If You Can’t Whip Out a Boob in an Anthropology Class, Where Can You?

by Tedra Osell on September 14, 2012

I must make a Public Statement about Women Who Breastfeed While Teaching. Because I am a woman who used to teach, and I breastfed, and though I never breastfed my kid during class I did on occasion bring him while I was teaching. And I think I may have breastfed him during at least one faculty meeting.

So the main argument seems to boil down to whether or not one thinks that this professor’s students—those poor young things!!—were somehow ill-served by the fact that she brought her kid to class/breastfed it in class. (Some folks who are willing to allow—so generous!—that women with kids might have to occasionally bring the child to work Must Draw The Line at giving it the boob In Front Of Other People.) Because the students Deserved Her Full Attention or because they Might Have Been Offended. Somehow by bringing her kid to class/feeding it during lecture she wasn’t giving them What They Were Paying for.

I finally realized why this pisses me off so much while reading this post and the ensuing comments. Below is what I wrote in the comment thread, which will serve just as well here.

All the pearl-clutching over what the Students Deserve is crap. I think the [linked post] nails it by quoting this bit: “It wasn’t the students’ crisis, and they should not have been involuntarily made part of the solution.” God fucking forbid anyone, anywhere should ever have to “involuntarily” do anything.

Newsflash: doing things “involuntarily” is AT THE HEART OF our cultural discomfort with breastfeeding and with motherhood. It is AT THE HEART OF why feminism is necessary. We have made a god out of the idea that the most important human right is never, ever being “forced” to do anything–and the fact is that motherhood (and by extension, womanhood) is a problem, in such a society, precisely because it violates that shibboleth. Women as women have bodies that do things, involuntary things, that men’s bodies do not do. When women, in the course of their daily lives, remind us of that fact–by having children present, by drawing attention to the fact that they are lactating by breastfeeding (or leaking through one’s shirt), by showing “too much” cleavage, by dressing in ways that “draw attention” to our bodies, by being “too fat,” or “too thin,” by bleeding through our pants, by wearing “too much” makeup or perfume, by being “ungroomed” or “not taking care of ourselves”–we are an embarrassment, we are “unprofessional”, we are “asking for it.”

Fuck that shit.


I think that this central issue—the ways in which women (which is to say, children) force us as a society to confront the fact that we do not, in fact, have perfect control over every aspect of our lives—is absolutely central to education. It is central to why we underfund it, it is central to why we want children to Be Responsible for Their Own Educations, it is central to the argument that parents should be able to (are required to) “choose” how to educate their children, it is central to people’s concerns over whether homeschooled kids are properly “socialized,” it is central to the idea that teachers Should Be Held Accountable For Their Students’ Performance, it is central to the argument that The Real Problem Is Bad Parents, it is central to the argument that Some Children Will Always Fail And That Isn’t The Teacher’s Fault, it is central to the argument over whether teacher’s unions are The Problem or The Solution.

In every single instance we are arguing over control. Children are a problem in a world that insists on autonomy and self-determination, because children compromise one’s autonomy and change one’s life path.

I submit that a society in which children are a problem is a society that is deeply inhumane.

(cross-posted from my other blog.)

{ 358 comments }

1

OneEyedMan 09.14.12 at 1:11 am

I wonder if most students would consider it unprofessional for a teacher to take a bathroom break in class. I suspect they would although it is crazy to think that would ever make the news. I recall a couple of instances of older kids of professors sitting quietly in the back of class and student consensus that it was odd, although again, not remotely newsworthy. Which makes me think it isn’t anything more than breasts which made this sensational.

2

chrismealy 09.14.12 at 2:24 am

I’m with her on the teachable moment aspect, but I don’t want employers getting any bad ideas about how workers should care for sick babies.

3

Anarcissie 09.14.12 at 2:49 am

So, what rule is being proposed? I’m pretty sure most people don’t think anybody can or should do just anything in public, especially if involved in communal behavior (teaching), but I’m not sure what the assertion of right is, exactly.

4

indian 09.14.12 at 2:58 am

Why do feminists feel the need to speak like steretypical prole men in discussing such topics? E.g., “pisses me off” from the OP or “fuck that shit” from the quoted material. It’s almost like they valorize traditional maleness? Anyway, I find it hopelessly middle-class in origin. Elite women or prole women do not act like prole men, sorry. I know this even better as a bit of an outsider to Western culture.

5

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 3:19 am

I am middle class. I don’t see why that’s “hopeless.”

As to whether I swear because I valorize traditional maleness: no, not that I’m aware of. I swear because I find doing so (1) an effective way of demonstrating emotion; I not only have an opinion on this topic, I also have *strong feelings*; (2) rhetorically desirable.

Also, I don’t know that it’s true that prole/working-class women don’t swear. Certainly working-class women who are concerned with being respectable don’t, but plenty of working class women do.

Am I to infer that you think swearing is something I ought not to do? And if so, why?

6

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 3:23 am

@Anarcissie @3:

I don’t know that I’m proposing a rule so much as I am pointing out that the cultural importance of “voluntary” agreement is inherently problematic for women.

That said, the rule I would propose is that breastfeeding is a neutral act and that we do not, as a society, have the right to pass judgment on or make an issue of how people perform their jobs in the absence of actual evidence that their work performance is substandard.

7

Colin Danby 09.14.12 at 3:27 am

I don’t know if this applies workplaces in general or just academia, but yeah, I’ve long noticed an exaggerated panic over any intrusion of childraising in the academic workplace. I have to tell students it’s fine if they bring a kid along when they visit for office hours. It begs for a structural explanation, which the OP starts to provide.

8

WF 09.14.12 at 3:31 am

Doesn’t the right to abortion stem precisely from insisting on autonomy and self-determination?

9

indian 09.14.12 at 3:39 am

@5
Thank you for your response. I find it interesting that the female, feminist posters tend to “swear like a sailor.” I don’t mind, of course, but it is noticeable that they do while, say, Bertram, Quiggan, Holbo and the other frequent male bloggers noticeably abstain from such salty language. You would find the opposite on a South Asian blog, where the women posters would act more correct and the male posters would act more “thug” (on average) in their language. An interesting inversion. The linguist in me senses this means something, but I suppose with such a limited range we cannot reject randomness as the explanation.
I do think it wrong to prevent mothers from breast-feeding when necessary, as it has a disparate impact on their career prospects.

10

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 3:39 am

@WF in 8:

The rhetoric for abortion rights in an American context (or probably in the context of most industrialized countries) depends on the language of autonomy and self-determination, yes–in part because autonomy and self-determination are so central to the culture.

I would assert, however, that the “right” to abortion stems from the simple fact that abortion is possible and that women with unwanted pregnancies will–and have, throughout history–abort those pregnancies. The argument is therefore not about the right to an abortion so much as it is about whether or not women will have access to safe, legal medical abortion or whether they will be left to their own devices.

11

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 3:47 am

I’m so old I can actually remember when people did their fucking jobs.

12

PNP 09.14.12 at 3:51 am

Lactating is involuntary, but the choice to be in a teaching environment while doing so is in fact a voluntary choice. A hard choice possibly. But voluntary. The debate seems more properly about whether that choice should be accomodated.

13

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 3:51 am

Indian @9: Ah, thanks. And sorry I took umbrage at your initial comment.

I think there’s a bit of confirmation bias happening here, though. Belle and I swear, but I don’t think that the other women who blog here–Ezter, Maria–do. At least I haven’t seen it. D2 certainly swears, and he’s a man. I also think that part of the reason I was brought on–I don’t know about Belle–is the perception that I, and swearing is part of this persona, wouldn’t suffer fools gladly and would be comfortable bringing down the ban hammer on sexist commenters, so that skews the sample as well.

One partial explanation might also be that I (again, can’t speak for Belle) do, in fact, cultivate a somewhat aggressive persona (although actually I have used this very little on this blog) as a compensatory mechanism for imposter syndrome, which is a pretty common problem for high-achieving, ambitious American women, I understand. I believe it is supposed to have something to do with anxiety engendered by the dual imperative to be “good” in the sense of “achieve, do well in school, be successful at work” and “good” in the sense of “be nice, don’t challenge authority, don’t stand out.”

14

indian 09.14.12 at 3:53 am

The autonomy justification for abortion quickly runs into a deep “ick!” factor when you see it played out in the huge Punjabi-serving abortion mills in British Colombia or in Northern India where female fetuses are being terminated at radically disproportionate rates.

15

Andrew Smith 09.14.12 at 3:58 am

I agree with everything in this post. “Fuck that shit” is an idiom, @4. It’s not necessarily worse for having been first written by a man, if it indeed was, and there’s nothing wrong with a woman using it.

16

David 09.14.12 at 3:59 am

As a longtime admirer of Intelligent, classy, well-educated women who say fuck alot, I have no problem with this. Sometimes you just have to call a spade a fucking shovel. That said, it was an anthropology class, for christ’s sakes! Fucking grow up, kids.

17

indian 09.14.12 at 4:02 am

@13,
Haha, good explanation. My sister swears more than I do-now I can see it is because she has more to “prove” against a patriarchal baseline. I guess I kinda knew this implicitly in some inchoate sense, but it is striking for me to see articulated (and, yes, I don’t want to over-exaggerate) and played out among educated Westerners on CT.
Anyway, what exactly is the anti-breast feeding crowd in the US? Are they just traditionalists, or is it politicized? That matters, I think-if just traditonalists, it will fade waybut if it gets politicized then like abortion it will take a lot longer to get normalized.

18

indian 09.14.12 at 4:06 am

LOL -at # 15 & 16. Maybe you are reading between the lines, but I didn’t object to fucking swearing where it’s god-damned useful. I was just noting that female CT Bbloggers swear more than male ones, and as this differs from my nationalitiy’s practice, wondering why, so go bugger yourselves. ;-)

19

ChrisTS 09.14.12 at 4:07 am

This specific case is so much more complicated than this OP, and many other blog posts, recognize.

Let’s begin with the assumption that breastfeeding is normal and acceptable in most situations. Then, we need to interrogate the professor’s determination that bringing a sick child to a class is the best decision – for the child an students – in a difficult chocie situation. Next, we need to interrogate the professor’s leaving her (sick) child to crawl around on the floor, so that students had to point out that the child (a) had a paperclip in her/his mouth and (b) seemed dangerously interested inan elctrical outlet. After that, we must interrogate the professor’s telling her TA that she was not responsible for babycare, when the TA clearly thought someone ought to be – in light of both disruption to the class and the baby’s safety.

Lastly, we ought to address the professor’s subsequent treatment of student journalists who approached her about the class. This professor named the ‘offending’ students and posted their addresses on a blog site. She asserted that an article that reported that any students in the class were distracted or uncomfortable with any aspect of the case would constitute workplace harrassment of her as a woman – thus attempting to intimidate the students journaliusts into silence.

I am the mother of two (now grown) children and who faced many difficult choices when the best laid plans failed. I sympathize with the predicament of professors whose children are ill or whose normal care plans implode at the last minute. Unlike many other professionals (not al), we canot ‘makeup’ for lost primary work time – classes, in our case. I did have to bring children too ‘sick’ for daycare – which used to mean having a fever – to my college on rare occasions. I breastfed my children. But, like Prof. Pine, I also expressed for when they were in daycare and, so, I never *had to* breastfeed in class; I could have a bottle ready. More to the point, I never left my students (never had TAs) to keep an eye on my children. Nor would I have thought that “rushing through” a class was preferable to having someone cover for me.

This case is not about breastfeeding. And it is not a good case for feminists to mob about.

20

ChrisTS 09.14.12 at 4:07 am

Forgive my many typos, please.

21

js. 09.14.12 at 4:10 am

TO @10 (and OP):

But surely you don’t want to want to give up on self-determination and autonomy entirely? Do you? So, yes, there’s this sort of insane obsession with “personal responsibility”, “personal accountability” etc., which can totally discount social and biological factors, but to argue against the very idea of autonomy as a counter to this seems to me a bit like, well… I was going to mention baby and bathwater bit, but now I’m wondering if that’s going to sound a bit weird given the context. (But maybe I’m misunderstanding?)

And as PNP noted, it is a choice, or at least voluntary, to bring the child or infant to class. A totally justifiable one, I think. But in any case it’s not something involuntary. And the other hand, the “Oh, but the students!” response is a bit stupid precisely because there’s no coercion involved, at least in any vaguely reasonable sense.

22

Andrew Smith 09.14.12 at 4:11 am

@18 You didn’t understand my comment, clearly. I was saying it’s not interesting whether or not it was a “stereotypically [whatever] men” trait.

23

Andrae 09.14.12 at 4:23 am

I had lecturers turn up drunk, late, ignorant, unprepared, in mismatched knee-high socks, and in one particularly memorable case with white kit gloves and a bamboo cane. Not one of these was newsworthy, or rated so much as a comma in the student newspaper—and I know my experience is not unique. Consequently, this story has nothing to do with alleged “distraction” or “unprofessional conduct”. The only reason this story is “a story” is the potential titillation of the reader because it involved a breast. Personally I consider “Fuck that shit.” a mild response to sexual violation, and most certainly this story represents exactly that.

That the editor has not already resigned in disgrace dishonours AU.

(oh, and @4; amongst other things, swearing is an appropriate and useful rhetorical device to shock the listener out of complacency. That authors writing with the imprimatur of white male privilege writing on similarly privileged issues have less need to avail themselves of such a device should not be surprising. Personally I would consider that this is not immediately apparent to you would be embarrassing so I will not belabour the point).

24

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 4:34 am

Indian @17: “what exactly is the anti-breast feeding crowd in the US? Are they just traditionalists, or is it politicized?”

Oh, like everything else there’s a mish-mash. Breastfeeding is broadly viewed as discomfiting because breasts are highly sexualized. So there are people who object to public breastfeeding on the grounds that it’s indecent, or that it’s a “private act.” (Which I think is most of the problem with the breastfeeding-in-class scenario.) There are some who view it as an overtly feminist act and object to it on those grounds–it’s largely associated, at this point, with educated, relatively affluent women (who have the cultural capital to flaunt norms of public behavior, to some extent).

There are also those who feel that, in part because of the social class thing, pro-breastfeeding women (like me) are “intolerant” of women who choose not to breastfeed. And sometimes, because motherhood is such a fraught role, this is true: people tend to take very rigid stands about the “right” ways to mother and to get very defensive about their practices.

25

indian 09.14.12 at 4:35 am

@23,
with all due respect you are being a bit provincial bc vulgar speach (which, again, I do not object to) as “resistance” is not universally deployed by the disposesed. Just consult, e.g., Dalit-liberation literature. Think globally, and take your Western-centric views and stick ‘em where the sun don’t shine! (LOL-swearing is liberating!)

26

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 4:39 am

There’s no anti-breast feeding crowd. There’s a do your fucking job crowd. If your kid is sick take a sick day. Just don’t give us this shit, this “it’s all about you” shit.

Do your job.

27

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 4:43 am

ChrisTS @19:

I don’t agree that we have to interrogate any of the professor’s decisions (with the exception of her naming the student journalists, which I agree is questionable). First, and most importantly, because I don’t think we have to, or should, question the decisions that other women make about how they integrate their parental/professional lives unless there’s evidence that there’s a problem, as I said upthread; and I don’t see such evidence. I think the things you are citing as evidence require a number of assumptions: that a student pointed out that the baby was near an electrical outlet (the professor says only that the electrical outlet interrupted the flow of her lecture; it’s entirely possible that she herself noticed it), that the baby had a paperclip b/c it was on the floor. I don’t see why putting an infant on the floor is a bad idea, nor why bringing a infant with a fever to class is a public health concern; it seems to me that the baby, at least, would be happier with its mother and an immediate boob than in day care or at home with a sitter. I don’t see any reason to think that the TA was “concerned” about the professor’s attention or the baby’s safety as opposed to merely trying to be helpful and friendly.

I think your summary of the decisions you made sounds fine. I don’t see why you can’t extend the same presumption of competence and discretion to someone who made different decisions. And I have to object to your statement that “I never had to breastfeed in class; I could have a bottle ready”–why is the bottle preferable? IME, a baby that is primarily breastfed is far less likely to fuss when it’s on the breast than it is when it’s on the bottle. This may certainly not be true of all babies, but it was of mine.

28

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 4:44 am

Duff @26: Why do you presume that the professor wasn’t doing her job? It seems to me that the “controversy” is about the fact that she *was* doing her job–while she had a baby present.

29

indian 09.14.12 at 4:45 am

@24,
Interesting. At the exteme risk of generalizing over a country of 1 billion people, I think that Indian mothers do breastfeed in India in public, but “modesty” is easier to preseve bc they are wearing a shawl, duppata, etc. so can drape it over the baby. The upper-class Westernized 5% (which would include me) would not do it though, I think bc we want to be Western.

30

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 4:47 am

js @21: I don’t think I’m arguing that self-determination and autonomy are things we should “give up on.” I am saying that motherhood, and by extension the female body, are threats to our ideological reification of self-determination and autonomy, and that this is one reason why that ideology is problematic for women.

31

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 4:49 am

@29: Whereas in America, a lot of the childrearing practices of the educated upper middle class are justified by arguments that they are “natural,” that they are the things that “women in less industrialized societies” do, etc.

32

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 4:53 am

“Why do you presume that the professor wasn’t doing her job?”

The professor’s job is to give 100% attention to the students. It would be criminally negligent to give 100% of your attention to the students when your child needs your attention, too.

This is what daycare is for. That’s what working people do with their children while they have to work.

If you don’t have to work, sure, you can hang out with the kid all day. That’s fine, rich people get to do that. Working class people have to work.

The definition of “professor” is “person with an advanced degree who does not yet realize they are working class”.

Everyone else is in on the joke.

33

indian 09.14.12 at 4:56 am

@31,
Great point, and a hilarious (if at times insidious) distinction betwen Western and “Third World” elites . . . .

34

indian 09.14.12 at 5:01 am

We are copying you, and you are copying our people that we shun!

35

Scott Martens 09.14.12 at 5:20 am

You’re missing the most egregious example of “children are a problem in a world that insists on autonomy and self-determination”: the soi-disant men’s rights movement that insists on seeing child support as a kind of criminal liability. “Just because I put my wee-wee in her hoo-ha that one time doesn’t mean I should have to cough up a large share of my income for 20 years, since she can choose to have an abortion.”

The fantasy of control over children, though, seems to me to be based on the very bizarre idea that children have no autonomy or self-determination, something so abundantly untrue that I can’t imagine anyone actually affirming it. Myths of “bad parenting” and “bad teachers” seem to flow more from that than anywhere else.

36

Navin Kumar 09.14.12 at 5:32 am

I’m sympathetic to the issue – but it’s very hard to be sympathetic to the person. She’s a bit of a dick*.

The most glaring example is the way she treats the reporter. She’s an authority figure in the college and she emails other professors with the students name complaining about her actions. The journalist has to take classes with these other professors. Pine complains so much about how a hostile environment will be created for her – and ignores the environment that her actions create for others.

There are other things as well – all those emails she shares with the faculty, notably one who “offered … help communicating with the staff of the Eagle”. Even if the intent wasn’t to suppress the story (and I’m not convinced it isn’t), that’s clearly the result.

*gender neutrality!

37

ponce 09.14.12 at 6:05 am

I fon’t think the kid caused the problem.

It was the boobies.

38

Colin Danby 09.14.12 at 6:15 am

DC’s truculent circularity is a great example of what I was talking about above – the ideology that *any* overlap of work and childraising is wrong, that even the slightest mingling of the spheres is cause for panic.

39

Neil 09.14.12 at 6:19 am

Duff Clarity, there is an argument you should avoid taking a sick kid into a class (for the kid’s sake, and for everyone else’s). One assumes that the professor did so because she had no alternative (if you read the original article, you would know that). So the options were *don’t do your fucking job* – cancel class – or come up with some, possibly second-best, alternative and do 98% of the job.

Oh, and if you think there’s no anti-breast feeding crowd (that is, anti breast feeding in public) you either aren’t paying attention or you’re a troll (quite possibly both). Try googling, for a start “mp ejected for breast feeding”.

40

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 6:59 am

I am tired of this no alternative thing.

41

Neil 09.14.12 at 7:01 am

Duff Clarity: *you* are tired of this no alternative thing? Imagine how *she* felt.

Have you ever been a parent? Have you ever met a parent? If so, it might have crossed your mind that sometimes shit happens, and childcare arrangements fall through. Do you really think it is unlikely that what the professor says occurs actually occurred? If so, you really need to get out more.

42

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 7:08 am

Shit happens. In the factory, when shit happens, you lose your job.

But the poor professors. Won’t anyone think about the poor professors?

43

Neil 09.14.12 at 7:13 am

Okay, this is my last try. I won’t feed this particular troll anymore. She took the baby to class. She made the best of a situation in which her alternatives weren’t do the job or abandon a sick child. For this you criticize her? You, sir (and I use that term advisably) a jerk, an asshole and a fucking idiot. Now fuck off.

44

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 7:15 am

Ever heard of daycare?

45

indian 09.14.12 at 7:16 am

Can someone point me to an article about what the US basline is on mothers breastfeeding? I thought it was ok, as long as done “modestly” meaning the mother is draping a cloth over the baby. I now know this is the Indian norm, but I am at a major US university and it seems to be the norm here too. But america is a big place-is the norm different elswhere? I was in boston and it seemed the same . . . .

46

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 7:17 am

Most working class people have heard of daycare. Ms. I have a right to do whatever I want when I’m at work. maybe not so much.

47

Neil 09.14.12 at 7:19 am

Okay, I shouldn’t do this. But here goes.

Ever heard of reading? The situation is this: her daycare option wasn’t available. Read, dick, read. Think. Get your head out of your ass.

48

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 7:23 am

And the average working class person, what options are available for them?

But I get it. Whose pain is real? Yours.

Your pain is real.

49

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 7:32 am

DC, stop being an asshole or I will delete your comments and consider banning.

50

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 7:36 am

Indian @45: I think that is the baseline (sadly, I have no article to offer you). Occasionally there will be a news story about someone being asked to leave a public place for breastfeeding and there will be a stink about it and the business or whatever in question will issue an apology.

In some cities, breastfeeding without a drape is generally not a big deal. I breastfed my son in Seattle and never covered up (in fact, I tended to wear stretchy tops and to just pull my breast out of the top of my bra and shirt) and was only challenged on it once, by a drunk man on a bus. I got the occasional “good for you” and sideways glance but for the most part felt it was pretty unremarkable.

51

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 7:36 am

(That should have read “good for you” *or* sideways glance. Obviously the “good for you”ers and the sideways glancers were not the same people.)

52

reason 09.14.12 at 7:47 am

“In every single instance we are arguing over control. Children are a problem in a world that insists on autonomy and self-determination, because children compromise one’s autonomy and change one’s life path.”

First, I think Scott Martens excellent post @35 is a good rejounder here. But I thought it worth pointing that children are only one such problem. The whole concept of autonomy and self-determination is problematic in a heavily populated finite world. People’s autonomies keep bumping into one another. And then their is the problem of automy’s fragility (sickness, adiction, limited ability in general). I don’t think such issues are limited to women here.

The problem is the assumption that people have full automy at all in our analysis of the world. That it doesn’t matter that we move the work away from where people are, because people can move to the work, as though people aren’t attached to the places they are by things other than work. For instance.

53

bad Jim 09.14.12 at 8:33 am

California gives mothers the right to nurse anywhere, anytime. For reasons beyond my comprehension this offends diners at fine restaurants and, apparently, students, none of whom otherwise object to consuming food in public. For some strange reason certain acts of nourishment are treated in public discourse as though they were flagrant assaults upon decency.

I can even remember when students brought their dogs to class. Once I traded a professor a cigarette for a light. Kids these days have nothing to complain about.

54

clew 09.14.12 at 8:48 am

In every single instance we are arguing over control. Children are a problem in a world that insists on autonomy and self-determination, because children compromise one’s autonomy and change one’s life path.

Also because children themselves have autonomy and self-determination, but not enough, or not in a completely usable form. We can be consistent about neither reproduction nor the reproduction of labor, and I think we’d still handle childrearing oddly if we had artificial wombs tomorrow.

55

etv13 09.14.12 at 8:55 am

I’m with Chris TS on this. I breastfed my daughter in public (including, on one memorable occasion, on Route 50 in the middle of Middleburg, Virginia), but I would never have dreamed of breastfeeding her during a business meeting, or in court. I agree the kerfuffle here is overblown, but the professor’s conduct was still inappropriate. The child was old enough to crawl, and apparently was accustomed to being in a daycare environment, which suggests that the professor could have fed the child either immediately before or immediately after the 75-minute class. For me, it’s not just a matter of “boobies”; it’s a matter of attention. If the professor had pulled out a bottle and little jars of mashed bananas and rice cereal and started feeding the kid, it still wouldn’t have been the right way to approach teaching a class.

Also, the kid was feverish. For both the child’s sake, and the sake of the other people in the room, the child should have been kept in a more isolated, quieter environment.

I mean, come on, guys. The professor isn’t some downtrodden factory worker. She’s a fucking AU professor. She had resources. She should have used them appropriately.

56

Curmudgeon 09.14.12 at 9:12 am

Tedra Osell — It’s a lot more than merely ‘questionable’ for authority figures to allegedly use intimidation tactics against reporters who ask uncomfortable questions.

Would you be anywhere near as accepting if, hypothetically, a high ranking Republican arranged for your home address to be posted on Free Republic in retaliation for you writing a blog post he didn’t like? What if, under similar hypothetical circumstances, a ranking member of government used the security apparatus to threaten your livelihood by “warning” your current, and all potential, employers that you are a troublemaker who shouldn’t be treated fairly?

Press freedom is vitally important to a free society even if the press is saying something you disagree with. Threatening it–allegedly–is not questionable. It is unacceptable.

57

William Timberman 09.14.12 at 9:22 am

It’s interesting to me to watch the head-on collision here between the sexual division of labor — with all its historical overtones of the subjugation of women — and Duff Clarity’s (male? false?) working-class dyspepsia.

Yes, if we want women to have access to all the income-earning potential of men, they may wind up being heavy equipment operators, military police pffocers, airline pilots, and what have you. If women doing these jobs also have children, and want to breastfeed, there are issues that they, and more importantly, society as a whole, will be obliged to confront. My own feeling is that we can, and should, be a lot less rigid in our thinking about such issues than we currently are. Certainly there are a lot of DC’s out there, who’d prefer just to assert that never-the-twin-shall-meet, and go on about their business as usual.

That’s why women like Tedra, being professors as well as breast-feeding mothers and feminists, are so ideally situated to call attention to what we’ve been sweeping under the rug. Surely this is a good thing. We really do need to put the corporate sausage grinder’s definition of work, and our definitions of what it means to be human in the same room and let them glower at one another up close and personal. Having been one of those legendary father/bureaucrats who never got to see his kids, and almost forgot why he should want to, I would welcome the confrontation. And, by the way, God bless the women who manage to bring what we aren’t considering carefully enough to our attention, and who refuse to allow us to look away. If, at the moment, they have to be professors to get away with it, I say good on ‘em. We’ve gotta start somewhere.

58

Squirrel Nutkin 09.14.12 at 9:39 am

Some enlightening and educational debate going on re the topics of breastfeeding, the workplace, press freedom, acceptable language in debate, etc, but I have been unable to focus on them properly since DC @26 as I wrestle with the concept of an “anti-breast”.

Obviously redundancy has not diminished my inner grammar nazi, but I also wonder if DC’s ability to type those characters gives another clue to the basic motivation of the “keep your baps out of the boardroom” crowd.

59

Mandos 09.14.12 at 9:48 am

The fantasy of control over children, though, seems to me to be based on the very bizarre idea that children have no autonomy or self-determination, something so abundantly untrue that I can’t imagine anyone actually affirming it. Myths of “bad parenting” and “bad teachers” seem to flow more from that than anywhere else.

Except, that very many people absolutely believe it, including very many people who have children—that children can be “trained up”.

60

Tim Worstall 09.14.12 at 9:49 am

What is the same university’s/professor’s attitude to a student bringing a baby to class and breast feeding it there?

Even, what do all the commenters think of it?

If inappropriate, then why one rule and another?

