Professor Breast-Feeding During Lecture Lacks Propriety

Breast-feeding should not be done in a classroom setting. Daquella manera/Flickr.com

Professor Adrienne Pine brought her 1-year-old sick baby into her “Sex, Gender and Culture” class at American University on Aug. 25. In the middle of her lecture the baby began to fidget, so what did she do? She decided to expose her breast and nurse her child in front of 40 students. Twitter exploded into controversy when a student in the classroom, Jake Edward Carias, tweeted that his “total feminist” professor began to breastfeed during the lecture, ending the tweet with the hashtag “#wtf.”

As a young woman with no parental experience and as a current college student, I think Carias had every reason to be freaked out. Society puts up with the public display of breastfeeding everywhere, from shopping malls to restaurants. Why push it any further? Professor Pine pushed it quite a bit further to the level of absurdity. There is nothing wrong with a woman breastfeeding a sick child, yet for a teacher to so blatantly disregard the feelings of her students in the classroom is outrageous. Her students are paying for an education, not a floor show. Would it be okay for a lawyer to breastfeed in the middle of a trial, or a politician to unbutton her shirt while giving an address to the public? No, because it would deter any woman from doing her job effectively.

A working mother with a 1-year-old infant to take care of understandably has a lot on her plate. I gladly champion any woman taking on the responsibility of raising a child and working a full-time job. I agree with Pine in only one of her actions: when her baby is sick, nothing is going to stop her from caring for it. But there has to be at least some give and take, and if a mother is to be completely dedicated to her kid, she’s going to have to take a day or two off work. Yes, it has to be incredibly hard to care for a baby and pay for one too. Yet a true demonstration of a good mother is being able to handle these two aspects of life in the most respectable way possible. It’s not to knowingly make a spectacle in front of a classroom of students.

Pine’s reaction to a reporter from the college’s newspaper questioning her was almost as absurd as the action itself. The journalist, Heather Mongilio was “careful, respectful and thorough” stated WashingtonPost.com. She was obviously not trying to pry or offend the professor. However, Pine automatically assumed that there was going to be an anti-feminist article about her, and responded with an online essay titled: “The Dialectics of Breastfeeding on Campus: Exposéing My Breasts on the Internet.”  In this essay she wrote that, “If I considered feeding my child to be a ‘delicate’ or sensitive act, I would not have done it in front of my students.” The administration of the school then reportedly stated that a sick child had no place in the classroom and avoided the breastfeeding issue completely, according to HuffingtonPost.com.

Honestly, Pine blew the entire situation out of proportion. She attempted to turn one unfortunate circumstance into a public feminist statement. At this point, I feel like she is just using her child as an excuse to make her extremely liberal views known to the world. There are laws that protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, but is a relatively expensive private school considered public? Is it the same as breastfeeding at an Applebee’s or inside a crowded department store? I don’t think so. In public places the audience has the option to look away if they are offended. In a classroom, students pay good money to sit in class and intently watch their professor lecture. It’s simply not fair to them.

Coming from an old fashioned family with very conservative views on what’s proper and what’s not, my viewpoint is unchanging. I am not anti-feminist but I do strongly believe in propriety in the workplace, and that there is a time and place for everything. I can’t help but wonder what Pine’s mother and even grandmother would think of all this. Was she raised to believe that thrusting her personal life into the faces of college students was okay? What was unacceptable yesterday may be acceptable today, but propriety is one thing that is never going to change.


  1. You know what Ashley, you are right, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It just felt like you were hitting below the belt when you say you feel sorry for someone’s unborn children, no matter what the reason, even if it is that you think she will be passing her views that are different from your own on to them. Just so you know, there are a multitude of reasons that someone may not be able to breastfeed, not just major illnesses. Some women may not be as lucky as you, and have to wrestle with it every time they are made to feel that they have not done EVERYTHING in their power to provide the best they can for their children. And I am sure if you saw me feeding my infant with a bottle you would have smiled and made me feel very comfortable with that decision, and would not have shot daggers at me with your eyes.


  2. @ someone says:
    I didn’t lump all mothers into a “you share my opinion or you are wrong” group. It is a fact that breastfeeding is better for mom and baby and it is a fact that it is natural and bottle feeding is not. I am sorry you felt guilty for not being able to breastfeed. I know there are some circumstances in which mothers are not able to breastfeed, like if they have aids or are on chemotherapy. In those instances you have no choice but to use formula.
    I don’t go to public places ranting at women just for using bottles, but when someone blatantly talks negatively about breastfeeding as if the bottle is a better choice, or as if it is a thing the public “has to put up with,” then I have a problem. And for someone telling me what I should and should not be doing; you shouldn’t be ranting at me because of the way you were treated by a completely different person. You know nothing about me except that I am passionate about the choice to breastfeed.
    By the way I said I felt bad for her unborn children because she said she felt like that professor was “using her child as an excuse to make her extremely liberal views known to the world.” I guess it’s not okay to turn the tables? And now you feel the frustration I felt when I read that comment. It was a rhetorical tactic that I see worked the way I expected it to.
    My response was my “opinion” might I add. Also, I pointed out the fact that she has very conservative views because she used the word choice “extremely liberal;” that was another rhetorical tactic that received an expected response filled with clear agitation on your part.
    Oh, and the I’m not asking for it to be considered in two ways, don’t know where you got that from, but “sex, gender, culture” is an appropriate title for the topic I addressed. I said this would not be viewed in a negative light by other cultures, and it wouldn’t because for many cultures it’s the norm as it should be.
    And I’m not asking for open mindedness and didn’t preach it either. I said the FACT is breastfeeding is the best choice to make hands down (nothing open minded in that) and if someone wants to do it in public let them (I guess this statement calls for some tolerance and open mindedness as you call it).
    And I am allowed to respond to this article however I choose. That’s what the comment section is for. I’m sure she expected someone to have something to say about this, that’s what opinion writers aim for otherwise they would not be writing their opinion. She attacked the professor, so I see nothing wrong with doing the same to her.
    As for the students, I absolutely agree they have a right to say they were uncomfortable, but again it was stated after the fact and your response begs the question; if the students were that uncomfortable, why didn’t anyone raise their hand and say so?


