August 10, 2009

Monday Manners for 8/10/09

"To disagree, one doesn't have to be disagreeable."
~Barry M. Goldwater and Jack Casserl

A while back, I wrote asking if atheist parents should wear controversial tshirts in public, especially with small children. I was reminded of this post when I was reading a transcript of the Modern Manners Guy podcast for last week. The episode was about breastfeeding etiquette in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. To sum it up, be discreet, be respectful, and be polite if someone comments. What really got me thinking though was how my views are changing about in-your-face activism. There is no denying that there is a double standard concerning what is "normal" and how appropriate it is for public viewing. Regarding the argument for not being forced to nurse in a restroom, Mr. Manners says this:

The argument for not nursing a baby in the restroom is usually, "You don't eat in there, and your little one shouldn't have to either." But be sure to take it all the way to heart. You don't eat your meals in the elevator or in the middle of a crowded theater either. There are usually places not too far from the hustle and bustle that can be better choices than smack in the middle of a crowded room.

I don't disagree with his advice, but you can see the double standard. I doubt anyone would even notice a baby drinking from a bottle in an elevator or movie theater. Religious tshirt also go largely unnoticed. Those things are "normal". That isn't my point though. I was actually struck by a different bit of mannerly advice I read in How to Be a Lady.

"Even if she doesn't agree with them, a lady does not belittle anyone... If this is an important cause in her life, she volunteers her time and her money to make changes. She does not confront or embarrass others."

I find this to be in line with how I feel about activism these days. I'm finding myself more polite in public, but more involved in organizations that promote awareness and change. I do think the double standards need to be eliminated, but that's no reason to be rude or offensive.

6 comments:

  1. "You don't eat your meals in the elevator or in the middle of a crowded theater either."

    Good point. No one ever eats anything in the middle of a theatre. Seriously, did Mr. Manners even think about that for one second?

    I had my mother over to dinner the other night and, while talking about raising children, mentioned she used to breastfeed me on the DC Metro system. My husband, without skipping a beat, said, "I thought it was illegal to eat on the Metro!"

    There are few public places where people don't eat anymore. I can see an elevator, but the theatre metaphor is just plain wrong. And I'd hardly call a mall food court an easy place to be discreet, but it was designed for people to eat there.

    We're all discreet as we can be. The problem is that people who take issue with public breastfeeding collect offenses. It's not enough for them just to note it with disgust (if that's their feeling) and look away. They want to gawk, stare, and complain to make their disgust grow. I hate that behavior and attitude. It's bad manners.

    We shouldn't look to have an argument when someone has a problem with breastfeeding. I'm happy to find an area if people are embarrassed and unable to look anywhere but the ceiling or floor (and the room isn't big enough that they could just move away). There's no reason to alienate anyone. But I'm not inclined to change my behavior when someone is openly staring and acting offended. That's their problem, not mine.

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  2. Meredith- Love your name, by the way. :)

    Perhaps when he referred to a theater he meant a play or something a little more formal than a movie. Because you are right, everyone eats at the movies!

    I totally agree with everything you said. As a nursing mom, I am always discreet. For my comfort as much as any one else's, I'd cover up or move off the side when we were out in public. There were times when I nursed in the car before or after only because I could at least listen to the radio, instead of being bored. That said, if we were out and I needed to nurse, I did. Aquariums, hockey games, malls, movies, restaurants, the list goes on.

    Both Mr. Manners and I were only focusing on nursing etiquette. Unfortunately, there is no way to improve other people's manners. So I completely agree, the bad manners of others are not our problem.

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  3. I find this to be in line with how I feel about activism these days. I'm finding myself more polite in public, but more involved in organizations that promote awareness and change. I do think the double standards need to be eliminated, but that's no reason to be rude or offensive.
    I can understand but for those double standards to actually change some people need to be upfront, rude and offensive and steadfast about their rights.
    My wife nurses whenever/wherever she has to, as long as she and our youngest daughter is comfortable. If that is in public then so be it (but then Belgium is very relaxed about this so we never have any problems).

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  4. Just want to add, there is a difference between eating and nursing.
    I did see a recent news article about a woman getting kicked from a swimming pool here in Belgium for breastfeeding and the administration hiding behind the "no eating" rule for the swimming pool, well after the public outcry they have changed the rules, breastfeeding is okay now as it should be.

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  5. Hugo- I haven't changed my views on nursing or being an open atheist. Nothing like that. I've changed my views about being in-your- face about it. I was never really that type of person anyway. But I don't think being rude is an effective way to prove a point anymore. I think there is also a time a place for being very vocal. For example, I like PZ's style. He's not afraid to call anyone out and he's not always "nice" about it, on his blog. In person, I've never met a more quiet and soft-spoken guy. It think it's about finding the appropriate forum.

    I encourage everyone to nurse in public when they and the baby need to. What I don't think is good manners is being confrontational, calling attention to, or showing more breast than is actually necessary - just to make a point. (I should say that none of my kids were ever calm nursers. They were loud and wiggly, often calling attention to us and showing more breast than I wanted. That's not what I am talking about.) I don't actually know anyone who would do that, nor have I ever seen anyone, but I've read about that sort of activism.

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  6. Being rude probably does not belong (though I'm sure you and I can get called rude just for being who we are)
    And time and place is always a factor.
    So I guess we're in agreement ;)

    I like PZ's style seconded! :-)

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