61

John Quiggin 09.14.12 at 10:52 am

We had a string of fights in Australia over breastfeeding in Parliament. A Victorian MP was ejected for doing so in 2003. But I think that’s all been resolved now. At least the NSW Parliament made it officially OK five years ago.
http://www.smh.com.au/news/National/Breastfeeding-okay-in-NSW-parliament/2007/10/17/1192300836750.html
And, contrary to DC’s bogus working class shtick, that is, as it should be, a legal right for all workers, not some kind of middle class indulgence
http://www.babycenter.com.au/baby/workandchildcare/breastfeeding&working/#10

Tedra, as you say, we’re counting on you to stick it to trolls like DC as hard as possible, so please don’t hold back.

62

rea 09.14.12 at 11:11 am

We have taboos against the sexual, the scatalogical, and the gross in public. Breast-feeding is none of those, and if you think otherwise, well, the problem is with you and not with breast-feeding.

63

Neil 09.14.12 at 11:21 am

Tim, one difference is that if the student has to miss class, only she suffers. If the professor misses class, a large number of people suffer. That’s not at all to imply that there should be a different rule, just to point out that there could be a justification for treating the cases differently.

64

CP Norris 09.14.12 at 11:29 am

I have no problem with public breastfeeding but you can’t have your kid running wild in your workplace.

In general I know that adjunct professors are not treated well. I’d like to know exactly what arrangements AU makes for this type of situation. Can you get a substitute on short notice to show up and hand out copies of the syllabus?

It seems like yet another case of a US employer’s putting its workers and customers in unhealthy situations by making no provision for sick employees.

65

John Quiggin 09.14.12 at 11:30 am

I’m finding much of the commentary above pretty medieval (in the ahistorical pejorative sense – obviously public breastfeeding must have been routine in actual medieval times). Is the US (and, given Tim W’s intervention, the UK) really as backward as these comments suggest?

As the OP says, this is part of life – if your work or study requires you to be somewhere public and your baby needs to be fed, there’s no sensible alternative. Obvious examples include university teachers and students.

66

ajay 09.14.12 at 11:49 am

We have taboos against the sexual, the scatalogical, and the gross in public. Breast-feeding is none of those, and if you think otherwise, well, the problem is with you and not with breast-feeding.

Unfortunately, though, taboos can’t just be asserted away. You can say that an activity shouldn’t be taboo; you can say that making it taboo is crazy, that it says bad things about people who follow the taboo, that it’s bad for society, that the taboo is backward and mediaeval and so on. But you can’t just assert “we don’t have a taboo about this” any more than you can assert “this movie is popular”. It isn’t up to you.

And from the reactions of the students – and those of a lot of people on this site – it seems pretty obvious that, in fact, there is a taboo here, one that’s shared widely if not universally.

67

rf 09.14.12 at 11:50 am

“Is the US (and, given Tim W’s intervention, the UK) really as backward as these comments suggest?”

I must admit my gut instinct is to be pretty hostile towards Prof Pine, although I don’t know what’s driving that hostility. Etv13 at 55 makes a reasonable argument against though, a far as I can see. (The journalist thing is disgraceful but irrelevant to the point of the post)

68

chris 09.14.12 at 11:54 am

obviously public breastfeeding must have been routine in actual medieval times

Possibly, but often not by upper-class women, who routinely found a lower-class woman who happened to have given birth about the same time and paid her to breastfeed the upper-class baby in addition to her own.

We expect a professor to adhere to upper-class norms, but in modern workplaces, they may have as little freedom as any serf (they do have the option to quit, unlike the serf, but the cost of doing so is high). And hiring someone else to breastfeed your baby is practically unthinkable. It’s not hard for me to believe that the resulting double bind is *worse* than it was in medieval times.

69

GiT 09.14.12 at 1:05 pm

Maybe one of the underlying questions here is how much freedom one should have to do a less than “I’m hopped up on ritalin and can only devote my attention to 1 task 100%” job of things.

Obviously, there is the DC position that one’s job is to give “100% attention” (and, presumably, 100% time) to one’s job. Alternatively, one might take the view that a certain degree of what one could call, pejoratively, shirking should be expected and accommodated, in all jobs.

One should be able to get up off the assembly line, or step out of the classroom, in order to take a piss, have a smoke, get a drink of water, eat a snack, or just gather oneself for a minute, as inefficient as all this freedom and autonomy may be. But no, any relaxation of draconian policy is surely an irreversible slip towards sloth, indolence, and inefficiency.

If you let workers cut themselves and each other a break every now and again, the whole world will fall apart and we’ll have nothing but lazy union shirkers taking 2 hour lunches and 3 smoke breaks an hour and socializing at the watercooler for minutes on end.

The shiftless and self-serving will maximize their leisure and the poor honest working man will toil away, covering for the poor work ethic of his lazy (and probably sexually or racially or class-ishly other) coworker, because people are all assholes and the very idea that you could expect them to work together cooperatively and fairly on their own terms is preposterous.

70

Mao Cheng Ji 09.14.12 at 1:09 pm

” it seems pretty obvious that, in fact, there is a taboo here, one that’s shared widely if not universally”

Doesn’t sound so much as a taboo as just a social norm. Sleeping with one’s own sister is a taboo. But social norms are difficult to change too.

71

ajay 09.14.12 at 1:22 pm

“Doesn’t sound so much as a taboo as just a social norm.”

A taboo is a social norm. (OK, originally it’s a Polynesian religious prohibition, but in common usage outside Polynesia, that’s what it means: X is taboo = there is a social norm that we don’t do X.)

72

bianca steele 09.14.12 at 1:28 pm

@ajay
Sure, you can’t say “we don’t have a taboo about this” if you do. But by the same token, you can’t say “we have a taboo about this” when you don’t. Right?

73

Mao Cheng Ji 09.14.12 at 1:29 pm

Right, but some of the social norms, including this one, are not nearly as strong as what most people would identify as ‘taboo’. Or maybe it’s just me.

74

BelgianObserver 09.14.12 at 1:29 pm

LOL at 68’s class-climbing assertion that professors exhibit “upper-class” norms. I’m afraid not, dear.

75

ajay 09.14.12 at 1:34 pm

72: of course. And, as the reaction of the students – and a lot of other people elsewhere – demonstrates, we do. Or at least a lot of people do. Enough that, I think, it qualifies as a taboo. Just as, say, topless bathing is. (Not sexual, not scatological, not gross; but still taboo, at least in the US.)

76

bianca steele 09.14.12 at 1:56 pm

Yes, well, although the only place I’ve seen a boob is the art museum (not a painting, someone walking around holding a child), I’ve seen nursing covered in all kinds of places. I don’t see a story there.

I assume the instructor started the class by explaining what happened. Probably, since the baby had been in daycare until she’d gotten sick, she didn’t realize how difficult it would be to keep track of her in a public place while working. I don’t know what I would have done in that situation. Maybe apologized to the TA and said “I’m sorry, but I do need you to help out here after all,” or gone to the department office and found a student who’d sit with the baby in the classroom for an hour?

77

Manta 09.14.12 at 2:01 pm

A small kid in class is a no no: it distracts the professor AND the students.

Pine herself admits it:
“The flow of my lecture was interrupted once by “Professor, your son has a paper-clip in his mouth” (I promptly extracted it without correcting my students’ gendered assumptions) and again when she crawled a little too close to an electrical outlet”
and
“I admit those lectures haven’t always gone so well (baby can get fidgety)”.

She even has the nerve of writing
“I guess there are faculty out there who think it’s appropriate to check their BlackBerries while lecturing”.

(All considered, in her post she comes out as a self-entitled asshole).

78

X 09.14.12 at 2:02 pm

Yes, bodies – and not just women’s bodies, in fact – have a habit of “doing things “involuntarily””. Yes, US society is uncomfortable with this – and so is every other society I can think of, Western or non- (plenty of places are cool with public breastfeeding, but seriously, since you brought it up, is there any culture on earth that’s comfortable with public displays of menstruation?) There’s at least one nearly universal reason why this would be the case: involuntary displays threaten our ability to control our own self-presentation. So I doubt that anti-involuntariness explains why some Americans have a problem with public breastfeeding, and I don’t see any reason to consider anti-involuntariness a bad thing.

I suspect one underlying cause of the fuss is that a lot of people (unrealistically and oppressively) see motherhood and professionalism as incompatible roles, and breastfeeding during a class forces them to see the professor as simultaneously the mother.

79

LizardBreath 09.14.12 at 2:04 pm

“Taboo” seems much too strong. Breastfeeding in public certainly isn’t taboo in the US — I did it for a couple of years and never got a negative reaction strong enough that I had to notice it. So any taboo we’re talking about it would be limited to the narrow circumstance of breastfeeding while teaching, or while working.

And the reaction she got doesn’t suggest that she violated a taboo either — a student commented on her breastfeeding negatively online, but there’s no indication that anyone openly objected to what she was doing to her face at the time. If she’d, say, shown up to teach class naked, that would be a real taboo violation, and people would have freaked out about it, left the room, and gone to get help. If behavior is socially acceptable enough that the minimal level of authority a college teacher has over their students is enough to get the students to take it in stride, at least on a surface level, I think it’s misleading to describe it as taboo.

Now, it’s clearly something that plenty of people disapprove of strongly enough that this fuss blew up about it, but not everything that you can find people who disapprove of is taboo.

80

parse 09.14.12 at 2:13 pm

ajay, I missed the part where there was a negative reaction by the students. The fact that the paper contemplated running a story on the incident suggests that there was, but are there any links that detail complaints or other reactions from the class?

Tedra, can you expand a little on this: women (which is to say, children)? I think I have a sense of what you mean, but I don’t quite get it. If children force us to confront something, it makes sense to say women force us to confront it because. . . why?

81

PJW 09.14.12 at 2:18 pm

Why isn’t this spelled out in policy of what is and what is not permitted to avoid these types of situations? It should either be permissible or not to breastfeed in the classroom, for professors and students alike. No need to guess about taboos and social norms.

82

Manta 09.14.12 at 2:20 pm

There is also another aspect where her behaviour is unacceptable: the fact that she is in a position of authority over the students, which she abused more than once in a few days (when she breastfed in class and, more seriously, when she tried to intimidate the student journalist).

It should be clear that what we are free to do among peers is quite different from what we can do when we are treating with people in an inferior position; that a professor teaching “Sex, Gender Culture” cannot see it is sad, but easy to understand; that a feminist like Tedra defends it (not her treatment oof the journalist) is inexplicable.

83

LizardBreath 09.14.12 at 2:26 pm

Breastfeeding in class was an abuse of authority? If I look at it uncharitably, I can follow the argument that teaching with divided attention was unprofessional, and worse than cancelling class. But I can’t see where abuse of authority kicks in.

84

Manta 09.14.12 at 2:35 pm

I will quote your own words, Lizard:
“The minimal level of authority a college teacher has over their students is enough to get the students to take it in stride”

85

oudemia 09.14.12 at 2:36 pm

79: The extent of negative reaction from students in the class (and I may be missing something) was I think a “tweet” or Facebook post made during class. The trouble started when the reporter (I think due to her having seen said “tweet”) approached the prof. about writing a story.

86

CJColucci 09.14.12 at 2:38 pm

Remembering, as best I can at my age, the person I was as an undergraduate, I’m pretty sure I would not have been bothered by this professor breastfeeding in class. The reasons I would not have been bothered would not have done me credit, but I would not have been bothered by it.

87

LizardBreath 09.14.12 at 2:57 pm

Manta: I’m still not following. The fact that a professor has some minimal authority over her students does not automatically make any action of hers an abuse of that authority.

88

Marcus Pivato 09.14.12 at 3:07 pm

Duff Clarity: You say, “ever heard of daycare.” Let me give you a clue: daycares do not accept children with fevers — both for the sake of the sick child, and the sake of the other children. So if your kid is sick, you are 100% responsible for taking care of him/her. (Probably you didn’t know this, since you obviously don’t have any kids.)

Also, I find your repeated admonitions to “do your fucking job” quite interesting. Since you’ve obviously never been within 2 kilometers of an institution of higher education, let me clear a few things up for you.

In most universities, a semester lasts for 12 weeks, with three hours of lecture per week. That means a maximum of 36 hours of lecture (usually less, because some days are lost due to statutory holidays like Thanksgiving, etc.). During this time, the professor has to convey to the students a very large volume of material. Depending on the course, it could be the equivalent of several hundred pages of textbook. (In an advanced math course, it is usually about 150-200 pages of textbook, but math texts are notoriously dense. In most other subjects, I assume it is 400-500 pages. In a “reading-heavy” humanities course, it could be more than 1000 pages). Because of these time constraints, most professors have very tightly planned 12 week syllabi (e.g. “In lecture 2 of Week 5, we will cover Sections 5.1-5.3 in the book).

So, missing one or two lectures often means you will not finish the syllabus before the end of the year. Because of this, most conscientious professors try to never miss a lecture, unless they can find a colleague or graduate student to cover it. (At small universities, this is often not even an option. Even at large universities, you don’t really want to call in too many favours.) I know professors who have shown up for lectures feverishly ill, or with an separated collarbone from a bike accident, or the morning after spending all night awake in a hospital with a sick child. In other words, showing up for the lecture —even if you are sick, or even if your child is sick —is exactly what it means for a professor to “do her fucking job”.

I am not sure I would have made the same choices this professor made. I am also not sure that student criticism was warranted, but neither am I sure that the professor’s reaction to criticism after the fact was entirely appropriate. I also think that Tedra is too quick to pass judgement and pick sides in this case. I think this may just be a case of poor judgement on all sides, rather than a case study in “feminism vs. patriarchy”. But it sounds like the situation was very complicated, and I don’t think any of us have a right to judge this professor’s behaviour without knowing all the facts. Least of all you.

89

Manta 09.14.12 at 3:12 pm

Lizard: first, the authority is not “minimal” at all.

Second, a few students (the Washington Post story quotes 2) were uncomfortable with it
(or, to quote you again “Now, it’s clearly something that plenty of people disapprove of strongly enough that this fuss blew up about it”).

Thus: she had a captive audience, and put them in an uncomfortable position for reasons that have nothing to to with her job.

BTW, given her treatment of the journalist, I think likely that quite a few students would have felt very intimidated about objecting to her behaviour in public.

90

Anarcissie 09.14.12 at 3:12 pm

I think it was the truculence of the initiating article, implying a kind of moral supremacy, which caused me to ask how we determine which forms of public behavior are acceptable and which not, that is, to the extent that we can be freely truculent about them. The issues do not seem all that simple to me. Sure, the workplace should be more rational; I should be able to teach physics naked except for painted blue polka-dots. But that isn’t the way things are, for some reason. How do we decide the rules, other than by swearing at and threatening those benighted souls who don’t agree with us?

Another thing that no one seems to have commented on is the implied natalism. Maybe no one is interested, but I was surprised.

91

Cian 09.14.12 at 3:15 pm

Judging by Duff’s blog he’s about as working class as I am (not at all). He does work as an excellent example of ignorant male privilege rearing it’s ugly head – and for that I thank him.

92

Cian 09.14.12 at 3:16 pm

Given that average quality of a university lecture, I struggle to believe that it was affected by the baby. Yes the lecturer is clearly a jerk, but come on. I find it nicely ironic that Anthropology students were upset by a breach of taboo.

As for breast feeding. If you’re upset by breast feeding, then you have a problem. There’s something infantilizing about the fact that there’s even a debate on that topic.

93

Anarcissie 09.14.12 at 3:19 pm

‘ If you’re upset by breast feeding, then you have a problem.’

‘If you don’t agree with me, there’s something wrong with you.’ Very logical.

94

Manta 09.14.12 at 3:21 pm

Cian: if you are upset by naked people, then you have a problem.

I had the occasion to attend a seminar with the lecturer’s baby around: it was quite entertaining, and entirely unobjectionable (it was an informal meeting between colleagues), but the baby did definitely interfere with the exposition.
As I said above, Pine herself admits in her post that babies and lectures do not mix well.

95

MPAVictoria 09.14.12 at 3:22 pm

I am having a hard time knowing what to think here.
1) I support the right of women to breastfeed in public. Babies get hungry.
2) I question an individual’s ability to teach with their sick baby in the room and I could understand why some students may be annoyed that their class time is being taken up in such a way. That said this whole issue would not exist if people had access to reasonable sick day provisions.
3) I find this particular woman’s response odious in the extreme. Naming and shaming the student journalist is completely unacceptable and a way bigger deal than many of the people here seem to realize. She should actually lose her job over that as far as I am concerned.

96

LizardBreath 09.14.12 at 3:32 pm

I question an individual’s ability to teach with their sick baby in the room and I could understand why some students may be annoyed that their class time is being taken up in such a way.

From the stories, it doesn’t sound as if any actual students expressed annoyance at the presence of the baby — obviously not it’s not ideal, but it’s the sort of thing that does happen when you get stuck. The student who complained limited his complaint to the breastfeeding.

97

oudemia 09.14.12 at 3:34 pm

MPAVictoria’s (3) is where I am on this (minus the being fired stuff). As far as I can tell, there was no outraged student response to her breastfeeding. One ass tweeted about it. The histoires began when she started fighting with the student journalist. I completely understand that the professor didn’t want her actions to be or to merit any sort of story, but her mocking of the journalist’s naivete and enthusiasm is practically a derogation of duty.

98

NBarnes 09.14.12 at 3:36 pm

#3: Prole women don’t swear? I am not convinced that you have ever met one.

99

MPAVictoria 09.14.12 at 3:44 pm

“From the stories, it doesn’t sound as if any actual students expressed annoyance at the presence of the baby—obviously not it’s not ideal, but it’s the sort of thing that does happen when you get stuck. The student who complained limited his complaint to the breastfeeding.”

Fair enough. I stand by my statement that it would be near impossible to teach well with your sick baby in the room and that the whole problem could have been avoided by having sensible policies related to sick leave.

100

MPAVictoria 09.14.12 at 3:44 pm

“(minus the being fired stuff)”
What do you think the appropriate response should be?

101

djw 09.14.12 at 3:51 pm

for reasons that have nothing to to with her job.

Isn’t the topic of the course “Sex Gender and Culture”? If this course is anything like a similarly titled course I took in college, the kind of person made uncomfortable by witnessing an act of breastfeeding is quite likely to be made uncomfortable on a fairly regular basis throughout the semester.

Sometimes learning things means questioning some of your previously unexamined assumptions and beliefs. We are, for better or worse, members of a species that finds that process uncomfortable more often than not. If there were students in the room who were troubled by the breastfeeding, but then examined their own reaction afresh, trying to understand why they were troubled, this whole incident has pretty obvious pedagogical value, insofar as it helps some students get in the mindset to think critically and openly about gender and culture, and follow their own gut reactions a bit less than blindly than they otherwise might.

102

djw 09.14.12 at 4:00 pm

ajay–of course you can’t wish a taboo away. But when a taboo is losing its force, or at least its broad reach, it is susceptible to certain strategies. Statements like Cian’s above:

As for breast feeding. If you’re upset by breast feeding, then you have a problem. There’s something infantilizing about the fact that there’s even a debate on that topic.

Have some force in taboo destruction. It may diminish the force of the taboo, or it may make those still under the spell of the taboo feel less comfortable about being public about their reaction, thus reducing the circulation of the taboo in society. This strategy has been crucial to the cultural side of the struggle for full inclusion and acceptance for the GBLT community. Responding to anti-gay bigotry with a baffled, dismissive contempt may cause a few hardcore bigots to dig in their heels, but it can be effective otherwise.

103

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 4:09 pm

@90: “Judging by Duff’s blog he’s about as working class as I am (not at all)”

I’m not working class. I used to be. I worked on a factory floor for the better (well worse, actually) part of a decade. That’s how I know that when Git@69 says, “One should be able to get up off the assembly line, or step out of the classroom, in order to take a piss, have a smoke, get a drink of water, eat a snack, or just gather oneself for a minute”, that that isn’t how things work.

You did get a break on the assembly line, you got three of them on an 8 hour shift – one 30 minute break and two 15 minute ones. You got them when it was convenient for others, and someone had to be there to take your place while you took your break. If you took a break outside of that time, you were written up. If you took too long on break, you were written up. If you were written up three times in a year, you were fired.

As for John Quiggen’s remark @ 61, “And, contrary to DC’s bogus working class shtick, that is, as it should be, a legal right for all workers, not some kind of middle class indulgence”, Mr. Quiggen should read the content to which he linked. It says, in part, “Work out in advance whether there is somewhere suitable for you to express or feed (not the toilet area), a refrigerator where you can store expressed milk, a place for you to store your breastpump and suitable break times”.

In a classroom during class is not a suitable break time. In a classroom during class, a professor should be teaching. That’s part of what the professor was hired to do. If you are intelligent enough to teach at the university level, you should be intelligent enough to figure out your child care situation so that it does not interfere with your teaching.

104

L2P 09.14.12 at 4:11 pm

“California gives mothers the right to nurse anywhere, anytime.”

That’s not quite right. Civil Code 43.3 allows breastfeeding anywhere where a mother is otherwise allowed to be without restriction. However, an employer is allowed to impose reasonable restrictions on breastfeeding that are limited similarly to the ADA. There’s also lots of places where there’s restrictions on use. Breastfeeding in movie theaters, for instance, might be outside of 43.3; I’d say breastfeeding is allowed, but it’s unclear. Courtrooms and similar places can certainly bar breastfeeding.

105

GiT 09.14.12 at 4:15 pm

Was I saying that was how things work? Oh, wait, no, I wasn’t. Obviously taking breaks on an assembly line is hard, and scheduling breaks is best. And yet, it is entirely possible to set up a system for accommodating impromptu breaks, even in assembly line conditions.

106

Anarcissie 09.14.12 at 4:16 pm

So all ‘taboos’ (that is, arbitrary standards of public behavior) are bad, and we should be glad to get rid of them? But then, why are they so persistent? What functions do they perform? What’s the payoff? But it was previously stated that it would be incorrect to teach a class while naked. Why?

107

mpowell 09.14.12 at 4:19 pm

On the one hand, I am confused as to why this woman had to feed her baby during class. It is only 75 minutes after all. It is an unusual baby that could not be fed beforehand, but would not tolerate waiting through the 75 min. That seems like a questionable decision to me, even one you might criticize someone for. But I don’t think it’s worth writing a story about or getting worked up about.

On the other hand, I think DC has done us all a service by highlighting very clearly the point that TO makes, which is that this is about the loss of autonomy that child-rearing brings. It is literally impossible to raise a child without the child’s basic needs conflicting, on a few occasions, with the demands of an inflexible job. This can be dealt with as long as one person who can be responsible for the child does not have an inflexible job. That person can be a partner in the relationship, a relative or even a friend. But there are obviously significant problems with imposing this kind of requirement on everyone with children. We should endeavor to build a society where jobs must be made flexible to the point that they can accomodate working mothers with children and no available stay-at-home partner or parents or our society is inherently sexist. The fact that poor working women are often fired as a result of facing this dilemma is a pretty terrible argument for applying the same inflexible standard to professors. Instead, we ought to require that all jobs provide a reasonable level of flexibility for such circumstances to the extent that it is possible to do so. There may be some very rare jobs where this is not possible, but your generic factory job is certainly not such a case.

108

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 4:20 pm

@104 They weren’t impromptu breaks.

109

bianca steele 09.14.12 at 4:20 pm

A few more points:

It sounds like the nursing was a (successful) attempt to calm the baby when she got fussy, not a scheduled feeding that could have been done before or after class. It also sounds like the professor was used to having a tiny baby in class, who sat quietly through the lecture, not a crawling baby whom some students might become alarmed about when they saw her crawling near the edge of the lectern or something. But this could have been prevented somewhat by asking for help–arguing in favor of institutional changes (while reasonable in general) doesn’t seem to me like it could have prevented this from ever happening.

Incidentally, I assume an older male professor (like an older male executive) would have parked his child with the department secretary for however long he needed.

On the other hand, of course, if the university in question has a strict “no breastfeeding in class” policy for students, other questions are raised.

110

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 4:22 pm

@106 I’m not highlighting the loss of autonomy that child-rearing brings. I’m highlighting the loss of autonomy that having a job brings for the vast majority of people in the world.

111

oudemia 09.14.12 at 4:32 pm

99: Oh, I dunno. Likely nothing. But her response to the student sure makes me doubt her pedagogical instincts. As a feminist and a medical anthropologist it seems like responding to the reporter’s questions (and indeed enthusiasm and support) about taking her baby to class ought to have been squarely within the professor’s wheelhouse. Instead she tried to get the story killed and then mocked the student’s enthusiasm and ignorance of the relevant gender and labor issues. I 100% agree with her that what happened should be unmarked, but as a feminist anthropologist she surely knows that it isn’t. (And I’ve got zero problem with her having brought her baby to class that day and nursing her when she fussed.)

112

oudemia 09.14.12 at 4:49 pm

And I’m just repeating things I’ve written elsewhere, so I will stop now!

113

Chris Bertram 09.14.12 at 4:58 pm

“I’m highlighting the loss of autonomy that having a job brings for the vast majority of people in the world.”

Your highlighting of which wouldn’t be a problem (see many previous Crooked Timber posts on freedom and the workplace), except you seem to regard that loss of autonomy as perfectly acceptable feature of life.

114

Duff Clarity 09.14.12 at 5:09 pm

115

William Timberman 09.14.12 at 5:18 pm

I’m highlighting the loss of autonomy that having a job brings for the vast majority of people in the world.

Which is fine with you, right? Otherwise why would that do your fucking job routine be the first thing out of your mouth? You don’t have to be a Marxist to see that the transformation of human beings into interchangeable parts of the machinery of global capitalism is well past its sell-by date, no matter what we’re being told about the triumphs of Foxconn or Monsanto elsewhere in the world. We need to think about what comes next, and if that includes sneering at single mothers trying to raise the next generation in a world that a) has next to no tolerance for child-rearing, b) treats very screwy ideas about paying the people who raise them as normal, c) advocates even screwier ideas about educating the children who do manage to get raised, and d) since it has no jobs for them anyway, treats teenagers as a form of vermin, then we’re in for a world of hurt. I figure you’ve gotta be either a sadist or a masochist — maybe both — to think that such a world is worth defending.

116

Manta 09.14.12 at 5:24 pm

djw @100: interesting rationalization (it’s prof. Pine’s friend suggestion): but it’s flatly contradicted by Pine herself:

“The last thing I wanted to do was turn Lee’s cold into a “teachable moment”

and

““When the incident occurred, were you worried about what your students would think? Did they seem uncomfortable, did they say anything?”
I slapped my palm on my forehead in frustration. What I wanted to say was “Who cares?”

117

mek 09.14.12 at 5:28 pm

It’s weird that the discourse is veering so far into the libertarian autonomy side of things. I would figure there would at least be some cult-of-motherhood backlash. Certainly from my perspective, a minor inconvenience to class on occasion is a pretty small loss of value, compared to the importance of caring for a sick child. Especially when you put this in the context of a first day, when the professor’s primary job was probably to bring copies of the syllabus to class and make sure people knew where to buy their textbooks. I would have made exactly the same decision, personally.

118

Bloix 09.14.12 at 5:45 pm

I disagree on the comments regarding the “baseline.” In my experience the great majority of women never breastfeeds in public. A woman might breast-feed in a casual setting among close friends and family, but never at work or school or in a more formal social situation. The taboo against exposed breasts is just too strong to permit it. Only strongly feminist women will do it and they are well aware that they are breaking the taboo – and even then they’ve won’t do it where the risk of retaliation is greater than they are willing to accept.

In an article she wrote in Counterpunch, Pine claims not to have been attempting to break down the taboo against public breast-feeding. She simply assumed that in a feminist anthropology class, the taboo wouldn’t apply. Either that’s disingenuous or it’s naive. No professor should assume that her students are in sympathy with her beliefs. It’s fine to break social taboos in class, but if you do, understand that society is powerful and it will fight back.

(A telling detail in the Counterpunch piece is that Pine tells us that she took her little girl to class in “a light blue onesie.” Then, when the student calls her attention to the paperclip in “his” mouth, she tells us that she didn’t bother to correct his “gendered assumptions.” Now, you can say that she chose a blue onesie because she likes blue. But her comment about the student’s “assumption” – blue signals a boy – is an indication that she’s consciously trying to disrupt social norms.)

It’s worth taking a look at Prof. Pine’s own description of herself on the AU website:

Adrienne Pine is a militant medical anthropologist who has worked in Honduras, Mexico, Korea, the United States, and Egypt…. Dr. Pine has worked both outside and inside the academy to effect a more just world.

I’ve cut the specifics of the work she’s done – you can see the whole thing here:
http://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/pine.cfm

You can easily imagine that a self-identified militant anthropologist in her situation would say to herself, oh fuck it. The students will just have to deal. But leftist professors should understand by now that the knives are out for them and that they are not operating from positions of power.

