Target calls the cops on breastfeeding mom

Approximation of transcript here.
‘Tis the season for sexism! As you may know from the WFR – Mary Martinez was shopping with her husband, Jose, at at Michigan Target when she was stopped by a security guard for breastfeeding.
The security guard told the mother of three that breastfeeding in public was illegal, and that she would have to stop. Martinez’s husband, a police officer, knew differently. After an argument ensued, Target called the police.

The couple say it wasn’t crowded in that section at the time.
“It wasn’t busy. One gentleman came through and… he complained about the prices,” said Mary Martinez.
Harper Woods police were called to the scene. They joined Target security talking with the Martinez family until the couple and child left embarrassed.

Target headquarters say they do allow breastfeeding in their stores. Now if someone could just make sure employees hold up that policy…
Related: ‘Lactivists’ in Michigan hold nurse-in
Breastfeeding may help prevent breast cancer?
Is there a breastfeeding backlash?
Bill Maher: Boobies mine!
UPDATE: Hilarious comment from MLEmac28…

Am I the only one who find it funnily ironic that a couple named Mary and Jose(ph) and their newborn baby were kicked out of a business? I think Target totally failed the Christmas test.

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31 Comments

  1. stellarose
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Gotta love America – where all women must become mothers or be judged, and once you are a mother you need to do whatever the powers that be say is “best” for your kid at all costs or face the judgment of all, UNLESS what is best for your kid detracts from corporate profit-making or makes prudish people feel uncomfortable, then you should be arrested for doing it.

  2. aka spike the cat
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    How convenient for target to claim that the situation “escalated” and that they were afraid for the safety of the other customers! Of course they offered no evidence of this.
    Now what incentive does a mother with a baby latched on have to create an “unsafe” scene, lol? Plus the father is a police officer himself!! Please. Target, y’all f*cked up big time on this one, TWICE.

  3. FilthyGrandeur
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    this whole situation is completely ridiculous. i think it’s interesting that the cops were called because there was “concern” for the other customers, and i can’t help but wonder if that concern may have something to do with the couple’s ethnicity.
    i work for Target (not the one in question) and i don’t think anyone has ever mentioned to me that breastfeeding mothers are protected under Target’s policy. at my previous retail job, this fact was the first thing i was made aware of. i’m disappointed that Target has not made it clear that breastfeeding mothers are welcome.
    i have a contact form if people wish to submit a complaint at the end of my post.

  4. PamelaVee
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I loved their interview! I also loved the on-camera breastfeeding, and that they kept is so mellow. That one Target store’s employees couldn’t not be viewed as major asses for kicking them out.
    I know our (well, in my opinion, I live in the US)culture is still weird about it but I am glad this made the news again.
    This happens a lot to breastfeeding women and it can be intimidating, and women shouldn’t be shamed into smelly bathrooms for properly feeding their children. That’s one thing I hate is that some people view feminists as anti-child because we are pro-choice, but children are people, too, and they have to eat. I would rather SEE a breastfeeding mother and baby than HEAR a hungry baby crying.
    I’ve shared this story before but my friend (new mom at the time) was breastfeeding at a restaurant and eating and some people complained and the manager asked her to go to the bathroom! She asked if he made other customers eat in the bathroom and that was that. She said if you can see nipple, you are the one with the problem because you are looking WAY too hard.
    I’m sure it happens sometimes, but I have never personally seen a woman who is breastfeeding just lift up her shirt and show her breasts all out. Even w/o a blanket it just looks like holding the baby. You see more skin just about anywhere.

  5. Athenia
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I still don’t really understand why people have a problem with breastfeeding in public.
    I mean, you’d rather have a crying baby? You’d rather not have a paying customer? You’d rather let the baby starve?
    I need to read the Shiver Report, but this is a prime example of “institutions haven’t got the memo yet.”

