. I wonder if this is the same at council meetings, and if such interruptions are passed without comment?
The comments of Deputy Mayor Graham Quirk
“I might point out that there are other people in this chamber, other mothers who have very young children as well but are able and willing and are doing so … they’re performing their roles,”
seems to liken children and their mothers are some kind of homogeneous entity where there’s a norm of quiet, subserviant babies who all require the same kind of care at all times. I have never had children but I assume that expressing milk can’t necessarily be done at set times on the clock in between meetings.
Family friendly workplace looks good on paper, but making it work in a real active sense requires a level of flexibility and support which the council seems to be devoid of. I can’t help wondering what the response would have been if she starting breast feeding during the meeting?
Further, the reality is that many women do not have access to paid maternity leave and even those who do suffer negative consequences in regard to career advancement and superannuation. This would be even more that case for an elected female politican who’s need to be in the public eye would not be helped by a lengthy absence.