Her behavior afterwards was foolish. She was arrogant to the reporter, treating her as just another idiot student and not realizing the danger posed by the press. Then, she became frightened – reasonably – that publication would endanger her job. Instead of trying to repair the damage by inviting the reporter back for another interview, she wrote an email demanding that the story be killed, saying that publication of the article would create a “hostile work environment” for her. That’s a legal term of art, and any journalist would take it as a threat to sue. The reporter, quite correctly after receiving a threat of legal action, stopped communicating substantively and told Pine that the editors would decide what to do next.

I think it’s likely that Pine’s career really is in danger now. Any leftist professor without tenure should understand that the classroom is not necessarily a friendly place, and that enemies may be as close as the first row.

119

Barry Freed 09.14.12 at 5:45 pm

I’m surprised Duff Clarity hasn’t told anyone “shut your pie-hole” yet.

120

GiT 09.14.12 at 6:07 pm

@107 What the hell are you talking about? What does the possibility of having impromptu breaks on an assembly line have to do with whether any given breaks in the past or in your experience were or were not impromptu?

Do you not understand the conditional tense? Are counterfactuals beyond your comprehension?

121

rf 09.14.12 at 6:11 pm

Why is everybody, (bar Barry Freed), taking Duff Clarity seriously?

122

William Timberman 09.14.12 at 6:31 pm

Why is everybody, (bar Barry Freed), taking Duff Clarity seriously?

Probably because he represents a significant body of opinion, at least in the U.S., which stands between here and there — there being a re-evaluation of what is and isn’t appropriate in the way we integrate earning a living into the rest of our needs as human beings.

123

js. 09.14.12 at 6:36 pm

Given that average quality of a university lecture, I struggle to believe that it was affected by the baby.

This is it, really. It’s like people are working with some Platonic ideal of a university lecture (at both ends) and then gasping, “Oh my god, a baby!” Professors e.g. phoning it in and/or students getting distracted isn’t exactly unheard of in the business. And let’s after all not discount the possibility that one of the effects of the baby in class was to keep one or more students awake.

124

Colin Danby 09.14.12 at 6:37 pm

I continue to see something weirdly excessive about the vehemence this triggers in some people.

Just to state the obvious re a few comments above. Yes, you do your best not to distract students from the work at hand. But (a) you have a body whose appearance you lack total control over (b) you have other responsibilities. It’s very hard, often impossible, to get a colleague to “cover” a given class effectively for you. If a kid gets sick, or you get sick — you have to make choices. Obviously bringing the kid in is not optimal, but if it’s a choice between that and cancelling class, it’s a good choice.

Then these silly arguments about taboos. Look, on the one hand, you don’t push (some) students’ buttons for no good reason — this falls under the heading of avoiding needless distraction from the work at hand. But just as obviously you don’t let unwarranted taboos limit who can teach. To take a different example, some undergrads would be uncomfortable being taught by a transgendered instructor, but I’m not going to let that fact influence a hiring decision.

125

Manta 09.14.12 at 6:47 pm

js @121:
since we cannot do a perfect job, there is no problem doing a shitty on?
(I am not necessarily saying that in this occasion Pine did a shitty job: after all, we only have her testimony about that).

Colin @122: what is a “warranted” taboo?
Moreover, pushing a student’s taboo for no good reason is not simply “distracting” him: it’s abusing one’s position.
On the other hand, your take is interesting.

126

rf 09.14.12 at 6:49 pm

“Probably because he represents a significant body of opinion, at least in the U.S.”

Fair enough, although nothing is really accomplished arguing with idiots. To make any sort of change surely you have to build political movements, insert yourself into governing institutions. A glimpse into Duff Clarity’s warped worldview might be fun, and even useful, (to see what you’re up against), but it certainly isn’t productive. (Sort of like a LGBT/Salafi reconciliation)

127

William Timberman 09.14.12 at 7:06 pm

rf @ 124

I’m not altogether sure that engaging DC in this forum isn’t productive, or more to the point, that it precludes the other remedies you propose as more effective. Even if you consider commenting here merely as a bit of practice, or a bargain-basement morale booster, it’s at least marginally useful, and when you consider the post and the comments thread as a whole, it’s hard to deny that it’s a kind of microcosm of the arguments people make elsewhere on this issue. Then, too, you can’t know precisely what the people who read CT make of its debates in the wider world, and thus can’t reliably measure the significance of its influence. From a strictly cost-benefit perspective, it seems to me to be an inexpensive way to advance the cause, whatever you may think the cause is.

128

Jonathan Mayhew 09.14.12 at 7:21 pm

Breastfeeding while teaching a class is unprofessional. I have never heard of it happening, and thus is newsworthy by its rarity. There is a difference between discreetly feeding a baby in a public place, and doing it while lecturing, with all attention, all eyes, presumably directed toward the instructor. Usually when I see someone breastfeeding in public, I look in the other direction out of a sense of decorum. I don’t object to it, but simply assume a woman doesn’t want to be stared at at the moment. I think breastfeeding while engaging public speaking of any kind (giving a presentation, a sales pitch, a political speech) would be highly unusual, unless performed for a particular effect, to prove a point.

Her high-handed way of trying to get the story killed is also unprofessional, in my opinion. The students and TA were forced into the inappropriate role of caretakers, saving the baby from choking on a paper clip, for example, so there’s that too. I think there are about three or four unprofessional things Pine did, then. At least things that a good number of people in academia with more or less liberal views would see as unprofessional.

129

Cian 09.14.12 at 8:11 pm

@106 I’m not highlighting the loss of autonomy that child-rearing brings. I’m highlighting the loss of autonomy that having a job brings for the vast majority of people in the world.

Actually you’re highlighting how much the workplace sucks in the US. Workers aren’t entitled to toilet breaks either. Breast feeding isn’t the issue here. While noone can stop you celebrating the fact that US workers can be treated like serfs, it is seriously off topic.

130

Cian 09.14.12 at 8:16 pm

Now, you can say that she chose a blue onesie because she likes blue. But her comment about the student’s “assumption” – blue signals a boy – is an indication that she’s consciously trying to disrupt social norms.

Or that she’s just a normal parent who’s had it up to here with the cult of fucking pink. Sometimes societal norms are simply oppressive and stupid.

Yeah she behaved stupidly – on the other hand I totally get the exasperation. Have students really become this childish, or has it always been this way in the US?

131

Cian 09.14.12 at 8:20 pm

since we cannot do a perfect job, there is no problem doing a shitty on?

I will try this in simple language. Given the choice between doing no job, and a less than perfect job due to circumstances beyond one’s control. Less than perfect is better. For most of us this is not a hard concept to grasp – given time you’ll get there.

Moreover, pushing a student’s taboo for no good reason is not simply “distracting” him: it’s abusing one’s position.

Because a hungry or fussy baby is no good reason.

Incidentally, this is why the nakedness taboo is a really bad example.

132

Cian 09.14.12 at 8:22 pm

I think there are about three or four unprofessional things Pine did, then.

So basically you’re saying that she’s a working mom.

133

Tom Allen 09.14.12 at 8:22 pm

The room was already filled with college students. Surely one more boob in class wasn’t that disruptive.

134

marcel 09.14.12 at 8:25 pm

What surprises me most about this comment thread is that after more than 130 comments, no one, and I mean absolutely, positively, NO ONE, has yet asked, “What about the children?”[1]

[1] And by children, I of course mean college students, esp. the male ones. CJColuci subtly hints at this, but you have to read between the lines pretty carefully to understand his meaning.

135

MPAVictoria 09.14.12 at 8:28 pm

“but you have to read between the lines pretty carefully to understand his meaning.”
Well not THAT carefully.

136

MPAVictoria 09.14.12 at 8:30 pm

“So basically you’re saying that she’s a working mom.”
Oh? All working moms name and shame and threaten to sue student journalists?

137

Manta 09.14.12 at 8:30 pm

Those childish students! Expecting a professor to behave professionally.

Cian: How many working moms do you know that decided to bring their baby during a lecture and breastfeed him? I know 0 of them: but maybe you have more experience?
Moreover, a professor in academics is one of the most flexible jobs I know of.
In a few word: the “she did not have any other options” line is pure bullshit.

138

Jonathan Mayhew 09.14.12 at 8:33 pm

So all working moms browbeat campus reporters, breastfeed when they are teaching? I don’t think so. What a profoundly revealing comment.

139

js. 09.14.12 at 8:37 pm

js @121:
since we cannot do a perfect job, there is no problem doing a shitty on?

Cian pretty much already covered this, but no, that is not the point. The point is that there are lots of distractions in the classroom, and lots of ways in which students and/or professors might not be giving it their “100%”, not to mention purely structural problems that can become massively distracting. So the outrage over this particular case (evident e.g. in this thread) suggests that (1) a lot of people don’t have a good sense of what lectures are often like, or (2) there’s something else going on, and “but think of the distraction!” isn’t really the source of the outrage. I suspect it’s a bit of both, though perhaps more the latter.

140

Cian 09.14.12 at 8:41 pm

I have yet to meet the working mom, who did not have an au-pair, who did not regularly do unprofessional things. Child rearing is hard. Though obviously not as hard as being a white, male and middle class.

141

Cian 09.14.12 at 8:45 pm

Hmm, in the above if its not clear. I have met working mothers who had live in au-pairs/nannies who were super-professional.

To anticipate the inevitable Duff Clarity comment – no, none of these women worked on a factory floor.

Or had to get up in the morning at ten o’clock at night half an hour before they went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work for that matter.

142

Manta 09.14.12 at 8:49 pm

js: I am quite sure most CT commenters DO know what lectures look like, and quite a few of them from both sides. But, of course, you were not meaning us…

Cian: so your answer to my question is 0, right?

143

Substance McGravitas 09.14.12 at 8:49 pm

I don’t get the strong feelings here. When you’re a parent of either sex you sometimes say “fuck it” and get the job done regardless of whatever you think decorum might be (and I think the decorum around breastfeeding is stupid). It’s not the end of the world. I have a fuzzy recall of being bananas for about a year after The Lovely Daughter was born and while it’s not nice to think others share my weakness I am willing to cut a lot of slack when someone is outraged that a parent is not performing to their standards.

144

Jonathan Mayhew 09.14.12 at 8:55 pm

So probably universities shouldn’t hire women with children, or likely to have children, unless they have an au pair? That would be the logical conclusion. Most women I am familiar with in the academic setting are uber-professional, whether they have children or not. Maybe your experience is different from mine.

145

Manta 09.14.12 at 9:02 pm

Substance, what Pine did in class was stupid, but, as you said, not the end of the world.
But it was she that decided to threaten to sue a student and write a post “explaining” her actions.

So: doing something stupid on the heat of the moment? Been there, done that (many times…).
Acting self-righteous about it? A bit less often.
Threatening to sue a student AND having quite a few people defending my stupid action? Well, no (neither of those).

146

Substance McGravitas 09.14.12 at 9:05 pm

Substance, what Pine did in class was stupid, but, as you said, not the end of the world.
But it was she that decided to threaten to sue a student and write a post “explaining” her actions.

Absent the terrifying reality of breastfeeding (and the subject of the post) you don’t get the suing.

147

js. 09.14.12 at 9:14 pm

I am quite sure most CT commenters DO know what lectures look like, and quite a few of them from both sides.

Which would seem to make the outrage that much more puzzling…

Most women I am familiar with in the academic setting are uber-professional

So is Pine, obviously. It’s why she didn’t cancel class! Why are people having so much difficulty with this?

148

Cian 09.14.12 at 9:24 pm

Cian: so your answer to my question is 0, right?

I know at least 2 who had to bring their babies into a lecture. I have no idea if they breast fed them. I’ve seen a student breast feed in a lecture.

149

dingbat 09.14.12 at 9:25 pm

I submit that boobs are troubling, and breastfeeding in particular is troubling, not because it is sexual, but because it is intimate, loving, human contact. Americans are fine with sex, we plaster sex everywhere. We have trouble with being intimate with each other; we bound off the acceptable levels of handholding and hugging and kissing to age-matched, slender, heterosexual couples (or children) (or, when you factor in patting on the ass, professional male athletes) because those intimate encounters we can pretend or easily map onto being the sexual encounters we see in the movies, TV, etc. etc.

Americans don’t like to see fat people, gay people, or old people kissing, because we can’t pretend this is a Hollywood movie. When the intimate contact is as prolonged as breastfeeding, it becomes that much harder for us to deal with.

Unrelatedly: What, exactly, did any of the students “have to involuntarily do” (WRT the breastfeeding, not the paperclip/outlet, which I’m separating from the teatching moment)? “Doing” and “being in the same room as” are not the same thing.

150

Cian 09.14.12 at 9:25 pm

I have a fuzzy recall of being bananas for about a year after The Lovely Daughter was born and while it’s not nice to think others share my weakness I am willing to cut a lot of slack when someone is outraged that a parent is not performing to their standards.

This is the best thing anyone has said on this thread..

151

Cian 09.14.12 at 9:27 pm

So probably universities shouldn’t hire women with children, or likely to have children, unless they have an au pair? That would be the logical conclusion.

Only if you are a white, middle class male. Congratulations, you’ll do fine.

152

rf 09.14.12 at 9:33 pm

“I have a fuzzy recall of being bananas for about a year after The Lovely Daughter was born and while it’s not nice to think others share my weakness I am willing to cut a lot of slack when someone is outraged that a parent is not performing to their standards.”

“This is the best thing anyone has said on this thread..”

Threatening to sue a student newspaper, taking to the pages of Counterpunch to attack a young journalist, and generally banging on about a situation that no one else seemed to have a problem with is beyond going bananas over your new baby. Other than that though, I’m not really sure why breast feeding in class is so unprofessional?

153

Tedra Osell 09.14.12 at 9:35 pm

Reason @52: “And then their is the problem of automy’s fragility (sickness, adiction, limited ability in general). I don’t think such issues are limited to women here.”

Oh, absolutely. I imagine Michael B. would have quite a bit to say here if he were reading this thread. I’m not saying it’s *limited* to women; I’m saying it’s a problem that women can’t escape. Even women who neither have nor want children have the potential, as women, to do so, and that potential is a hotly contested political issue–think, for example, of a hypothetical lesbian rape victim who needs EC, for instance. (And yes I know that there are women who are infertile, but that, too, is a “political issue” for some.)

A couple of other folks have said things in this thread about the implicit natalism of my post. I agree. I’m certainly not one to argue that all women should have children, or that having children is a “more worthwhile” endeavor than, say, being a professor (or a machinist, or a maid, or whatever). But I think that we can’t ignore the fact that the thing that makes women “different” is pregnancy and childbirth, and that our society valorizes an “able-bodied” norm that sees those things as aberrations. So, for instance, comments here about taking sick leave, workplace policies, bottle- vs. breast-feeding, etc.

154

Marshall 09.14.12 at 9:36 pm

I think it’s weird that being in the presence of somebody doing something counts as having something done to you.

I submit that a society in which children are a problem is a society that is deeply inhumane.

Preach it, Sister.

155

Manta 09.14.12 at 9:38 pm

Cian, continuing to accuse everybody that disagree with you of being “white, middle class male” will not win any argument.

Quite a few people (male and female, I think: about their class or color I have no idea) pointed out that working moms are quite able to what their jobs require and do it properly.

156

Bloix 09.14.12 at 10:04 pm

Cian is an excellent example of a militant feminist. She’s confrontational, self-assured, snarky, and tireless. She’s what Pine says that she is in her bio.

The problem for Pine is that she’s also an assistant professor who wants her comparatively staid and conformist colleagues to grant her tenure when the time comes. (My count from the AU webpage, Cian, is that the tenured faculty in the anthro dept is two white men, two white woman, and one woman of color.)

From her email to the student reporter, it’s clear that she was worried about the tenure effects of the story: “You will put me in a very difficult and structurally vulnerable position by publishing this story.”

The life of a militant assistant professor can’t be an easy one. Even when you do something as minimally transgressive as breast-feeding your kid in class, you’ve got to watch out, because even the tiniest waves can swamp your little boat.

157

Anarcissie 09.14.12 at 10:06 pm

Marshall 09.14.12 at 9:36 pm:

‘I think it’s weird that being in the presence of somebody doing something counts as having something done to you.’

It seems to be a very widespread belief or feeling in practically every culture I know about, although of course the specifics vary widely from one to another. Even excluding behaviors which are clearly disruptive, like making loud noises or threatening people with weapons, even in the rarefied atmospheres of bohemia and academe, I would guess that certain acts in public, like excretion or sexual intercourse, would annoy many to the point of causing them to raise an objection. And of course there are many lesser degrees of exhibition, like partial or total nudity, whether functional or decorative, which some people seem to find offensive. What has surprised me in this discussion is the preponderance of apodictic vehemence. I don’t see much that is self-evidently justified about the customs — or a rejection of them. I can’t help wondering how the vehement are so sure theirs is the one correct view.

158

Barry Freed 09.14.12 at 10:07 pm

Cian is an excellent example of a militant feminist. She’s confrontational, self-assured, snarky, and tireless. She’s what Pine says that she is in her bio.

I’m pretty sure that Cian is a dude.

159

Manta 09.14.12 at 10:16 pm

Anarcissie, it’s neither my call or yours to decide what the students find objectionable: it’s theirs; but Pine decided to blithely dismiss their sensibilities.
(And then to insult and threaten the students who were trying to report on it.)

160

mek 09.14.12 at 10:55 pm

Actually no, at some point it is the professor’s right to decide what the students find objectionable. It wouldn’t be appropriate for them to express racist or sexist preferences in class, or to object to a fellow student breastfeeding, or a physically disabled student’s inconveniencing presence (eg. a blind student is late, and requires assistance to be seated). There are many, many examples where the professor’s duty is to set the tone and boundaries of what is and is not appropriate in the classroom, and override students’ objections. Students are free to leave if they are uncomfortable.

161

PaulB 09.14.12 at 11:37 pm

OK, I know all the answers:

1) She should have cancelled the class, for the same reason that daycare was unavailable – people, including babies, with fevers may well be contagious. She should have called in sick the next day too, when she had the same illness herself. But this is a common mistake, so let’s not judge her too harshly.

2) The fever aside, turning up to work with a baby may be a better choice than not turning up at all. I once attended a high-level (but informal) meeting at an investment bank with my infant son in a baby carrier, because that seemed to me to be the best available option. And my boss, who had called the meeting at short notice, trusted my judgment.

3) Having turned up to work with a baby, there’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding it. It’s bizarre that anyone should want to write a newspaper article about the breastfeeding (I’m British; I don’t think the UK is backward about this).

4) I hope those aren’t real names she’s used for the student journalists. Because if they are, that would be outrageous. They offered not to use her name.

162

Bloix 09.15.12 at 12:02 am

“I submit that boobs are troubling, and breastfeeding in particular is troubling, not because it is sexual, but because it is intimate, loving, human contact.”

No, unfortunately. This is a society that can sexualize breast cancer, for Christ sake.

163

Bloix 09.15.12 at 12:14 am

“at some point it is the professor’s right to decide what the students find objectionable.”

Wait, what? No, what the students find objectionable is, from the professor’s point of view, a matter of objective fact.

“There are many, many examples where the professor’s duty is to set the tone and boundaries of what is and is not appropriate in the classroom, and override students’ objections. Students are free to leave if they are uncomfortable.”

Students are also free to talk to student newspaper reporters, who are free to publish articles and bring the weight of social opprobrium crashing down on the professor’s head.

I simply don’t believe that you don’t understand that there is a taboo against public breastfeeding. It’s got nothing to do with what should be, it’s what is.

Pine claims not to have anticipated that this taboo would be operative in her class. If that’s true it’s evidence of extraordinary naivety (perhaps the sort of naivety that would lead one to identify oneself as a militant anthropologist). A professor who transgresses a taboo this strong is going to be hit with extreme pressure to conform.

164

John Quiggin 09.15.12 at 12:49 am

I’m still stunned by much of this commentary. The worker here was entirely within her rights to feed her child while doing her job – no one has suggested a feasible alternative that would accomplish both goals. And having done so, she was entitled to be upset when (if I have this part of the story right) someone wanted to publish a newspaper story critical of her for doing so.

Since we are questioning personal conduct here, would anyone like to defend the claim that student newspapers should be exempt from criticism for breaching the ordinary norms of privacy and decency (back when I wasa student, they certainly breached those norms with gusto, but they also expected and got vigorous responses, up to and including criminal prosecution).

165

mek 09.15.12 at 12:51 am

I think we can all agree that the professor has handled the situation rather disastrously after “the incident.” It’s also true that there still exists a strong taboo against public breastfeeding; however, there’s a huge trend away from that taboo and it’s obviously more operative in some campuses and cities and less operative in others. We don’t know what percentage of students were surprised, we don’t know if this has happened before in other North American classrooms and gone unremarked (though I certainly know that students do it all the time).

That said, none of the students objected strongly enough to actually object at the time, or object to the professor, or to the administration. It’s closer to the truth to say that they were titillated by seeing a professor breastfeed in public, or perhaps scandalized, and gossiped about it, which then led to the interest of a student journalist, which then led to a series of bad decisions by the professor. I agree that granting that interview could have well been a career-ending mistake; but it shouldn’t be.

166

SamInMpls 09.15.12 at 12:57 am

TO,

I spent the last day trying to imagine my reaction if a female professor had brought her baby into class and the baby had crawled around a bit during her lecture and then she gave it a feeding and put it down for a nap. In thinking about this, I am intentionally trying to phrase the above in a neutral sense. I am imagining that the professor’s lecture is briefly disrupted a few times in the same way the class might be disrupted if someone had to walk out with a bloody nose or if a student accidentally spilled coffee on a laptop. Nothing dramatic, nothing newsworthy.

When I get to the point of the breastfeeding itself, and I try to imagine how I would react as a student, the best I can come up with is some sort of throw away comment to myself like “Oh, so it’s that kind of party!” which would come from my own sense of awkwardness. The same sort of awkwardness I can imagine experiencing if I spotted one of my male professors in the showers of the University health club. My reaction, as best as I can imagine it, would arise from being surprised that I am seeing more of my professor’s body than I expected to see.

When I read this professor’s article and I try to think about this outside of the context of her students, the first thing that pops into my head is: “Where was her partner in all of this?” Day care is out of the question if the baby has a fever and I see her point about the importance of not cancelling the first class of the semester, but when I read her reasoning about this, I have to ask: “Why is this all on her?”

As a male without children, I really don’t feel qualified to make judgments about the decisions she made as a parent but the thing I keep coming back to is this: Being the parent of a sick baby is hard! Teaching a class with a new TA is hard! They aren’t equally hard, they aren’t hard in the same way but they are in no way easy. I’m not suggesting that the combination was too hard for her to handle, she seems to have done her best to handle a difficult situation, but does it always have to be this hard?

It seems to me that the difficulties she faced are just as important as the issue of breastfeeding in public.

167

parse 09.15.12 at 1:32 am

I’m still stunned by much of this commentary. The worker here was entirely within her rights to feed her child while doing her job – no one has suggested a feasible alternative that would accomplish both goals.

A couple of people suggested she could have waited until the 75 minute class was over to feed the child. I don’t have any idea how long hungry infants can reasonably expected to wait to be fed, but it seems like it might be a feasible alternative.

168

JanieM 09.15.12 at 2:10 am

I don’t have any idea how long hungry infants can reasonably expected to wait to be fed, but it seems like it might be a feasible alternative.

Assuming the baby was going to stay in the room, a constraint without which we wouldn’t be having this conversation, we have a choice between the professor breastfeeding while she goes on lecturing, or seventy-five minutes of crying baby.

“Feasible”? I suppose; the baby wouldn’t die of a late feeding.

Sensible or desirable? No.

(Not meant to imply any opinion about the rest of this thread. Maybe later, but in the meantime William Timberman has made some of the same points I would, as has GiT.)

169

marcel 09.15.12 at 2:13 am

parse wrote:

A couple of people suggested she could have waited until the 75 minute class was over to feed the child. I don’t have any idea how long hungry infants can reasonably expected to wait to be fed, but it seems like it might be a feasible alternative.

Middle-aged white, academic male here with 2 adult children. Without expressing an opinion one or the other on “the incident”, and w/o wanting to take parse to task, esp. since at least one other person has expressed a similar sentiment on this thread…

This reminds me of something from long ago, about a middle-aged man in Victorian or Edwardian England trying to make small talk to a good friend who had become a parent a couple of months earlier, asking whether the child was speaking yet and what it was saying.

Some cultures, so I understand, are fairly good at training very young children — infants — certain behaviors: bowel & bladder control around the same time as they are walking, sleeping on command, not crying, etc. Perhaps understanding that meals are to be had on an externally determined schedule. If this is indeed the case, good for them. It certainly is not something that our culture stresses, nor are we very good at it.

Anyway, as Prof. Pine wrote in the linked article, When Lee grew restless, I briefly fed her without stopping lecture, and much to my relief, she fell asleep.

The issue was not that the baby was hungry so much as she needed soothing. This is not something that can be done on a schedule. Prof. Pine mentioned taking the advice of a visiting Chilean friend in bringer her daughter to class. A Chilean friend of mine in graduate school once mentioned a folk remedy for soothing restless infants: stroking their genitals. He also insisted that it works pretty well on adults. I suspect that this would have led to considerably more disruption in the class. Nursing the child was probably a better course of action.

170

oudemia 09.15.12 at 2:17 am

breaching the ordinary norms of privacy and decency

How on earth is this the case here? Especially when the topic of women/work/parenting/breasfeeding is every third story in the NY Times, The Atlantic, Newsweek, Time, etc.
The student reporter who wanted to publish a story was enthusiastic and excited by Pine’s actions (according to Pine) and Pine mocked her for it. The reporter was not critical. These are just the facts as stipulated by Pine.

171

Anarcissie 09.15.12 at 2:45 am

oudemia 09.15.12 at 2:17 am:
‘breaching the ordinary norms of privacy and decency’
How on earth is this the case here?

All norms are ordinary, but some norms are more ordinary than other norms. I know I still haven’t gotten an explanation of what standards of conduct in public are desirable, if any, and why.

I’m still trying to get the natalism thing, too. Back in the day, (1960s-70s) the feminist activists I knew were anti-natalists, seeing natalism as yet another tool of patriarchal domination, resulting, of course, in gross overpopulation, tyranny, war, destruction of the planet, and so on. But now…. But maybe that’s another subject.

172

Duff Clarity 09.15.12 at 3:08 am

Like Manta@77, my favorite part of the professor’s article is the “She had emailed me during class to ask if she could come after class (I guess there are faculty out there who think it’s appropriate to check their BlackBerries while lecturing)” line.

That’s awesome. Almost as good as “lactivist”.

I also like the part about, “AU is so expensive and exclusionary, in addition to formally being a private university, that the classroom could be argued to be private”.

If you people are being trolled, it isn’t by me. I seriously thought the whole thing was a troll when I first read it. I mean check out this bit: “Having taken The Dialectic of Sex out of the library as an act of mourning for Shulamith Firestone, I began to wonder if Firestone was right: that women, as a class, should cybernetically seize control of the means of reproduction”.

You really think she should be taken seriously?

173

Duff Clarity 09.15.12 at 3:22 am

John Quiggen @ 164 : “The worker here was entirely within her rights to feed her child while doing her job – no one has suggested a feasible alternative that would accomplish both goals”

As your own link showed, the worker would not have been within her rights even if she were in Australia, which she wasn’t. Advising people that they should negotiate doing such things on their break time is not the same as advising workers that they get to do whatever they want wherever they want whenever they want. Sorry!

In the US, contrary to Cian@169, employers are required to give you access to restrooms at work, it’s an OSHA rule. But no, they don’t have to let you bring your kid to work and if they do let you bring your kid to work they don’t have to let you feed it, and if they do let you feed it they don’t have to let you breast feed it.

Here is the best alternative: the woman, a PhD, when she decided to have a child and continue working, should have figured out the daycare situation and known that sometimes kids get sick. Every woman on the line in the factory that you lie and say I never worked at managed to do that. A professor can’t? Bullshit.

Here’s the next alternative, in the article she said she had a friend visiting that told her to take the kid to class. She could have had the friend take care of the kid for one class period.

Here’s the next alternative, the TA ended up rocking the kid in the classroom to keep it quiet. The TA could have done that outside of class.

Here’s the next alternative, this was the first day of class. I’m sure you know how the first day of class goes down. The TA could have handled that. Here’s the syllabus, here’s the books you need, here’s some more information about militant feminist anthropology. Now get out of here.