  3. @ Ashley,

    I do have parenting experience, and I do have something negative to say about this. Don’t lump all mothers in with your “you share my opinion or you are wrong” attitude.

    Why is it ok for you to have the opinion that this is natural, and should be allowed, but it is not ok for someone else to believe that this is crossing a line. As well, how dare you attack the young woman who wrote this article (which can be found in the “opinion” section I might add) and claim to feel sorry for her unborn children stating that if she chooses not to breastfeed that her children will somehow be horribly affected. After my daughter was born, I was physically unable to breastfeed, and I felt guilty about it. I felt guilty because of people like you telling me how wrong my “choice” to bottle feed my child was. I even had a woman scream at me in public while I held my infant. Isn’t it interesting that you and this woman feel so strongly about this that you think you need to go on the attack to get your point across, yet when someone has an opinion that opposes you, they have to shut their mouths and deal with it? You have every right to feed your child in public, any way you choose, and so do I. However, these students, who are paying to attend this class, also have rights. They have the right to say that this makes them uncomfortable, they don’t want to see it.

    Also, just because someone is exhibiting conservative views, does not give you the right to be condescending to them, and call them “sweethart”. Conservative or liberal, we all have a right to our opinion. The title of her class may have been “sex, gender and culture”, but I thought the argument is that breastfeeding is not a sexual act. So which one is it? You can’t have it both ways.

    You need to practice some of the open mindedness that you preach, and allow this young woman to state her case without being attacked.

    Oh, and I think that you REALLY need to get over yourself.


  4. To Mikey:
    Wow, the only response you could come up with was a comparison to murder? Are you trying to make me look dumb because you’re off to a bad start. That’s not even on the same plane. Breastfeeding is normal and natural. If someone chooses to breastfeed they don’t have a neurological problem and they’re not responding to oppression or out of anger to a situation. We are mammals and we produce milk to nourish our young. All I am saying is the issue was not blown out of proportion by the professor; however, it was blown out of proportion by the writer of this article when she made all public breastfeeding into a negative thing. There are no cons to breastfeeding, period. You can come up with all of the selfish excuses you want, but a mother who chooses anything other than breastfeeding does not do so out of the best interest for her child. If I were you Mikey I would not respond because I’m pretty sure you’re going to dig your dumb-dumb hole deeper.
    To Carias:
    I pay quite a bit for my education too. I can see why you wouldn’t want that in your classroom, but your response begs the question why didn’t anyone raise their hand and make their discomfort known?


  5. To Mikey:

    There is no connection between murder and breastfeeding. Actually, murder is not natural. Talk about a stretch buddy. We are mammals that’s why we produce milk, to feed our young. If you cannot grasp that concept then you’re pretty dumb in my opinion. It’s not “why not do it?” that I am asking. I am asking how can you take something that is normal and make it into a negative thing? The issue is whether or not she should have been breastfeeding in class, but the writer takes that issue to a whole other level by making all public breastfeeding negative. I get grossed out seeing babies propped up with bottles and suffering from tooth-rot as a result. If comparing breasfeeding to murder is the best response you were able to ocme up with then you should have just kept your mouth shut because you made yourself look pretty stupid.


  6. Dear Mikey:

    Congratulations! You are the winner of the 2012 Unassailable Logic award. We’ve spent all year scouring the internet for outstanding examples of unassailable logic. Once we saw your entry—’Murder is also “natural”, why not commit it as well?’—we knew we had our winner. Good luck with your future contributions to the intellectual growth of humanity.

    The Committee for Inane Postings


  7. Hi I’m Carias,

    and I’m a guy. Thanks

    Other than that I like your article and I’ve read every article out there that uses my name. To ashley, yes breastfeeding is natural and should be done more often. People don’t mind breastfeeding in public places and stuff, but I pay over 50000 dollars for tuition at my university. I would hope to have the undivided attention of the professor, but I might as well spend time on twitter if she’s not really interested in teaching class…

    Jake Carias


  8. As a young woman with no parental experience <– obviously or you would have nothing negative to say about this.

    Society puts up with the public display of breastfeeding everywhere, from shopping malls to restaurants. Why push it any further? <– Seriously? Puts up with? I think more mothers should encourage breastfeeding in public. It is not a nasty or unnatural thing. It should be embraced.

    It is because of idiots like you that mothers are increasingly opting to bottle-feed their children. You clearly delved into this “opinion” of yours without any real knowledge about the topic you are addressing.

    “She attempted to turn one unfortunate circumstance into a public feminist statement. At this point, I feel like she is just using her child as an excuse to make her extremely liberal views known to the world.” <– Again, seriously? I think you are exhibiting extremely conservative views sweetheart. The title of her class is “sex, gender, and culture.” I really don’t see the problem.

    Honestly, I feel sorry for your future children. They will probably be among the increasingly large group of children that have respiratory, or indigestion illnesses if you choose the bottle over the breast. I think if a mother has the guts and comfort to breastfeed in public then let her do it!! There is nothing gross or inappropriate about a mother using her breast to nurture her child. And in many other cultures this would not be a big deal.

    I think your treatment and ignorance of this subject “lacks propriety.” And since when is breastfeeding a feminist value? IT’S NATURAL. Get over yourself.


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