Breastfeeding Sick Babies in Class

A professor walks into class with her baby — the baby was sick and couldn’t go to daycare, and it was the first day of class and the prof didn’t want to cancel, so baby was brought along. During the lecture, the baby is at times strapped to the professor’s back, and at times crawling on the floor, at times being held by a teaching assistant. At one point, the baby gets fussy, and so the professor breastfeeds the baby. Normal “this is life” stuff, or a national news story?

National news story, obviously. The the professor in question has written her own piece at CounterPunch explaining her version of events. The Mamafesto also has a good post on this, although we disagree about a few things.

To me, there are a couple of issues here, and breastfeeding is the least of them. Is breastfeeding in class a big deal (or should it be)? No. If a mom is breastfeeding during a break or even during a lecture and the feeding isn’t interrupting anything, then who cares? What’s more interesting (and questionable) is the general issue of bringing a small child to work, when your work is as a professor lecturing a classroom of students.

The fact that the baby was sick makes this question a little easier — it’s disrespectful and inappropriate to bring your sick self or another sick person into your work place when you are afforded adequate sick and leave days. Sick days exist both to give you time to recover and to make sure that you don’t communicate your disease to other people. That’s exactly why the baby couldn’t go to daycare — because it’s a public health issue. Students do not get sick days. I understand that Prof. Pine didn’t want to cancel the first day of class, but bringing a sick baby into that room was not respectful. Sick babies also tend to need more care and attention, which no one other than Prof. Pine — who was supposed to be lecturing — was there to provide.

The sick issue aside, though, this story (or non-story, as Pine believes it is) does raise some interesting issues about how and where we draw lines between work and family, and whether we ever should. I completely understand, from Prof. Pine’s perspective, why bringing her child to class seemed like the best of several bad options on that particular day. I can also understand, from a student’s perspective, why having a baby crawling around on the floor during a lecture and then being picked up and fed (by a breast or a bottle or whatever) is a big distraction to both you and the lecturer. In Pine’s own essay, she mentions that during the lecture a student told her that the baby had a paperclip in its mouth; clearly, at least some of the students were focused on the kid, at the expense of their focus on the class. She mentions that she couldn’t wait to get out of there, and sped through the lecture.

Of course, professors are people, and they get distracted and speed through lectures for all sorts of reasons. For Pine it was a breastfeeding baby; for others, it might be trying to beat weekend traffic so they can make it up to the Cape for the weekend. And as a one-off thing, bringing a baby to class doesn’t strike me as all that newsworthy. But “it’s ok to bring your kid to work if it’s a one-off thing” is not a cohesive policy, formally or ideologically.

I think we all agree that workplaces need to be more friendly toward parents (and especially mothers). But in practice, what does that look like? Does it mean bringing kids to work? My answer to that: Sometimes. But then the question is, when? And under what circumstances, and at what jobs, and what age of children? There are very real impediments that get in the way of the idea that every space should be open to children. When I worked a corporate job and had a private office, it would have been relatively simple to bring a nursing/sleeping baby or a 12-year-old with a stack of homework to work with me. But I can’t say the same about being a waitress or a food service worker, or, yes, a lecturer. And even in my office job, most people kept their doors open, and the walls were not that thick; if there had been a child crying in the office next to mine, that would have posed a big problem for me — it would have distracted me from my work and rendered me unable to concentrate, which would have impacted my ability to adequately perform the duties of my job. And children, being children, are probably going to cry at some point.

Small children need care and supervision — that’s why we hire care-givers, or call CPS on parents who leave a three-year-old alone for a few hours. If your job requires you to be focused on other people or a complex and intensive task, by waiting tables or preparing food or engaging in a long lecture / question-and-answer or a whole variety of other things, regularly bringing a child to work raises serious issues that are not going to be solved by feminist platitudes. Sometimes, bringing a child into a particular work space is going to mean that the needs of other people in that space are not being adequately met. So how do we meet everyone’s needs? Can we? Is it ok to bring a kid to work only if it’s an emergency? Who gets to define “emergency,” and is that policy even fair or coherent?

I don’t know what the answers are — and I’ll admit that I was a bit turned off by Prof. Pine’s piece, and especially by her excoriation of a student journalist who was just trying to cover what students had already turned into a story. But this story is interesting to me particularly because it illustrates how feminist ideals — supportive workplaces! balancing career and family! — butt up against the reality of many of our actual jobs.

Prof. Pine is right that it’s ridiculous for students to be upset or shocked at seeing a mother (or their professor) breastfeeding. But I’m not sure it’s so unreasonable for students to expect that their professor will not be attending to a baby during class.

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Feminism, Health, Work and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

745 Responses to Breastfeeding Sick Babies in Class

  1. jemima101 says:

    Would be answer not to be to campaign for decent maternity/paternity leave in the States? From a European perspective it just seems medieval/

    • Bagelsan says:

      It doesn’t sound like a maternity leave issue; the baby was on the order of 1 year old, from what I gather from the article.

    • Maria says:

      I can not believe there are people like you who are writing articles – you are a hater and not very smart if you believe what you write – do you even have kids? Or maybe this is the problem?!
      Good thing people like you are rare to meet on the street, cause you spend all your time here – writing this Sh*t.

  2. DAS says:

    Why is this sort of thing still an issue?

    I remember when I was at school, the Hillel Rabbi was (at the time) a new mother. When it was time to breast-feed, even if during religious services (note — the Rabbi does not generally lead services, so it wasn’t as if she stopped in the middle of leading a prayer), she just went to a seat kind of out of the way and breast fed. No big deal — a tallis (prayer-shawl) makes an excellent nursing cover-up!

    Actually, one of the advantages of professorin’ (from my POV) is that the workplace is relatively family friendly (I can bring my daughter to work and not have to worry about her antics getting me in trouble). Of course, there are many un-family friendly aspects about my position (some of which are just related to the length of my commute and that we don’t have room in our apartment for a home office — so I end up being away from home for long hours and thus unavailable to help much with the day-to-day raising of my daughter, since she usually goes to school or camp and not to work with me): the amount of work expected, etc. But at least I know that if I have to bring my daughter to work, it won’t be an issue (unlike in my wife’s job for a local quasi-governmental authority — that is the job she had until she was laid off).

    I am thus again surprised this was an issue in an academic setting.

    • Jill says:

      I remember when I was at school, the Hillel Rabbi was (at the time) a new mother. When it was time to breast-feed, even if during religious services (note — the Rabbi does not generally lead services, so it wasn’t as if she stopped in the middle of leading a prayer), she just went to a seat kind of out of the way and breast fed. No big deal — a tallis (prayer-shawl) makes an excellent nursing cover-up!

      And that sounds awesome. But as this particular incident illustrates, sometimes breastfeeding is necessary while a professor is leading class. And even if breastfeeding wasn’t necessary, who is charged with watching the child during an hour (or two or three-hour) long lecture?

  3. Bagelsan says:

    I agree that the breastfeeding in public bit shouldn’t be a problem… but breastfeeding while lecturing? That’s really rude to the students. I’d have the same problem if a professor brought her 5-year-old and started making him a sandwich for lunch during the middle of class. Your students aren’t there to watch you parent.

    And bringing a sick baby to a school seems stupid both for the sake of the students — who don’t want to catch anything — but also for the sake of the baby, who clearly wasn’t being properly cared for (paperclip!) and was also being exposed to a lot of other germs.

    • Suzanne says:

      … but breastfeeding while lecturing? That’s really rude to the students.

      I don’t agree with this part of your comment a priori. I would only agree it’s rude if it’s actually disruptive. For many women, breastfeeding is just popping their baby under their shirt and then the baby quietly feeds. Some women are good at it and can give lectures while holding their babies in a sling.

      It’s not the same as stopping in the middle of lecture to make a sandwich, but say if she had an older child and had brought a sandwich, would you consider it rude for her to hand her kid a sandwich in the middle of lecture?

    • Lauren says:

      who clearly wasn’t being properly cared for (paperclip!)

      Bah. Happens all the time.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Well sure, it happens; hence letting a baby wander a classroom is a bad idea.

      • Lauren says:

        No, babies put things in their mouths. Babies are also little geniuses about sneaking things into their mouths once they’ve been told no. And putting their fingers in things they’re not supposed to. That’s totally normal developmental behavior. It doesn’t mean they aren’t being adequately supervised.

        There’s nothing more inherently dangerous about a college classroom for a baby than any other public or private space, but it is interesting how many people picked up on this small detail as evidence that the mother is somehow negligent.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Okay, but you go explain that to the obviously-concerned undergrads who felt like they had to keep monitoring the baby’s actions.

  4. Pingback: American University professor breast-feeds sick baby in class, sparking debate – Washington Post (blog) | Ez Baby Blog

  5. Bagelsan says:

    Also, this is so much bullshit:

    Following class I was accosted by budding reporter Heather, who clearly had not understood what I meant in my email by “End of story.” 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).

    Maybe Heather thought that a professor who fed a child during class also checked her email during class? You can’t be like my dear miss, I am a consummate professional!!! while also lunching during lecture. :p

    • Jill says:

      Also, Heather was probably on a deadline and needed to get a quote for the story, so she went to the source. If a student reporter showing up to talk to a professor after class is somehow unethical or aggressive or inappropriate, I’m curious how Prof. Pine thinks reporters operated in the days before email.

      • Katya says:

        Frankly, Pine’s handling of the student reporter is the aspect of this story that reflects most poorly on her. She insists that a university is a place for the free exchange of ideas, and then demands that the paper kill the story. She was incredibly defensive and really arrogant.

  6. annajcook says:

    I just want to weigh in on the sick child issue. While I’m not a parent and have only ever been a graduate student, not a faculty member, I have close friends who are juggling the parenting-while-teaching gig and here’s a couple of important aspects of academic culture that I think you’re missing here.

    1) Regardless of official policy, there is tremendous pressure on professors NEVER to cancel a class. Furthermore, if they are out sick (for themselves or a family member) on a day when they are supposed to teach, the responsibility of arranging a substitute activity for their students falls to them (the sick person, presumably not on campus!).

    2) And given the number of sick days most workplaces offer, between your own yearly illnesses and your child’s there are never enough to go around. (This is an issue not confined to academic institutions, but it definitely is present there as well as other workplaces.) So you — and, if you’re lucky to be co-parenting the other parent(s) — are constantly trying to decide whether you can afford to use a precious sick day to remain home with your child, and/or who has the most pressing teaching responsibilities that day and cannot afford to be absent.

    It’s just not as simple as “if you’re child’s sick, take a sick day! that’s what they’re for!”