Here’s the next alternative, this was the first day of class. Who cares? Who goes to the first day of class anyway? All that shit should be online anyway.

174

Dr. Hilarius 09.15.12 at 5:01 am

Wow. So much comment about so little. And here I am adding to it. As a student, I might have been surprised if an instructor breast-fed her child during class but she did explain the unusual circumstances. She did have alternatives such as introducing herself and the class and then explaining that the TA would take over for a while so she could attend to her child. I do suspect the professor had some additional motivation for choosing to breastfeed in class given her area of expertise. But nothing worthy of comment took place.

What does baffle me is Dr. Pine’s interaction with a student reporter. The reporter clearly wanted the breast-feeding to be big deal. She’s a student journalist for shit’s sake. Sophomoric behavior and student journalism are joined at the hip. A short, polite explanation or no comment would have signaled that it’s not really newsworthy. Threaten a student reporter or suggest what should or shouldn’t be published? Red meat. I find it hard to believe a professional academic, an anthropologist no less, could be so clueless.

As for DC, you are a troll by your hostile attitude and lack of nuance not your viewpoint. Crooked Timber has higher standards for trolling than most sites. Adapt or go away.

175

MPAVictoria 09.15.12 at 5:26 am

For God sakes John you are a professor. You should know better than the second part of your comment at 164.

176

John Quiggin 09.15.12 at 5:27 am

In the US, contrary to Cian@169, employers are required to give you access to restrooms at work, it’s an OSHA rule. But no, they don’t have to let you bring your kid to work and if they do let you bring your kid to work they don’t have to let you feed it, and if they do let you feed it they don’t have to let you breast feed it.

And, obviously, you’re cool with that. Presumably same goes for the fact that employer can fire you because they don’t like you, can easily suppress unions etc. You’ve shown yourself to be an anti-worker thug, so I’m not surprised.

What surprises me is not you, but the fact that so many others here are going along with this.

177

Tedra Osell 09.15.12 at 5:33 am

Bliox @156: “Cian is an excellent example of a militant feminist. She’s confrontational, self-assured, snarky, and tireless. She’s what Pine says that she is in her bio.”

And you’re an excellent example of a jackass.

178

Tedra Osell 09.15.12 at 5:42 am

Sam in MPLS @166: “when I read her reasoning about this, I have to ask: “Why is this all on her?”

Well, in this case she doesn’t have a partner. But there are any number of reasons why a parent of either gender might have to deal with ‘all this’–their partner is out of town, or works someplace where they have less autonomy than a professor at a university, or that would be unsafe to bring a child to, or whatever.

That said, yes, well. We in the US seem to have decided that children, like pets, are the exclusive responsibility of those who “own” them and that their owners mustn’t bring them into public off-leash except in specifically demarcated areas.

179

Tedra Osell 09.15.12 at 5:43 am

Also, thanks, JQ, for wading in.

(I have to say, as the bitchy radical feminist that I am, that you shouldn’t be surprised that so many people agree that it’s totally out of line to take care of a baby while on the job. You are too nice by half.)

180

etv13 09.15.12 at 5:52 am

marcel @ 169: Speaking as a middle-aged mother of one, I can say that I still remember well enough that babies old enough to crawl don’t need to be fed at twenty-minute intervals, and that nursing mothers who have gone back to work are generally capable of planning appropriate times to express breastmilk to have the daycare people feed the child. And surely rubbing its genitals or popping out a breast in the middle of a lecture you happen to be giving are not the only available means of soothing a fussy child. Who, in my opinion, for whatever that’s worth, shouldn’t have been in the classroom in the first place.

I’m not saying Prof. Pine should have been fired, or even reprimanded. (Well, maybe for her behavior to the student journalist, but not for the breastfeeding episode.) But as Jonathan Mayhew (I think) pointed out upthread, there is a difference between breastfeeding in public and breastfeeding when you are the focus of attention for a completely different reason. (And don’t give me that dodge about the nature of the class she was teaching; she herself said she didn’t want to turn her daughter into a “teachable moment” — which is about the most admirable thing she did. Our children are not supposed to be used as tools of the trade.) There’s a difference between taking your child to the office, and taking it into a business meeting, a court appearance, or, as in this case, a university lecture that you are giving. Prof. Pine’s failure to appreciate those differences, under the pressure of having a sick baby, is understandable, but disappointing.

181

Meredith 09.15.12 at 5:54 am

Coming to this late, I confess to not having read all the comments, but as someone who, some 30 years ago, breastfed in front of students (male as well as female, in my office), held a seminar class in my home with a two-day-old beside me whom I was prepared to breastfeed (she slept on, however), occasionally brought a toddler to class (the most disruptive age! but funny and some crazy fun memories!) and more than occasionally brought slightly older children to classes — let’s hear it for coloring books! — btw, there was little or no daycare available in the days I’m talking about; hell, there were no maternity leaves — I will add a cent or two here.

Whatever this professor did or did not handle well, she is an ASSISTANT professor, deserving of guidance from tenured faculty in her department (among others with more experience), once this became a campus issue: did she receive that guidance? Professional obligations extend beyond the teacher-student relationship. Unless I missed something, a curious silence on this aspect of the story.

It seems pretty obvious to me that, while having a sick baby in class or, under any circumstances, having to attend to a baby or young child while also teaching, would not be ideal as a regular practice, stuff happens (news flash). I have taught through fevers of my own, as has nearly every teacher. BFD. In fact, you can create a special rapport with students when you conduct a class while you’re obviously suffering from illness — or while you’re tending a child (baby, toddler, older child with coloring book in front row). It can enhance and enrich the entire course. Obviously, continual disruptions would become a problem (whether caused by children or something else), but that’s not what was up here. This was one class and apparently more an organizational first meeting than anything else. (Would it have been preferable to cancel the class meeting altogether? Unlikely.) Anyway, who cares? Does any of us expect every single one of our class meetings to be subject to this kind of scrutiny?

Tessa’s post is more basic, about our (individually, as social groups) complicated relationship to boundary, continence, control, mutual dependence and need for independence — and our (every?) society’s extreme sensitivity to women’s bodies. I think Tessa’s on to something important. The notion that women can’t control their bodies because female bodies simply cannot be controlled (menstrual flows, water breaking, labor, lactation) is so widespread, and so fundamental to the oppression of people with female bodies (hey, folks — there are lots of scholarly books on this subject), that we can have trouble recognizing that notion operating in our own thinking and responses.

(Years ago, when I was talking about ancient Greek notions of female incontinence — Pandora as a leaky vessel (these were the early days of this kind of analysis) — a male student interrupted: what about wet dreams? and then others joined in: embarrassing erections? testosterone-fuelled eruptions of anger? Just a reminder that male and female are both prone to incontinence — and bravo to the young men who spoke up all those years ago. Has there been so little progress since?)

182

William Timberman 09.15.12 at 6:12 am

Well, maybe I’m missing something, but I hold these truths to be self-evident: That women have minds, souls and abilities that are the equal of those of men. That what they don’t have, at least in our society, is a parity of choice with men. That this lack of parity is a Bad Thing. That so long as women are the only way children can be brought into the world, parity of choice means the right to decide if and when to terminate their own pregnancies. That as long as women have to work to achieve true economic independence, they should have the right to demand that the rules of the workplace, including such shibboleths as professionalism, be reconsidered to take their needs into account. No one, especially no man, has the right to tell a woman that she can either bear children, or work, but not both, or insist that because bearing children inconveniences her employer, or increases his costs, she can’t expect to be paid what men are paid for the same kind and level of work.

Furthermore, it seems pretty presumptuous to me to look at the intellectual struggles of feminism, and the apparent doctrinal inconsistencies that sometimes arise from those struggles, as a reason not to take seriously what women say about their own experiences. What we’re witnessing here, like it or not, is a work in progress. I think we men ought to stop kicking up so much dust and see if we can actually help. In the end we — and our children — will benefit from that help as much as women will.

183

b9n10nt 09.15.12 at 6:16 am

Against Pine for breast feeding during lecture? That’s silly. It happened once, not as a regular distraction.

The treatment of the student reporter is where I’m not clear. I sympathize with Prof Pine to the degree that any time someone is threatening another’s livelihood there must be a better reason than “it will entertain others”. On the one hand, public breast feeding is more than just an entertaining topic. But then it shouldn’t at all concern Prof. Pine. If she chose to regularly breast feed in public, well then ok. But she didn’t.

She’s not the story: people’s squeamishness is and the journalists could protect her and still do the story. I think centering the topic on Prof Pine is merely adding entertainment value to the story. And what is it when you potentially harm another, private person for entertainment? Thug. And journalistic thuggery is still thuggery. I want to say that these conclusions are too strong (perhaps because they’re not well represented on this thread), but there it is.

Ok, your a journalist kid. You wanna fuck w people’s lives to make copy? It should be for a greater cause than entertainment or self promotion.

I’d like to know more about the circumstances in which Prof Pine publicized the student-journalists name and private info. Perhaps that went too far, but so far in this thread no one has sufficiently taken the measure of the journalists’ actions. (& here I mean the editors more than the reporter).

184

Christophager 09.15.12 at 6:50 am

ok, after reading through the 183 (!) comments, as well as the original article, I honestly can’t see what the fuss is about. Maybe it’s an Australian academic thing. That Prof. Pine continued with her lecture strikes me as far more professional behavior than the alternative, which would be to cancel the lecture (the Australian option here would be to “take a sickie”). Cancelling a lecture is difficult because you have to make for up the missed material in a finite time, and there’s also a not-inconsiderable amount of professional guilt because you feel that you’re letting the students down. And I’d never if I could possibly help it cancel a class at the beginning of semester – first impressions count, and if you don’t turn up, why would the students?

Breast-feeding in this situation seems to me to have been the best way of calming the baby down so that the lecture could continue. The other suggestions I’ve read here (seriously – rocking?) seem to indicate an unfamiliarity with the occult arts of baby-calming. If some of the students were offended (really: in an anthropology class?) then it’s really their problem.

185

Duff Clarity 09.15.12 at 6:52 am

@ Mr Qggn 176 : “nd, bvsly, y’r cl wth tht. Prsmbly sm gs fr th fct tht mplyr cn fr y bcs thy dn’t lk y, cn sly spprss nns tc. Y’v shwn yrslf t b n nt-wrkr thg, s ’m nt srprsd.”

dn’t nd nn t ths pnt n my crr. My mplyr cn fr m fr whtvr rsn nd cn hv nthr bttr pyng jb th sm dy f wnt n.

Bck n th dy, n th wrkng clss jbs tht y clm nvr hd, thngs wr dffrnt.

‘m vry pr-nn, y’ll gt bttr dl f y ll sk tgthr thn y wll f y sk by yrslf.

Bt y, y pc f sht. Y cll m n nt-wrkr thg? Rlly? wrkd ll ths sht jbs tht y nvr wrkd, nd nw y’r gnn l nd sy dn’t knw wht t s t b wrkng clss?

Fck y. Jst fck y.

186

Chris Bertram 09.15.12 at 6:58 am

I rather agree with John Q’s remarks re student journalism that MPAV objects to so strongly (164 and 175). I suspect there’s a difference here between US and other cultures with respect to the professional expectations on professors here. In other places, professors have a professional duty towards their students (among others) but less with respect to the general community of students at their institution, the “student experience” etc. I.e. students you aren’t directly professionally involved with are just people, to whom you have the same obligations as you would have to other people. The UK fwiw seems to be transitioning towards US norms somewhat, a fact I deplore.

187

Duff Clarity 09.15.12 at 7:08 am

Tht’s hw ts gnn b gss. f y mss wth Mr Qggn y gt dsmvwlld.

Mr Qggn, dn’t vr fckng whn bt nns hr gn.

t wld b srt f jk

188

etv13 09.15.12 at 7:14 am

Meredith @ 181: Prof. Pine says in her Counterpunch piece that she received her departmental chair’s “full support” and that she received lots of emails from her colleagues expressing “indignation and solidarity.”

Having read the Counterpunch piece, I can’t say she makes a very good case for herself. It verges into self-parody more than once. She characterizes the journalist as “hounding her,” when, apparently, all the young woman did was send her a couple of e-mails and show up after class to try to interview her. She seems to have made all sorts of assumptions about what the newspaper article — which at the time of the Counterpunch article apparently had not yet been published (and may never have been, for all I know) — would say, based on an editorial that ran in the paper two or three years before. And given that the editor-in-chief is a junior, what are the odds that anybody at the paper three years before is still there now? The editor, by the way, John Quiggin, responded to her concerns by offering to conceal her name, and made the not-unreasonable point that there were already rumors circulating around campus that made the story newsworthy.

I did feel sorry for her when she said that the next day, a “friend” babysat for her, for a fee of $140.

Anybody who’s interested in the “discourse” aspect of this thread might also be interested in a recent Language Log post, Univocal Heteroglossia.

189

Chris Bertram 09.15.12 at 7:20 am

DC: I disemvowelled you, not John or Tedra. We have a comments policy, there’s a link at the top of the page. You were plainly in violation – “comments which are personally defamatory or insulting or which seek to derail a thread through provocation of one kind or another” – now go away.

190

Duff Clarity 09.15.12 at 7:23 am

Y dn’t fllw yr wn cmmnts plcy. Tht’s fn. Wh crs.

191

etv13 09.15.12 at 7:28 am

@Chris Bertram: Could we have a post/thread sometime soon about the comments policy and, specifically, the practice of disemvowelling? Please?

192

Manta 09.15.12 at 8:00 am

John Quigging’s take is really appalling: it’s fine for a professor to use her power to stop a student at her university from writing a story?
And by writing a story about a professor breastfeeding IN FRONT OF A CLASS the student was breaking the norms of privacy and decency?

Moreover, for people saying that the whole thing should not have been a story, I remind that the person writing first about it was prof Pine.
Without her blog, it would have been at most an article in a student newspaper.

193

afinetheorem 09.15.12 at 8:28 am

The reason this is a news story has nothing to do with an objection to breastfeeding per se, or to lazy teaching, neither of which is newsworthy. Rather, breastfeeding while in the middle of a lecture: making no ethical judgments, it’s clearly unheard of, and that’s why the tweet was sent out, and why the newspaper wanted to find out what happened. I’ve never heard, read or seen, first or third-hand, of it happening, and aside from one commenter, no one in this thread has either. I’ve also never heard of a lawyer or prosecutor or judge in court breastfeeding, or a speaker giving an address, or a congresswomen, or really anyone else on a public stage. These facts are arbitrarily close to defining a taboo.

You may question whether it *should* be taboo to breastfeed when on such a stage, but it clearly *is* taboo. I find it strange, as other commenters have, that an anthropologist of all people can’t understand this. And I’m fairly unconvinced by pleas of “what else could she have done?” given that there are millions of mothers in similar situations, the overwhelming majority of which have not broken the taboo. For one, a polite request to an office secretary or friendly grad student to watch the child seems totally appropriate when the professor is in such a bind, and given that the child attends daycare already, we know that many hours away from Mom, let alone 75 minutes, does not lead to the end of the world.

As for the treatment of the student reporter: I’m with others here. The professor will be lucky indeed to not be sanctioned for her treatment of that young woman.

194

Chris Bertram 09.15.12 at 8:37 am

_a polite request to an office secretary or friendly grad student to watch the child seems totally appropriate when the professor is in such a bind_

Presumably, our resident trolls would also want to describe such a request as an abuse of professorial authority over those who might fear the consequences of refusal?

195

dbk 09.15.12 at 8:54 am

Coming late to this discussion, and having read the comments (191 to date), as well as the Counterpunch piece by Prof. Pine herself, the post and thread on Alas! a blog, and the post and thread on Ethics Alarms by Jack Marshall, I feel like it’s all been said, and yet, somehow, it hasn’t.

The first day of classes of the fall semester (i.e. the start-up of the academic year) is pretty unique – you just really don’t want to stand up your class if at all possible. The class in question was sizable, and scheduling a make-up is often difficult if not impossible (for reasons related both to students’ schedules, and to that of the university).

What was she to do? This was quite literally a last-minute emergency, and she had no back-up plan in case her baby couldn’t go to day care.

I think that under the circumstances, I would have gone to class as she did, with some modifications: I would have availed myself of Laura’s gracious offer to look after Lee, explained the situation to the class at the outset, relieved Laura about midway through the class (or whenever Lee became fussy), taken Lee elsewhere and nursed her (Laura could have distributed the syllabus and answered procedural questions concerning the course during this period), and cut the 75-minute class period short by 15 minutes, to be made up in five-minute increments later in the semester.

Two additional points that haven’t been discussed in much depth on the threads (or I’ve missed them, if they have): AU apparently makes no provision for such emergencies (mentioned but not sufficiently stressed IMHO), and secondly, Dr. Pine’s decision not to “impose on” Laura indicates that she felt obliged to “go it alone”. Mothering an infant is simply not a one-person job; every anthropologist knows the mantra that “it takes a village to raise a child”. The TA seems to have been a decent person, and her humane offer to help could have been repaid by a gift, either material or “in kind” (Pine could have undertaken to mark one set of papers, assume responsibility for a couple of discussion sessions throughout the term, etc.).

Speaking from personal experience, I wasn’t able to have my children with me in class (I wasn’t a multi-tasker by nature). Thus, I took unpaid leave for their first year, and then had full-time, in-house care for years. The financial costs were high indeed and obviously, to judge from the cost of a single day of such care, Prof. Pine could not opt for such a solution in DC. Isn’t this also an issue here – that working women cannot afford (regular/reliable) back-up to support them in childcare emergencies?

196

John Quiggin 09.15.12 at 9:08 am

I’m struck by cultural differences I never suspected. As an Australian I take it as obvious that
* If babies need to be fed they need to be fed
* A journalist or editor for a student newspaper should be treated as a journalist or editor, not as a child who needs protection

Thinking about it, the common-sense status first of these views is relatively new – it was still controversial a decade ago, when the MP was ejected from Vic Parliament, but even then, I couldn’t imagine reading something like ” breastfeeding while in the middle of a lecture: making no ethical judgments, it’s clearly unheard of” on a leftwing blog.

As regards the newspaper story, if the local tabloid rag rang up looking for a story about something like this in my life, then said “we won’t use your name, and it’s a gossip item anyway”, I’d hit the roof in exactly the same way as the professor did here. It seems incredibly patronising to say “but this is only a student paper, so it doesn’t matter”.

197

Tim Worstall 09.15.12 at 9:28 am

“Is the US (and, given Tim W’s intervention, the UK) really as backward as these comments suggest?”

What’s backwards about asking whether professor and student are being treated equally?

As to the breast feeding in public thing we’ve all got over that long ago. Although I will admit to having been a touch discomfited when the nappy got changed on the pub table as others around were eating their lunches.

198

old new lefty 09.15.12 at 9:39 am

And don’t forget class differences, baby.

199

rf 09.15.12 at 9:49 am

It’s not that the student needs ‘protection’, just that Prof Pine’s behaviour doesn’t speak well of here. The student never sought protection only Prof Pine did, who circled the wagons, brought on board her well connected friends, wrote an article in Counterpunch and generally made a big deal about this when no one else cared. So it’s difficult to sympathise with her.

200

Manta 09.15.12 at 10:07 am

A professor is in 2 different positions that involve power imbalance: towards his employers, where he is the weaker role, and towards his students, where he is in the stronger one.
I think some of the disagreement stems from which of these to angles we look at the issue, and thus with whom we tend to sympathize.

And what rf said @198.

201

etv13 09.15.12 at 10:18 am

JQ @ 196: It is far from obvious that “babies” — in this case, pretty close to a toddler, given her mom’s emphasis on the fact that she’d been breastfeeding her all over the place for “a full year” — “need to be fed.” Apparently the kid in question at the moment in question needed to be calmed down, not necessarily fed at all. In any case, we are not talking about abandoning the child to its own resources for a whole day, or anything like it — just a 75-minute class. You seem to be thinking, “Oh my god, poor starving infant — of course its mommy ought to feed it.” I’m thinking, “Oh my god, poor kid, its mom is an idiot who can’t plan even a couple of hours ahead and feed it before the start of class.” Let’s think about all the other days in this kid’s life, when she didn’t have a fever and was admitted to day care. What happened then? Presumably, Prof. Pine sent along a few bottles of expressed breast milk, or formula, and the day care people fed the baby using those. Why did she have to breastfeed in the middle of class on this particular day? By her own account, she didn’t have any choice but to breastfeed the child, but also by her own account, she doesn’t think breastfeeding is any big deal, understands that other women can’t breastfeed their children and use formula instead, and ended up “forced to breastfeed” for — well, for reasons that completely escape me. Last I checked, the grocery stores carried a pretty good supply of Enfamil.

Have you read Pine’s Counterpunch post? Because I think , based on what I read there, that she would have a quarrel with you and your “babies need to be fed (by their mothers, from the breast)” argument. But maybe not, because by the evidence in the article, consistency and rationality are not exactly her strong suits.

Re the student newspaper, again, have you read the Counterpunch article? What it indicates to me is that Prof. Pine went off half-cocked, based on a plethora of unsupported assumptions about the journalist, the editors, and the story they would write. Having lacked the sense to tell the journalist who turned up after class, “Look, I can’t talk now, I’m feeling sick,” she jumped to conclusions (again, without any real basis, and in contradiction to what she acknowledged was the pro-breastfeeding attitude of the student journalist herself) about what the story would say, and attempted to quash the story by claiming that it would cause a “hostile work environment” for her. I’m a lawyer and she’s a layperson, so it’s not really fair for me to say, “What a dolt, she doesn’t understand the term ‘hostile work environment’ at all,” but in fact, she doesn’t understand that term, and she seems to be throwing it around as a threat to try to get the journalists to back off. Based on her own account, I don’t see that the student journalists did anything wrong or inappropriate — having heard rumors about a professor doing something in class that excited/titillated/upset some of her students, they followed up with an attempted interview asking, among other things, what her political opinions were about the District of Columbia government’s attitude toward public breastfeeding, and what her experience generally had been. By Prof. Pine’s own account, the student journalist was “sophomoric,” but enthusiastically pro-breastfeeding. Yet Prof. Pine assumed the article would harm her (maybe she realized, on some instinctive level, that when you’re thinking patronizing and insulting things like “sophomoric” and “third-rate” about a bunch of students, you can’t in all fairness expect them to be kind to you). To allay her fears, the student editor offered to give her anonymity, yet Pine chose to go public with the Counterpunch article. To say that she didn’t do herself any favors is kind of an understatement.

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Christophager 09.15.12 at 11:32 am

I agree with JQ at 196. Not only that: I’ll double down on one of his points – I think that it’s not only ok for a woman to breastfeed a hungry baby in a setting such as a lecture, but also that it’s ok for a woman to breastfeed a baby whenever she wants, in whatever situation, whenever she decides it’s appropriate. Attitudes like that of etv13 @200:

“Oh my god, poor kid, its mom is an idiot who can’t plan even a couple of hours ahead and feed it before the start of class.”

not only betray a dispiriting lack of empathy, they can also be applied to any public breastfeeding situation. I had seriously thought that we’d gotten beyond this.

Also, if the media wanted to report on any of this then I too would tell them to get stuffed.

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rf 09.15.12 at 11:52 am

The media? It was a college newspaper. This is what small town newspapers do, they write about nonsense, generally hang around the local court and annoy people. This is small town news that would have stayed local if Prof Pine hadn’t taken to the pages of Counterpunch. And good on them for not pulling the story, which might well have been favourable

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Manta 09.15.12 at 12:29 pm

Christoph:
by “the media” you probably mean prof. Pine herself?
And ” it’s ok for a woman to breastfeed a baby whenever she wants, in whatever situation, whenever she decides it’s appropriate”: no, it’s not OK; in the same way it’s not OK for a person to eat whenever she wants & in whatever situation, and it’s not OK to dress in pyjama whenever she wants & in whatever situation.
Especially if the audience is a captive one.

What is appropriate to do depends on the social context, not on the wishes of the individual. Thus, there is nothing strange that in Australia breastfeeding during a lecture is considered more acceptable than in US.

205

Chris Bertram 09.15.12 at 12:58 pm

Manta: your comments about appropriate behaviour here make interesting reading when compared to your contributions to earlier threads.

206

Manta 09.15.12 at 1:07 pm

Glad to see that someone is interested in my contributions, Chris.
I suspect, however, that your comment is some sort of criticism: in that case, I plead the generic defence of not being perfect.

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rf 09.15.12 at 1:07 pm

From the Eagle, apparently Prof Pine published the journalist and editors phone numbers.

http://www.theeagleonline.com/news/story/breast-feeding-news-judgement-under-scrutiny-after-national-attention/

“The essay also published both Mongilio and Cohen’s cellphone numbers, which were removed upon the University’s request a day later.”

It also appears the story was specifically about the rights and wrongs of breastfeeding in public. I’m at a loss to see how people are defending this, and arguing students shouldn’t be treated with kiddy gloves while professors should.

“The Eagle initially started looking into this story when we thought an unknown professor was under administrative review for breast-feeding in class. We then found a number of students who confirmed Pine had breast-fed her baby during a “Sex, Gender and Culture” lecture.
Heather Mongilio, who has worked at The Eagle as a news reporter for a year, interviewed Pine to confirm the information we had obtained. I subsequently offered Pine anonymity by withholding her name, the class and the school she teaches in.”

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Bloix 09.15.12 at 1:28 pm

#177 – Tedra, you make my point for me. Your reaction to someone who says something that annoys you is to slap that person down with a display of contempt. No one else on this blog writes like you, and many bloggers on feminist sites do (I’m thinking of Feministe in particular, which is a great blog.)

And I’m not criticizing – feminism, as I understand it, includes the concept that direct confrontation is necessary for marginalized people to be heard, and that’s a pretty persuasive stance.

But sometimes being confrontational is dangerous. A student reporter may look like an empty-headed little fool, but her goal in life is to create clippings. If she starts a controversy that wrecks your career, so much the better.

A non-tenured professor who is confronted with a reporter over something she did or said should understand that her job is on the line. It’s not a moment for “head-to-forehead,” as Pine wrote in Counterpunch. It’s time for, “you know, this is a very important issue for women, and men too. I’d love to be interviewed for your story – do you have time for a cup of coffee?” And to understand that the conversation is more important than any job interview she will ever have.

And then she should have gone to a senior faculty member she trusts, and say, look, this story about me is going to appear — I’d like to let the department know and to do what’s best for us. She might still have gotten beat upside the head, but at least she would have made an effort to save herself. Instead, she’s made things much worse.

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rf 09.15.12 at 1:36 pm

The relevant articles from the Eagle can be found quite easily online. I’ve a comment in moderation that charts the timeline as; newspaper hears University Professor is under investigation for breastfeeding, wants to publish story (apparently on arguments for and against public breastfeeding), asks around, finds the relevant Professor, grants her complete anonymity, Professor goes on Counterpunch and publishes journalist and editors phone numbers; story blows up due to Counterpunch article.
The moral being, we should respect peoples privacy and not treat students with kiddy gloves?

210

Manta 09.15.12 at 1:53 pm

@206: That’s not completely true, Bloix: for instance, D^2 often openly insults people he disagrees with.

And I don’t find that admirable at all. It’s an overt attempt to silence opposing voices when unable to convince them, not different from using e.g. condescension.
I am surprised that 1) this needed to be pointed out, and
2) Tedra recurs to such methods in a blog she moderates: even granting the assumption that people in a weaker position need to be verbally aggressive to be heard, in this forum the person in power is Tedra: she decides the argument, she can (and does) ban people she consider trolling, etc.: the comments policy helpfully reminds us that we are guests in their private space.
Using methods suitable to the “weaker” party in a situation when one is the stronger one is not a good sight.

And it is remarkably similar to the behaviour of Pine, who seems unable to realize that when dealing with students _she_ is the person in power, and should behave accordingly.

211

Matt Stevens 09.15.12 at 1:56 pm

Here in NYC women can walk around topless if they wish. It’s an equal rights issue: If men can take their shirts off and flash their boobies, there’s no reason women shouldn’t be able to as well. I agree 100%, particularly when there’s a pressing need to do so, such as quieting a screeching baby. The students are just being entitled twats. (The intimidation of a student journalist is another issue, of course.)

With Tedra Ostell’s pieces, though, I always agree with the issue at hand (in this case, breastfeeding), but her broader points make me go “huh?” The problem isn’t that we hate being “forced” to do things — who doesn’t? — or that we value control over our lives and self-determination. Those are good progressive goals and values, and the idea that feminism is in opposition to them is bizarre.

