Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Socially Inappropriate Hissy-Fit

"All the stigma surrounding it needs to be eliminated. It's 2014. We have a modern frame of mind about everything else and we can't wrap our heads around breastfeeding."
Brea Rehder, Kemptville, Ontario
Vain and vulgar. This is a 24-year-old woman revelling in Motherhood, and ensuring that everyone notices her status. With a friend, and her two infants in tow -- a two-year-old boy and a nine-month-old little girl -- she ventured to the Big City of Ottawa from her hometown to travel to the massive Ikea warehouse-emporium on a furniture-shopping expedition.

Her visit to the store has launched a self-examination of the store's 'policies', and a bid to indoctrinate sensitize its staff in the new mantra of anything-goes to satisfy customers and to avoid public embarrassment in an confrontational issue that is as homey as mother's apple pie. What could be more sacred than mom's pie-baking prowess is mom's breast-feeding of junior.

Anywhere she happens to be with the young-of-her-womb. It is as though in bearing children and nurturing them in the best of all possible ways, the new mothers of the 21st Century feel entitled to bare it all while they bear it all. They have, after all, invented creation, they represent the authentic nurturer of the youth of tomorrow, and their place in society is therefore beyond reproach.

And besides which, in a celebrity-addled world where gasps of wonderment and adoration are regularly exhaled at the very suggestion of royalty and the aristocracy of entertainment figures 'expecting', the young and the beautiful and the fecund see no reason why they too are not admired and they hunger for notice. How better to advance their angst than to bare a breast?

Not just any breast, but one bursting with creamy nutrition for a wailing, hungry child. To that end, accommodating restaurateurs, retailers of note and any other establishments where mothers and children venture provide 'nursing stations', and 'changing stations' for the discreet discharge of motherly duties to their young. Mothers of an earlier era both roll their eyes and celebrate that breast-feeding is back in vogue.

But breast-feeding mothers who admire their roles with self-pride, feel they have the obligation to their young to additionally treat the public to displays of elemental nurture. And so, a line-up of purchasers at Ottawa's Ikea store were treated to the sublime vision of a young woman baring a breast for her nine-month-old daughter whom her mother noticed had "started getting fussy".

Brea Rehder Brea Rehder and her daughter are pictured in this undated handout photograph (Handout / Brea Rehder)

The mother was awaiting the appearance of a store manager (with respect to a price issue), whom she had asked a cashier to alert to her request. What ensued, according to Brea Rehder, was "probably the most foul encounter of my life". Instead of benign admiration, the manager treated Ms. Rehder with disdain, replying to her query respecting the price at issue: "When you're done being disgusting, we can resume our discussion. In the meantime, take it to the bathroom because you're holding up the line."

Well, the unmitigated nerve! Alternately, a well-deserved admonition. Ms. Rehder was initially taken aback, so much so, she was rendered speechless. "Then I got angry and I swore at her." The vulgarity of the response was not recorded for the press, unfortunately. Ms. Rehder is of the opinion that her impromptu theatricals of nursing her infant is 'natural', and therefore appropriate.

Whereas in reality it is grotesquely socially inappropriate. Rudely self-absorbed she begs to differ.

There are more than ample opportunities for a nursing mother to feed her child in less public, entirely visible settings, where the sight of mother and child indulging in a natural response to hunger and restlessness gives no comfort to onlookers. By imposing her need to display herself in full mother-nature-mode, it obviously does not occur to the young woman that this is indeed an imposition.

Supporters of breast-feeding anywhere at any time, full on, and like it or not, and get accustomed to it, or demonstrate by not accepting the practise that you represent a conservatively restrained mindset condemning fertility and the beauty of mother-child bonding. Public social entitlements of all kinds have been imposed on society through subtle and not-so-subtle tactics of intimidation.

The shame is yours, mass public, for not finding the vision endearing, instead considering it an immature display of thespian absurdity when alternatives are close at hand and infinitely more practical. Yet the response from the business establishment is to be apologetically accepting, contrite that they raised an initial objection.

Ikea spokeswoman Madeleine Lowenborg-Frick has spoken of the company's apology, which was one of contrite regret, "profusely". Such an incident "is against our policies, our culture and our values. It's not acceptable to us that anyone would say something negative to someone who's breastfeeding". Clearly in the challenge of the sacred and the sour, the divine wins out.

But there is more. Ms. Rehder is hugely upset about the manner in which her two-year-old has been affected. He is, evidently, still nursing at his mother's breast. "My son really took it to heart and we had a lot of issues because of it. At night, when we went to go nurse before bed, he was saying: 'Mommy she says it' yucky. No I don't want to. It's bad." An intuitive child. His mother said: "He cried himself to sleep."

Ms. Rehder is definitely not satisfied with the profound apologies issued by the retail outlet. She is considering legal action if her son doesn't receive an apology, or if the store does not undertake action that will convincingly demonstrate their breastfeeding friendliness. "I don't know what could make it better", she has mused.

The store, in the meantime, is making an effort to track down the local manager to have her apologize. They will be invested in re-educating all their Ottawa employees, reiterating the code of conduct they all must be subject to. "Corrective action" with respect to the offending employee will most certainly be taken.

And no one will take Ms. Rehder out to the woodshed for her intractable self-righteousness.

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  • At 3:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Since my two 20-something daughters and I regularly shop at IKEA, I wrote to them with my concern about the original article. They responded in less than 24 hours with this note, below, and it appears they have done a great job in following up on this complaint. Others, on FB, have called into question the integrity of the complainant, suggesting she was after a "payoff."

    Hello Mr. Colgate,

    Thank you for contacting IKEA Canada and for taking the time to share your comments with us.

    IKEA supports mothers’ rights to breastfeed openly and does not accept anyone saying something negative to a mother breastfeeding. This is not consistent with our culture and values. We do provide private rooms for anyone who is interested in a quiet moment, but welcome mothers to breastfeed anywhere in our stores.

    We are a family friendly company who strives to provide a comfortable environment for all of our customers. We have been in direct contact with the customer to hear her complaint, to let her know we are taking the situation seriously and that we are looking into what happened.

    Thank you again for sharing your opinion with us.

    IKEA Canada Customer Service

  • At 5:35 PM, Blogger A concerned citizen said…

    Another update in today's news has Ikea saying the incident never occured. They reviewed store vídeos and say the mother is at the cash, but with no baby in her arms. I guess another apology is owed, this time to Ikea about false allergations against the store manager.

  • At 5:39 PM, Blogger A concerned citizen said…

    An update in today's news is saying the incident never occurred. Ikea reviewed in store videos and confirm the mother was at the cash but no baby was in her arms. Guess another is owed, this time to Ikea and the manager falsely accused.

  • At 8:57 AM, Blogger dovèlamiamente said…

    "In this country of billboards, covered in tits and family newsagents' magazines full of it. W H Smith top shelves out for men - Why don't you complain about them then?
    So no more will I sit on these cold toilet lids
    No matter how embarrassed I feel as she sips
    Cos in this country of billboards covered in 'tits'
    I think I should try to get used to this."


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