I woke up this morning to this post by Best For Babes. The first part of the post includes an apology letter from the CEO and Chairman of DineEquity, Inc (I assume Applebee's is a part of that corporation). Julia Stewart said:
encountered as our guest is unacceptable and completely contrary to how nursing moms are accommodated at thousands of Applebee’s on virtually any given day. We checked with your lawyer last week and she okayed my calling you. I tried you a couple of times and left messages with my number, so please feel free to call. While I know it doesn’t change what you encountered, I also wanted to let you know that the franchisee of the restaurant you visited took action to correct the manager’s mistake and she now knows better. We also took the opportunity to use this incident as a teachable moment and notified all Applebee’s restaurants about the proper policies and procedures for welcoming nursing moms to our restaurants – just to be doubly sure. While of course I can’t take back what happened, I can make sure we work even harder than usual to try and avoid anyone else having the same problem at any of our restaurants. Again, as a mom and the CEO, you have my promise that we and our franchisees will be even more vigilant on this issue.
I thought that was an awesome apology. This is obviously not a form letter thoughtlessly sent out from a big corporation, but a thought felt, personal apology from the company's CEO- who just happens to be a former nursing mom who apparently had some negative nursing in public incidents herself. That's a pretty big deal, and I applaud Julia for taking the time to reach out to Dawn in this way.
Best for Babes went on to say that even though this great apology has been issued, that a nurse-in is still called for. Danielle and Bettina write:
"The reason is, because day in and day out, mothers continue to be harassed, humiliated and discriminated against for choosing to breastfeed. Not just at Applebee’s, which had a major harassment incident 5 years ago, and not just at Target, where the harassment and lack of a proper response precipitated what was perhaps the largest nurse-in in history. The truth is that “Target mom” and Best for Babes Volunteer Director of Activism Michelle Hickman is getting a call almost every other day from a distressed mother who was harassed on the bus, at the airport, at a fitness club, at school. That’s a lot of mothers, and it’s not right that they should suffer maltreatment. What if we only hear from the moms who are upset, and not from the ones who fear public disapproval, and decide breastfeeding is just too hard, giving up before they can reap the benefits, or before they reached their personal goals?"
I can see that point of view. Women really do get harassed for nursing in public every day, and I could go on and on about how completely unacceptable that is, and how damaging those attitudes are to women, babies, and society in general. Sit-ins and nurse-ins have been effective vehicles for change in the past. I'm 100% in favor of women being free to nurse whenever, wherever without the fear of harassment.
However, I do have to admit that I have some mixed feelings here. Yes, even after that zealous post that I wrote on Monday. Apologies have been issued- and not just formalities, but genuine, heartfelt apologies. Honestly, I don't feel 100% comfortable with the idea of standing outside of an Applebee's location with a protest sign(especially one where the incident didn't even occur), when Applebee's has sincerely apologized. Again, there are mixed feelings here, because while I feel that one one side, the other side of me says, "How could you NOT do something to speak out- this nursing mother had the COPS called on her for goodness sake!" Even with those mixed feelings, the issue of holding a protest sign quickly became a non-issue, because it's been raining all morning, and it would likely have been impossible to hold a protest sign outside of the store anyway.
I'm not anti-nurse in. I went to the Pure Fitness nurse in last year. I went to the actual location where the incident occurred, and where no apology had been issued. In fact they were so against nursing in public that some of the gym members actually held a counter-protest while we were protesting! I went to the Target nurse-in in December. Again, I was at the actual location where the incident occurred, but I still would have gone if I lived somewhere else. Target didn't issue an apology, and while there was an element of protest to the nurse-in event, the attitude was more one of normalizing nursing, not coming down on Target.
See? There's me at a nurse in, holding a protest sign.
I think that's what most of the moms that are going to Applebee's today are planning to do as well. They're probably going to sit down, order some food, and nurse their babies- just like they would on any normal day, even without a nurse-in scheduled. I'm all for that- but that's also another big reason why I didn't go today. I'm allergic to gluten, so I can't eat anything on the Applebee's menu. My nursling is 2.5 years old, and we don't nurse in public anymore. He just doesn't need to. So if I did take my kids with me and go, we'd sit down at a table, not order any food, not nurse, and do what exactly? I dunno, even knowing that I'd leave a good tip for the waitress for her time, I'd still feel awkward doing that- just sitting there with my 2 kids and not eating anything, to make a point about nursing in public, which I wouldn't even be doing. So, taking into account my mixed feelings about the whole thing, and the fact that I wouldn't even actually be doing anything there, I decided to stay home.
This is the part about blogging that sucks. Because at some point, you're either going to have to be dishonest, or show some of your flaws. Guess what- I have flaws! I don't have everything figured out. I change my mind sometimes. I get confused sometimes. I say one thing and do another. It's never on purpose, but it happens. But the one thing that I do always try to do is to stay honest and true to myself- to what I'm feeling, thinking, and needing, and to what I believe. And today, all things considered, that means not showing up at the nurse in this afternoon, and being honest about the reasons why.
I'm not against those that went. I totally understand Best for Babes' point about why the nurse-in is still necessary, and there's a big part of me that agrees. But even though it makes me feel like a crummy "lactivist", it just wasn't the right fit for me to go up there today. I do extend well wishes to those that are going, and I hope that they're able to represent the cause well and do much to normalize nursing.