The problem is we assume others are in perfect control of their lives when they aren’t, and we hold them responsible when we shouldn’t. We assume a single mother can find a sitter whenever she wants one; that women can avoid being harassed or raped (so women that are harassed or raped are irresponsible sluts); that Good Parents can prevent their kids from misbehaving (so if they misbehave they’re Bad Parents); that Good Teachers can improve test scores (so if their students’ get bad scores they’re Bad Teachers) and so forth. It’s a lack of empathy, not a desire for freedom, that’s the problem here.

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rf 09.15.12 at 2:01 pm

“The students are just being entitled twats.”

Once again no one complained, as far as I’m aware. The paper heard she was under investigation and looked into it. There is only one ‘entitled twat’ involved, but apparently ideological or professional sympathy means this can’t be acknowledged.

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Matthew Stevens 09.15.12 at 2:43 pm

@211 Ah. A problem with hearing these things second-hand. Well let me qualify by saying, “If they were making a big stink about breast-feeding they were entitled so-and-sos.” (I like the word “twat,” but if it bothers you replace it with something else.)

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bianca steele 09.15.12 at 2:43 pm

Just in case I wasn’t clear, I have no problem with someone taking care of an infant or even a small child on the job. But there’s a small contradiction between “children should go everywhere and everybody should help raise them,” and “my students got unreasonably distracted by the sight of a child young enough to choke putting small objects in its mouth, and were so annoyingly condescending as to think I needed their help.” Nobody really wants to go into, here, all the points of contention between those two POVs. Also, I personally would not interpret the student journalist’s initial e-mail the way she did, but what do I know.

@Meredith: it’s my understanding that women are responsible for those superficially male bodily reactions, and in most interpretations can even take precautions. (/snark)

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bianca steele 09.15.12 at 3:00 pm

And re the power issues: Sure, she said to the TA “this is not within your job description.” If I’m in that position, I’m thinking, “Does she really mean this, or does she expect me to go above and beyond?” Finding an outside student or department employee, and even allowing money to change hands, seems less an inherent abuse of power than suggesting the TA is responsible for helping to keep order in the class but pretending some subpart of that task is not expected of her.

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rf 09.15.12 at 3:28 pm

@ Matthew Stevens

Yeah, I got a little carried away there, sorry about that! Your qualification seems reasonable

217

Bloix 09.15.12 at 3:45 pm

Manta at 209: Sorry, when I said “no one else on this blog” I meant none of the bloggers. Some of the commenters can be rude. It’s boring.
When I started commenting several years ago, I was often personally abusive. I try to behave better now. I may still be a jackass, but I try not to be a flaming asshole.

218

tinfoil hattie 09.15.12 at 3:57 pm

Warning: Long Militant Feministy Rant Ahead

In DC, “A woman shall have the right to breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where she has the right to be with her child, without respect to whether the mother’s breast or any part of it is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding of her child.” Since Prof. Pine’s depertment chair was okay with her bringing the baby to class, guess what? They had a right to be there.

Women have the right to breastfeed, no matter how squeamish it makes people. To that point, do people know exactly what is visible when a woman is breastfeeding? The back of a baby’s head. Possibly some fleshy part of the breast (as much as you’d see in a low-cut shirt, for example). Occasionally, the flash of a (pass the smelling salts!) nipple. (You know, like you see when a dude takes his shirt off in public.)

Breastfeeding is not sexual. Nor is it akin to walking around naked in a classroom, having intercourse in public, or – my favorites – pi**in, shi**ing, and farting. (There’s some more hopelessly middle class, unladylike language for ya).

Babies get hungry, they need to be fed, and it is BACKWARD to complain that the sole body part specifically designed for doing so is obscene, gross, inappropriate, or “offensive.” That breasts also have a sexual component is an awesome and brilliant bonus, since they are NOT used for feeding far more often than they are. But they are, without a doubt, designed to feed small humans. So to those of you who don’t like it, I say, “Tough titty.”

Also: Professor Pine is hypocritical in her shock! that anyone would object to breastfeeding, while simultaneously deriding those who fight anti-breastfeeding boors every day as “marauding mobs” and “lactivists.”

In addition, she treated the student-reporter atrociously. Posting her personal contact info. was beyond the pale, and demonstrated a serious breach of safety, as women who have received death threats for writing their opinions on the internet can attest.

219

tinfoil hattie 09.15.12 at 4:13 pm

@212 I don’t like “twat” because it’s a gendered insult used against the oppressed half of the patriarchy. Not that you asked, but it may be something you haven’t thought of.

220

JanieM 09.15.12 at 4:13 pm

D^2 is dsquared, or Daniel Davies, who is one of the bloggers.

221

Colin Danby 09.15.12 at 4:49 pm

Re “request to an office secretary or friendly grad student,” what Chris said at 194. I’m stunned by the presumption in “request to an office secretary,” and while there’s a long tradition of exploiting powerless grad students we really don’t need to reinforce it.

It might help to distinguish between (a) bringing the kid to class and (b) breast-feeding said kid once it’s there. As I said upthread I agree that (a) is not something you want to do under normal circumstances, but I want to resist the idea that it’s so outlandish or extreme that you only do it after exhausting every other conceivable option, like imposing on office staff.

(Pulling back from the immediate controversy, one of the more interesting questions you can ask about *any* social/cultural milieu is what happens when a kid gets sick. *Somebody* is going to have to adjust their routine. Who? How is the adjustment spread? This is one of those moments when power becomes visible.)

Re (b), breast-feeding should not be a taboo. It should not even be a big deal. Tedra and others are making a *normative* argument that the taboo is wrong because it limits people’s freedom and ability to adjust. Repeating that the taboo exists is not a counter-argument.

222

Anarcissie 09.15.12 at 5:19 pm

Bloix 09.15.12 at 3:45 pm:
‘Manta at 209: Sorry, when I said “no one else on this blog” I meant none of the bloggers. Some of the commenters can be rude. It’s boring.’

I found the truculence and aggression, which started at the beginning, pretty interesting. I was trying to figure out where it was coming from, outside of people pushing their egos. Clearly, it’s connected with a profound belief in natalism; at first I thought it was a sort of libertarian, individualist natalism (‘I can have all the children I want, and take care of them as I please, and the rest of you just have to put up with it’) but now it seems more communitarian — ‘We must all subordinate ourselves to the breeding and rearing of children wherever and whenever, for the sake of the community, without which we will be lost (or become bad, etc.)’ It’s not that people can’t justify their beliefs, it’s that their passion, as with some religions, raises the belief beyond the insult of being questioned.

As for taboos, all taboos limit people’s freedom and ability to adjust, yet all societies and practically all individuals observe and usually enforce them, including those who object to them, so they must serve some positive function or other. The fact that they exist (and are virtually universal) should tell us something.

223

Manta 09.15.12 at 5:20 pm

Colin: can you point out some taboo that does not limits people’s freedom?

224

RDT 09.15.12 at 5:33 pm

From everything I’ve read about this “incident” my call would have been to bring the baby and ask the TA to cover if I needed to take a break to feed the baby. But then I was never good at multitasking an didn’t even manage to get the hang of reading while nursing…

But I think the broader point about social discomfort with the “involuntary” is well-taken. And I would add, a social expectation that women will deal with the involuntarily difficult aspects of life — pregnancy, small children, aging relatives — and do it out of sight of the “real” world of work.

225

djw 09.15.12 at 5:42 pm

can you point out some taboo that does not limits people’s freedom?

I can’t think of any, myself. This is why I see taboos that serve no discernable rational purpose and have inegalitarian and discriminatory consequences as legitimate targets.

226

djw 09.15.12 at 5:42 pm

Argh. First line quoting manta @220, obviously.

227

engels 09.15.12 at 5:50 pm

can you point out some taboo that does not limits people’s freedom?

The taboo on involuntary confinement?

228

Colin Danby 09.15.12 at 5:53 pm

By definition a taboo limits, but the “freedom and ability to adjust” I have in mind here is women’s access to employment.

To restate the obvious, (1) Exclusions by race, religion, gender, and sexuality can be, and routinely have been, justified in terms of taboos. There is a particularly rich history of taboos limiting women’s freedom e.g. menstrual seclusion. (2) Social prohibitions having the force of taboo shift over time, often as the result of concerted action. So it is appropriate to subject taboos to normative argument, and to hope for change.

If someone wants to make a Burkean move and demonstrate the wisdom of a particular taboo, go ahead.

229

William Timberman 09.15.12 at 6:04 pm

One of Tedra’s major points is that when a changed environment makes preserving a taboo more trouble than it’s worth, something must be done. The more entrenched such a taboo is, being based in what everybody knows, etc., the more energy must be expended in combatting it. In the process, not only egos will get bruised. So what?

At this point, the sociological literature is full to the brim with the disconnect between earning a living and other human needs in post-industrial societies, particularly in a country like the United States, which appears to be ground zero for the idea that everybody is on his or her own, and God screw the child who ain’t got his own.

Just to name a few of these disconnects, we’re told that kids have no idea what their parents and other adults do every day, so they live in a fairy-tale when they’re young, and in subcultures devised partly by themselves and partly by consumer advertising when they reach adolescence. There are no rites of passage to speak of, so not surprisingly, many of our young arrive at the doorstep of adulthood like refugees from some distant Balkan war. (If they don’t wind up as victims of the War on Drugs in the meatime, that is.)

We don’t want to see that women are the ones who most often get stuck with resolving the contradictions between the demands of the factory floor or the office and those of their families, including the cost of child care that’s often nearly impossible to find, or to trust, an often underfunded and occasionally dangerous public education system, and what often looks like a war on the very idea of being a woman. None of our overseers of public morality seems to give a damn about this garbage heap of previous follies, or about women themselves, the people who are actually having to shovel through it.

If Professor Pine seems inclined to overreact, and to be suffering from an overnourished ego, consider the provocation. I think Tedra is absolutely right to be pissed. What surprises me is that she has so few allies here.

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Manta 09.15.12 at 6:11 pm

“If someone wants to make a Burkean move and demonstrate the wisdom of a particular taboo”

Quite the opposite, Colin: in this particular instance, for example, I do not object to breastfeeding in public.
But I am not prof. Pine’ student.

If you prefer: one can hope for change, one can press and advocate for change, but as a professor one cannot impose change on her students.

Anyhow, as others have said before, while I think that what prof. Pine did in class was objectionable, I also think it was a minor and understandable slip, and not really notable (quite worse stuff happen…).

What is not minor is her behaviour after the incident.
What I don’t understand is people defending her actions during and (in case of JQ and some others) after the incident.

231

Manta 09.15.12 at 6:29 pm

William, I see your point: she behaved like an asshole, but we should consider the provocations.

However, if prof. Pine was a work supervisor who unloaded her frustration on her subordinates I think you would be less sympathetic.

Child rearing as a single parent and working at the same time is hard.
Most likely, the university did not do enough to help its employees with kids.

But prof Pine did NOT complain to her superiors: as a two-bit bully, she attacked a person that was both inculpable of her situation and in a position of being easily hurt by her, i.e. a journalist students (with the support of her superiors, if I understood correctly).

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Colin Danby 09.15.12 at 6:31 pm

“as a professor one cannot impose change on her students.”

Nonsense. Morally obtuse nonsense. Every university that went co-educational imposed change on its students. Every university that stopped excluding Jews as students or faculty imposed change on its students. Every university that actively supports gay students imposes change on its students. As I’ve said before you don’t push students’ buttons just for the hell of it, but if a principle of justice is at stake, of course you can impose.

http://www.oxfordchabad.org/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/450812/jewish/A-Brief-History-of-Jews-of-Oxford.htm

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RDT 09.15.12 at 6:34 pm

@60 I think a lot of the specific “in class” issues really center around attention/attentiveness. I wouldn’t have a problem with a student nursing a baby in class — I’d have more problem with a student bringing a squrimy or crying child to class — not because there’s anything “wrong” with a squirmy or crying child, but because it will tend to distract from the overall purpose of the class.

234

Manta 09.15.12 at 6:41 pm

Colin: Prof. Pine explicitly disavows your “teachable moment” theory.
Except for that, you make a fair point.

235

Antoni Jaume 09.15.12 at 6:47 pm

I find it an axiomatic error to argue that something has never been done before to set a norm that forbids it. Where would we be without avantgardes since the start of humanity?

236

Salient 09.15.12 at 7:01 pm

The OP could be expanded into a pretty awesome book, or used as the introduction to a pretty awesome book, even absent the context that provoked it. Take on one Capitalized Notion per chapter.

The story itself, I guess I’m still feeling puzzled at the [American] University Professor is under investigation for breastfeeding part that comes before all the events in the timeline that some folks are proposing/dissecting above. When a professor is ‘under investigation’ for something, is that status normally made public knowledge? Is it formalized and made public knowledge so quickly that the editor could write the professor within 24 hours of the [non]event? And if so, why the passive voice in It was brought to our attention that you breast fed your child?

It makes no sense. I’m comfortable with the assumption that there was not a university investigation in public knowledge at the time that the reporter wrote the email, and possibly no investigation at all. Are people just not even referencing the source material as they construct a timeline?

Yeah. That’s a problem. So fuck it, let’s take a look at the surprise email that started the ball rolling:

It was brought to our attention that you breast fed your child during your “Sex, Gender and Culture” class. I was hoping to be able to talk to you in order to discuss what happened in class and allow you to speak about the matter in your own words. I understand the delicacy of the matter and I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable, but for the story to have the most balanced angle it would be best to have your thoughts

This says:

* I am identifying myself as a reporter for The Eagle, and conducting myself in that capacity.

* We [I and Eagle staff] will be authoring, and publishing, a story that publicizes your decision to breastfeed your child in class.

* By framing this as “what happened in class,” we will be framing our story as an incident, specifically as incident of potential misconduct on your part.

* By framing your input as “balance,” I am identifying myself as a party hostile to your interests, raising the question of misconduct myself. I intend to follow a few rules of conduct despite this hostility, such as offering you a vague opportunity to contribute “your thoughts.” Since I’m acknowledging our work is not balanced at present, you may safely assume I will be presenting the material we have so far as evidence of your guiltiness of misconduct, and are offering you only the chance to plead innocence, or offer an excuse.

* The context in which I am adopting the role of a hostile party raising the question of misconduct, is the only context in which this incident is newsworthy.

* I have sufficient authority to get this published; it’s not a hypothetical article. However, your input will be published at my discretion. Your status as university professor, and/or my status as university student, are irrelevant; I am in the position of authority here as regards this article.

* By “it would be best” we are declaring an intent publish this story with or without your consent, and with or without your input. If you do not comply with our request for a plea of innocence or excuse, we will report that you refused to provide it.

* We have not consulted with university administration and do not intend to.

This person’s relationship to the professor is reporter/reported, not student/teacher. The status of each person in the university’s eyes is irrelevant. Reporters do not have an inherent right to anonymity. This. is. really. not. that. hard.

When a reporter expresses their intent to publish material about you, you have every right to identify them by name. When a reporter writes to you, you have every right to publish and publicize what they wrote. Your students should get extensive anonymity privileges automatically. But this wasn’t the professor’s student, it was a newspaper reporter (it doesn’t matter whether it was a university paper or not) who was declaring an intent to go on record, and that person was acting in their capacity as reporter, wielding that authority.

Does the university newspaper withhold the names of its staff? If not, then the professor had every right to make public the correspondence received, names included. Reporters don’t get to retroactively declare themselves off the record, and they’re not ‘off the record’ by default. (Whereas, one’s students should be ‘off the record’ by default.)

Also notice what is not contained: any promise of anonymity whatsoever. So, a gigantic ‘fuck you’ to those above who protest that the student offered anonymity. If I threaten to hurt you, and you get freaked out and stammer at me, and then I reassure you that I’m not going to hurt you, there is no fucking way that the reassurance retroactively makes up for, or nullifies, the threat that was made.

Not to mention, the anonymity proposal is painfully, hilariously incoherent:

Rumors about the incident are already spreading through the student body, and we owe them an explanation of what really happened. … However, providing anonymity for you is an option.^1^

Yeah, our article’s entire justification for publication is all these rumors about you, but uhh we could totally keep it anonymous, amirite? For fuck’s fucking fucksake, really?

I’m comfortable asserting the professor here is entirely faultless at absolutely every stage of this including the counterpunch article,, which she posted only after she received confirmation that the story was going to be published.

^1^the sentence I snipped with ellipses doesn’t change the meaning and the full is available in the counterpunch article

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Colin Danby 09.15.12 at 7:05 pm

I neither used the term “teachable moment” nor does my argument logically entail that idea.

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Salient 09.15.12 at 7:06 pm

I am moderately proud that that comment of mine was auto-identified as immoderate and thrown in the queue, but I’d be moderately grateful if someone could free it.

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Barry Freed 09.15.12 at 7:19 pm

Salient brings the goods at 231. What an excellent comment, thanks.

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marcel 09.15.12 at 7:24 pm

Anarcissie wrote:

I found the truculence and aggression, which started at the beginning, pretty interesting. I was trying to figure out where it was coming from, outside of people pushing their egos. Clearly, it’s connected with a profound belief in natalism;

I, too, found this pretty interesting, but I don’t think this is the source. On sites throughout the internet (or so I understand — my surfing is pretty limited), this truculence and aggression (T&A henceforth), and much worse, is common: the norm, even. It is rare, but not unheard of, on this site, which has established a pretty healthy commenting culture. The T&A has been on both sides of the issue here as well, so it is hard to tie it solely to “a profound belief in natalism.”

I suspect that it has more to do with both personality and situation: the situation in this comment thread, whatever is going on in individual commenters’ lives that suggests to them that T&A is a useful rhetorical device and whatever of individual commenters’ sore spots this issue bruises.

It seems to me that nearly everyone who has commented (with JQ as a prominent exception) is willing to stipulate that Prof. Pine handled things badly vis-a-vis the reporter. Many, perhaps most, would stipulate that in an ideal world, or at least a more perfect US, breastfeeding in a classroom, by either professor or student, would not be cause for comment or raised eyebrow. Many would likely generalize from this that this should also be true for anyone in any workplace where there are not questions of health and safety for the mother or child. If I am correct about these stipulations, then the debate is , or s/b, about the best way to get to that point, i.e., to change attitudes about nursing, so that this is the accepted norm.[1] I don’t believe that I have any special insight about that. My personal preference is to avoid T&A, but it sometimes has its uses, as I think ACT-UP made clear in the 80s and 90s.

[1] The discussion on this thread is sufficient evidence that it is not yet the norm.

241

marcel 09.15.12 at 7:28 pm

Okay, while I was writing my comment, Salient’s came out of moderation. So this another prominent exception that may rapidly make this part of mine obsolete (Barry Freed’s too).

242

Manta 09.15.12 at 7:29 pm

I like you reasoning, Salient.
A beautiful example of justification for horrid behaviour: you should get a job as a press agent for some corporation (but you will have to leave the “fuck you” part, for that).

However, you left out the point where prof. Pine rounded her colleagues for solidarity and help (up to dep. chair and Dean); creating, in her own words, a hostile work environment; for that particular student, that is, and for all students who may dare in the future report on the professors in their university.

243

Manta 09.15.12 at 7:33 pm

In other words: you are claiming that the student becomes a journalist an somehow loses his student status in her relationship with Pine; this is not true, as long as Pine can (and did try to) use her status as professor at the student university to squash the story.

244

b9n10nt 09.15.12 at 7:45 pm

I want to use Salient’s point to reiterate mine earlier:

A journalist will publish a story that will likely harm someone’s livelihood. This harm is woefully under-balanced by any public interest (entertainment & gossip are not in the public interest; the rights of mothers can addressed and debated without potentially harming the reputation of anyone). In this, journalism is a thuggish enterprise because it harms for entertainment.

Some might perceive a contradiction between holding that a) breast feeding in public is an obsolete and onerous taboo and b) Prof Pine should be able to keep her incident unpublicized. But notice how often in this thread commenters have made the senseless blur between breast feeding-while-at-work as a matter of professional practice and resorting to feeding your feverish child at work ONE F-ING time to meet two responsibilities that were in head-on collision.

245

b9n10nt 09.15.12 at 7:56 pm

Manta @ 238: the “story” doesn’t exist prior to the editors/reporters decision to threaten the reputation of a professor for sport. No, the desire to practice a profession without unwanted publicity is not subservient to the public’s desire for titillation.

246

dsquared 09.15.12 at 7:57 pm

Dittoes on student journalists needing to own their bullshit. If you’re printing a trivia-gossip column item about one of your professors breastfeeding in a lecture, then you’re pretty much intentionally starting a fight with someone more powerful than you. To then do the “oh noes! Having started this fight, I am now in a fight! And I have only just noticed that there is a terrible power imbalance!!!.

The gossip column was potentially something that could have created a hostile environment for the prof – was she meant to not notice this, or having noticed it to ignore it, or pretend that she didn’t have any right to be protected from campus gossiping about her breasts, because Woodward & Bernstein or something?

247

djw 09.15.12 at 8:00 pm

Thank you, Salient. I had some vague sympathy for the position that her conduct vis a vis the student journalist raised some questions, but your comment (and manta’s utterly anemic response) is quite persuasive that my sympathy was misplaced.

248

Manta 09.15.12 at 8:01 pm

b9n10nt: if I understood your point, you (and Pine) are claiming that the story was not newsworthy.
But Pine did wrote about it; WP did wrote about on it; Marcotte and Tedra did wrote about it, and we are discussing it: seems newsworthy enough to me, and not something exclusively (or even mostly) about entertainment & gossip.

249

Salient 09.15.12 at 8:10 pm

I like you reasoning, Salient.

No you don’t.

A beautiful example of justification for horrid behaviour

I could see “justification for misbehaviour” or “for unprofessional behavior” or even “for irresponsible behavior” as coherent, but if any of this actually strikes you as horrid, we’re just going to have to keep living on our own separate planets, sorry. Horrid is, like, stabbing someone. Or getting stabbed! And ok, probably stuff like armed robbery is horrid. I think horrid stuff is stuff like stuff you’d probably feel PTSD about if you witnessed it; nothing here on anybody’s part tripped my ‘oh god that’s horrid’ trigger. Okay, so, I think the term “pearl clutching” is as stupid and awful and sexist as “the vapors” or “hysterics” … and a comment like yours makes me wish there was a more acceptable widely-recognized alternative word to mean ‘one who feigns shock rhetorical effect” so I could just call you it instead of writing out this whole sentence. (Not that I haven’t done that kind of thing myself. I won’t hold it against you; it’s probably usually an unconscious thing, in the heat of the moment.)

Pine rounded her colleagues for solidarity and help

Sheesh, only two misrepresentations in eight words? Surely you can do better than that!

[1.] The description “rounded up” does not apply. The professor notified her department chair (in effect, her boss) that an article about her might get published in the newspaper, with a quick description of what had happened so far, and a brief clarification of why she felt concerned about this. That is completely responsible and sensible behavior. If you learn a reporter is going to write a potentially hostile article about your conduct while at work, notifying your boss about it in advance is good professional conduct, and verges on professionally imperative. The decision to inform the staff and the dean was the chair’s discretion, undertaken with the professor’s permission (and, I’d say, was not a bad choice on the chair’s part).

[2.] The professor’s colleagues were not notified for solidarity or for help. See:

At that point, I spoke with my departmental chair, who … notified my colleagues and Dean that we were all possibly about to be drawn into a pointless story centered around my breasts. [Again, wordier non-ellipsesized passage is in the counterpunch article.]

I would say the purpose of writing the staff was to inform them that because of “a pointless story” in a local paper, they might find themselves in a weird position receiving reporters’ or students’ questions “centered around my breasts.” It’s useful to know when this kind of public discussion might take place, because getting ambushed with unexpected questions about a colleague while acting in your professional capacity is uncomfortable and might leave you sputtering nonsense.

Personally, as someone who has been quoted as saying “no conduct” in a newspaper, with the surrounding passage constructed to sound like I had endorsed a very disagreeable condemnation, I would definitely want to have a generic comment other than ‘no comment’ prepared. If someone questions you and you stammer and unthinkingly say “I have no idea,” they can publish some of the professor’s colleagues, such as Dr. Soandso, say they have “no idea” if this could mean the end of Dr. Pine’s career at this university. (Seriously, a variant of this happened to me.)

you are claiming that the student becomes a journalist an somehow loses his student status in her relationship with Pine

Misrepresentation [3.] The reporter was not one of the professor’s students. The reporter had no relationship to Pine, prior to the reporter’s decision to write a story about the professor. A reporter “becomes” a reporter when they act in their capacity as a reporter. There is nothing Pine did that would have been or should have been any different, even if the reporter had worked for the Washington City Paper or the Guardian or whatever.

250

dsquared 09.15.12 at 8:12 pm

Salient’s excellent post above does underline one thing that I have noticed a lot in my life – for people who are always trying to get others to go on the record, journalists don’t half scream and squeal when you go on the record about them. I’m not the only one to have been told in so many words (it’s happened to Brad too) by a journalist that the rules are that anything you say is on the record unless you specifically say otherwise beforehand, but the journalist talking to you is an utterly anonymous entity who can’t be quoted or named, even in private conversation. At that point, that phrase about fucking that shit (the one everyone was discussing in the first 50 comments) tends to enter the conversation.

251

John Quiggin 09.15.12 at 8:13 pm

@Manta What is this about using her position as a professor to stop the story?

The student newspaper at a university isn’t like a high school paper – professors have no capacity to censor it. As far as I can tell Pine did what anyone dealing with an obnoxious journalist/editor has the right to do (usually, ineffectually) namely write and ask that the piece not be published.

And, absolutely, the fact that a reporter happens to be a student (but not a student of the professor in question) makes no more difference in this case than if she were, for example, the professor’s landlord and was threatening eviction.

252

anonymous 09.15.12 at 8:14 pm

How would a piece in a school newspaper reporting the incident harm this woman any more than the ensuing media reaction she seems to have caused in what appears to be a classic streisand effect?

253

b9n10nt 09.15.12 at 8:22 pm

anonymous: the initial conditions are: no AU story, no Counterpunch article, no publicity. Then it’s: AU story a comin’, Counterpunch article, etc…

254

Salient 09.15.12 at 8:23 pm

Adding, if the reporter waaaaas one of the professor’s students, that would make the relationship and the situation much more complicated, the kind of thorny no-good-options nightmare that provokes you to sit at home staring at the wall for like three hours wondering how the fuck this many clusters can gravitationally implode into a clusterfuck this fucking clustery in one day.

So oooooookaaaaaay, if it really needs saying, in that case, the appropriate conduct from the professor as things progressed might be very different–but certainly speaking with the chair/dean immediately immediately immediately at the earliest possible opportunity would be the professionally imperative first step. (The only thing in that that could conceivably be wrong is that maybe I didn’t copy-paste ‘immediately’ enough times. Three seemed about right.)

255

b9n10nt 09.15.12 at 8:27 pm

manta @ 238:

Since the beginning, for me, “the story” is about the practice of journalism w r t private citizens. Again, Pine only writes about it once the publicity is inevitable.

256

b9n10nt 09.15.12 at 8:29 pm

Anybody else feel like JM Coetzee has his next novel?

257

Salient 09.15.12 at 8:33 pm

How would a piece in a school newspaper reporting the incident harm this woman

That’s a really straightforward hypothetical to answer by example:

AU PROFESSOR BARES BREASTS TO CLASS

Prof. Typeoftree angrily brushes off conduct as a “non-issue” in exclusive interview with our reporter

Student concerns ignite campus-wide controversy over appropriate bounds on professor privileges in the classroom

(Name changed so it doesn’t google up and make things worse for the professor.)

Wouldn’t even matter what the article said after that… and the fact that the paper considered this newsworthy in the first place, is pretty solid evidence they’d be pushing the “booooobs” angle. At least in the counterpunch thing the professor could make a statement in her own words, that hasn’t been clipped or filtered through whatever awful lens the reporter introduces — can’t exactly trust ‘em to fairly and competently attend to genuine “balance” if they’re as titillation-focused as they seem.

258

William Timberman 09.15.12 at 8:37 pm

I’ve often had the thought that anonymity is the only real luxury left in the 21st century. The smirking student reporter is a case in point. Once he’s on to you, this young Woodward, neither his age, his status in the world, nor his attitude matter, his competence or lack of it even less. And there’s no point resorting to threats, especially if you can’t carry through on them. When Boss Rove himself can’t swat away the stinging gnats of the public’s right to know, what hope is left for the feminist breast?