    • Jill says:

      Anna, that’s a good point. I think there are also tenure-related pressures to not cancel class. You’re right, it’s not as simple as “just take a sick day.”

    • Jadey says:

      Yeah, this is where I’m at. Professors get just a few hours a week to do a lecture, it’s not something that can be rescheduled easily, and in some cases there is pressure, internally or externally imposed, not to cancel even one. (Incidentally, there can also be a lot of pressure on students to never ever miss a class even if deathly ill, at least by jerk/obtuse profs. Because everything in university/college is so scheduled, no one likes to have to catch up.)

      FWIW, I would not as a student have been bothered to have a professor breast-feed. At most institutions I’ve attended as a student, there’s been an irritating habit for profs to not bother teaching the first day, to the point where some students actually resent profs who *do* make the most of their time. I would rather have a half-distracted and slightly distracting prof than a prof who doesn’t come at all or sends us home away after five minutes of throwing a syllabus at us. Not that I would be annoyed by a class being cancelled for a legit reason like a sick baby – just that even *some* class is more than no class and having to cram even more lecture into another week, so I don’t agree that bringing the baby was disrespectful on that score. Her only other option would have been no class at all, if there was no one else to look after the baby.

    • speedbudget says:

      Also I imagine the same students who complained about the baby being in class would be complaining even louder about the first day of class being canceled, since they are paying to be taught.

    • bleh says:

      I am tenured and still never cancel class for illness unless I literally cannot do it. Especially with long once a week classes, it throws off the syllabus too much, and colleagues and admin definitely judge. In my department canceling for a sick child would not be judged as much as for a sick [child free] me, but that is unusual I suppose.

      The students get a few free absences, but we get none.

      • chava says:

        can I just say that I hate the American obsession with always coming to work, even when shedding virus like an overactive Sharpei? This isn’t just a problem in the academy, any “career” job attaches stigma to sick days.

        Ugh. We have to play the game, because everyone else does, but ugh.

    • human says:

      This is very true. The professor was in a difficult situation, not JUST because she is a woman, but because of the peculiarities of the academic workplace and the incredible pressure on academic workers to conform to increasingly narrow standards or lose their jobs/careers.

      If the professor had explained this to the reporter, there could have been an excellent, productive story in the newspaper about it.

      Instead, she chose to pull rank and try to bully the reporter out of publishing the story.

      In my opinion this is unacceptable behavior. It’s also extremely counterproductive to respond to being on the wrong side of a power imbalance by shitting on people who have less power than you.

      I am seriously unimpressed with this professor.

  7. Lauren says:

    I agree this is ultimately about professional conduct and the intersection of work responsibilities vs. parenting responsibilities. If this was the first day of class and they were just discussing the rules and expectations for the semester, I can see why the professor decided just to bring the baby instead of cancelling class.

    It’s interesting that this uproar was caused in a feminist anthropology class, of all places. If anything, this seems like a great opportunity for the class to discuss single parenting, the politics of work and daycare (particularly the expectation that you still pay for your spot at daycare for the day even though your child is sick, and possibly whatever additional charge to secure someone who will take a sick kid so you can go to work), and the politics of breastfeeding.

    • Lauren says:

      Still thinking about this: it also seems like an appropriate humanizing introduction to the source material (feminist anthropology) and professor for a first day of class. I’m fine with reminding students that mother and professor aren’t necessarily separate or distinct roles.

      On a personal level, I always liked meeting my professor’s families — educator’s kids are usually pretty fun/smart and I like kids anyway.

      In the end, I guess I side with the professor in wondering why this was a news story in the first place. It feels like one of her students was texting OMB BEWBS to someone else under a desk and it went viral because college students are always super mature about ladies’ secondary sex characteristics.

    • librarygoose says:

      Wait, wait, wait…this was a feminist anthropology class? And these people got the vapors from a woman breast feeding? Fucking hell, I can’t wait till they do their reading or watch a fucking film. It’s like the time some dumbass in my class complained about the nudity in a film and it was a kid trying to figure out pants. It’s anthroplogy
      you’re gonna see people in various amounts of clothing. You just are. In feminist anthropology you’re gonna see a woman breast feed you just are.

  8. Suzanne says:

    Interesting take. When I read the post at Mamafesto, it seemed like there was a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that she breast-fed in class, which I didn’t think was a big deal. The baby-being-sick part is different though – if the baby was fussy due to being sick and/or contagious, then I agree with you.

    In any case I do think the story highlights the damned-if-you-do and damend-if-you-don’t situation working women are often in. If she had canceled class on the first day or had a TA or another prof go over the syllabus and give the intro lecture for her, I’m sure there would be students upset about that and talking about how she wasn’t committed to her job, etc. There did not seem to be other options for the prof. here.

    • Jill says:

      Suzanne, I think that’s right. And to be clear, I do think there was a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that the prof breastfed in class — I think that’s why this is a “story” in the national media. And I think that’s ridiculous and total BS. I just think it also raises some other, less-discussed issues that are worth looking at.

      But yes, it does also highlight how moms really cannot win in situations like this.

      • Avital says:

        Jill – I know you mentioned above that we don’t agree on everything about this story, but I think we see more eye to eye on it. Like I mentioned in my post – there was the possibility of an interesting investigative story here that the student journalist could have tackled. Unfortunately, the breastfeeding part – to me – wasn’t it. She could have totally written about whether bringing a child to class was appropriate, she could have written about the pressures of “having it all” or being a working mother, she could have written about policy that affects mothers (sick leave, etc…) but to focus on the breastfeeding? meh. easy target with no real basis. I’m still waiting to see if the Eagle posts anything about it. So far, I haven’t seen anything go up…

    • Sarah says:

      Really, it said that the baby had a fever and a cold…which, as a mom of two, I gotta say is not really that “sick,” although you can’t send them to daycare. Kids sometimes seem to have perpetually runny noses. And a fever and runny nose might even just indicate teething (it didn’t in this case, but it could). I wouldn’t be worried that the students would catch a cold from my baby unless they were holding the baby and breastfeeding it themselves. Now if the child was vomiting, or running a high fever, or could not be consoled during class…that would be a problem. That was not the situation. It did seem like the ‘real issue’ here was the breastfeeding and that the university and a few others were using the sickness as an excuse to reprimand Professor Pine. As if, as a parent, she had not thought of what was best for her child in that situation. If her child was really and truly SICK, she would have HAD to stay home. As if seeing a baby with a cold would expose these students (half of which probably share cups with ten other kids at every party…not to mention the other things they do with each other that might not be best for avoiding illness) to more germs than they can handle. But, it was a mild sort of problem and she thought that everyone would be better off if she just carried on with her teaching. And, considering the class she was teaching, she probably expected the students to be mature enough to handle it. I agree with her and I probably would have done the exact same thing.

      • LMM says:

        As if seeing a baby with a cold would expose these students (half of which probably share cups with ten other kids at every party…not to mention the other things they do with each other that might not be best for avoiding illness) to more germs than they can handle.

        Could we stop trivializing actual concerns by making (frequently unwarrented) assumptions about other peoples’ lives?

        This wasn’t just “seeing” a baby with a cold — this was being in a room with an individual with a cold for at least an hour. And this was a room that people *had* to be in if they wanted to attend the first day of lecture, and this was an individual who could not be politely informed to leave.

        I have no immunodeficiencies whatsoever; I’m usually quite healthy. That being said, whenever I’m under a lot of stress, my immune system suffers. In particular, if I pull an all-nighter and I’m in the same room as a person with a cold, I will catch it. And I try to avoid it — I try to wash my hands, etc. — but that’s just how my body functions.

        Being stuck in that room with a sick individual, baby or not? Would have given me that cold if I were under stress at the time. Which, on a college campus, means that most of my friends would have gotten sick, too. Most other (non-school) avenues of exposure can be reduced, if not eliminated — but one *has* to attend class (unless you want to assume that students are going to skip that, too).

        Trivializing actual concerns by making massive assumptions about others’ lives seems to be very common on threads about children. I realize that some objections to bringing children into places are just knee-jerk reactions, but this kind of response is just insulting.

      • Katya says:

        Sure, but frankly, in college, you are going to be in class with someone who is sick. Students come together from different places with all their various germs, and spend a ton of time in close proximity, and people come to class with colds all the time. You share dorm rooms, bathrooms, classrooms, dining halls, gyms, libraries, etc. Avoiding germs in college is pretty much impossible.

      • LMM says:

        That *may* be true, but there are better ways to put it than to trivialize and insult the behavior of every single student in the room.

        It’s just a trend I keep seeing in these sorts of discussions, and I’m really uncomfortable with it. I get that you want to take your kid somewhere; you may be fully justified in doing so — but don’t defend your decision by making insulting assumptions about every other person who might be in your situation.

      • Sarah says:

        I’m sorry, did I miss where I trivialized and insulted the behavior of “every single student in the room”? I said “half” of the kids…and I was being generous, actually. Are we living in a world where we are going to deny the obvious: that college students regularly interact with each other and attend parties? That’s not insulting them–that’s what MOST of them (including me, when I was in college) do. Where is the judgment there, by me? Sounds like you might be projecting your own judgment onto me, but I was not calling their behavior negative, just stating a pretty well known fact. Also, I’m sorry that taking a child with a cold in public is so upsetting to you. But, yes, I am going to trivialize it. You live in a society filled with other people; you are going to be exposed to illness. As someone said below, who ever said you have a RIGHT not to be exposed to illness out in public? If you don’t like it, perhaps you should stay home. If you can’t, then guess what: you are just like the rest of us. I can’t stay home to prevent being exposed to cold and I can’t stay home every time I get a cold. No one can. No one was asking the students to kiss the baby or hold its tissues. It was in the room. I’m sure it wasn’t the only person there with a cold. And as for politely asking someone to leave? Really? Is there EVER a case in which it would be ‘polite’ to ask another individual to leave a public place that is not a hospital, nursing home, or other place where people have generally fragile health, just because they have a cold? I don’t think so. I would never in my life dream of asking a person to leave just because they were coughing and sneezing. I don’t agree that there is a polite way to do that.

      • LMM says:

        I’m sorry, but saying something flippant like “as if half of them weren’t (whatever)” *is* insulting and, basically, attempting to trivialize everyone else.

        I get that you think that she should have been allowed to bring her child into work. I don’t, but I’m not insisting that there wouldn’t have been real negative consequences by finding some sort of babysitting for the baby on the fly. I don’t see you acknowledging the reverse — that bringing a sick baby to class has real consequences for others and isn’t just some sort of blow against the patriarchy.

