Friday, May 05, 2006

The Primary NIP Myth: "The Right Not To Be Offended"

The following piece is by Sher Maloney, creator of Nurse Here Now. I have found it so inspiring I wanted to share it.
People suppose they have the right not to be made uncomfortable by seeing a baby nursing, but that is their desire, not the actual case. That kind of sense of entitlement is founded on a false premise.

There is no such thing as "The Right Not To Be Offended".

For example, if I am eating out and the man at the table next to me does something I find offensive, say, chews loudly with his mouth wide open, (which actually does make me sick and can ruin a meal for me) I can go over to his table and request for him to sit somewhere else, or I can ask the wait staff to have him finish his meal in the car, or possibly cover up with a tablecloth, right? We all know I'd be laughed out of the place if I responded that way, even though in my opinion, it is obvious he was being impolite. It isn't reasonable to believe that my opinion of his actions should obligate him to change his behavior, even though I wish he would. It isn't reasonable to believe that holding the opinion that breastfeeding is impolite means a mom should be obligated to avoid doing it in front of you or to do it in a way you find acceptable.

It is apparent that many people think they are entitled to have others meet their personal comfort needs, they seem to feel that rather than taking responsibility for their own discomfort if they see something they don't like, that the "offender" should then assume responsibilty for making them more comfortable. Adults are capable of meeting their own comfort needs. All it takes on their part to avoid being uncomfortable is to look away. But rather than doing so, they choose not to meet their own needs and then blame someone else for their discomfort.

If you have eyes, and ears, the reality is that you will sometimes see and hear things that you would rather not. A desire to be comfortable with the way the babies around you are eating is a preference that no one else is obligated to accomodate. It's not a matter of politeness or courtesy - feeding a baby is neither impolite nor "inconsiderate" nor discourteous in itself. It is unrealistic and self-absorbed to expect someone else to meet your own petty comfort needs. The general public is not responsible for understanding and accomodating everyone else's personal preferences.

Whether I like seeing a baby breastfeeding or not, it's my responsibility to take care of my own comfort. It's not up to perfect strangers going about their business to see that I remain in my own personal comfort zone.

Copyright © Sher Maloney

About the author:

Sher Maloney is a mom of two boys, WAHM and wife. When she is not firing off lactivist articles, she is spending time with family & friends and making unique handmade soap. Visit her site to see her work, or contact her at


MomToTracyNSheri said...

That was great - I loved it!

You mean I can't ask the guy with the hairy back at the beach to put his shirt back on? Damn! :) :) :)

Anonymous said...

If a hairy back offends you, avert your eyes. Just like a breastfeeding woman, a man with a hairy back has every right to be on the beach without his shirt on. You must be self-absorbed, mean, and ignorant if something like a hairy back offends you. Obviously, if someone is born with certain characteristics, they ususally cannot, or will not change them to keep you from being offended.