  6. PamelaVee
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    My letter to Target:
    I was recently made aware of the situation at the Harper Woods, Michigan location involving Jose and Mary Martinez. Jose is a police officer and his wife Mary is a new mother.
    The police were called on them because Mary was feeding her baby (breastfeeding) and they were blatantly lied to by security and told it was illegal to do so in Target.
    Target’s statement was that the issue escalated and they were concerned for the safety of the customers, but there was no evidence of this. I guess nursing newborn babies can be very intimidating!
    I am expecting (if anything) an auto-reply about this issue, but it was absolutely *shameful* to humiliate this woman and her family. It is NOT illegal to breastfeed in public in most areas, and Target had no right to embarrass the family and escort them out as if they were criminals. Whoever complained or found it uncomfortable because they saw an infant naturally feeding needs to grow up. Breastfeeding mothers show less skin than you’d see on many work-appropriate shirts.
    Mary’s body is not public property and she should not be shamed into hiding her motherhood. Women are far more than half of Target’s customer base and we will NOT be segregated or punished for being mothers if we choose to raise children.
    I know this was possibly the result of one person’s error and everyone makes mistakes. Target corporate representatives should personally apologize to the Martinez family.

  7. dcardona
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    It’s not just corporate policy or social acceptance that should allow breastfeeding. In many states the law protects a woman’s right to breastfeed in any public or private location she is otherwise allowed to be (the Target store is an example of a private location under such laws).
    More women need to know this and if they plan to breastfeed, the specific laws in their state with which to respond to interlopers. I would even go so far as to print up business cards with web links to hand out to these people. Information is power!
    And note I didn’t say “breastfeeding in public.” We should all stop using this phrase because it reinforces the idea that breastfeeding should be relegated to the home and that doing so in the possible view of anyone else is a special circumstance. It isn’t.
    I’m all for being considerate of others, but it goes both ways – and allowing women and babies to be shamed into hiding in a corner, near a toilet or under a blanket is the antithesis of consideration.

  8. MLEmac28
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Am I the only one who find it funnily ironic that a couple named Mary and Jose(ph) and their newborn baby were kicked out of a business? I think Target totally failed the Christmas test.

  9. Av0gadro
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I made the mistake of reading comments at Fox Detroit. It was exactly the same garbage I was reading three years ago when my son was a newborn and I was nervous about nursing outside my home.
    Women just flop their breasts out. Shitting is natural too, but we don’t do that in public. The kid was too young to be out in public anyway. The couple is just looking for a lawsuit or attention. I can’t believe we’re still fighting this same nonsense.
    I’m lucky to live in a state with one of the highest breast-feeding rates in the country, and I never had any trouble from anyone wherever I nursed, even once my son was a toddler (that makes it much more gross, of course). I’m mystified that people would be opposed to me keeping my baby quiet in a restaurant or on an airplane.
    The other people who drive me crazy are the (probably well-meaning) women who insist they nursed under a blanket and it was totally discrete and everyone should do that. First, moms of newborns have more than enough pressure to get breast feeding right without adding a blanket if they don’t want it. Second, lots of kids object to the blanket and have good enough motor control to get rid of it.

  10. PamelaVee
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I totaly agree, but here is why I used the language I did:
    I put “in public” because it’s understood that it is not illegal in a home.
    I mentioned Target’s customer base because many companies care about dollars, period, and I was reiterating how many people this affects. (I am not saying this is okay).
    I originally mentioned in my first comment that I had a problem with them mentioning the number of people in the store area, because this has nothing to do with whether it is/should be legal to breastfeed. I totally agree that someone’s OPINION about something shouldn’t limit a woman’s natural right to breastfeed..but it was muddy and didn’t flow well with the rest of what I was saying so I edited it out of my original post. Haha, so much for brevity on my part!

  11. stellarose
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, as a former breastfeeding mother, can’t think of anything less physically threatening than a breastfeeding mother. You are not really in a position to throw down when you have a defenseless infant latched on to you.

  12. Gular
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    When I was training for my second job (which is retail), we were directly informed that in my state a woman can breastfeed wherever she wants to. I would never, personally, ask a mom to breastfeed anywhere else and would inform the offended customer of the woman’s rights — injecting the “baby’s got to eat, you know” ethos into it.
    This whole thing is pretty weird to me. Why do people have a problem with people eating? And how would a feeding mother create a “threatening disturbance”? Something’s missing from what Target is saying.