        As it turns out, yes, the TA did have to hold the baby throughout most of the class. The writer glosses over the circumstances (and suggests that the TA did it against her explicit instructions), but the weird wording of the paragraph and her mention of several interruptions due to potentially hazardous situations strongly suggests to me that the TA did so because the alternative — letting the baby roam a room that was clearly poorly designed for it — was bad.

        As for telling people to leave … for what it’s worth, it happens all the time in my workspace. We’re a lab; work hours are sort of flexible, and exposing others to germs is looked down upon. Maybe it’s a bit unusual (the hours are flexible, like I said), but a similar case could be made for other such academic environments.

        No one has the right to not be exposed to germs in public, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t have the responsibility, when they are sick, to minimize their contact with others. We just had an entire thread in which most participants argued that others shouldn’t be wearing scented products or using scented cleaners in public spaces because it could trigger a migraine for a few people. If you buy that argument, then you can’t turn around and argue that knowingly — and voluntarily — bringing someone who is sick into a public space is okay just because “no one has a right” not to be exposed to germs.

      • Sarah says:

        Sure, I can agree that we should all minimize other people’s exposure to our illnesses in a perfect world. When I have the flu, I stay home, definitely. For the record, I keep my babies home when they have a fever and, if they have cold symptoms, I warn others before I see them and tell them that they are 100% free to reschedule our meetup because I can understand that they wouldn’t want to get sick. Sometimes people don’t care, sometimes they do. I leave it up to them. So, yes, I can agree to this. I don’t really agree that people should avoid wearing strong scents in public places because they trigger migraines (mine included, definitely). They should avoid wearing strong scents in places where people are in close quarters, sure. I can agree with that.

        HOWEVER, I don’t agree that the TA can complain (nor do I think the TA has complained…but maybe I haven’t seen her take yet and it is out there) about being exposed to the cold because she willingly picked the child up, despite being expressly told it wasn’t needed. Truly, as a parent, when I say that you don’t need to pick up my baby: don’t pick up my baby. I’ll pick them up if its necessary. It *might* have been a situation in which the TA thought that the baby needed to be picked up and in which the professor thought it wasn’t really necessary. I find this happens a lot when babies are involved. If the question is: is it fair to the class to expose them to a cold? My answer would be yes. That answer would change if it were a flu or if the child was coughing constantly or the child was being passed around the room. That’s just my own feelings about the matter.

        Also, if there was a possibility that she could have found a babysitter on the fly, I think she should have done it. My impression was that she could not. I don’t think that’s unusual. I have been trying to find a flippin babysitter around here for the better part of a year and I can’t find a single person!! Its infuriating, honestly. I’ve found a few people that seemed promising only to call them and find them busy every time. And last minute? Psssh! You can forget about that! So I guess I kind of feel like she felt didn’t have any other option OTHER than canceling class, and I agree that doing that for a baby’s cold seems like something I wouldn’t do.

      • LMM says:

        It *might* have been a situation in which the TA thought that the baby needed to be picked up and in which the professor thought it wasn’t really necessary.

        I’m seriously thinking that we’re dealing with an unreliable narrorator here — Pine does not seem to be spelling out exactly what happened. She has the kid on her back, she nurses her briefly, she lets the kid down … and then the baby proceeds to start chewing on a paperclip and going towards the light socket. I suspect that, at this point, the TA felt (justly) that, given that the baby had disrupted the class twice now, she needed to hold her to prevent other interruptions.

        I get that there are times when a baby doesn’t need to be held. But in an academic setting, one that hasn’t been even remotely baby-proofed, I have a hard time believing that the TA’s behavior was unjustified. Pine is already very defensive (and probably already felt so during class) — I doubt she would have admitted to needing to hold the baby.

  9. SWNC says:

    I think the professor should have cancelled class. There have been plenty of times when I’ve had to take a sick day because my daughter was ill. And yeah, it sucks and it inconveniences other people. But if my kid is sick, I’m not bringing her to work with me, for her sake, my sake, and the sake of my co-workers.

    To me, a family friendly workplace is one that allows sufficient family and sick leave for employees to take care of their sick family members (whether those family members are babies or not) and one that does not expect employees to be available when not scheduled to work.

    (I work on a college campus, and it actually makes me a little crazy when professors–and it’s always professors, never staff–bring their kids to meetings and other work events on a regular basis. You work at a college–plenty of students would be happy to babysit your [healthy] kid for a few bucks!)

  10. Esti says:

    Like Jill, I find the breastfeeding way less of an issue than everything else the article describes going on during that class. I would absolutely find it hard to follow a lecture while an infant crawled around the floor, especially when the lecture had to be interrupted to rescue the baby from putting a paper clip in her mouth and getting too close to a socket.

    I can imagine a scenario in which it wouldn’t be a problem at all for a professor to have a baby in a Baby Bjorn-type carrier while lecturing, but it’s not an outcome you can guarantee — there’s no way to know whether the baby will start crying part-way through class, and if it does then it’s definitely going to interfere with the lecture (both because of the noise and because the professor will have to try to soothe the kid). Likewise, I can imagine a professor breastfeeding during a lecture without any disruption to the classroom, but there’s no way to predict whether any given class is going to be the time the baby won’t latch or gets fussy.

    So while I can understand and sympathize with this professor bringing her baby to class one time, in what were somewhat extreme circumstances, I can’t get on board with her defense of why that should be seen as a totally unremarkable thing to do that shouldn’t be open to criticism. And I’ve got to say, even in the circumstances she described, it really seemed like she didn’t set herself up for success — there is no way a baby should ever be left crawling around on the floor while its parent is lecturing. If she wasn’t able to carry the baby for the full class, and some other way of keeping her contained and safe (in a stroller, a car seat, or something else) wasn’t workable, then I really do think it would have been better to reschedule the class.

    • Sarah says:

      Just as a note…an almost one year old baby doesn’t generally (**cough** ever ** cough **) have a problem latching. If they ask to nurse, they know how to get to the boob. They are pretty much experts.That’s not the issue. And Professor Pine didn’t seem to think that it was a problem to have her child crawling around on a lecture floor–I gather to think she probably knows her child better than a stranger. As to whether it would be distracting during a lecture…I guess it depends on how interesting she is…I wouldn’t bat an eye if it was during an interesting class like Feminist Anthro., but Physics? No way I would have been able to take my eyes off the baby eating the paper clip. I might have even taken the paper clip and stuck it in the outlet on my own just to give myself something more interesting to do. But if you want to be distracted there is always something going on to distract you in a college classroom. Your computer, for one thing…

      • Esti says:

        I was talking more generally about professors bringing infants to class when I referenced the nursing issue. My point was just that while you could absolutely have a situation in which the baby slept while being carried/left in a stroller or car seat during the class, it’s not really a situation in which you can know in advance will not disrupt class. You can probably trust that your 10 year old can be left with a book in the back of the class without getting disruptive; babies, on the other hand, sometimes cry or fuss and the occasions on which they do so aren’t fully predictable or controllable.

        As for the specifics of this situation — if the professor doesn’t have a problem with her baby crawling around on the floor while she is distracted by something else, that’s totally up to her. But if it’s going on during class, then I don’t think it’s fair to paint it as a parenting decision that no one else gets a say in. Maybe you’re better at concentrating on lectures than most people, but this situation obviously was disruptive to the class: the professor notes she had to interrupt her lecture more than once to remove the baby from a dangerous situation, at least one student was distracted enough from the lecture to notice the baby was trying to eat a paperclip, and the TA eventually insisted on holding the baby (which, since the professor had specifically told her she didn’t need to do, I’ve got to think was a reaction to seeing that the baby crawling around was not a particularly good situation for anyone in the room). So yeah, if the professor is cool with letting her baby wander around, say, her office while she works, that’s her call. But during a lecture, having the baby crawl around without someone supervising is impacting more people than just the professor and her child.

  11. Deborah says:

    I have turned up to teach my classes while shaking with a fever, when I have had no voice left, and when I was eight months pregnant with twins and getting contractions every time I stood up (I sat down to deliver those lectures). There is extraordinary pressure to never, ever cancel classes. I think you really underestimate this pressure.

    In my experience, students don’t forgive you if you cancel a class, no matter how good the reason. In the enormously difficult US tenure system, I think Prof Pine would have suffered badly if she cancelled the class.

    I have never had to take a baby to class, but I have had my six year old daughters there, suitably occupied with books and crayons and paper and so on. Just gotta be done sometimes.

    To me, this is yet more of the narrative that says that work and family must be kept rigidly separate. It turns workers into machines who are required to deliver specified outputs, instead of treating workers as people who have whole lives of which work is only a part.

    And yet again, it says that you had better not be a parent in public, or even worse, a mother in public. It’s yet more anti-women rhetoric.

    I think Prof. Pine did exactly the right thing in trying to manage all the competing responsibilities she has.

    • DP says:

      I definitely forgave professors who cancelled classes. By getting drunk. Is this not SOP for students? I mean, c’mon…

      • EG says:

        Depends where you teach. When you are at a public university whose students are working two jobs to pay for their tuition, then, no, every single class counts for them.

      • DP says:

        Having lived in close proximity to UMass Amherst – those kids party HARD when class is canceled.

        Just because you’re poor and struggling to pay for class doesn’t mean you’re excited about every one – especially requirements. Being poor doesn’t make you virtuous.

      • DP says:

        Having lived in close proximity to UMass Amherst – those kids party HARD when class is canceled.

        Just because you’re poor and struggling to pay for class doesn’t mean you’re excited about every one – especially requirements. Being poor doesn’t make you virtuous.

      • EG says:

        You live near UMass-Amherst? Congratulations. I teach at a public university and a significant percentage of my students are not kids. When my students find that class is cancelled, it means that they found childcare, drove to campus or paid for public transport, paid for parking for nothing. They’re not big fans.

    • Azalea says:

      I think the issue here is the pressure to not cancel class (and perhaps give your notes to the TA to deliver the lecture in your stead) as opposed to bringing a child who desperately needs and vocally demands your full attention at work..while lecturing no less.

  12. Amelia the lurker says:

    Since there was a TA there who seemed willing to hold the baby at times, why couldn’t the TA babysit in a separate room? I feel like that was the most valuable service (s)he could have rendered.

    • Esti says:

      Presumably Professor Pine didn’t want to enlist her TA to provide babysitting services, which is definitely not the job the TA signed up for? And depending on how she structures her classes, it may well be necessary for the TA to be present during them.

      • Bagelsan says:

        She did enlist the TA, though, as it ended up.

      • Esti says:

        To be fair to the professor, she said that she specifically told the TA that she didn’t want to make her babysit because that wasn’t the TA’s job, but the TA insisted on holding the child.

