Saturday, September 29, 2012

More on the Applebee's Nurse-In, and Some Mixed Feelings from Me

The Applebee's nurse in is happening today. In fact, it will probably be underway by the time I finish writing this post. Yes, that's right, I didn't end up going. More on that later.

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:

I am truly sorry that we haven’t connected. As soon as I learned about your experience, I wanted to reach out directly – not just as the CEO of our restaurants, but as a mom that nursed my own kids. I have my share of unfortunate memories from nursing in public and understand how you feel. I want to apologize personally for what happened. I also want to assure you the regrettable situation you 
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.
Julia Stewart, Chairman & CEO, DineEquity, Inc.

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.


  1. I hear that. I have very mixed feelings about nurse-ins. I think they should be reserved for times when all other attempts at settling the issue with a business have exhausted. If a business refuses to acknowledge wrong doing after emails, calls, meetings, news stories, etc, then I can see a nurse in happening. However, Applebees was originally quick to note that it was one manager acting out of policy and not the view of the chain. They noted that they welcome breastfeeding mothers and included the acknowledgment that moms have a right to nurse in public in their original statement. And then the statement from the CEO came which is fabulous. I think it sends mixed messages to the public when people are standing out their with protest signs - the public may think that Applebees is anti-nursing. I just don't think this particular one will be viewed favorably by the general public, especially since Applebees has publicly mentioned support for nursing moms twice now.

    The thing that sucks is that I hate Applebees. I think it's nasty food. However, I've been defending them for weeks now, which is a hard position to take in the "lactivist" community.

  2. What a wonderful post. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I attend nurse-ins and promote them as I did this nurse-in. However, I do have mixed feelings when an apology is issued and the corporation or whoever is clearly in support of nursing mothers. I wish that nurse-ins could be seen as partnership when an incident occurs rather than a protest; something to bring attention to the cause as well as the clearly stated position of wherever it occurs. Great post! I have never been able to really clearly state this. Thanks for making me not have to do the work!

    1. The Badass Breastfeeder agrees! :D

      From what I've seen, it seems like there was a collaborative attitude between the nursing mothers and the Applebee's employees at several locations, and I think that's awesome!

  3. I totally see where you're coming from, and it does make an issue a little more sticky when you have some members of a company are pro-nursing-in-public, and others aren't.

    My issue with Applebee's still is that a) they had a major incident 5 years ago and now it happened again and b) this was a *manager* of one of their restaurants, were they not informed on their breastfeeding policy? If it's such a focus of Applebee's as a company to be pro-breastfeeding, then why would someone running one of their restaurants not be aware of this? Also, this recent incident involved a woman who wouldn't stop breastfeeding even when told to by staff. I wonder how many other less assertive women have been told to stop and complied, and maybe had their nursing-in-public confidence shattered by this restaurant?

    Basically, I still think it warrants a nurse-in, because the company as a whole isn't training their managers, even after the big stink 5 years ago, and the staff at this particular restaurant needs to really be aware of their terrible actions.

    1. I can definitely see that viewpoint. :) Were you able to go to the nurse in? How did it turn out at your location, if you were?

  4. I really agree with you. My feelings are strong on exactly what you said though... We still need to have them to normalize breastfeeding, not just against the company/place where an incident happened. I know there are still people giving some of the moms a hard time that posted photos from the nurse in. They are the problem. They are the reason why nursing anywhere/ anytime isn’t normalized. I want those people to be educated.