  13. Naked Feminist
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Thqt really sucks. I know I do most of my shopping at Target, and I’ve seen a number of breastfeeding women at my local Target location. My town is hardly the bastion of liberal thought, with it being located in the boonies of West Virginia. I hope this is not a national thing, but a localized incident. I really like Target. :(

  14. Christina
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Came across this article while searching for more news on this. Very encouraging!
    http://www.freep.com/article/20091206/NEWS06/912060418/1318/Bill-could-end-harassment-of-moms-who-breast-feed

  15. sparky17
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    lol thats hilarious. fail target.

  16. Mollie
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    The post says that Target HQ does NOT prohibit breast-feeding on its premises.

  17. Jovan1984
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    For those who have been on Feministing for a while, you know that I am a vocal opponent of anti-nudity laws. And what happened at Target in Detroit is a clear cut example of why we need to take to the streets and DEMAND our lawmakers in the local, state and federal government to get rid of ALL anti-nudity laws. These laws, which are also known as ‘public decency’ laws, are being used to harass breastfeeding mothers. Only getting rid of these so-called ‘public decency’ laws will assure breastfeeding mothers of an environment free of harassment by corporations.

  18. Sibilance7
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, is there like a breastfeeding 101 from a feminist perspective? I’m not very knowledgeable about this stuff, and I’d like to know more, but when I try to google, all I get is stuff about *how* to breastfeed. I want to know about how it’s been viewed historically, problematic views, etc.

  19. Ariana
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    The main problem seems to be that breasts are overly sexualized.
    But I still don’t get it why don’t these women just take the breast milk in a bottle with them. Here in Europe the majority of women do that.

  20. stellarose
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Not all of us can use a breastpump. I could never get one drop out with that thing, but I was able to breastfeed a healthy child exclusively for for over 6 months. Plus you need to refrigerate the milk once its out, so for an all-day outing, that is not going to work. Also, breastpumps and all the bottles and sterilization equiptment you need with them are expensive and time-consuming — not everyone has the money and time for this.
    For me, once of the main pluses of breastfeeding is having fresh food for the baby at the ready at all times, not having to worry about sterilizing bottles, etc.. Having to pump for no reason other than other people feeling uncomfortable makes breastfeeding even harder than formula feeding! Having a newborn (never sleeping, having 0 time to yourself, changing clothes and diapers 20 times a day, doing a mountain of laundry) and doing your daily tasks is hard enough!

  21. MLEmac28
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    There is a risk of the baby rejecting the breast and only wanting the bottle. The nipple on the bottle is longer and doesn’t take as much force to suck out the milk. The human nipple takes some work to suckle. I read that the extra work helps the jaw muscles develop for speech. I’m not sure how well that is researched, though, or how much of an effect it really has.
    I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with a bottle, but if I’m around, I’ll probably breastfeed, and leave the pumping and bottles for when dad/nanny/daycare is watching the baby. It’d just be easier to not have to pump, and if the baby rejects the breast, I’d have to do it all the time. It’d be such a pain in the butt!
    P.S. I do not have kids, so I can’t speak from experience. If I’m incorrect about anything, I’m sorry.

  22. saintcatherine
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I know this doesn’t really answer all that you are looking for, but I really like Jennifer James, who has been trying to collect historic photos and other info on women breastfeeding.
    http://www.mothering.com/jenniferjames/
    Her old blog was Black Breastfeeding Blog, but I went by there today and the site seems to have been at least partly hijacked by porn ads (I mean, her links anyway.) :(
    So check out the new one. BTW, the Mothering.com community discussion board has wonderful breastfeeding info/links. Not necessarily always critiqued/feminist but the info is good.