        That being said, while I appreciate that the professor didn’t want to impose babysitting duties on her TA, that ended up being the result — because really, how many people are going to sit there and watch their boss’ baby crawl around a classroom while their boss periodically interrupts her lecture to rescue the baby from something potentially dangerous? I think regardless whether the TA really wanted to hold a baby during class (and maybe she legitimately had no problem with doing so!), the circumstances kind of forced her to do so. Which is one more reason why letting a baby crawl around the classroom while you lecture is not okay.

      • Jadey says:

        TAs are also usually students, even if they are grad students not undergraduate students, and they sign contracts outlining their specific duties. TAing is meant to be of personal/academic benefit to them as well as a source of labour for the department, and a prof could get in serious trouble if they were perceived as using their status to pressure a TA into taking on an inappropriate task, which babysitting would likely be seen as.

        Universities have very complex and rigid organizational structures, defined by both the university’s interests and union interests. There is very little flexibility. I did not understand this as a student until I had the opportunity to sit in on some department meetings and see just how many flaming hoops were being navigated for the simplest of concessions. I think perhaps many people do not realize just how many constraints professors operate under – I know that I barely have an inkling.

      • LMM says:

        she said that she specifically told the TA that she didn’t want to make her babysit because that wasn’t the TA’s job, but the TA insisted on holding the child.

        The way she constructed that sentence really suggests to me that we’re dealing with at least a partially unreliable narrator. She told the TA that it wasn’t her job, but the TA did it anyway? I suspect the TA did it once she realized the baby was headed for the light socket or something similar.

    • chava says:

      making the TA babysit=not okay.

      I don’t really have a problem with it if the TA or students offer to help, though. Plenty of people enjoy getting to hold a cuddly baby for a few minutes, as long as they don’t feel obligated.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Did the “volunteers” know the baby was sick? I’d pass on that, no matter how cuddly the germball baby.

      • chava says:

        Can I just say that as someone who is probably going on the market next year, AND just had a baby, this entire discussion is making me want to bury my head in the sand and just dissertate forever.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        She didn’t “make” the TA babysit. She specifically asked the TA NOT to babysit. The TA helf the baby anyway.

      • Bagelsan says:

        You’re joking right? The power imbalance probably made the TA feel obliged to babysit regardless of what Pine professes to have said.

    • Amelia the lurker says:

      Just to be clear, I understand why it would have been inappropriate to ask the TA to babysit. My point, however, is that since the TA seemed to be doing some of that in spite of Pine’s desire not to impose such a duty on him/her, I feel like there should have been a more explicit delegation of babysitting duty to the TA at that point.

      • Treebeard says:

        I’ve done TAing. Its part of my education and work experience. If I volunteer to hold a professor’s baby (because I like babies, or whatever), that does not open me up to being banished from the room where the education and work experience is going on so that I can solely babysit in another room. If someone at a party wants to hold your baby, do you take that as an opportunity to ask them to babysit in the other room and not come back till the party is over?

  13. ellestar6 says:

    I work as a part-time professor (not tenured), so I have some perspective on this.

    I see the student-teacher relationship as being two-sided in terms of respect. I listen attentively to students in class and I expect them to listen to me as well. Also, I don’t have a problem with students who need to bring their children to class as long as they aren’t a distraction to other students. I have seen some very well behaved children during my lectures (though I did feel as though I had to censor myself in terms of describing certain issues in prison society, which was one topic).

    I can’t imagine that I would have a problem with a student who breast fed during class, though, as I’m not a mother, I don’t know if I would feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of a class during a lecture. I don’t think it would be disrespectful. I work very hard on how the students perceive me, though, and I don’t think I could maintain that particular perception and breastfeed in front of class.

    However, and this may just be a part of the university systems I’ve been in and the fact I’m not tenure-tracked yet, but I’ve never felt any pressure from anyone about not cancelling lectures. As long as the students learn the material by the end of class, people in my department are happy. I even build in “catch up” days in case I’m sick that, in turn, become “mental health days” to take off from class if I don’t need them.

    Despite not feeling outside pressure, I do feel a lot of internal pressure to do everything I can for students. I missed a family member’s funeral last year (in part) because I didn’t want to miss the first day of lecture.

    So I can understand where the professor is coming from, but I can also see that there were a number of options for the professor that didn’t include breastfeeding in front of a class. I don’t necessarily think she picked the wrong option, but I can see that it was unusual and probably not something I would have chosen for myself.

    • Treebeard says:

      Interesting – did you censor yourself? That seems like potentially a big issue in certain courses.

      • ellestar6 says:

        I used academic vocabulary as euphemisms. So I did censor myself, but still talked about the topic fully.

        The kid (around 5 years old) wasn’t even close to listening, anyway.

  14. Fat Steve says:

    Like Jill, I find the breastfeeding way less of an issue than everything else the article describes going on during that class. I would absolutely find it hard to follow a lecture while an infant crawled around the floor, especially when the lecture had to be interrupted to rescue the baby from putting a paper clip in her mouth and getting too close to a socket.

    Actually, I see the issue here as her dismissive treatment of the young female journalist who Pine is immediately dismissive of. She expects her to be satisfied with ‘end of story.’ A student who wants to be investigative journalist is just going to accept when an authority figure tells her to kill a story. She could very easily have explained herself, and in doing so, done something positive for her position. Instead she subjected this young woman to the most horrendous ‘how dare YOU ask these questions of ME?’ attitude.

    I’m fine with her breastfeeding, I’m fine with her bringing her kid to class. I’m not fine with her superior attitude toward the young journalist, because if she bothered trying to understand where the young woman was coming from rather than being offended at her mere presence, quite possibly she could have taught her something. And isn’t that what teachers are for?

    • Lauren says:

      She made repeated attempts to get the the bottom of what the “story” was and what the newspaper’s angle was, and they were not forthcoming. I don’t blame her for her irritation.

      • Fat Steve says:

        She made repeated attempts to get the the bottom of what the “story” was and what the newspaper’s angle was, and they were not forthcoming. I don’t blame her for her irritation.

        Whether the story is ‘Hedonistic Professor Bares Her Boob’ or ‘Prudish Overly Sensitive Students Take Offense at Feeding Baby’ is entirely a matter for the journalist and Professor Pine should not have tried to kill the story because of what she assumed the angle would be.

        Professor breastfeeding in class- not newsworthy. Professor suppressing news of her breast-feeding in class- newsworthy.

      • Lolagirl says:

        The reality that the questioner was a student journalist does make a difference here. She’s still learning about journalism and how to do the job correctly (and what doing it incorrectly entails as well.) A professor pointing out that her trying to turn a non-controversy into some sort of breastfeeders gone wild expose was ignorant and sexist, as well as having the potential to damage this professor’s reputation and professional standing was perfectly valid.

      • Fat Steve says:

        The reality that the questioner was a student journalist does make a difference here. She’s still learning about journalism and how to do the job correctly (and what doing it incorrectly entails as well.) A professor pointing out that her trying to turn a non-controversy into some sort of breastfeeders gone wild expose was ignorant and sexist, as well as having the potential to damage this professor’s reputation and professional standing was perfectly valid.

        It’s not perfectly valid that breastfeeding should damage a professor’s reputation and professional standing. Where do you see these ‘breastfeeders gone wild’ articles? You are making even more assumptions than Prof. Pine.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Pine herself seemed to think that the intention of the student journalist was to turn the article into a negative article about her. Putting a negative spin on her bringing her child to class (then having the temerity to breastfeed her) and then running with it in the school paper article could certainly impact Pine’s career and reputation.

        I’m going to pull the male privilege card on you at this point, Steve. If you don’t think that a woman can still have shit rained down on her for breastfeeding in public you are either delusional or seriously kidding yourself.

      • Lauren says:

        Where do you see these ‘breastfeeders gone wild’ articles?

        Uh, they’re all over the place. Look, I’m the last thing from a lactivist, and I will concede they are actually pretty common. If you pay any attention to baby feeding politics, you see them at least weekly.

      • robotile says:

        Having a reluctant source is the best training for a student journalist. Was Dr. Pine being a jerk? Yeah, especially given that the email was framed as an opportunity for the professor to tell her side of the story. But that’s the point of journalism–you are not always telling happy sunshiny stories. A lot of the time, your sources are reluctant to speak with you and/or try to alter the framing of your story.

  15. Bagelsan says:

    There are some jobs where one just can’t bring a baby; unless future me will be allowed to breastfeed a sick child in the middle of prepping a patient for surgery? “Could you just hold her for a sec while I intubate you? Thanks awfully!” :p

    I don’t know if teaching a class falls into the not-baby-appropriate job category for everyone, but it does for me. You’re busy with stuff that doesn’t pick-up/put-down easily, unless you’re cool with a constantly interrupted class that may have to cancel on account of unstoppable screaming.

    • chava says:

      it really depends on the baby. if you have one of the infants that sleeps all the time, or sleeps when carried, it really isn’t a big deal. if you’ve got a colicky screamer—yeah, not going to go so well.

      • Sarah says:

        Totally agree. Depends on job, obviously, and depends on the baby. I could NEVER have brought my first child to work with me. He is loud and fast as hell. My second baby? Sure. Even when she crawled around she was kind of lackadaisical about it and she was not much of a crier. I think this was a judgment call and Prof. Pine thought her baby was the sort that could handle a first class/syllabus run through. Lots of jobs where you couldn’t do the same thing. I think even teaching a younger group of students would fall into that “cannot do” group. I would just think that undergraduate students in a fem anthro class would be able to handle it for the first class, but I guess some of them disagree.

    • Bagelsan says:

      There are a ton of jobs that wouldn’t accommodate a child, actually, unless a separate daycare area were set up. Can’t sit a kid on a free gurney in the ER, can’t just pop a booster seat in the back of your patrol car, can’t constantly bat a baby away from the deepfryer, can’t strap a toddler to your mailbag or tuck them into the wheeled laundry bin while you clean rooms…

      I agree that work/life balance is a mess in the USA, but I think that there are genuinely insurmountable obstacles to bringing children to many types of jobs; even if the culture were all about baby-integration, babies don’t practically integrate well into many environments. Daycare/separate childcare is kind of the only option for many workers.

      • chava says:

        actually, I spent large chunks of my childhood sleeping on gurneys outside the ICU/in the surgeon’s lounge and in restaurant booths at nightclubs. Single parents end up having to do that sort of shit more often than you’d think.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Sorry, I’m unclear; your parent was both a surgeon and worked at a nightclub?

      • EG says:

        I’m going to go ahead and guess that she has two parents and spent time with each of them.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        I’m going with the surgeon-parent desperately needing to tie one on now and then.