Lear had it about right:

<blockquoteSmite flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world,
Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!

259

Bloix 09.15.12 at 9:18 pm

#256- Philip Roth has already written it.

260

nick 09.15.12 at 9:49 pm

If if comes down to “whose side are you on?”, I’m with A. P. no question.

however, there is a genuine difficulty here. the social norms surrounding breastfeeding in public are “nothing important or noteworthy is going on, DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO THIS.” now, when we come to the social norms surrounding teaching in a university classroom, we get, more or less “nothing important or noteworthy is going on*, PAY ATTENTION TO THIS.”

*I teach at a university.

hence, a certain tension. simple fact. breastfeeding while lecturing=theatrical. in this culture, at this time, there is no other option. it amazes me that so many academics here feel the tactical need to deny this. the action, in the first class of the semester, is going to be read as a provocation, and it’s impossible that she wasn’t aware of this.

to be clear: I am ENTIRELY supportive of a radical feminist anthropologist deciding that said provocation would be pedagogically valuable. And I am ENTIRELY sympathetic to an untenured radical feminist anthropologist then deciding that she doesn’t want to die on this particular hill in the endless tedious culture war between academics and right-wing assholes.

part of me kinda wishes she owned it, though, so that so many of y’all wouldn’t be making the weak claim that like any working mother, she had no choice. anybody who thinks a prof with a TA at her disposal and a brand new to-the-students syllabus to introduce can’t figure out a way to leave the classroom for ten minutes is not exactly thinking very hard…..

261

pegg 09.15.12 at 10:41 pm

@128
“Breastfeeding while teaching a class is unprofessional. I have never heard of it happening”
When I was in grad school one of my professors would breast feed while interviewing prospective students in her office. She may well be a grandmother by now and is definitely a Dean. If Mayhew got out more and met a few female scientists, he might see some other breast feeding professors.

262

Anarcissie 09.15.12 at 10:44 pm

We can observe that neither the professor nor the students are in an entirely voluntary situation. If they were, and the professor decided to breastfeed, and someone in the audience objected, the professor could freely suggest that they not let the door hit their butt on the way out. All, some, or none might freely avail themselves of this opportunity. But in fact all of them are members of a privileged class who depend for the maintenance of their privilege (and indeed, in the case of the professor at least, for her livelihood) on a surrounding structure of authority and power, which probably requires that the professor teach and the students be taught according to its rules. They can’t leave without, possibly, paying a significant penalty. I think this casts a somewhat different light on, for instance, the observation or violation of one’s taboos (and I suspect that in fact all of you have them, professions to the contrary notwithstanding).

263

Manta 09.15.12 at 10:45 pm

Nice post, nick.

But, if it comes to “whose sides are you on” question, how comes you are on the stronger side (Pine)? Maybe because you are an academic too, and thus find it easier to sympathize with her?

Here is my answer to your question about why (some) commenters here deny the theatrical aspect of what she did.
If you do something theatrical, it’s quite normal a newspaper would write about it.
And thus she was doubly unjustified in attacking the student reporter for writing about her exploit, and quite disingenuous in her description of what happened.

Really, what the fucking fuck? Since it’s a colleague, people feel the necessity to circle the wagons around her? All the happy talk about “empathy” and “blind spots” is only so much bullshit, and when it’s time to apply it to oneself it’s forgotten?

BTW, that’s the reason why I liked Salient reasoning (I was sincere in my praise): so much sweet talk to justify class solidarity. At least dsquared was honest in his answer: the student is in the weaker position, and should eat shit. (Well, it turns out that it was not really the end of swearing).

264

Tedra Osell 09.15.12 at 10:47 pm

You know, the comments by JQ and Chris Bertram are very illuminating to me, in particular Chris’s point that the US is unique in treating the entire student body as, essentially, vulnerable children who all professors are responsible towards. I’m sure that this is not a good thing and that it has quite a bit to do with the US focus on “consumer rights” (which I don’t think apply to students, but more and more people seem to think that they do).

265

Tedra Osell 09.15.12 at 10:48 pm

Anarcissie @222: “We must all subordinate ourselves to the breeding and rearing of children wherever and whenever, for the sake of the community, without which we will be lost”

Um, no. We must accept that children are part of the community, and behave accordingly. Which includes accepting the fact that they cannot be held to the same standards one would apply to adults.

266

rf 09.15.12 at 10:51 pm

“This person’s relationship to the professor is reporter/reported, not student/teacher. The status of each person in the university’s eyes is irrelevant.”

I agree on this, however

(1) I don’t know why the strawman of reporters not having “an inherent right to anonymity” is taking up so much space. I haven’t seen anyone argue that, I certainly didn’t. (Only that publishing their numbers on Counterpunch is a d*ck move)
(2) A lot depends on whether you think Prof Pines Counterpunch article should be taken at face value. I obviously don’t, so I wouldn’t have been as generous with your interpretation on the initial email from the paper. And I do think she was rallying her colleagues to put pressure on the paper. (Whatever the rights or wrongs of this)
(3) We don’t know what would have been in the article so there’s little point speculating. (Pine implied that the reporter was sympathetic – which would contradict it was a misogynistic rag – so maybe the article would have been)
(4) I think it’s a legitimate story (Especially if done in the context of a debate about breastfeeding in public)
(5) Pine wants the best of both worlds. She made this a national story by playing the victim over a controversy that never occurred. The class weren’t up in arms, the college wasn’t falling apart. No one gave a damn except for Heather Mongilio and Zach Cohen, kind of. Stealing from nick above, although I’m sure he’d want to be distanced from this, a lot rests on what you think her options were in the class, and her awareness of the potential blowback. (The Counterpunch article shows pretty clearly that she was aware this could become a big deal.)

So this (from Dsquared)

‘Dittoes on student journalists needing to own their bullshit. If you’re printing a trivia-gossip column item about one of your professors breastfeeding in a lecture, then you’re pretty much intentionally starting a fight with someone more powerful than you. To then do the “oh noes! Having started this fight, I am now in a fight! And I have only just noticed that there is a terrible power imbalance’

is a strawman, as is this.

“journalists don’t half scream and squeal when you go on the record about them.”

Where’s the evidence that Heather Mongilio or Zach Cohen give much of a sh*t. The only one resorting to special pleading is Pine as far as I can see

By all means let’s treat students as adults, but let’s do the same for all other non-student adults

267

Tedra Osell 09.15.12 at 10:55 pm

Manta @210 “Tedra recurs to such methods in a blog she moderates: even granting the assumption that people in a weaker position need to be verbally aggressive to be heard, in this forum the person in power is Tedra: she decides the argument, she can (and does) ban people she consider trolling, etc.: the comments policy helpfully reminds us that we are guests in their private space.”

I have not, on this blog, ever banned anyone.

Bliox @208: “Tedra, you make my point for me. Your reaction to someone who says something that annoys you is to slap that person down with a display of contempt.”

Because I said that you were being a jackass for setting up a straw “radical feminist” in a post that is specifically about feminism? Please.

268

Manta 09.15.12 at 10:58 pm

Tedra: My apologies for saying that you banned people: it was an unintentional mistake.

Still, the larger point remains.

269

Tom 09.15.12 at 11:54 pm

After reading the comments on this thread and then reading Professor Pine’s account at Counterpunch. I have to wonder what brought on all the angst by the super critical commentors on this site. Salient, thankfully, finally put the whole thing to a close by offering a realistic perspective to the the controversy.

It was all reminiscent of a situation I had 25 years ago while working on a controversial piece of transportation at a state legislature. An emotionally upset environmentalist, misunderstanding an issue, telephoned my office and told me that if the bill passed, both the senator sponsoring the legislation and I were “dead meat.” The office secretary, who also was the phone, immediately called the State Police to report the threat.

I told the state police officer responding that I did not believe the threat was credible
(I believed that I recognized the voice as someone who always made idle threats),
but he insisted that both the senator and myself should be placed under protection and that the threat should not be discussed with anyone else.

A reporter for a small, local community newpaper somehow found out about the threat
and cornered me in the state capital building demanding information on the threat and I told him that I could not talk about it and that he should talk to the state police, but they would probably deny any knowledge of any threat.

The reporter’s headline in the paper the next day: “Legislative Director Alleges Threat to Life of Senator; State Police Deny Any Knowlege of Threat”

270

Maggie 09.16.12 at 3:34 am

I’m disturbed by comments above about “natalism.” How is it “natalism” to assert one’s right to care properly for your child once it’s already born? Or is it in daring to be a mother at all that one becomes guilty of “natalism”? As a stay at home mother, I’ll never be guilty of “unprofessionally” mixing up work and parenting, but that scarcely impresses my former colleagues (academics FWIW), who variously view my choice as somewhere between incomprehensible and contemptible. I made myself a social non-person, and struck an unrecoverable blow to my own life chances – out of all proportion to actual time out of employment – the day I decided to stay home. Granted I knew what I was getting into, but that hardly makes me less resentful of the accusation that I am benefiting from some kind of “natalism.” (After each use I swear I’ll drop the scare quotes next time, but then I can’t help myself! Sorry.) However the red-state masses may embrace “quiverfull” and Paul Ryan, the rule in polite professional and academic society is profoundly ANTI-natalist. All good liberals affirm “reproductive choice,” of course, but the only choices that are actually permitted an aspiring professional woman are:
1. routine abortion in case of contraceptive failure
2. be rich enough to buy one’s way out of dilemma’s like Pine’s (and emotionally masculine – oops, I mean “professional” – enough not to let less tangible factors get in the way of one’s work performance)
3. Failing 1 (and of course, noone with a personal objection to 1 deserves to call herself a professional, let alone an intellectual) and 2: give up, dump your training in the wastebasket, and literally go home, because you will NOT be accommodated otherwise. (This is the “option” I took.) Also, you will NOT receive Social Security credit for dependent care, be it children, elders, or special needs; the fact that the law counts unpaid care work as pure slacking speaks volumes about American “natalism.”

271

Bloix 09.16.12 at 3:49 am

#267- Please what? I wrote something that annoyed you and you responded with an open display of contempt. That’s a common rhetorical move among feminists, and not common among non-feminist academics (who are ikely to utilize arch sarcasm and clever ridicule). And it’s an example of different attitudes: feminists are bold, confrontational, even reckless. Academics are conformist, cautious, even timid. Feminists are egalitarian. Academics are hierarchical. Feminists are activists who act in solidarity with women. Academics are careerists who may sympathize with others but act only for themselves.

I’m not bothered that you called me a jackass. I’m pointing out that the feminist rhetorical strategy you adopted when you did so doesn’t work very well for academics. Pine – we are talking about Pine? – finds herself in a conflicted position. She claims to be a militant assistant professor, which is a contradiction in terms. And the internal contradictions, so to speak, have emerged to create the situation she’s in.

272

Neil 09.16.12 at 4:16 am

“Academics are careerists who may sympathize with others but act only for themselves.”

I think the reasonable response, taking one thing with another and weighing words carefully, is
Go fuck yourself.

273

b9n10nt 09.16.12 at 5:24 am

manta @ 263

Theatrical? Isn’t that when you do something simply for the sake of attention? Prof was a) doing her job and b) being a mother. Unless she put her nipple on the document camera or something, there’s no theatricality. Simple means to an end every step of the way.

Yes, to do this as a matter of course would be theatrical, unprofessional, burn-her-she’s-a-witch, etc… But it happened one time. For understandable reasons. I only see circular logic: I don’t like what she did because it’s wrong because I don’t like what she did because it’s wrong. On the one hand we have a mom caring for a sick child and introducing a college course: two things she’s doing that are nearly the antithesis of self-indulgence. On the other we have someone so caught up in their private feelings that they manifest as an objective reality (“I feel uncomfortable” becomes “she did something wrong”) that all must respect and observe: baby and course or both be damned.

To the contrary, any theatricality lies merely in the indulgence you give to your precious sensibilities, which neither sooth the flesh, alight the intellect, or inspire the spirit. Your feelings alone aren’t necessary your choice, but it most certainly is a choice to lobby for their public importance. Make the case. Why should your negative reaction to Pine’s breastfeeding concern anything beyond your own nervous system?

Only after you’ve convinced us that we should all like mustard but not ketchup and breasts in Renoir but not in reality can we then move on. Given that her breastfeeding to sooth a sick infant one time in class is established as objectively wrong, then Prof. Pine becomes the Other and has squashed a legitimate news story about her own Wrongness and thwarted the public good. But the entire crusade rests on that first act of judgment: thou shall not breast feed before a captive audience under any circumstances.

If, on the other hand, the fault lies merely in our nervous systems, and they will have recovered 5 minutes after the boob and baby are all in their proper place with no lasting trauma, the issue then becomes the Professor’s right to protect her reputation. Should the school paper be allowed to turn a one-time distraction into a Cause, an Incedent, a Threatrical Act of Deviant Professionalism? Why should anyone allow that the fleeting perceptions of a few students become the basis to harm someone’s career?

274

js. 09.16.12 at 5:59 am

Salient’s comment at 236 is immense. Was unsure what to think about Pine’s actions vis-a-vis student reporter; am not anymore.

Not quite related, nick’s 260 gets at or close to something that’s been nagging me throughout: Anthro prof brings her child to class, breastfeeds her child because immediate circumstances demand it. All totally fine and good so far. But (1) she does not at all anticipate that what is most likely a small minority of students might well be surprised or perhaps scandalized by this; (2) when this surprise is brought to her attention (in admittedly hostile form), her reaction—in a separate, relatively lengthy piece she’s writing—is to be surprised herself at the surprise (and not just at the hostile form in which this is brought to her attention).

I don’t think that breastfeeding the child in the given circumstances need be either intended or interpreted as theatrical (in any sense). Still, it seems a bit weird to me that she wouldn’t at all have anticipated this response in at least some of her students, and even more so that when the response was brought to her attention, she seemed mostly just shocked. Am I missing something?

275

Manta 09.16.12 at 6:39 am

b9n10nt: I think you are mixing 2 separate questions:
1) was what she did in class wrong
and 2) was she doing something obviously noteworthy (and newsworthy)
You give some arguments to answer “no” to the first question, but you don’t say anything about 2).

Even granting 1) (which, anyhow, I consider only a small mistake on her part, so I can easily grant), 2) does not follow.
On the contrary, have strong evidence that what she did WAS newsworthy: I submit Tedra’s OP as evidence number I, and 274 comments to it as evidence number II.

There is point 3): did she realize at the time that she was doing something controversial?
Well, she is a professor, and anthropologist, and a militant feminist, but we should believe the answer is “no”?

276

NomadUK 09.16.12 at 6:45 am

Maggie@270: and emotionally masculine – oops, I mean “professional”

This, exactly. Who exactly defines ‘professional’, after all? Guess. The usual penises — er, suspects.

Timberman@229: What surprises me is that she has so few allies here.

She doesn’t; there are undoubtedly many, like me, who realise that others here are far better at arguing these things and have infinitely more patience for talking to brick walls.

277

Afu 09.16.12 at 7:14 am

Personally I find nothing wrong with Prof. Pine breastfeeding in class. But this thread has been instructive as to how tribalism works among academics, and it is not pretty.

“I could see “justification for misbehaviour” or “for unprofessional behavior” or even “for irresponsible behavior” as coherent, but if any of this actually strikes you as horrid, we’re just going to have to keep living on our own separate planets, sorry.”

It is very hard to think of any reason of Pine to publish the phone numbers of the student reporters except as an invitation for people to sympathize with her to anonymously harass them. If you think this is acceptable behavior we really are living on different planets.

Then there is the assumption that the student reporters are writing a “gossip piece”, with no evidence beyond a tortured deconstruction of a partially quoted email. If breast feeding is an important issue, shouldn’t the school news paper publish stories about it? It may not have been appropriate for them to write the story directly about Pine, though I see no evidence that it was going to hurt her career. However, none of the students actions are any where near as bad as Pine publishing there numbers in the middle of a highly inflammatory article.

278

b9n10nt 09.16.12 at 8:08 am

manta @ 275:

And I think you are confusing two questions as well: 1) Is public breastfeeding a worthy topic of public discussion? (yes, certainly, as this post itself provides evidence). 2) Must such a discussion necessarily involve let alone center around the reputation of an involuntary participant in the discussion in ways that will likely harm her well-being? (No, only if you’ve already decided that public breastfeeding before a captive audience is always wrong and deserved public shaming).

What I find noteworthy and newsworthy are the tensions between ethics, publicity and reputation that surfaced in this case. Were my wife to come home from school and said “oh yeah, by the way, prof breast fed her baby in class today, kinda weird”, I’d be like “yeah, interesting”. I wouldn’t call a journalist or the school with the intent to have the Prof disciplined. Were my wife to come home from work and say “oh yeah, by the way, my co-worker is sleeping with her supervisor” I’d be like “yeah, that’s weird” but I wouldn’t call a journalist or the supervisor’s boss. I readily agree that both public breastfeeding before a captive audience and office boss/subordinate romance are newsworthy and noteworthy topics. But I’m also not looking to fuck with people’s lives cause I’ve figured it all out and am ready to deliver justice.

Like you say what Prof Pine did was a “mistake” in the first place, and then have decided her surprise at the ensuing kerfuffle “disengenuous”. But beware, this isn’t a politician or any sort of publicity monger: At some point, a lack of charity becomes irresolvable with cruelty.

A “mistake” is only made objective/real once we know and can clearly delineate what the purpose was and was not of an action. Did she try and breastfeed with her hand? No, she didn’t make a mistake. Did she try and address her students in Mandarin? No, she dind’t make a mistake there either. Did she overlook some obvious action that would’ve preserved her dual goals of attending to her child and upholding her professional responsibilities? No obvious mistake. Was there one clear, correct action to take? These things, if they are known at all, aren’t known by us mortals. You would then be bearing false witness: pretending to divine or entirely fictional knowledge of what was the Right Thing To Do and publically declaring that you actually have such knowledge. You don’t manta. You’ve judged yourself before for being artless, or insulting someone by mistake, or not doing your best. But you’re only human, right? You’re doing the best you can. So lighten up on yourself and you won’t really be able to take yourself quite so seriously when you’re all up in others’ “mistakes”.

Ditto for the charge of disingenuousness. In hindsight, of course it’s obvious that the school’s journalist showed up on the phone and then at her door. But if the journalist does not show up…guess what, its obvious that would happen too. (I think this is called “confirmation bias”). I mean, she’s a militant feminist teaching sociology, right? Of course she breast fed her baby. That was like, so typical. Again, we’ll make the personal poltical, manta. Because at some time or another in your adult life, you could not predict the effects of your actions even though, after the fact, it seems it would’ve been so easy. For all our social adeptness as humans, we still regularly fail to read the room (both out of willfull blindness and just plain old blindness).

But that’s just me not being a dick about human beings. One charge you should stick with is her lack of charity/ cruelty toward the journalist as a person. But we’ve just been demonstrating how easy it is for us to have our feelings hurt and then lash out and treat others cruel (she’s publicizing the journalist’s home info., you’re judging her “mistakes”, I’m treating you like you’re seven, etc…)

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etv13 09.16.12 at 9:39 am

I am less impressed by Salient’s comment than others seem to be. For starters, Salient did not quote the initial e-mail in full, omitting (among other things) the following sentence that came right before Salient’s block quote: “I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable.” That strikes me as a pretty important omission, when you’re claiming that this was a threatening email.

And let’s not forget that Pine’s Counterpunch piece was not triggered by this initial e-mail. Indeed, here is Pine’s own description of her response to this e-mail which Salient claims justifies everything Pine did afterwards: “I was shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy, and at the antiwoman implications inherent in the email’s tone. ‘Delicate’? ‘Uncomfortable’? What did the Eagle . . . think I was? A rice paper painting? A hymen?” By her own account, Pine didn’t feel threatened by this e-mail; rather, she was indignant about the suggestion that breastfeeding was a delicate subject, or that talking about it might make her feel uncomfortable. She fired off an email to Heather claiming that it was no big deal; the baby was hungry, she fed it, “end of story.”

Quoting again from Pine’s Counterpunch piece: “Following class I was accosted by budding reporter Heather, who clearly had not understood what I meant in my email by ‘end of story.'” Okay, so having responded to Heather’s email with a dismissive email of her own, Pine now follows up with a dismissive and condescending response to Heather in person (“budding reporter Heather” who is apparently incapable of understanding what Pine thinks is obvious). Then we get a snide comment about how Heather apparently thinks some professors check their Blackberries during class — Blackberries, sheesh! Where has Pine been? I last had a Blackberry about eight years ago — which, again, is nothing but Pine ragging on “budding reporter Heather,” followed by an attack on the Eagle based on Pine’s preconceptions that it is a third-rate sexist rag. I’m not sure I agree with Pine’s reading of the Eagle editorial about date rape, but whether her reading is correct or not, the salient point (no pun intended) about the Eagle’s being a student newspaper is that its staff turns over every three or four years. It’s really not fair to blame “budding reporter Heather” for things that happened before she even got to campus. But as far as Pine is concerned, it’s just peachy to judge Heather for things some unnamed editorialist wrote in the paper two or three years ago.

So according to Pine, “budding reporter Heather” asks a series of questions about whether Pine had given any thought to her students’ possible reactions to the breastfeeding — okay, let’s stop. I don’t know what to call it here. Pine and Salient object to its being called an “incident,” and Strunk & White would, no doubt, object to the phrasing “the fact that Pine breastfed her kid while giving a lecture.” So . . . “Episode”? “Occurrence”? “Happening”? Anyway, Heather asks about Pine’s thoughts about her students’ response to whatever it was, and then, according to Pine, she asked “if I thought the District of Columbia was doing enough to protect mothers’ rights to breastfeed.”

Anybody who sees these questions as intruding into Pine’s private life — well, I just don’t get you, that’s all. The whole point of the incident, episode, what-have-you, is that Pine didn’t breastfeed her kid in private. She didn’t feed young Lee in the National Portrait Gallery, or at a bus stop on Massachusetts Avenue. She didn’t breastfeed her in her office during office hours. She didn’t breastfeed her in a seminar with students she knew well. She breastfed her (or as Tedra put it, “whipped out a boob”) in a classroom at American University while giving a lecture to forty students on the first day of class. It sounds like no one had done that before, and obviously some of Pine’s students must have talked about it after class. Pine thought — or purports to have thought — it was no big deal, but apparently they thought differently. Can you really blame them for that? It’s an immature attitude, but they are immature. Whether they’re there to get an education or just credentials, we can’t expect them to act like people who already have an education. The attitude is there, and we should be prepared to deal with it. Maybe even — shocking thought — by publishing an article in the student newspaper examining the issues facing nursing faculty mothers.

‘Cause here’s the thing: Salient’s surmises about what Pine might have thought about the article that was going to be written aren’t borne out by what Pine herself says about what she thought was going to be in the article, or about why it troubled her. Here is what Pine said in the Counterpunch piece: “I was loathe to become the victim of the ‘scoop’ of a sexist third-rate univeristy newspaper.” But here is what she said in an email to a sympathetic colleague (also quoted in the Counterpunch piece): “I really don’t care what the slant of the article is. It’s just the fact of the article itself that I find offensive.”

Let me repeat that: “It’s just the fact of the article itself that I find offensive.”

How arrogant is this? Again, she did something in a classroom full of students at American University. Some of her own students apparently found what she did worthy of comment, and the staff of the university newspaper found it newsworthy. But their opinions don’t matter. She doesn’t want to be typed as a woman, or a mother. She’s offended when somebody addresses her as “Ms. Pine”, omitting her “professional titles”. (God forbid anybody should forget to call me “counselor.” I mean, really, what the fuck? “Ms. Pine” is offensive? Shit, “Ms.” is my professional title. Obviously I should have gone to grad school and not to law school. Or maybe women lawyers should insist on taking the “D.” in “J.D.” seriously and make everybody call us “Doctor” too.) And “it’s just the fact of the article itself that I find offensive.” Because really, everything she does should be immune to criticism or even comment.

Same email (to the sympathetic colleague): “Her [Heather's] questions were biased and sophomoric — although she appeared to admire that I had committed some sort of radical feminist act, which was not in this context at all my intention. . . But the paper is threatening to create a hostile work environment for me.” Yet, at this point, Pine has already talked to her depatment head, who gave her “his full support,” and received emails expressing “indignation and solidarity” from various colleagues. What “h0stile work environment”? Far from creating a hostile work environment, the threatened article has given rise to numerous expressions of support from her boss and colleagues.

Going back to Salient’s comment, we have another edited email, this time the one from the student editor, a junior at AU. Salient’s comment suggests that his promise of anonymity was equivocal. I beg to differ. The editor didn’t just say, as Salient would have it, “Providing anonymity is an option,” as if it were an option the Eagle was likely to reject. He said, after stating that the Eagle was going to run the story, “However, providing anonymity for you is an option. I understand your concerns and we can alternative [sic] ways of identifying you in the story.” I read this as a genuine offer to protect Pine’s identity — and so, apparently, did Pine, who emailed back that she wanted the Eagle to conceal her name.

So — Pine does something in a classroom full of AU students, one or more of whom brings the activity to the attention of the student newspaper. A newspaper staffer sends Pine an email to which Pine responds dissmissively “end of story.” The staffer sends another email asking for an interview and then shows up after one of Pine’s classes. Instead of saying, “Let’s talk later, when I’m not sick,” Pine gives the staffer an interview, afterwards calling the staffer “budding reporter Heather” and “sophomoric.” She acknowledges, however, that Heather seems to admire her. (God knows why.) Then she gets cold feet and tries to put a stop to the article. When the student editor replies that they’re going to run the story, but they understand her concerns and will protect her anonymity, she decides to forestall the article and out herself by publishing the Counterpunch piece.

I don’t see that the student journalists did anything wrong. They were proposing to write an article about Pine’s public, not private, conduct. The story was obviously newsworthy, given the attention it has received since. They gave Pine an opportunity to comment, and offered to give her anonymity (to the extent they could, given that rumors were already circulating, through no fault of theirs, around campus). It was Pine herself who decided to go public, in a piece that does her intelligence, judgment, and sense of charity absolutely no credit.

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etv13 09.16.12 at 9:41 am

Aargh. Is there no way to preview a comment in these threads? I got way more italics than I asked for, and I see no way to fix them.

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Manta 09.16.12 at 11:13 am

b9n10nt:
it may be well true that in the heat of the moment she did not think through about the consequences of her action (e.g.: baby starts to cry, she is concentrating on the lecture, and unthinkingly does the normal thing she does in such situation, and breastfeeds him; or whatever other scenario you may prefer).

However, what happened later was not in the heat of the moment, but deliberate.
When she was “…shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy, and at the anti-woman implications inherent in the email’s tone” it was already the day after.
When she wrote the Counterpunch article was 1 week after; while writing it, she had all the time to think about its consequences.

And about what happened being her private life, and hence should be protected from public scrutiny, I can only answer that we have different opinions about what is private life and what is not. In my opinion, anything you do in front of your class is public, and as such fair game for public discussion: this independently from whether your actions are normal, or commendable, or stupid.
A professor in class is a performer in front of a public: privacy expectations from a professor during a lecture are as out of place as privacy expectations from an actor while on the stage.

“But we’ve just been demonstrating how easy it is for us to have our feelings hurt and then lash out and treat others cruel (she’s publicizing the journalist’s home info., you’re judging her “mistakes”, I’m treating you like you’re seven, etc…”

I don’t have any special obligations towards Pine (nor you towards me), besides common humanity; while she, as a professor towards a student in her university, did have special obligations towards Heather Mongillo, and in those she was amiss.
You don’t have special power to harm me, I have not special power to harm Pine; she does have such power over Heather.

About the last point (which was contested by e.g. JQ), I think some disagreements my stem from different expectations about university life in different countries (and universities), so it may well be that I am mistaken about it (if someone with more experience about the environment, expectations, and rules in US universities in general and AU in particular could give his say…).
However, I would expect that her position as university professor would give her quite a bit of power over a student at her university: power to impede her career as a student; power deriving from their positions as professor and students at the same university, that she would be lacking over a journalist from the Guardian (to quote from one of the previous examples), or from the local TV; and therefore power that she should NOT use to to her advantage against a student.

A small evidence that this is the case is the way they address each other in letters: “Professor Pine”, “Professor”, “Ms Pine” (whoops: how dare she address her without her professional title!) on one side, while “Heather” and “Zach” on the other side (not “Ms Mongillo” or “Mr Cohen”, as she would address journalists from the local news).