  23. saintcatherine
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    From my experience and perspective, why pumping & bottle feeding is not really a reliable option:
    -Some women (like me) can nurse like a champ but cannot pump nearly enough to replace a feeding, without taking hours. Yep, hours.
    -Unless you are stocked up ahead of time (and your freezer stash hasn’t been used up) you have no option fr spontaneous trips anywhere if you have to plan and pump first.
    -Babies, like grownups, don’t all get hungry on a predictable schedule– at least not for very long, and even if you planned ahead and brought a bottle (or thought you wouldn’t need one), you could find yourself staring at a hungry baby you hadn’t planned for.
    -I don’t use bottles at all in the beginning if I can help it because my babies hve a hard enough time as it is learning how to latch on to my own nipples properly; giving them a different, easier type of nipple is just setting myself up for a lot of annoyance and even pain later.
    —-And aside from these practical reasons, I also have to say to anyone who would expect me to pump and use a bottle: Why the hell should I have to spend my time pumping when I hav perfectly good breasts here, that are self-contained, sterile packaging which I cannot lose or break?

  24. Toongrrl
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I find it ironic that some people don’t object to sexy ads yet find it perverted to feed children with breasts. Oh did anyone see that SuperNews! cartoon where Bill Maher is poked fun at? Very hilarious, presented as someone who insults his (non-existent) audience and insults a stripper he hired and hogs the brain that he and Ben Affleck share. As with many of the shorts there is a voice of reason, the stripper who had pointed out that Maher’s show was not the smart political show she expected and that he should’nt insult his audience (whatever they are).

  25. Sibilance7
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the info! I don’t plan on having kids, so I haven’t thought about this much, but as I read more feminist blogs and as friends have children, I’ve realized that it’s an issue on which I can be an ally – but I need some education first!

  26. Jake Aryeh Marcus
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    For a review of the legal issues, you can see my article “Lactation and the Law” from the July/August 2007 Mothering magazine at http://www.mothering.com/lactation-and-law as well as keep track of state laws with the updated map graphic at http://206.251.72.146/resources/map.pdf called “Breastfeeding in Public: Are You Protected.” Is breastfeeding in Target illegal? No, not in any state. Is there anything a mother can do about harassment? Unfortunately, only in a minority of states. From a feminist perspective (as well as a legal one, in my view), breastfeeding discrimination is sex discrimination prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The U.S. Supreme Court so far disagrees with me.

  27. Katie93
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    If I already have to carry a baby, diapers and changing supplies, and whatever else you need to keep a baby happy and alive while out, why would I want to carry another thing when it comes conveniently attatched to myself?

  28. ashleigh
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    In my opinion anyone who gets uncomfortable by a glimpse of breast, and the most natural act of childcare out there, is the one who has issues, not the nursing mother.
    Oh wait, I get it, boobs are awesome and appropriate when they are sexily displayed, but are wicked gross when being used for something nonsexual.

  29. Lisa
    Posted December 7, 2009 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m not a parent but if I had a choice between pumping, carrying bottles, and reheating at the appropriate time (at least I think you heat them) and popping the baby on my breast… the choice would be easy. Obviously it’s great that pumping exists as an option, but I wouldn’t do it just so I didn’t offend some idiot’s delicate sensibilities. And by delicate sensibilities, I mean the horror of seeing boobs in a context outside of titillation.

  30. Honeybee
    Posted December 8, 2009 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I totally agree! I’ve honestly never understood this backlash against nudity. There is nothing more natural in the whole world then a naked person. The fact that it is illegal to show any real skin in public is just insane to me.
    And I personally think this contributes to so many of the problems we have today including pornography. People always want they can’t have, or in this case, what they can’t see.

  31. Lisa
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. I am a mother of two, breastfed both, and I have nursed in a Target store and other public places on many occasions. In fact, I have a distinct memory of nursing in Target in the department where they keep all the outdoor furniture because it’s nice to be able to get comfortable and relaxed while you nurse, and I have even nursed while walking around the store as well as in other stores. Never was I harassed or asked to stop or to leave. This is a sad situation. It should never have happened. It seems that some Target stores need to do better jobs to properly train their employees and security teams.

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