      • chava says:

        Haha. One parent was a full-time musician. The other parent was no, not a surgeon, but a cardiac scrub nurse. They lived on opposite coasts, and neither of them lived near family.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Okay, that makes more sense. :p

  16. Aunti Disestablishmentarian says:

    Canceling the first lecture may mean that students shop for other classes and drop yours. Ultimately, this could impact a professor’s standing.

  17. Lolagirl says:

    When you really get into the meat of this story, it is ultimately the breastfeeding of Pine’s baby about which this student journalist was trying to make a controversy. All of the other dissecting of her possible lack of professionalism for bringing the baby to class is pretty much besides the point. The student’s repeated use of the term “the incident” belies any intention of hers to make a fair and balanced article about Prof. Pine, her work, or her class.

    Furthermore, all of this couching of why one wouldn’t otherwise take issue with breastfeeding in public, except this shiny little exception because it would make me uncomfortable personally just doesn’t hold water. Why is it an exception, and why does it make you uncomfortable? If even a tiny little bit of the reasoning, even on a knee jerk level, has to do with the reality that a baby has a nipple in her mouth? Then no, that’s still sexism in action.

    • Fat Steve says:

      When you really get into the meat of this story, it is ultimately the breastfeeding of Pine’s baby about which this student journalist was trying to make a controversy. All of the other dissecting of her possible lack of professionalism for bringing the baby to class is pretty much besides the point. The student’s repeated use of the term “the incident” belies any intention of hers to make a fair and balanced article about Prof. Pine, her work, or her class.

      Prof. Pine’s friend advised her before the class:
      “Just take her to class. You’re a working parent. Your students won’t care. It’ll be a teachable moment.”

      All of a sudden something which was described as a potential ‘teachable moment’ is now different when it’s described as an ‘incident’? So maybe an 18 year old journalism student isn’t as sophisticated as some of us and deserves a ‘teachable moment,’ one which doesn’t teach her that if you write an article an authority doesn’t like, they will spike it,

      • Lolagirl says:

        You bet your bottom dollar it’s different when a teachable moment is instead turned into some sort of scandalous incident (with full on scare quotes.)

        Teachable moment? Seeing Anthropological Feminism in action with a woman teacher who is also a working mother, breastfeeding her baby in public without a mass pulling out of the fainting couches.

        Incident? Students going all, eewww bewbies! and getting disturbed and calling their parents and friends and thinking it’s suitable to turn it all into the biggest drama of the semester.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Incident? Students going all, eewww bewbies! and getting disturbed and calling their parents and friends and thinking it’s suitable to turn it all into the biggest drama of the semester.

        I agree. Which is why trying to kill the story was wrong, because it silences the entire argument. Let’s acknowledge that Prof Pine had done nothing to be ashamed of, and the true story is the overreaction of certain students, that still does not excuse her trying to kill the story. I would understand if she asked to read it first and had the opportunity to respond, but if this prejudice exists, why not expose it?

      • Lolagirl says:

        We seem to be having a bifurcated debate at this point, but I disagree with you that it’s so simple as assuming that it would all shake out just fine in the end for Pine.

        The problem is that in much of our USian society breastfeeding is still seen as a gross, perverted act. Feminism should be dragging it out into the light of day and we as a society should all just get over ourselves about it already. But lots of people haven’t, and in the meanwhile Pine was perfectly reasonable in freaking out that students, their parents, faculty and even the local community wouldn’t have turned against her and really jammed her up for a long time because of something that should have been seen as innocuous and reasonable.

  18. pedestrian says:

    Professor here. I really don’t get the freakout over this. I also wonder about the fact that I haven’t read anything suggesting that her students themselves were unhappy about what happened. Other thoughts:
    1. Cancelling class is a Really. Big. Deal. I have my course carefully structured to cover all the concepts that I need to cover, in the depth that they need to be covered, in a logical sequence so that they build on each other. It fits together over the allotted time during the semester in a fairly precise way. Cancelling a class means, simply, that students don’t get some of the content they should. Do people really want a slightly distracted prof delivering content, or to just not learn that content at all?
    2. My class is entirely designed, built, and delivered by me. There is no one who can substitute adequately. No one else knows the lecture I planned to deliver (they are mostly unscripted), the activities and their sequence, and the ideas from last class that we need to reinforce again because people are struggling with them, and the way that I planned to teach that class so it fits into the larger conceptual arc of the semester.There is no sub to take my place.
    3. Cancelling class will make my students, my colleagues, and my boss annoyed. Mostly my students. They’re paying for that learning, and in most cases taking time off of work and leaving their own kids in childcare.
    4. Asking my TA to provide childcare would be inappropriate and exploitative.

    • Asking my TA to provide childcare would be inappropriate and exploitative.

      Yes, it would, but on the other hand, the TA was providing childcare ANYWAY in this case, by holding the baby (and presumably cuddling/petting/rocking and whatever else the baby needed to be calm) while the prof lectured. So, you know, that argument works in theory and falls utterly down in practice. As a student, I’d infinitely prefer the TA was in another room with the baby. As a (step)parent I’d be happier knowing the baby, already in fragile health, wasn’t in a room with 100 possibly sick adults. From a teacher’s perspective, my attitude would be: look, I’m going to wind up enlisting the TA anyway, might as well ask him/her if they’re okay with taking care of it for the entirety of the class, OR taking the class while I take care of the baby, should the health situation become an emergency. Which is a thing that the term “teaching assistant” implies, you know, assistance with the teaching thing. It’s not rocket surgery. So while I agree with your actual comment, I don’t think that she was behaving half as ethically as you describe your own thought process, and so shouldn’t be given the consideration I’d give you personally.

      • chava says:

        Eh. I don’t know–I think the politics of asking a female TA to babysit are…difficult.

        I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it, but I think it should come with some sort of commensurate academic privilege–you get to do a special lecture, you get some extra cash, etc. TA’s get paid less than nothing and you’re supposed to treat them like apprentices, not dogsbodies.

      • Oh, my point was that asking the TA to do it at all (which the professor either did, or passive-aggressived the TA into having to do, by leaving the baby free to move) is already prohibitively unethical, so at that point making a BFD about how having her formally, with pay, babysit would be wrong would be incredibly disingenuous on Pine’s part.

      • Jadey says:

        Actually, it would be a fairly egregious breach of contract to ask a TA to do such a thing, so any butt-covering whatsoever might be the difference between a reprimand and getting fired. In those moments, you want to hang on to any toehold you have.

    • Matt says:

      You guys must work at some really hardcore elite universities.

      At community college my English professor cancelled constantly. Funerals, sick days, weddings.

      My math teacher was the head of the department and he also cancelled frequently.

      When I was at Mizzou many of my professors also cancelled quite a bit. TAs frequently gave the lecture as well.

      • EG says:

        Quite the contrary, actually. It’s in my union contract. I believe I can cancel one class per course per semester in the event of illness (I’ve used this once, when I lost my voice).

      • nilbogboh says:

        I’ve taught at 4 different universities and it was only a big deal to cancel class at one of them (mostly because of the union rules). I just started my first tenure-track job though, so things might be very different from here on out. I’m not denying that it is a big deal at some schools however.

        I never cancel class without a good reason and I’ve only ever taught at universities with large first-generation working-class populations. I would love it if most of my students were upset when professors cancel class because they are missing out on the learning experience that they are paying for, but in my experience most of them celebrate the occasional unexpected free class period.

        Also, just of out curiosity at institutions where cancelling class is a huge deal, is that true for planned absences (for a conference or something) or only for unexpected occurrences?

      • EG says:

        I’m not supposed to cancel class for conference attendance come hell or high water. My chair was…shocked when I asked.

      • chava says:

        I’ve taught several times for professors out at a conference. SOP at the big northeastern universities, I think. It’s nice, you get the bullet on your teaching cv and the professor gets a sub for his or her lecture.

      • EG says:

        I paid the grad student last year–the department won’t. Another reason I’m always in the red.

      • nilbogboh says:

        I’m baffled that you’re not allowed to cancel class for a conference. I understand encouraging you to find a substitute but that’s not always easy to do (especially at schools without a grad program in your field). One school where I worked would pay for the sub if you were going to a conference. Another expected me to pay for subs, but then again they also encouraged us to put a paragraph in our syllabi explaining how we would notify students if we had to cancel class!

  19. chava says:

    Meh. The alternative was no lecture at all, or having the TA give the lecture (not a bad solution). Students should be able to understand that life sometimes happens, and sometimes it impinges on work. Also, sick students come to my classes *all the time.* Blame the American workaholic culture for that one.

    Anyway, my husband carts the baby to almost all of his meetings with advisors, undergrads, etc. He gets a shocking amount of leeway and offers to babysit that I, frankly, don’t. It’s cute and sweet when he does it, and “unprofessional” when I do. So I’m calling BS on this not being a Gendered Thing–particularly as the whole news story was about the breastfeeding, not the bringing-infant-to-class thing.

    • Bagelsan says:

      I would hate it if your husband* showed up with an unexpected baby to meet with me, honestly. If we were meeting specifically to coo at the baby, sure, but if we were meeting professionally? I like kids but there is a time and a place, and a work meeting isn’t it.

      *not your husband in a personal way. I’m sure he’s lovely. ;p

      • chava says:

        Oh, it’s not unexpected baby, they know he’s bring the kid. I’m sure there are people who mind (most people seem to genuinely not care), but honestly, they can either pay us a fair wage so we can afford a sitter or stfu.

        Someone else upthread mentioned the professor-ly habit of bringing one’s puppy to meetings. I see that alllll the time, and it gives me zero patience for “time and a place!” arguments.

      • Andie says:

        People at my workplace used to bring their dogs in all the time.. So I usually felt justified on the rare occasion my school-aged kids had to hang out there for a bit after school.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Okay, I call bullshit on “most” people not caring at all. Unless the baby is non-stop passed out then those undergrads and grad students are having to put up with a one-on-one that is focused at least partly on a third party. I wouldn’t say it to his face (he is basically their boss) but it would annoy the crap out of me.

      • chava says:

        He IS a grad student, so the power dynamics are a bit different. And you can call bullshit all you like, but people will actually *ask* him to bring the baby to meetings quite a bit. The professors explicitly said they don’t care. It’s a fairly family friendly department.

      • Ruchama says:

        I’ve seen this work well, and not so well. One of my colleagues sometimes had to bring her preschool-age daughter into her office during office hours. When she had to do this, she’d bring some coloring books and other quiet toys, and if the daughter tried to get her attention while she was working with a student, she’d look up long enough to make sure it wasn’t an emergency, and then say, “I’ll talk to you when I’m done working with this student.” If the daughter was really in a mood that day and just wouldn’t cooperate with this, the mother would look around the department to see if there was anyone who had a few minutes free to play with her.