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Manta 09.16.12 at 12:04 pm

etv13:
about the offensiveness of being called “Ms” instead of “Professor”: one possible reason is because male professor are usually called “prof”, while females are (often? sometimes?) taken to be secretaries when addressed in letter from other secretaries.

So: it is probably a mix of asking for equal treatment (like “They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!”) and insufferable snobbery (like a noblewoman asking to be addressed by her proper title: heaven forbid she is mistaken for one commoners).

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b9n10nt 09.16.12 at 12:40 pm

Manta and etv13:

Okay, so we all agree that Prof’s breast feeding in public wasn’t wrong in itself. And we all agree that Prof’s publishing of the journalists home info. was wrong. The disagreement lies in whether Prof Pine had a special responibility towards the journalsit as student (you do equivocate here, though. Go with that.) and and whether we make a distinction between the classroom and the newspaper as public places.

I myself am a high school teacher. Put yourself in my shoes: I go to a bar with some friends. Do I allow myself to be webcast live while there? Why shouldn’t I? I’m already in public. So we obviously allow that “in public” is not a monolithic social space. And the public of a newspaper is worse: you’ve been edited. Now imagine being in public but a strange device has the power to edit your actions and speech so that you can only say or do only a dynamic and unpredictable subset of your chosen behaviors. Why might you have any qualms about wearing such a device?

As an aside: my ideas about publicity are pretty conservative, bourgeois, no? The idea that agreeing to publicity is some kind of citizens’ duty seems repressive in a Culural Revolution sort-of-way.

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rf 09.16.12 at 12:42 pm

I have to say I wish I’d written etv13’s post at 279. I think Tom at 269 might have been a little premature declaring, ex Cathedra, the whole affair over and done with.

I’m also not sure why Tom, Dsquared and Brad De Long seem to think the main purpose of the press is to kneel before investment bankers, public officials and, of course, academics? (And yes, when I was young and foolish, I also made it into the pages of a small local Irish newspaper. At least half of the city did at some stage. It really isn’t a big deal)

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dsquared 09.16.12 at 12:46 pm

by the way, a lot of people in this thread appear to have been confused about which side to take. I have often found in the past that in situations of difficult choice, the side that uses the word “inappropriate” the most is almost always in the wrong, and usually a bunch of prissy assholes too.

It’s a horrible word. It means something like “not illegal, not immoral, not in breach of any actual professional standard, but in some way it makes me feel icky and I don’t like it, but I have just enough self-awareness to realise I can’t say that out loud so I’m going to say ‘inappropriate’ in order to make it sound like it might be an actual misdemeanour”. I think it first got off the ground during the Clinton administration, for obvious reasons.

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Manta 09.16.12 at 1:03 pm

rf:
For dsquared and De Long the answer is easy, given their jobs…
I have no idea about Tom.

And to b9 comparison: “I go to a bar with some friends. Do I allow myself to be webcast live while there? Why shouldn’t I? I’m already in public.”

Actually, quite a few lectures ARE registered and put online; but that is a secondary point.
You would have a fair point if you compared the guy in the pub to a student in the class. But in pub you are not giving a performance in front of an audience, in class you are. While both the pub and the classroom are public spaces, the lecturer (unlike the guy at the bar) is a performer.

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ptl 09.16.12 at 1:18 pm

dsquared, 285

Then let me be the first to say, Pine’s publishing the students’ cell ‘phone numbers was inappropriate.

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Manta 09.16.12 at 1:21 pm

I thought it was the student reporter questioning Pine about the incident to be inappropriate…

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Manta 09.16.12 at 1:53 pm

Rethinking about b9n10nt post about public space and the lecture hall.

When giving a university lecture (I make no claims about classrooms in high school), you agree (and even encourage) people to take notes, to (discretely) register it for their own use (any objection I’ve heard to the latter is about the fact that it discourages students from paying attention in class). Students are then free to use their notes/registrations as they see fit. It is not a private event, but a very public one
In its context, giving up privacy and being at the centre of attention is not some unfortunate side effect, but the whole point.

I think that Pine herself did not make any claim to privacy: only that what happened was not newsworthy, and that an article on the subject might damage her career.

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J. Otto Pohl 09.16.12 at 1:57 pm

Wow, I can not believe that the fine white western intellectuals at CT have devoted so much time and energy to such a trivial matter. But, I think the massive amount of attention this has gotten is indicative of just how moribund left wing academia in the US has become. Even with high blood pressure I should live long enough to see its total collapse. I am glad to have something to look forward to after I retire. As a general rule I think lecturers should try and avoid having to bring their kids to class. If it is unavoidable on occasion that is okay. The breast feeding is also okay. But, the sanctimonious radical feminist rhetoric around it is hilarious and not something you would ever see outside the US.

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Anarcissie 09.16.12 at 3:02 pm

Tedra Osell 09.15.12 at 10:48 pm:
‘Anarcissie @222: “We must all subordinate ourselves to the breeding and rearing of children wherever and whenever, for the sake of the community, without which we will be lost”

Um, no. We must accept that children are part of the community, and behave accordingly. Which includes accepting the fact that they cannot be held to the same standards one would apply to adults.’

There I was giving one end of the libertarian-communitarian spectrum within the natalist ideology. I also gave the libertarian end. Naturally there are moderate or mixed views in between.

Maggie 09.16.12 at 3:34 am:
‘I’m disturbed by comments above about “natalism.” How is it “natalism” to assert one’s right to care properly for your child once it’s already born? Or is it in daring to be a mother at all that one becomes guilty of “natalism”? …’

Well, the anti-natalist view would be that breeding more humans is reprehensible, and that interrupting one’s own and others’ work to care for them publicly compounds the offense. Perhaps the justification for this view would be that there are already too many humans for the earth to bear, or that humans are aesthetically repugnant, or something else — there are a variety of them, some of them fairly rational. Given my own experiences as a caregiver, I would definitely agree that American cultural practices are often objectively anti-natalist, but anti-natalist ideology has not been overtly expressed in this discussion, whereas natalist views have been given by several people (see above), and that’s what I was noticing — the ideology, not the practices. It is hardly unusual to observe a popular ideology sometimes failing to inspire practice: think of patriotism or Christian charity. This does not mean it is not believed.

I brought up natalism because it seemed to be the ideological framework which permitted or even enjoined the rage which was exhibited, but I have been assured this is not the case now, and would not be pursuing the subject if it hadn’t been questioned.

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Mao Cheng Ji 09.16.12 at 3:38 pm

“As a general rule I think lecturers should try and avoid having to bring their kids to class. If it is unavoidable on occasion that is okay.”

Certainly. And one way to deal with it would be to say: ‘I’m sorry if this makes some of you feel uncomfortable, but this is an emergency.’

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ptl 09.16.12 at 4:57 pm

Manta, 288

“Inappropriate”‘s been used here, prior to dsquared‘s comment, once to describe Pine’s breastfeeding in that specific situation, once in a query (presumably against Pine), once, thus: The students and TA were forced into the inappropriate role of caretakers, once, thus, : I don’t see that the student journalists did anything wrong or inappropriate, once as a protest against people who dislike public breastfeeding.

So it is true that posters who do not endorse Pine’s actions in toto used the word more than posters who regard her as, in this instance, “faultless”; uninteresting, but true.

A feminist note. The student Pine most diminished is a woman.

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Manta 09.16.12 at 5:11 pm

ptl, like you, I was poking fun at dsquared inappropriate remark; which goes well with Salient’s horrid remark @249.

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Bloix 09.16.12 at 6:07 pm

“Horrid is, like, stabbing someone. Or getting stabbed! And ok, probably stuff like armed robbery is horrid.. I think horrid stuff is stuff like stuff you’d probably feel PTSD about if you witnessed it.”

Not in the English the rest of us speak. E.g., H.W. Longfellow:

There was a little girl, who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead,
And when she was good, she was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

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ptl 09.16.12 at 6:57 pm

Ah. Sorry, Manta.

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b9n10nt 09.16.12 at 7:20 pm

@. 295

Longfellow was being playfully hyperbolic? That or the kid goes all bioterrorist in the next stanza.

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Bloix 09.16.12 at 7:28 pm

“She stood on her head, on her little trundle bed,
With nobody by for to hinder;
She screamed and she squalled, she yelled and she bawled,
And drummed her little heels against the winder.”

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b9n10nt 09.16.12 at 7:45 pm

Hey, if Prof had done that she could’ve avoided the irrational cruelty of publishing the journalist’s info. We adults can wonder at how clearer are heads can become after a lil tantrum when the Black Mood comes upon us.

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etv13 09.16.12 at 7:48 pm

dsquared: I’ve been keeping a list of the names I’ve been called in Crooked Timber comment threads. I’ll add “prissy asshole” to it. And hey, you’re right that I don’t think what Pine did was immoral or criminal. But as I indicated in the very comment in which I described Pine’s breastfeeding while lecturing as “inappropriate,” public breastfeeding doesn’t make me feel “icky.” I’ve done it myself, which is more than you can claim.

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Consumatopia 09.16.12 at 7:56 pm

For starters, Salient did not quote the initial e-mail in full, omitting (among other things) the following sentence that came right before Salient’s block quote: “I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

I don’t have any special insight to offer on the broader discussion, but etv13@279 has not represented Salient@236 accurately–the above is only the most obvious discrepancy.

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LFC 09.16.12 at 8:23 pm

It was worth following this thread, however cursorily, to get to the Longfellow.

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marcel 09.16.12 at 8:56 pm

A prissy point:

etv13 wrote:

dsquared: … I’ve done it (public breastfeeding) myself, which is more than you can claim.

Nonsense! If Romney can claim credit for the autobailout (on 1st Mondays, when the moon is full), dsquared can claim, if he so desired, to have (I want to be precise here) performed public breastfeeding. Not with any credibility, perhaps, but he could certainly make the claim.

This would have been better, more prissily, more precisely worded as: I’ve done it myself, which is more than I suspect you can credibly claim to have done..

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dsquared 09.16.12 at 9:11 pm

I’ve been keeping a list of the names I’ve been called in Crooked Timber comment threads. I’ll add “prissy asshole” to it.

stick around and you might find you’re able to tick a few more off the list.

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Katherine 09.16.12 at 9:46 pm

Seriously, fuck that shit.

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rf 09.16.12 at 9:51 pm

Prissy asshole? What a patronising, no content response. Where are all ‘allies’ now

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Maggie 09.17.12 at 12:39 am

The adolescent cattiness displayed above – ye gods, what to even say about it. Especially next to Berubé simultaneously pronouncing this the best blog ever! It’s sad if university academics still conduct themselves according to the kind of open emotional cruelty (disguised as wit) people are supposed to start growing out of in their mid-teens. The intersection with the policing of correct ideological opinion is almost a trivial detail in how this plays out – though kicking the loser/dork/outsider/adjunct/undergrad/commenter etc must be even sweeter when you can pretend you’re only defending the cause of justice by doing so.

That’s the way the game is played, and Pine has no real option not to play it. Petty meanness: it’s just what academics do, and it’s hard to fault a naive egghead “militant” for turning to the standard arsenal when faced with an unexpected challenge of diplomacy. Granted her uncharitable presumptions about the Eagle’s intentions make her seem defensive and paranoid; arguably she’s bought her own militant BS and got spooked about persecution. But the way she expressed it – particularly, the tactic of sneering at someone for not *already* knowing (or in the political case, believing) things instead of simply informing them; treating Heather as an idiot and presumptive enemy for her implicit ideological errors; taking her own point of view as too obviously correct to even bother spelling out – is also just what academics do. Pine’s doubtless been on the receiving end of it a thousand times. But to openly treat an undergraduate that way is really something. Considering that students by definition are supposed to be progressing from ignorance to knowledge, for a professor to mock a young student’s ignorance rather than clearly correcting it, and to elevate her own arcane theoretical commitments to the level of basics too trivial to enunciate in good company, is a self-indulgent dereliction of duty. But it’s nothing male profs don’t do every day – they just never make the news for it.

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marcel 09.17.12 at 1:02 am

Coming where it does, it appears to me that Maggie is referring to d^2 (please correct me if I am wrong). It’s not fair to use his comments as evidence against academics since (I am pretty sure) he is in the British financial &/or banking industries.

In other news, this comment thread is the most magnificent train wreck that I can recall on CT. My memory is getting spottier with age, but I don’t recall any that come close. I’ve found it unusually difficult not to check in frequently this weekend for the latest outrage and response. Perhaps for the sake of the blog, one of the bloggers should shut it down.

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Maggie 09.17.12 at 1:39 am

Marcel, yeah I thought that about dsquared, but couldn’t be bothered to double-check (mobile browser less than agile), and part of the problem here is that just who is mad at whom and why is getting obscured unless one wants to follow it much more carefully than it deserves, so I’m not even sure d^2 is the only one at fault (especially with an ancient phone that – thankfully – forbids deep perusal). I do think of this blog as a kind of pseudo-academic space. In any case it’s still true that academics pull that crap all the time. It’s a big part of why I don’t mourn the career that might have been too bitterly. It’s the reason Pine reacted the way she did: saber-tongued put-downs (“budding reporter Heather”) are an absolutely standard and essential item in the academic career-climbing toolkit – and Pine may well be getting held to a misogynistic double standard for availing herself of it. I don’t know if it’s a significant coincidence if dsquared, being in finance, also feels free to act this way (at least on a blog); I haven’t really known many bankers, but in the non-academic settings where I *have* worked or been able to observe closely – including the administrative side of a college – the kind of venom many academics (at least in humanities/social science) go flinging about at competitors, students and underlings all day would be career suicide in a lot of other professional fields.

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JanieM 09.17.12 at 2:29 am

I wanted to jump in when Tedra first put this post up, but I was traveling and didn’t have time. Then the train wreck started to unfold (pretty quickly, too, with talk of “the need to speak like stereotypical prole men” in the 4th comment – wtf?) and things only went downhill from there.

Still, for the record:

1) I keep wanting to say “What Maggie said” and “What William Timberman said.” Thanks for cutting to the chase again and again.

2) If things hadn’t gone in such a drastically different direction, I would have drawn a connection between this post and the recent homeschooling thread, because in my experience any questioning of child-raising norms triggers the same kind of mindless crap that questioning the necessity of conventional schooling does. And of course, they’re not unrelated topics, both having to do with the place of children in our culture and the relationship between the workplace and family life, women’s options, etc.

Duff Clarity of unlamented memory is a caricature of what I’m talking about. Someone says, “Here’s how things are done, but maybe there’s a better way,” and someone like DC stomps in and says, “Different is worse, so stfu, suck it up, and do your fucking job.” Helpful, that.

*****

There was more, but at this point it seems best to save it for another time. Maybe there will be another post on the broader topic at some point. (Hint hint.)

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faustusnotes 09.17.12 at 2:45 am

I’m surprised that Prof. Pine’s “militant feminist” credentials are allowed to stand here. As soon as she thought her job was at any risk she resorted to all the standard tricks of patriarchal authority, including publishing a young woman’s cellphone number. Are we to pretend she didn’t know that the most immediate consequence of that would be sexual harrassment of the woman?

She isn’t standing up for anyone’s rights but her own, she’ll happily trample those of the younger women she thinks might be threatening her. Contrary to the tone of the original comment, she’s not striking any blows against individualism: she is a classic example of the selfish individualist in the modern workplace. But somehow here she gets a free pass for behaving like a patriarchal bully just because she calls herself a militant feminist and pops some tit in an unusual setting?

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faustusnotes 09.17.12 at 2:48 am

Also, I second dsquared’s hatred of the word “inappropriate” but I think in this thread we see the word actually used correctly (if a TA’s job description does not include “childminding for the prof” then to say they were given inappropriate duties is actually correct!)

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etv13 09.17.12 at 3:29 am

Consumatopia @ 301: You’re right, I got confused reading my own notes, which I guess is what comes of writing champagne-fueled comments at three in the morning. The sentence from the e-mail I mean to say Salient had omitted was “I hope you had an enjoyable first week of class.” My apologies.

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MPAVictoria 09.17.12 at 3:32 am

marcel the one were dsquared claimed that bankers were the innocent victims of the financial crash of 2008 was a pretty magnificent train wreck.

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Salient 09.17.12 at 8:48 am

Does anyone know whether the phone numbers briefly posted to Counterpunch were their home or cell numbers, or their work numbers at The Eagle? Posting personal numbers is a pretty awful mistake to make, but posting work numbers at seems alright.

@Bloix — thanks for that, made my day, will keep it in mind. (Though plenty of parents have seen temper tantrums so severe they’d probably welcome bioterrorism or getting stabbed, just to be done with it.)

@etv13You’re right, I got confused reading my own notes, which I guess is what comes of writing champagne-fueled comments at three in the morning.

Holy shit, you took notes? Uh, ok, I’ll try to reciprocate some attentiveness. I can’t respond to more than a couple things…

For starters, Salient did not quote the initial e-mail in full

…fair complaint. Right before I posted I did consider going back and doing so, and maybe bold the parts I wanted to quote/emphasize. In retrospect that’d been better. But at the time I was in a Panera with a lunch crowd flowing in, and retrieving the link at that point would’ve meant scrolling up to the top of the page again, and up there in 32-point font is If You Can’t Whip Out a Boob in an Anthropology Class, Where Can You? which is possibly the Crooked Timber post title most likely to get you kicked out of a Panera or scolded by a grandparent or something. (I am way more sheepish than any lactivist could afford to be…)

omitting (among other things) the following sentence that came right before Salient’s block quote: “I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

Telling someone “I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable” will, very reliably, make someone feel uncomfortable. But yeah, I omitted that. I also left out the It was brought to our attention thing, which was bureaucratically creepy in the passive voice, sorta like The Eagle has secret agents or underlings or something. Or really, it was creepy because it’s the kind of thing a manager would say to an employee that got caught stealing on camera. But I’m sure it wasn’t intended like that, so I just dotdotdotted it and moved on.

Anyway, never mind which sentence was where. In your argument that I omitted contextually important information, you omitted possibly the most important unit of context in the sentence:

I understand the delicacy of the matter and I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable, but for the story to have the most balanced angle it would be best to have your thoughts

That word reminds me of people saying, “I don’t mean to be racist, but…” That entire sentence is weird creepy shit (dare I say horrid?), and I only didn’t bang on about it because I figured, chalk it up to understandable accidents due to youthful incompetence or something.

That strikes me as a pretty important omission, when you’re claiming that this was a threatening email.

I said hostile, not threatening. And I tried to be sooo super careful to avoid asserting that the reporter conceptualized herself as hostile, because I don’t believe that to be the case. My sentence I am identifying myself as a party hostile to your interests was meant to say, “here I have made an unintentionally revealing statement, and this is what it reveals: I am a party hostile to your interests.” (Why were those bullet points in a weird quasi-first-person form, I dunno.)

Salient’s comment suggests that his promise of anonymity was equivocal. I beg to differ. The editor didn’t just say, as Salient would have it, “Providing anonymity is an option,” as if it were an option the Eagle was likely to reject.

I never said or implied that I felt the offer was insincere. I do believe the editor was offering something he was not capable of providing.

He said, after stating that the Eagle was going to run the story, “However, providing anonymity for you is an option. I understand your concerns and we can alternative [sic] ways of identifying you in the story.”

I’m ok with assuming he’s sincere. So what’s wrong with what he said? Well, elsewhere he claimed that the paper needed to run the story because there were already so many rumors about Professor Typeoftree circulating around campus. If there’s already well-known widely spread rumors that Professor Typeoftree bared a boob in her class, you can’t claim any ability to keep that professor anonymous when writing about a professor who bared a boob in her class. It has nothing to do with the intentions of the editor, or whether or not the editor is attempting to make a genuine offer to hide Pine’s identity. If Professor Typeoftree shows up naked to class, and everyone the next day is talking about didja hear Professor Typeoftree showed up naked to class, you can’t write about “A Professor Who We Shall Not Name showed up naked to class” anticipating that nobody will see through the ruse.

So. Either the rumors are not widespread, which shoots the editor in the foot because the rumors are his proffered justification for needing to run the story, or the rumors are indeed widespread, which shoots the editor in the foot because he offered a promise of anonymity that he literally just does not have the power to fulfill.

Anyway, here’s the thing. We’ve both read the same account and timeline. Here’s your takeaway:

I don’t see that the student journalists did anything wrong. They were proposing to write an article about Pine’s public, not private, conduct.

Everyone already knows this. I am assuming you took pains to emphasize this because you feel that the second sentence implies the first. Well, let’s go ahead and make this difference of opinion explicit: restricting an article to someone’s public conduct does not automatically make that article acceptable journalism. We’d agree there are plenty of hypothetical articles on other topics that would be unacceptable specifically because they report somebody’s private conduct. That doesn’t mean that an article is acceptable as long as it only reports public conduct.

Note: feel free to substitute ‘moral’ or ‘the right thing to do’ or whatever for ‘acceptable’ in the paragraph above. However, if you’re still interested in a substitution for ‘incident’ that I’d consider fine and dandy, try nonevent.

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etv13 09.17.12 at 9:19 am

Salient @ 316: I like you. Really, I do. After dsquared’s comments, in particular, you’re a breath of fresh air. Your comment is a wonderful example of being able to disagree without being disagreeable. It’s 2:17 am where I am now, and I’m not in any state to go through your comment point by point, but I wanted to let you know it’s not at all that I don’t think your points are worth considering.

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ptl 09.17.12 at 9:48 am

Salient, 316

As they were mobile (cell) numbers, I assumed they were personal. Pine has now apologised (by email) for publishing them and for the tone of her comments.

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faustusnotes 09.17.12 at 10:40 am

Salient, I don’t think it matters whether the numbers were personal or work – publishing them was irrelevant to the thrust of the argument and clearly intended as intimidation. It should be seen the same way as the denialist websites that bust the anonymity of commenters and publish their work details. It’s a threat, and it’s beneath a “militant feminist” to use such intimidation. Tells you all you need to know about how much this supposedly well educated person has adopted the concept of the personal as political – only as much as is necessary to bully people she doesn’t like.

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Manta 09.17.12 at 1:40 pm

what etv said @317.
For Salient, about the supposed lack of value of the offer of anonymity.
I will give an example: let stipulate an incident X happened involving prof. T, and people are gossipping about it: what does it mean? It means that there are 5 groups of people
A) people that know that X happened and T was involved,
B) people that know X happened but don’t know that T was involved,
C) people that have no idea that X happened,
D) people that “know” that Y happened and T was involved, and
E) people that “know” that X happened and prof S was involved.

Now assume that the local paper “the Duck” publishes a story, where they describe X, but leave the name of T out, and that everybody reads it.
What happens is that group C enters in B, D in A, and E remains unchanged.

Repeat the calculation for the case when “the duck” publishes the story with the name of T in, and you will see a difference: this difference is the value of the offer of anonymity.

Those readers of the Duck that are gossip mongers will investigate about the identity of the professor involved in X: but how many of them will not know already about the story (being them gossip mongers)?

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JanieM 09.17.12 at 1:44 pm

@faustusnotes @10:40 am — I do think it matters which kind of phone number it was, if only to distinguish between degrees of badness. The whole dispute was over reporting, and the reporter and the editor are the ones who started that game, so her publishing their #’s as newspaper staff wouldn’t bother me nearly as much as her publishing their home #’s. That would be so far out of bounds that I’m not even sure how to approach saying something about it. If I were one of the newspaper people in this story and she published my newspaper phone #, I might think of it as fair game in context. If she published my home phone #, I think I’d be calling a lawyer.

Conversely, I probably would have reacted to the newspaper people in much the same way Pine did in the first place, even to the point — in past years, before the internet — of writing an inflammatory letter to someone or other about them….

But really, I didn’t mean to get into these weeds.

Bottom line: I think bringing the baby to class in a pinch was fine, feeding it in class was fine, after that things went to hell and no one in the story acted with much good sense, groundedness, or maturity.

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JanieM 09.17.12 at 1:57 pm

Addendum to my own bottom line: Pine’s dealings with her department made good sense. It’s her piece in Counterpunch that I think was her part of things going to hell. I’ve been wondering if, when she woke up, got over being sick, and thought about it soberly, she didn’t feel like I’ve felt several times when I’ve got into a fit of temper out loud on the internet and regretted it the morning after. It’s not a good feeling even in meaningless spats on internet comment threads.

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liberal japonicus 09.17.12 at 2:44 pm

Many of you probably already have seen this, but here is the school’s newspaper article. This apparently wasn’t done by the student reporter, who, according to the editor’s piece, withdrew because of the potential conflict of interest, but one after all the events discussed here

and the editor’s statement on the article
link

He says that a story was published on the 12th, but I didn’t find it, though it might be the one above, corrected for my time zone (Japan)

I was also surprised (shocked?) to find that the school newspaper posts ‘Eagle Rants’, which are anonymous, but lightly edited postings. Reading thru them makes me wonder what doesn’t make it and wonder how many messages got submitted with this. Brave new world, I guess.

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Salient 09.17.12 at 4:55 pm

@dsquared — for my comments, I’ll own “acceptable” = “it would be reasonable for their employer to let this adversely affect their professional status” and “unacceptable” = “it would be reasonable for their employer to let this adversely affect their professional status.” The adverse effect could be as mild as a supervisor telling them their actions were out of line, which is about all that’s appropriate here. It’s not quite the same as ‘professional’ because the professor wasn’t acting in her capacity as professor, but the reporters/editors were acting in their professional capacity.

@JanieM — yeah, I agree “no one in the story acted with much good sense, groundedness, or maturity.”

I guess where I’m coming from is thinking, that’s often true in contentious situations when speaking truth to power, calling out abuse of authority. Fighting against an unyielding authority seems to always get dirty, ungrounded, and immature at some point. The clean, grounded, mature avenues can all be dead ends, and I think in this case they were.

…forgive me going on a wild tangent prompted by this Dr. Phil episode I’m currently watching. Maybe it would be reasonable to say Trayvon Martin didn’t act with much good sense, groundedness, or maturity when confronted by George Zimmerman. Trayvon could have been the bigger person and not panicked and calmly complied with every request that Zimmerman made while putting Trayvon in citizen’s arrest or kidnapping him or just yelling at him or whatever. But we tend to fault Zimmerman for what happened, because he’s the one who put Trayvon Martin in a frightening scenario with no good options. k, no more tangents from me.

In this The Eagle situation it’s going to be especially mudslingingly murky, because the folks abusing their positions of authority at The Eagle happen to be students at a university where the injured party happens to be a professor–ironically this diminishes the effectiveness of her protests, because anything she does to protect herself from the newspaper authorities, would be obviously inappropriate for a professor to do to her students. But. If a professor is pulled over and mistreated by a police officer, they’re not in the position of authority. It doesn’t even matter if the officer was a campus officer taking classes at the same university. The professor wouldn’t have any more authority than, say, a doctor at the university hospital. Or hell, no more authority than a professor at a different university nearby. So, when we’re discussing who abused their authority throughout this timeline, the professor doesn’t really have any professor/student authority to abuse.

Ultimately I guess the main thing I’m hoping to say is that the reporters and editors of The Eagle should be identified as the authority figures who insisted on creating this bad, nonsensical, ungrounded, immature situation in the first place. And they did so for shitty reasons that we should hold against them. That’s all I care about.

@Manta, I’m not going to get into some weird in-depth argument about the hypothetical size of each group A through E or whatever. What you’re saying is the same thing the editor was saying, so you’re responding to criticism with recapitulation. To translate the criticism: Either C is relatively small, and the anonymity hardly matters because most people know anyway [the 'rumors' side], or C is relatively large, and the article will encourage those folks to ask around to obtain more details, in which case the anonymity’s shot because those folks will be highly motivated to learn more about what happened and will ask around, easily finding out who it was [the 'meaningless promise of anonymity' side].

The only meaningful thing anonymity could do, was protect the professor from having the article come up on google searches. So, sure, she took what little concession they offered. But now we have an addendum — the newspaper demonstrated they don’t even have an interest in that, because even after the professor explicitly made her request for them to hide her name, they went ahead and used her name in their articles. So much for credible promises.

@faustusnotesSalient, I don’t think it matters whether the numbers were personal or work – publishing them was irrelevant to the thrust of the argument and clearly intended as intimidation.

I’d maintain it does matter (and because it was the nonwork cell numbers of the students, it matters in a way that reflects badly on the professor). Those numbers are not publicly available (come to think of it, I’m unclear on how the hell she got the cell numbers). But in the hypothetical case where it was publicly available work numbers at The Eagle, consider some similar examples of this type of act. Is this how you feel whenever a political action committee type thing publicly announces the work phone numbers of a politician, encouraging you to call and express your upset at them?