        My advisor, on the other hand, had a daughter about the same age who he’d bring in sometimes. There were quite a few meetings when I was working on my dissertation, when his daughter (who had no toys with her, and thus was drawing on the six inches or so of whiteboard that she could reach), would say, “Daddy, look what I drew!” and he would turn and look and ask her what it was and compliment her on it, and by the time he got back to me, he had completely lost his train of thought. That was irritating.

    • SWNC says:

      Anyway, my husband carts the baby to almost all of his meetings with advisors, undergrads, etc.

      That strikes me as quite unprofessional, honestly. An emergency is one thing, but when you don’t arrange childcare for regularly-scheduled work events, that’s not cool. When students come to my office for advising, they deserve my undivided attention.

      (And, no, I also don’t like it when professors bring their dogs to meetings.)

      • chava says:

        *shrug* See what I wrote above about the situation. In any case, my original point was that there’s a gender thing going on–people enjoy/request him to bring the baby, comment on how nice it is, etc. And, miracle of miracles, work still gets done. I have the distinct feeling that I wouldn’t be cut the same slack.

      • ARB says:

        I’m a grad student and my husband is a grad student. The combination of our stipends puts us in the low-income bracket. My university does not provide any childcare – my husband’s has childcare but it is expensive (for what we get paid) and there is a wait-list. The grad students at my university are not considered “workers” only students, and so we work without a contract. I have no maternity leave, nor any guaranteed vacation/sick/personal days – it is all up to the compassion of my adviser. I work in a lab where it would be unsafe for me to bring a child (I also have no office). My husband has an office, and works in safe spaces.

        We had intended on him bringing the baby with him to work. However since is so unprofessional, what do you think we should do instead?

      • SWNC says:

        If it was me, here are some options I’d look at: work out a baby-sitting co-op with other grad students. Hire an undergrad to babysit when your husband knows he’ll be meeting with students. Try to stagger your hours so that you can take care of the baby when your husband is regularly scheduled to meet with students. Deal with the fact that a certain number of students and co-workers are are going to find a baby at meetings on a regular basis unprofessional, especially when they’ve gone to the trouble and expense to make their own childcare arrangements. I’m not unsympathetic, but other working parents deal with this stuff all the time.

  20. Esti says:

    I didn’t realize the extent to which canceling class was frowned upon (I graduated not that long ago, and remember a fair number of my classes being canceled by different professors — though I don’t know how many of those already had tenure), but since that’s the case wouldn’t the more family-friendly and better accommodation be that the school provides some kind of emergency babysitting service on demand? If a professor had the option of calling up on an hour’s notice and having an on-call babysitter watch the child on campus during class, I think that would be win-win — the professor is able to get to class even when they have a sick child, the students get a lecture free from distractions, and the school doesn’t have to worry about classes being canceled or disrupted when a professor doesn’t feel comfortable bringing their sick child to class.

    I’m sure there would be issues setting up that kind of system, but at a big enough school I think it would be doable. There are probably a lot of students who have worked as babysitters before and would be happy to make some cash (a lot of my friends baby-sat for professors during grad school), and the school could create some kind of on-call system so that someone was guaranteed to be available if the need arose. And if parents were nervous about the school’s vetting of babysitters, they could meet in advance with the people signed up for the time slots during which they have classes, so that they would feel comfortable if they needed to use them in the future.

    • alynn says:

      I didn’t realize the extent to which canceling class was frowned upon (I graduated not that long ago, and remember a fair number of my classes being canceled by different professors — though I don’t know how many of those already had tenure)

      I’ve been confused by this point too. The two institutions that I attended certainly didn’t have problems letting professors cancel, and we (students) were all enraptured when they did. In fact, one of my former professors who canceled about 1/4 of our classes was granted tenure while I was a student. (It was deserved, she was a great teacher.) Given this experience, I was under the assumption that university faculty had more ability to take time off than other professions.

      Prof Pine is right that her breastfeeding shouldn’t be news, and in that way, I get that this was a shitty experience for her. But I’m not convinced that her judgement was correct in bringing her daughter in the first place.

      • EG says:

        The two institutions that I attended certainly didn’t have problems letting professors cancel, and we (students) were all enraptured when they did.

        How do you know, honestly? You don’t know what the chair is saying to the professors around the copy machine, and it’s good that your professor got tenure…but perhaps it’s the paradigm-shifting book she wrote and the fact that nobody disliked her. Because cancelling that many classes could and would have been used by anybody who had it in for her.

  21. Seriously, this woman thought bringing a baby with a compromised n immune system to a roomful of people, most of whom are at an age where superman complexes impede finding early healthcare (we’ve all been to college, don’t even bother disagreeing), who are likely to turn up to the first day of class even if they’re sick. And then she gets sniffy about her parenting choices being questioned? She’s got some guts.

    The breastfeeding was like the only part of this entire scenario that I didn’t find objectionable (hungry baby? feed baby. ffs). For the rest, there are professions – cubicle worker, IT specialist, bank teller, legal clerk – where having a baby behind the counter wouldn’t do any damage. Teaching – or medicine, or skyscraper window-washing – is not a profession where you can give your job your full attention, and keep your baby adequately cared for at the same time. Fuck, my mother’s taught or run an elementary school since before I was born, and when I was sick, she either stayed home or had my dad do it (yes, Virginia, there ARE male parents who can handle sickness!), even though she worked literally across the street from her house.

    • Lolagirl says:

      Pine is very clear that she is a single parent, and that her daycare provider wouldn’t take the baby because she was sick. She had not other childcare options available to her, and it sounds like cancelling class would have the potential to bring some negative consequences down on her. It was also the first day of class, so all she was really doing was going over the syllabus and doing an intro.

      Although it sounds like she got the lose/lose of the equation down anyway: cancel class bad, bring kid to class bad.

      Sucks for her either way.

      • It was also the first day of class, so all she was really doing was going over the syllabus and doing an intro.

        Yeah, also a point. It’s not like she’d have missed the final exam or the day with all the student presentations. If your TA’s too incompetent to outline your syllabus, wtf are they there for?

      • it sounds like cancelling class would have the potential to bring some negative consequences down on her

        Also, to address that: yes, having a TA teach the first day of class might result in a couple of students dropping it. You know the only thing that’ll make MORE students drop a class? Wondering if they can anticipate this sort of shenanigans (the surprise baby, the TA childcare enlistment, having to watch said surprise baby while it crawls all over the class and sticks stationery in its mouth, because the mother isn’t paying attention) for the entirety of the semester. I don’t give a shit about breastfeeding, it’s totally inoffensive to me. The rest of it puts my hackles up six feet high.

      • Jadey says:

        Okay, so this has been mentioned a few times, the idea of having the TA teach, and I just want to make some points:

        -not all profs do “just the syllabus” on the first day; not all institutions would let them get away with this and not all courses have the time allowance for it, so it may very well have been a full lecture

        -not all TAs are actually competent enough to deliver a lecture on a class in short notice. In my department, TAs are used primarily to mark papers and exams and half the time are 1st year MA students with no background in the specific course they have been assigned to. They are certainly smart enough to develop a lecture if given the time to do it, but not necessarily experienced enough to take the notes and run with it and asking them to do something like that might also constitute a breach of professional ethics.

        Obviously, this varies from school to school, department to department, course to course, TA to TA. Which is exactly why it isn’t reasonable to assume that this would be a solution in this particular case.

      • EG says:

        not all TAs are actually competent enough to deliver a lecture on a class in short notice.

        Word. Further, my notes are aides de memoire with page numbers attached–there’s no way somebody who’s not me could do a lecture from them, competent or not. And as a former TA, if a professor had called me a few hours before class and said hey, here are my notes, deliver the very first lecture of the semester, I would have freaked right the fuck out. Give me a germy baby any day.

      • number9 says:

        THAT. First day of class cancelled due to sickness? Eh, not like it’s the final. But those shenanigans? Baby crawling around on the floor while spreading germs everywhere and the TA babysitting instead of doing the job she was hired to do? Fuck that, I’d be out of there in a second.

      • robotile says:

        I think the key is that as a responsible parent, you set up back-up sick care in advance. I have a four-month old. We have a primary care plan, a backup care plan, and a backup-backup care plan. What that means, realistically, is that if the kid is sick and we can’t be home, we have at least two people to call who are okay with looking after her. Sure, it’s expensive, but unless your kid is sick frequently, you also budget for it.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Yeah; Pine seemed like she was surprised that her baby got sick inconveniently (oh no, what can she do??) But isn’t that kinda what babies do best? A professor should have been able to muster the forethought that maybe her kid would be sick someday when she had to teach, and planned for it.

    • EG says:

      Seriously, this woman thought bringing a baby with a compromised n immune system

      Oh, come on. The baby had a cold, not HIV. A one-year-old with a cold is not in danger from being in a classroom.

      And I can’t get too worked up about exposing the students to the cold either. They come in sick all the time and cough all over papers before handing them to me. People sneeze in the subway. That’s just what happens when you reach a certain population density: you end up in a room with a sick person.

      • Oh, come on. The baby had a cold, not HIV. A one-year-old with a cold is not in danger from being in a classroom.

        Either the disease is too serious to leave the child alone (so cancel class) or it’s a trivial issue (find alternative childcare). Pick one.

        It’s not like someone on a professor’s salary can’t afford a babysitter. And who the fuck doesn’t have backup childcare? *I* have three options available most days, and mine’s almost a teenager, for fuck’s sake, and well capable of taking care of herself with minor illnesses.

      • Jadey says:

        Wow, mac, I usually am with you on most topics, but we’re completely off on this one (except for breastfeeding being NBD).

        Professors usually take jobs where they can get them and may not have any existing social support network in whatever new city they end up in. It’s also hard to build that network on a professor’s timetable *especially* as a single parent of an infant. “Find alternative childcare” is just not that simple. Daycares won’t take a baby with even a “trivial” illness. Family may not be around. Friends may be limited to other busy faculty members.

        I mean, good for you that you have back-up options that you can access on short notice. I’m glad you do. But there are real reasons why this is not so easy for everyone.

      • IrishUp says:

        Also, I’m not sure if you are aware of how un-seriously-ill the criteria for barred from childcare can be.

        Of the private and institution-provided childcare I’ve worked with, it would be typical for the policy to involve the kid being free from ALL cold and/or flu symptoms for 24, and even 48hrs. If the kid yakked 12hrs ago, but is eating like a champ now? Still can’t go. Fever of 100.2 down from 103? Still can’t go. And agencies won’t send someone. So even having emergency daycare provided may not help.

        I have been in the situation of having to take a sick day for a kid who is well, just not able, to go to zir childcare. I’m just lucky enough to have the ability to take a sick day, and enough seniority in my position and career that it doesn’t get *me* in trouble. One of the administrative assistants or housekeeping here, OTOH, could find hirself with a pink-slip in hir personnel file as a result.

      • EG says:

        Either the disease is too serious to leave the child alone (so cancel class) or it’s a trivial issue (find alternative childcare).

        You can’t leave a baby alone no matter what it’s health status is, and I believe the point was that there wasn’t any alternative childcare.

        And yeah, you’re way off base on the ease of a professor’s lifestyle. We’re expected to drop everything and everybody and move out to whatever institution offers us a job (with a placement rate of 50% for newly-minted PhDs), whether or not we know anybody there. In my experience, if you have any student loans and/or any chronic meds, that salary gets eaten up pretty quickly.

      • Jadey says:

        I mean, good for you that you have back-up options that you can access on short notice. I’m glad you do. But there are real reasons why this is not so easy for everyone.

        Ugh, I re-read this, and I’m ashamed with myself. It was a shitty thing to say and to imply that you have it “easy” in any way. I apologize.

      • Also, I’m not sure if you are aware of how un-seriously-ill the criteria for barred from childcare can be.

        I’m exquisitely aware, believe me. Half the reason I can’t work is I’d be paying babysitting, and how arbitrary they are.

        And yeah, you’re way off base on the ease of a professor’s lifestyle.

        EG, I’m betting it’s easier than the lifestyle of an immigrant student and a retail worker, one of whom has those student loans and both of whom have those chronic medical conditions you mentioned. I’m going into massive debt to get an education, I’m not terribly impressed with the idea of spending the kind of money I am on being taught by a distracted parent with a fussy, sick child in the room. And I don’t even have the massive interest rates US students have to worry about. Backup childcare isn’t this massive Herculean task, it’s the kind of thing some of us have to have organised just to survive.

        Granted, I’m probably much quicker to look at this as a bad case of Cry Moar simply because I’m having to navigate the opposite side of this situation under difficult circumstances, as Jadey’s pointed out below, and I’ll step back the annoyance.

        It was a shitty thing to say and to imply that you have it “easy” in any way. I apologize.

        Jadey, that is seriously not a big deal. I got what you were saying once I tucked the knee-jerk away, and I put off replying until I could do that. No worries at all!

      • EG says:

        EG, I’m betting it’s easier than the lifestyle of an immigrant student and a retail worker, one of whom has those student loans and both of whom have those chronic medical conditions you mentioned. I’m going into massive debt to get an education, I’m not terribly impressed with the idea of spending the kind of money I am on being taught by a distracted parent with a fussy, sick child in the room. And I don’t even have the massive interest rates US students have to worry about. Backup childcare isn’t this massive Herculean task, it’s the kind of thing some of us have to have organised just to survive.

        Yes, I get all that. And if she were regularly bringing the kid into the classroom, I’d agree–find back-up child-care. But the fact that she couldn’t for one day does not strike me as some kind of massive falling-down on the job of parenting. Sometimes things fall through, and you wind up with a distracted professor, because she’s sick, or her kid’s sick, or his rent check bounced, or whatever, and half the time you never even know it. This is not like some endemic thing where professors are agitating for the right to bring babies to the classroom and depriving you of their focus. This is something that happened once.

        I understand that professors make more money than retail workers. But too many people think professors are pulling down six figures, and it’s just not so. Most of us are living paycheck to paycheck, and not because we’re frittering it all away on perfume or something, but because, oh, we’re expected to go to international conferences as part of our jobs but we don’t have dependable travel funding, or we need books and don’t have a research budget and suchlike.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Oh, come on. The baby had a cold, not HIV. A one-year-old with a cold is not in danger from being in a classroom.

        I know you didn’t mean anything by this, but I should point out that the common cold is a lot more contagious than HIV.

      • Bagelsan says:

        I believe that the HIV reference was to “immune compromised” not to “contagious.”

      • Fat Steve says:

        True, I linked the two paragraphs in my head and probably read something that wasn’t there.

    • z says:

      we’ve all been to college

      No…

      • Fair enough, and a rookie mistake considering I’m about eight years “late”, so to speak, to college myself. I meant to say that anyone going to college has seen students ignoring their health, particularly in the first/last week of classes, because they can’t afford to skip, and because they think they can “handle it”, whatever it is.

      • z says:

        *nod* That I completely agree with. I think your point was solid, it’s just that your rhetoric accidentally made a false assumption.

    • Marissa123 says:

      “-not all TAs are actually competent enough to deliver a lecture on a class in short notice.”

      Woa! Insulting much? I hate to break this to you but, as a TA, and as someone who has prepared and given many lectures, you NO ONE can just pick it up from another scholar’s notes on short notice. This isn’t a matter of competence, but a matter of days, if not weeks in some cases, of work put into each and every lecture upon years of study and individualized specialization. WTF?

      • Lolagirl says:

        Doesn’t a lot of this vary depending on the size of the educational institution anyway? I understand that at large universities, especially the public ones with tens of thousands of students TAs do a whole lot more than grading tests and helping out students. But AU has somewhere around 6 thousand undergrads. What is the likelihood that Pine’s TA would have been able to run with teaching her class for her that day?

        I personally attended a small liberal arts college with fifteen hundred or so students. TAs were kind of rare in the classrooms and were pretty much used sort of as glorified support staff for profs. This whole discussion of TAs taking over and teaching a class is totally foreign to me.

      • Marissa123 says:

        Even if there is a TA available, since not all universities rely on them (I do a heavy amount of teaching as a TA personally), it would be impossible for the TA to just take the lecture last minute. Most people write their notes in chicken scratch of sorts or incomplete points, and the material is, or should be, FAR too complex and specialized for anyone at all to just pick up and teach.

      • Jadey says:

        I am also a TA (well, not this term, but I do TA). By “competent” I did not mean “smart” or “generally capable”, I meant having enough knowledge in that particular subject area to be able to wing a lecture. And basically almost no one can do that unless they’ve taught it many times before. It wasn’t a slam against TAs – we are just using the word “competent” differently. I am talking domain-specific competency.

      • human says:

        A better way to put it, I think, is that it would be a completely unreasonable expectation for the TA to take over the class.

      • Treebeard says:

        Depends on the subject. A class like feminist anthropology is probably based a lot around the professor’s own research and probably no one else is prepared to give the lecture the way she would. On the other hand, a class like Calculus or Intro Physics is a fairly standard subject taught out of a textbook the same way each semester by different professors, and at least some TAs would have TA’d that exact same class before and be capable of giving the lecture. They still wouldn’t appreciate the short notice, though.

  22. Pingback: Mothers and the Media | Us, Women

  23. DP says:

    I’ll never fully understand the sentiment that, because canceling class and bringing the baby to class both have negative consequences, something is deeply wrong and must be fixed. Sometimes in life you are stuck choosing between two shitty choices. Especially when you volunteer to introduce a new and helpless lifeform into the world.

    I think it’s a peculiarly American obsession that you should never have to choose something that is detrimental to you. You have a small child, no partner and an (understandably concerned) childcare provider. You are going to have to choose between depriving your students of a focused lecture, any lecture at all, or your baby’s comfort/health.

    That’s just life! There isn’t always a good choice. Personally, I would have gone with ‘hire a babysitter.’ But professors are broke, so…I dunno.

    Having a baby in class would probably not completely distract me, but I doubt I’d remember much else. Nothing useful ever gets done on Day One, though, even with the most well-intentioned teacher.

    • Personally, I would have gone with ‘hire a babysitter.’ But professors are broke, so…I dunno.

      Honestly, you know what annoys me? I’m a full-time student, my wife works retail. And yet I couldn’t use “I’m broke” as an excuse to bring my (healthy, quiet) 11yo child to class, let alone a sick, fussy baby. And I’m fairly certain we’re earning less than college professors, though, just saying.

      • Deborah says:

        In my first class each semester, I make it clear to my students that if they have caregiving responsibilities, then they are welcome to bring their children to class if necessary, provided that the children are able to sit quietly and won’t disturb the class.

        I also ask noisy students to be quiet so they don’t interrupt other people’s learning. There’s a standard of behaviour expected in a classroom, and all the people there are expected to meet it. Provided children can meet that standard, then just like anyone else, they are welcome to be in the classroom.

      • Tracey says:

        I think it is unfortunate such a school policy exists. At ones I’ve been too, including in grad class, there has been no problem with parents bringing their toddlers or older to class. The kid sat and colored and if they grew fussy the parent took them out.
        And I see no problem with bringing in a baby either. The only thing that concerns me is deliberately introducing a sick person to the environment. However, if the school gives sick days such that this situation exists that is a problem and if the school frowns that much on canceling classes that is a problem. Again, at schools I have gone too the professor would have called the department and a TA would have reviewed the syllabus or been sent in to tell us class was cancelled.

      • Angel H. says:

        That’s another thing: The college I went to explicitly states in the manual and in every syllabus for every class I’ve ever attended, that students are not allowed to bring their children to class. I wonder how this would’ve went down if the roles were reversed.

      • Jadey says:

        Okay, with this comment I think I can see better where you are coming from.

        Personally, I think students who are facing the same conflict as Pine did have as much right if not more (given that they are paying rather than being paid) to make the same decision she did. I think any statement to the contrary would be incredibly hypocritical.

        But I still disagree with where you are directing your ire. You seem to be more angry with Pine herself than the circumstances that screw you both over (you more than her, again – paying versus paid), unless I missed something and Pine has come out against students bringing kids to class.

      • I’m not angry with Pine herself as much as the fact that the situation’s becoming about “you’re persecuting her because she breastfed!” when a) there’s about sixty things wrong with the situation that have nothing to do with BOOBIES and b) I don’t even give a shit about the boobies. I think that having a completely distracted professor – and I don’t care what anyone says, a halfway decent parent with a young, sick child is going to be hopelessly distracted – is not what I’m paying through the nose for. I’d rather have an honest cancellation than a professor with a fussy baby mucking with my concentration; at least then I could study at home, rather than waste my time in class. And the “circumstances” are bullshit. Unless she arrived in town two days before the start of term, that’s long enough to scope out a daycare and emergency care. And if it isn’t, well, I’m sorry, but she didn’t exactly find that baby in a hamper two days ago. She can damn well have been prepared. Or taken a day off, for fuck’s sake, she’s a professor. If I (or the scores of single mother students I know) can manage it, then yeah.

        Also, what would she have done if she was, say, a doctor instead of a professor? “Oops, sorry my baby yanked out that IV line, isn’t he cute though? haha lol! Look at his adorbz drool!”