(I wouldn’t call it intimidation, by the way, I’d prefer to call it public shaming. It’s a similar category and the difference is mostly irrelevant here. So maybe I should just say, intimidation is one of the few ways a person without authority can protect themselves from the authorities.)

It should be seen the same way as the denialist websites that bust the anonymity of commenters and publish their work details.

The author of the article would have their real name in the byline, and the editor would have their real name published in the masthead. There’s no anonymity here to bust.

It’s a threat, and it’s beneath a “militant feminist” to use such intimidation.

Well shit, I’ve probably done more acts of intimidation acting in the capacity of “militant feminist” than all other protester roles combined, except maybe “militant pacifist.”

Tells you all you need to know about how much this supposedly well educated person has adopted the concept of the personal as political – only as much as is necessary to bully people she doesn’t like.

Bullying authorities who are mistreating you is, technically, bullying people you probably don’t like. I’d say it’s more accurate to say “shaming authorities who are mistreating you” or even “intimidating authorities who are mistreating you” in this case, just because bully implies the bully has a [Cartman-esque] position of authority, and my only real stake in this discussion is marking out who had what authority, and who abused their authority.

@etv13 — I’m fond of you too and have appreciated your responses, but I gotta admit “being able to disagree without being disagreeable” is giving me much too much credit. :) Erratically agreeable, maybe.

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marcel 09.17.12 at 5:10 pm

Salient wrote (at the bottom of the section addressed to Manta):

The only meaningful thing anonymity could do, was protect the professor from having the article come up on google searches. So, sure, she took what little concession they offered. But now we have an addendum — the newspaper demonstrated they don’t even have an interest in that, because even after the professor explicitly made her request for them to hide her name, they went ahead and used her name in their articles. So much for credible promises.

Professor Typeoftree’s Counterpunch piece is dated Sept. 5, 2012, and has her name at the top. The Eagle pieces, at least those that liberal japonicus links to, are dated Sept. 13, 2012. Given that Prof. Typeoftree identified herself first, it’s not clear to me that the Eagle violated any promise in naming her in its own pieces. If you think that this is a sign of bad faith on the paper’s part, please explicate. I am not here defending (or attacking) anything else the paper did, just questioning your use of this action as evidence about the paper.

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Salient 09.17.12 at 5:12 pm

Just received confirmation that the phone numbers in question were and still are official work phone numbers, and are easy to find publicly available information. So, for those of us for whom it matters, the numbers were taken directly from the The Eagle website, and the numbers are still there.

I guess we can’t verify this was the professor’s source, but to anyone who claims otherwise, for goodness’ sake, the phone numbers posted by the professor are identical to the publicly available work numbers that are posted on The Eagle website, and that’s the first place anyone would go to get work contact information.

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ptl 09.17.12 at 5:17 pm

salient even after the professor explicitly made her request for them to hide her name, they went ahead and used her name in their articles.

They published her name days after she’d published her Counterpunch piece (publishing their names and cell ‘phone numbers) and tweeted to advertise the piece.

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Salient 09.17.12 at 5:21 pm

agh, “just received confirmation” was supposed to be “just confirmed” and in the post before that the first ‘reasonable’ should be ‘unreasonable’ — typing too fast and mangling the sentences

Given that Prof. Typeoftree identified herself first, it’s not clear to me that the Eagle violated any promise in naming her in its own pieces. If you think that this is a sign of bad faith on the paper’s part, please explicate.

The editor offered to withhold Prof. Typeoftree’s name, and Prof. Typeoftree requested that the editor do so. The editor then did not do so.

Keep in mind my reasoning for why she accepted is, she doesn’t have any real control over how informative or misleading the Eagle article is, so she doesn’t want those articles coming up on google searches for her name. It’s not a question of being outed, it’s a question of what shows up in searches. Her counterpunch article is something she wrote, and presumably she feels it is a fair representation of herself.

She has no reason to believe The Eagle will be similarly fair (and I should note, their leading line is ample evidence they’re aiming to stir up and empower titillating controversy over a nonevent.) So, she has no reason to want The Eagle articles coming up in searches of her name, and good reason to not want that.

I will note that her reply to the editor made this clear. She did not say, “Please keep me anonymous.” She said, “Please hide my name.”

The professional thing for the editor to do would be write her back and ask, “Since you’ve publicly identified yourself, can we please forgo keeping you anonymous in the articles we publish? Or do you still want us to hide your name?”

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Salient 09.17.12 at 5:24 pm

sorry, my reply to “but she publicly identified herself” is currently in moderation queue, maybe for posting too often — maybe “Give it a rest, it’s just a breast” is good advice I should take

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parse 09.17.12 at 5:49 pm

I think this information from the Eagle’s editor is important in evaluating the newspaper’s decision: “The Eagle initially started looking into this story when we thought an unknown professor was under administrative review for breast-feeding in class.”

If the administration were reviewing a professor’s behavior (for breast-feeding in class or anything else) it seems like an appropriate story for the campus paper to cover, and investigating to find out it there really was such a review in process was exactly the right thing for the paper to review. If you believe the editor (and I don’t see any reason not to) when the reporter discovered there was no administrative review in process, the story might have been abandoned: “Had Pine never posted her now well-known essay on CounterPunch, we may have never run a story in the first place.”

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etv13 09.17.12 at 6:05 pm

@liberal japonicus: Thanks for the links.

@Salient: I’m going to have to disagree with you about giving you too much credit. On Pine and the Eagle, though, I think we just disagree so fundamentally that there is no point continuing to go back and forth on it.

I read in the Eagle article (which I thought was pretty good, actually) that Pine apologized in emails for the tone of her Counterpunch piece, which I think was the right thing to do, and on that, I’m going to give it a rest.

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Salient 09.17.12 at 6:10 pm

If the administration were reviewing a professor’s behavior (for breast-feeding in class or anything else) it seems like an appropriate story for the campus paper to cover

Cover? As in, write an article about? Holy shit no, not until you receive confirmation from an administrative source.^1^ Publishing “so and so is allegedly under administrative review for misconduct, according to, uh, student rumors” is a lawsuit-worthy offense for a reporter to commit. If the paper actually wanted to follow up on this, some further investigation is necessary before you write the article! At the very least they’d be talking to administrative officials to see if there was, in fact, an administrative investigation taking place (and to see if administration was even aware of the breastfeeding happening, or if they knew about the rumors, etc).

Student rumors are completely inappropriate source of information (though they could prompt an investigation seeking appropriate sources of information). Cripes, I had student rumors one semester that I was going to be fired because I didn’t cancel an exam during a storm (fwiw, I wasn’t even authorized to cancel it). A newspaper reporting and publishing that would be extremely inappropriate. It would be weird, but acceptable, if they sent a reporter to ask the administration whether or not I was under investigation. But if they chose to pursue the ‘story’ by peppering me with questions after class one day, or if they let me know they were writing an article insinuating I’d committed professional midconduct and solicited my defense of my own conduct, that’s completely out of line.

Chasing after the professor with interview questions after class is the technique of a gossip rag, yellow journalism. These reporters behaved like they worked for The National Enquirer, not for a paper worthy of respect.

^1^like with most news investigations, keeping an anonymous source on background could be ok, but they’ve never claimed to have any administrative source whatsoever at any stage of the process–they’re chasing rumors and gossip without bothering to fact check

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Salient 09.17.12 at 6:17 pm

Also Had Pine never posted her now well-known essay on CounterPunch, we may have never run a story in the first place is complete bullshit on their part, they had confirmed to her that they absolutely were running the story. So she got out in front of it. But before that she kept writing asking them to can the story, and they kept writing back that they wouldn’t — “At this point, our plan is to run the story.” Sure, the editor dithered a bit about continuing a conversation with the editors and waiting for the final article, but they’d already talked, and decided to plan to run the story.

The implication of “we may have never run a story in the first place” is, it’s the professor’s fault that we’re running the story, she forced our hand! And that’s complete nonsense BS.

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parse 09.17.12 at 7:08 pm

Salient, cut my sentence in half. If you read this part “and investigating to find out it there really was such a review in process was exactly the right thing for the paper to review,” you have saved yourself two paragraphs of comment. (I meant to write for the paper to do, but I think you and I agree how the paper should respond to rumours that a professor were being reviewed for breastfeeding.

I am not sure why you think the editor’s claim that there might not have been a story without the Counterpoint piece is complete bullshit on their part. Zane told Pine they probably would but also said a final decision wouldn’t be made until the story was written. I don’t have any problems in you a skeptical about all that, but where’s the certainty coming from?

The motive you are imputing to him for lying about it–he’s trying to claim Pine forced his hand in publishing a story he did not want to–seems to be in tension with his own defense of the story: We stand by our reporting because this is the essence of journalism: we received a news tip and followed up with the proper sources to confirm the truth. The story, in our eyes, became newsworthy when we found specific policies that afforded her protection, opinions from the University on her actions and widespread campus debate on a very legitimate question on the social acceptance of public breast-feeding.

In other words, your reading of the Eagle’s behavior doesn’t seem to be a neutral one, and I wonder where your presumption of bad faith comes from?

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Salient 09.17.12 at 8:36 pm

(I meant to write for the paper to do

Oh crap, I misread. But to be clear, they didn’t actually do what you and I agree they should have done. They did not “follow up with the proper sources to confirm the truth.” They didn’t behave like responsible journalists. That’s the entirety of the complaint I made @332. They didn’t behave like responsible journalists.

And their protests to the contrary are bullshit. Their follow-up procedures were inappropriate and erratic, and the method they applied is identical to gotcha tabloid yellow journalism. Their understanding of what it means to follow up with the proper sources, includes having a reporter ambush the professor with questions in between classes. Their understanding of “the essence of journalism” is horrid.

A competent good-faith newspaper would have probably found nothing newsworthy and never gone so far as to draft an article and then contact the professor. A competent good-faith newspaper would definitely never, ever, ever have conducted that ambush interview (which is about an overtly hostile an action as a journalist can commit).

And for what it’s worth, that interview was the first reason why I [now] presume bad faith (then I went back and reread and saw there were a lot of worrisome signs in the original email, posted them above, etc). Personally, I think the problems throughout were due to incompetence on their part, not malice. (Nothing the paper folks have done, from the original email to the final editorial bloviation about the essence of journalism, seem all that skillful.)

hey, I’ve written way too many paragraphs being tiresomely pedantic and I want to concede and give this all a rest now (agree to disagree, etc), but couldn’t resist that one last chance above to use the word ‘horrid’ in the apparently canonical Longsfellowian sense.

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bjk 09.17.12 at 9:00 pm

Did we ever find out where you can whip out boobs? I don’t want to dig through 300+ comments. Thanks

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JanieM 09.17.12 at 9:44 pm

Salient @ 6:17 pm:

Had Pine never posted her now well-known essay on CounterPunch, we may have never run a story in the first place is complete bullshit….

…and is also ungrammatical. OT I suppose, but getting off the track of this thread to something more lighthearted doesn’t seem like a bad idea at this point, so I’m going to say that nothing brings my own aging process home to me more effectively than how cranky I get about this increasingly common substitution of “may” for “might.”

By a newspaper editor, too!

Would he say, “Had it not rained yesterday, we will have gone to the beach”? I don’t think so.

(What are they teaching these kids in school these days, anyhow?)

;)

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Gene O'Grady 09.17.12 at 9:53 pm

Back when I used to go to mass I remember one of the ladies in the congregation (old enough to have a daughter who was a student at Princeton) would regularly breast feed during the service. I’m surprised at the fuss, although I haven’t read all the comments.

I also recall years ago when I was teaching Juvenal that there seemed to be a direct relation between the tendency of students, of either sex, to publicly boast about their sexual achievements and their feigned embarrassment at anything vaguely sexual in the text before us.

Does changing a diaper in class count for anything? That I’ve done, but I’m obviously incapable of nursing.

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marcel 09.17.12 at 10:33 pm

ew! I imagine it was #2 also (since #1 could easily have waited).

I hope that either there was plenty of distance between you and the rest of the class or a window was open.

Also that the infant had not recently started eating solids.

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Antti Nannimus 09.17.12 at 11:37 pm

Hi,

Without exception, we have all instinctively depended for our very survival on attraction to these wonderful boob organs, or else we would have starved to death in our infancy (and probably well deserved it). It’s a complete mystery to me why anyone now pretends otherwise.

Have a nice day!
Antti

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faustusnotes 09.18.12 at 1:36 am

Salient, while the fact that they were work numbers makes the act slightly less bad, as JanieM observes, but it’s still an obvious form of intimidation. If someone wrote in a newspaper about overly feminist teaching in your class (I have a vague memory that you’re a teacher?) and put your work number in the article, even though the number is obviously publicly available at the website of your school, would you infer that as a completely non-sinister act? It’s an obvious implication to the reader to harrass the woman in her workplace, either through official complaints, unofficial complaints or just straight-out old fashioned abuse. What did Dr. TypeofTree think was going to be done with that number? Job offers for the student concerned?

Also, this whole paragraph shows how wide of the mark people are willing to go when defending one of their own tribe:

Bullying authorities who are mistreating you is, technically, bullying people you probably don’t like. I’d say it’s more accurate to say “shaming authorities who are mistreating you” or even “intimidating authorities who are mistreating you” in this case, just because bully implies the bully has a [Cartman-esque] position of authority, and my only real stake in this discussion is marking out who had what authority, and who abused their authority.

She’s not an authority: she’s a student. Someone much younger and much weaker than Dr. TypeofTree, who might be well within her rights to think (whether erroneously or not) that the good Doctor has some power over her educational future. In this case the good Doctor does indeed have a [Cartman-esque] position of authority. The girl is not some kind of Rush Limbaugh who can call on the divine powers to conjure hordes of screaming Rethug monkeys in her defense. She’s a student.

I’m not sure how it gets twisted around to take the form you’ve described above, because what happened appears to have been this: an older, avowedly feminist woman used her position of authority and social contacts to bully and then shame (in a national forum!) a much younger, much weaker woman. It’s clear, incidentally, by the time she wrote the Counterpunch article that she had the support of her faculty and boss – she was striking down a weakling from a position of power.

This is reprehensible behavior no matter who does it; it’s particularly pathetic when it’s done by a woman who supposedly makes a big deal of fighting for the interests of the weak, and really sad that it was done by a feminist to a younger woman.

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JW Mason 09.18.12 at 2:57 am

Hm. Salient posts at lunchtime, at a Panera. While etv314 posts at 3 in the morning, after multiple glasses of champagne. On the substance here, I am totally with Salient. But I do have to acknowledge a kindred spirit.

Also, while the conversation has obviously moved on, I do feel obliged to mention that when I was on the bargaining committee for the UMass graduate employees union back in 2001, one of our demands was that instructors have the right to breast-feed while teaching. We did not, unfortunately, succeed in getting that into our contract, but it was a useful opening gambit for getting the administration to agree to other accommodations for employees with young children. In retrospect I wish we’d pushed it harder.

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etv13 09.18.12 at 5:37 am

JW Mason: What is it they’re always saying in Patrick O’Brian? I’ll raise a glass with you? Whatever it is, that. Though I have to admit, it’s really only Columbia Valley sparkling wine. We in-house counsel can only spring for the real deal on birthdays and holidays. And I eat at Panera, too.

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Bloix 09.18.12 at 1:15 pm

Captain Pullings, a glass of wine with you, sir.
Mr Martin, the bottle stands by you!

Outside of the dysfunctional alcoholics, it’s hard to think of a fictional character who drinks more than Aubrey. Maigret drinks more often, but for pure volume Aubrey must be near the top.

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CarlD 09.18.12 at 2:06 pm

I’ve read every single comment, at considerable threat to my sanity, and have yet to be persuaded that there’s anything here worth making a big deal about. So morally this thread is uncompelling to me, but anthropologically it’s fascinating. Among other things, what a great demonstration of what a good liberal arts education does for one’s ability elaborately to rationalize one’s raw feels.

I do think I may have one new observation to contribute, which is that these are student journalists, which means they don’t quite know how to be journalists yet. And as students, their idea of appropriate contact is to ‘ambush’ professors in the halls between classes. Of course as young adults their disposition to plan is akin to dice rolling, but they also dimly perceive that professors are regularly not in their offices when they say they’ll be, whereas their presence in classes and between them can be calculated with some assurance.

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summer 09.18.12 at 9:01 pm

I am low-class at this time.
I have been most of my life.
Being middle class is something I’d like to be one day.

I keep hearing “middle-class” in news stories, articles, blogs.

So if I am low-class, do you think I am worthless?

I am going to school now.
I have never made more than 7,000. a year, and have been unemployed for awhile now.

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Tom 09.18.12 at 11:46 pm

“Tom, Dsquared and Brad De Long seem to think the main purpose of the press is to kneel before investment bankers, public officials and, of course, academics? Tom, Dsquared and Brad De Long seem to think the main purpose of the press is to kneel before investment bankers, public officials and, of course, academics? “

Far from that philosophical view. I described one of my many experiences in dealing with young, eager and foolish reporters on “third rate” newspapers. As an 80 year old white male, I believe all too many posters on this thread are all too engaged in attempting to count the number of angels dancing on the the head of the proverbial pin.

Get a life!

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Katherine 09.19.12 at 10:13 am

because what happened appears to have been this: an older, avowedly feminist woman used her position of authority and social contacts to bully and then shame (in a national forum!) a much younger, much weaker woman.

Well, I’ve got to disagree with this. Professor Pine appears to me to have been defending herself. The student journalist emailed her, Pine responded that she had no interest in participating, the journalist then turned up outside one of her lectures.

Using her position to then – gasp! – publish an article criticising the journalist and the paper doesn’t seem to me to be bullying, it seems like fair criticism. They were going to attack her in print, and she got there first. That’s not bullying.

The fact that the student journalist was a woman is not in fact a reason why Pine should have rolled over and taken this shit, surely? Women are required to take sh*t from other women for the sisterhood – is that the argument? Just as applicable then to the student journalist who was about to grossly breach a woman’s privacy by writing a piece about her breastfeeding and turning up outside her workplace when she had already clearly stated that she wanted nothing to do with it.

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Salient 09.19.12 at 12:06 pm

She’s not an authority: she’s a student.

She’s not [acting in her capacity as] a student: she’s a journalist. She’s the one who decides whether or not to publish the hit piece on her target. (I’m lumping her with her editors.) And around and around we go! …we should probably give it up, though, since we’ll just be back to, “No seriously! It doesn’t matter that she happens to be a student there!” vs “No seriously! It does!”

I dunno, let me try what feels like a different angle [might be repeating the same old stuff]. A woman with some measure of social clout tried to use the resources at her disposal to intimidate and shame a local newspaper [journalist and editors] out of doing something genuinely shitty, like, shitty, scummy.

That’s actually, I suspect, the source of our dispute. The professor didn’t try to intimidate a noble outfit out of doing their duty to the pristine essence of journalism. She didn’t try to intimidate a bunch of meddling kids out of

She tried to push the scummy newspaper people into realizing that they were being shitty scumbags, or at least into realizing that they would be held publicly accountable for their scummy, shitty behavior. Convincing people who are being shitty scumbags that they are being shitty scumbags will usually require some measure of social pressure. (I’m happy to let folks substitute ‘intimidation’ or ‘shaming’ for ‘pressure’ in the interest of comity.)

If you fully agreed with me, that the actions of the journalist and editors at every stage exemplified truly scummy forms of sensationalist journalism, you’d probably be more amenable to an intimidation tactical response from the unduly sensationalized party.

In fact, the restraint the professor exercised at every stage is remarkable. She took pains to help the outfit see why their behavior was shitty-scummy. She did this in private communication, where there’s no shame or intimidation involved. She didn’t threaten a lawsuit or a university investigation: she didn’t hurl insults at them: she didn’t even get haughty with them. She certainly didn’t speak to them as students, or even as gossip-rag-peddlers, but as members of a respectable press organization who deserved her thoughtful input and polite attention.

I’d have snapped back almost immediately, “what, are you ambushing me? Do you work for the National Inquirer? Are you looking forward to a glorious career as paparazzi? What’s next, do you plan to follow me around hiding behind bushes to take photos surreptitiously the next time I’m breastfeeding in public? Maybe you’d like to chase me all the way to the bathroom? That’s where I’m headed now, which means you’re going to have to ask yourself: how low into the bowels of dirty journalism are you willing to sink? Are you the type of pretend reporter who stoops to pursuing her target into a bathroom stall, hoping to get a sneak peek of breast for your tabloid’s front page? Or has it occurred to you by now that for the sake of preserving some sliver of your own dignity, you could walk away now and pretend this ambush never happened?” (Ok, actually, I’d have silently thought something like that while staring blankly and silently at the reporter. I can’t claim to not be sheepish.)

If you read that and think “sheesh that’s a bit over the top,” forgive me for having a bit of fun typing a too-long epic rant. But if you read that and think “how completely inappropriate a response” — well, I can’t relate to that, but maybe it feels like the staff are these kids who are just learning the ropes and can’t we cut them some slack?

(Obviously I’d say no. Not when they’re being scummy. Cutting slack at this level only serves to legitimate their scummy inclinations. But I anticipate disagreement and that’s ok.)

I keep coming back to this, but for comparative purposes, you could perhaps try to ‘intimidate’ or shame a police officer into realizing they were mistreating a detained person. Whether you feel public shaming is appropriate tactically in such a circumstance, probably has more to do with your assessment of the officer’s behavior than the profession or clout of the detainee.

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faustusnotes 09.19.12 at 12:07 pm

No salient, she’s a student. Student journalists are not journalists; they are students.

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faustusnotes 09.19.12 at 12:10 pm

Katherine, I don’t see much evidence from the questions asked that the article could have been inferred to be an attack on Pine. No, women don’t have to roll over and suffer for the sisterhood, but avowedly militant feminists aren’t supposed to just call on the tools of patriarchy as soon as they get into a bit of trouble. Because militancy is about constructing a new world, etc. And they certainly should show some nuance when attacking a much younger, weaker woman – a bit of awareness of how power works, who holds it, etc.

Remember, when this “militant” feminist wrote her counterpunch article she had the support of her department. Everyone was on her side. She didn’t need to publish phone numbers. She had the power. She used it to attack a girl.

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rf 09.19.12 at 12:22 pm

“Far from that philosophical view. I described one of my many experiences in dealing with young, eager and foolish reporters on “third rate” newspapers….Get a life!”

Yeah, apologies for being an ass Tom….I get a little carried away at times!

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Jonathan Mayhew 09.19.12 at 2:05 pm

In my reading, the journalist seemed sympathetic to Pine’s right to feed her kid in class. Pine blew the opportunity to present her perspective to a sympathetic journalist, whom she casts in the position of being guilty by her association with the student newspaper. The talk about ambushes and yellow journalism seems over the top. You want to have Pine’s perspective if there is going to be a story. If it is not a “delicate” matter, then why the extreme defensiveness on Pine’s part? Why the preemptive bullying of the student journalist?

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LizardBreath 09.19.12 at 2:20 pm

Katherine, I don’t see much evidence from the questions asked that the article could have been inferred to be an attack on Pine.

I doubt very much that it was intended to be an attack on Pine, but surely you can see how, sympathetically written or not, it could have had the effect of significantly and negatively impacting her professional life. Parenting issues — specifically, looking as though your parenting is invading your professional life and interfering with it — still damage women’s careers. Ideally, in a decent workplace, there’s a certain amount of grace granted for the demands of people’s personal lives: if you need to take a day to care for a ailing parent, or partner, or child, you can; if you need to split your attention to handle a family emergency, you can; and you can expect that if such intrusions are kept to a reasonable minimum, no one’s going to make a fuss about them or regard you as unprofessional for breaking perfect concentration. In a lot of real world workplaces, though, women particularly get professionally punished if people become aware that personal demands on them have made any intrusion into their professional life.

Professor Pine had a childcare problem, and handled it in a way that she thought would come within the scope of the reasonable grace any employee should be granted to manage personal problems while still getting her work done: it wasn’t an ideal workday, but she thought she could get through it without professional repercussions. Once there’s an article in the student paper, sympathetic or not, her choices with how to deal with her childcare problem become the subject of a public referendum on whether she’s managing her personal life adequately: rather than having coped with childcare in an acceptably inconspicuous manner, she turns into the public face of “Women’s job performance suffers (sympathetic story or not, some of her students were put off by the breastfeeding) because they have intrusive personal lives.”

You may think that she deserved (or, wasn’t entitled to object to) any negative effects on her from the proposed story: if she didn’t want to be the subject of journalism for how she conducted herself in public, she shouldn’t have breastfed her kid in public. But you have to be able to see that the negative effects of the proposed story are real whether or not it’s written from an angle sympathetic to her or not.

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Maggie 09.19.12 at 2:39 pm

Yeah, the Counterpunch article doesn’t say she found budding reporter Heather intimidating. It says she found budding reporter Heather to be a contemptible dumb-ass for her eagerness to support Pine with a naive argument that breastfeeding is “natural,” and no, Pine did *not* take pains to educate her on this point, which happens to be an advanced theoretical point in the academic discipline she is being paid to teach at the institution stupid, contemptible little Heather is paying (very likely borrowing) to attend. She can claim that Heather is a scumbag predator, or she can have the picture she paints of Heather as just too stupid to bother with, but I don’t see how she can honestly hang on to both at once.

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Maggie 09.19.12 at 2:53 pm

Also I think this just says it all:

“…they also dimly perceive that professors are regularly not in their offices when they say they’ll be, whereas their presence in classes and between them can be calculated with some assurance” (CarlD @345)

A position where, not only are you only expected to attend the office at your own say-so, but can habitually lie/disappoint with impunity. At the direct expense of paying clients, no less. Nice work if you can get it, and difficult to imagine as powerless, particularly relative to the clients whom you are free to screw over. Many very accomplished, well-paid, senior people in other fields would be in a lot of trouble if they were so heedless of other people’s time and convenience, let alone clients’. Indeed, they in most cases wouldn’t even dream of such an arrangement.

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Maggie 09.19.12 at 3:04 pm

Finally, and sorry for triple-posting,

“…and tweeted to advertise the piece.”

Fairly or not – I tend to regard Twitter use as presumptively frivolous – that little detail did a lot to diminish my sympathy for the professor. Again, in her account of her own position something doesn’t quite fit. Publicity over breastfeeding = mortal threat to her career? something for her to “tweet” about? Surely not both?

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ChrisTS 09.20.12 at 2:16 am

Sigh. I will quote from **Victoria:

“Let’s think about all the other days in this kid’s life, when she didn’t have a fever and was admitted to day care. What happened then? Presumably, Prof. Pine sent along a few bottles of expressed breast milk, or formula, and the day care people fed the baby using those. Why did she have to breastfeed in the middle of class on this particular day? By her own account, she didn’t have any choice but to breastfeed the child, but also by her own account, she doesn’t think breastfeeding is any big deal, understands that other women can’t breastfeed their children and use formula instead, and ended up “forced to breastfeed” for — well, for reasons that completely escape me.”

John Quiggins and others have argued she had no other choice (exclamation points). But, she did, and it was a choice – or, rather, an option she used on a daily basis: to express milk and have a bottle ready if the baby was hungry/fussy/whatever.

Further, she could bring a folding crib/playpen to keep the infant from crawling around on the floor (pretty repulsive picture to me, given even our newest carpeting at the college).

I do take serious issue with those (like Duffy) who do not understand that teaching is not like other jobs; as I said in my first comment, we really cannot make up lost time. I also take issue with those who think parents (not just mothers) simply ought to somehow magiacally have Plan Zs when their children are ill and *are not allowed* in daycare or school. We had daycare, neighbors, and private sitters. Guess what? Sometimes they were ALL sick or otherwise unavailable. And reaaly is life/i>.

Finally, I am deeply offedned by the shaming device of suggesting that my not being willing to defend every mother for every choice is in some way unfeeling, blind, or closed-minded of me. Nice trick to silence others.

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faustusnotes 09.20.12 at 4:52 am

I’ve put a more detailed question about the feminist theory of the public breast on my blog, but I have to ask those lactivists here who think we should all just get over the fact that they’re breasts … do you have any problem with pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge’s breasts being published? If so, why? Do you consider the uproar to be justified? I mean, if it was her elbows …

If Kate Middleton is uncomfortable with her breasts being publicly on display, is it unreasonable of her to also be uncomfortable when someone else’s breasts are on display? Why is it wrong to be made uncomfortable by a breast seen breastfeeding, but right to be made uncomfortable by a picture of a breast seen on a magazine cover?

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