        (And frankly I think anyone making a fuss about boobs in a classroom in a feeding context is full of shit. Statistically, half the class likes boobies and can stfu, probably more than half the class HAS boobies (since the class is in the humanities and all) and should understand that they’re not necessarily sexual and the rest are still old enough to stop being immature little shits about perfectly normal biological functions. I wouldn’t care if, say, the student next to me were quietly feeding her baby, or even if it was chuckling/fussing a bit, as long as she was willing to leave if it got noisy.)

      • Deborah says:

        University / college courses are usually highly individualised, and unique to the person teaching them, in a way that medical care is not. So if a medical doctor is sick, there’s usually a colleague who can do an extra shift, and patients won’t even notice the difference. (Except of course in cases where one doctor in particular has been managing a case, but even then, another doctor can replace the IV tube, or whatever.) But when it comes to a university class, just simply slotting in another teacher doesn’t work, because the material that has been pprepared for that class will be unique. Yes, with a bit of prep time, someone else can step in and take a class, but it will almost certainly take a few hours to prepare. It is almost certainly the case that there literally was no one else who could take Prof. Pine’s class for her.

        The most stressful days in my life have been those times when a child has woken up ill, and I suddenly have to arrange extra childcare. Contrary to what some posters have said, it is not easy to arrange, and often not readily available, especially at just a few hours notice.

      • EG says:

        Also, what would she have done if she was, say, a doctor instead of a professor?

        Made a shitload more money, most likely.

      • EG says:

        And yet I couldn’t use “I’m broke” as an excuse to bring my (healthy, quiet) 11yo child to class, let alone a sick, fussy baby.

        You sure could in my class. I’ve had students bring their kids to class. Not a problem.

        Further, my college has a daycare program for the children of students. The children of faculty and staff are, however, not permitted to make use of it. So…I’m a little irritated as well.

      • I’m given to understand that some colleges/universities do that. In my case, not so much, alas. My kid was exactly 1 year over the cutoff age for the child care program in my first term. All the rage. (Because it’s not like parents of older kids ever go to university, right? Argh again.)

        Also, that majorly sucks that staff/faculty can’t use your daycare. My college allows that, afaik. D:

      • EG says:

        It’s weird, right?

        I’m very much in favor of daycare for students; it’s just a shame that the institutions that are most likely to have student-parents are the institutions with the least money to throw around. A shame, but not a coincidence. Damn you, systemic oppression.

      • Actually, I think it wanders over from “weird” to “objectionably sexist and oppressive” in the case of a college that actually HAS child care facilities, just not for someone who happens to work there. Particularly in the case of staff and faculty, who don’t have a goddamn choice about missing lectures. I mean, I can skip a lecture without the class derailing entirely; YOU can’t. The fuck is that policy about????

      • Uh, I just realised that comment didn’t come out right. I meant that students can skip a day wtihout general problems while teachers can’t, so denying teachers facilities students can use (particularly paid ones) seems doubly enraging to me.

      • EG says:

        No worries–I got what you meant! And I agree. I don’t want my students to miss class, of course–it’s not that I grudge them childcare. It’s that, well, I’d like it to be available to me in the future when, I hope, I will need it.

      • debbie says:

        That’s really too bad (genuinely – I’m not being snarky here!). Children have been explicitly welcome in my classes (I’m a law student). It happened twice last year, and in each case, professors and students went out of there way to be welcoming and accommodating. It gave me warm fuzzies.

    • I think it’s a peculiarly American obsession that you should never have to choose something that is detrimental to you. You have a small child, no partner and an (understandably concerned) childcare provider. You are going to have to choose between depriving your students of a focused lecture, any lecture at all, or your baby’s comfort/health.

      That’s just life!

      Hell to the yes.

    • SWNC says:

      Sometimes in life you are stuck choosing between two shitty choices.

      Well said.

      Personally, I would have gone with ‘hire a babysitter.’ But professors are broke, so…I dunno.

      Like I mentioned upthread, I’m a staff member at a college. I get paid much less than professors, but because my job requires me to be in the office from 8:00 until 5:00, I pay for full-time childcare. (And when my kid is sick, I or my spouse take a sick day, we don’t bring her to work.) I am not overwhelmed with sympathy for professors who might have to shell out $20 extra bucks for a couple hours of babysitting. That falls under the “shitty situation” category, not the “horrible tragedy” category.

      • EG says:

        I am not overwhelmed with sympathy for professors who might have to shell out $20 extra bucks for a couple hours of babysitting.

        This is going to depend strongly on where you live. When I was sitting, $20 would get you an hour or a bit more. Add in a commute, and you’ve got four hours, which comes to around $60. Maybe you toss that around like there’s no tomorrow. But it’s a chunk of cash to me.

      • SWNC says:

        That’s a fair point. I work at small liberal arts college in the South. Around here, it would be easy to find an undergrad who would be happy to watch your kid on campus for 8-10 bucks an hour.

        I get really frustrated with full time professors on my campus who poor-mouth it when I know damn well they make $20,000 a year more than I do (we don’t use lecturers or TAs), and that’s influencing my response to this story. I’m going to step back from this one for a bit.

  24. Azalea says:

    Who brings a sick fussy baby to work? Not just any workplace a SCHOOL where students are paying money they haven’t even earned yet with INTEREST to be there and you’re spending a significant portion of it tending to your child?! Seriously?!

    1) The professor was way out of line.
    2) The school should have a policy that prohibits a professor from brining a child. A student can leave the class to tend to their fussy child, a professor IS the class. EVERYONE stops learning while the professor makes attempts to quiet or care for a sick/fussy/crying child.
    3) WTF.

  25. Fat Steve says:

    The school should have a policy that prohibits a professor from brining a child

    Well, I’ll agree with that…we don’t want salty children.

  26. jemima101 says:

    After reading the comments, unions defending the rights to mandatory sick days might also be a good idea to consider in the States. IN Britain to be sacked because of the number of sick days you have taken id illegal as it discriminates against the less able bodied.

    • debbie says:

      The penalties I would be concerned with in this case aren’t so much getting fired, but not getting tenure or funding.

  27. Chataya says:

    Ugh, I hate it so much when people show up to work sick or bring their sick kids. Not just sniffles-and-cough sick, but running-a-100-degree-fever-and-wearing-a-mask* sick. My work place is a medical clinic, we have a generous benefits system so it’s not like they can’t afford to stay home or hire a babysitter. But no, they just bring their sick kids and let the nurses watch them even though they know there will be immuno-compromised patients around.

    *true story, she was admitted to the hospital the next day

    • Bagelsan says:

      That is ridiculous; that’s why hospitals often have signs up saying things like “if you have a cold or flu, DON’T visit!” Those assholes could damn well kill someone because a babysitter or a day off is such a hassle for someone pulling 6 figures.

      • Chataya says:

        It’s doubly enraging because at least two of the doctors that pull this shit have stay-at-home spouses. They share space with a rheumatologist, with roughly half of his daily patient base immuno-compromised (mostly RA and SLE related). And of course Precious can’t stay in the office away from the patients; the nurses have to babysit.

        I’ve come to the conclusion that they traded their common sense for medical degrees.

      • Tony says:

        Are people seriously saying that hospitals aren’t an appropriate place for sick people?

      • Bagelsan says:

        Not all parts of hospitals are appropriate for all sick people. Which should be pretty fucking obvious, unless you’ve never seen someone scrubbed up on TV or something. Babies aren’t super great at maintaining sterile technique.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Hard to believe, Tony, but one of the biggest problems in hospitals is infection control. Many patients sail through a hospital procedure only to contract a fatal infection afterward.

      • Tony says:

        Not all *parts* of hospitals, the key is *parts*. Hospitals themselves aren’t sterilized. They’re generally among the dirtiest public buildings you could go into, precisely because of all the sick people that come through. That’s why health care workers have to scrub and screen the objects that patients come into contact with. So it all depends on who is going where and what procedures are being followed. Relying on a general “only let clean/healthy people into the hospital” is unrealistic.

      • number9 says:

        The state I used to live in had an H1N1 outbreak. I had a pap smear/check-up appointment at a major teaching hospital and they had signs about not coming into work with symptoms posted everywhere. They didn’t deliver babies on that floor, but they did provide cancer treatments. Every area of a major hospital is likely to have immunocompromised patients. Hell, someone could just wonder into a wrong area by mistake, it’s a huge building. And it’s not like germs would just stay contained in the “safe” area of a hospital. So no, hospitals aren’t really a great place for sick people who don’t need hospital care.

    • Angel H. says:

      I can’t speak for your coworker, but as for me, I also have very good benefits, including paid sick leave. But because of budget cuts, most of us are doing the jobs of at least 3 people and everyone’s too busy with their own stuff to cover for anyone else. If I’m gone for even a few hours, it takes me a few days just to catch up. (You should my desk when I come back from the weekend!) To complicate things further, I’m homeless, and the shelter isn’t really conducive to healing.

      Sorry about the rant. It’s just that sometimes things are more complicated than “just stay at home”.

      • Marissa123 says:

        Very true, but as someone who is immune-compromised, even though I appear “healthy,” this is a big problem. I’m really sorry to hear about your situation with the shelter. I have no intention of saying anything argumentative about that and please don’t take this that way. But as someone with a compromised immune system, it’s also downright dangerous when I get sick and takes much much more time for me than the “normal” person to recover…. I understand your situation is horrible, but I ask of you and others in similar situations to please take immune compromised people, who often look normal and healthy, into consideration when weighing your options.

      • Marissa123 says:

        And I should add that I don’t get sick days…

      • Chataya says:

        I’d also like to point out that there is a huuuuge difference between a job like most people have where you don’t come into contact with immuno-compromised people all that often and a job like mine where you are guaranteed to. For my situation, I am very much on the side of stay the fuck home and don’t kill/severely sicken people.

  28. Eleanor says:

    It’s pretty disgusting if it was only the breastfeeding part of this story that caused a national uproar but I do have issues with the professor noting that her baby was distracting and disruptive to the class and not even considering that that may have been part of why this even became an issue.

    I’ll be paying off student loans for the next few decades, and I found myself frustrated when a professor’s personal business would interrupt/distract from the coursework and from the instructors attention, which clearly it did here. I know professors are human but so are students who are paying a lot of money to be in the room with that professor. And some of those students may have had to shell out their own money to pay for child care and to coordinate daycare and back-up sitters to be in that room that day.

    She notes in her response that she works at a family-friendly school which makes me wonder what options were available. I think if the baby had been a year older and able to sit quietly watching a movie or something equally unobtrusive, it may have been a different story entirely, even had breastfeeding been involved. Although I would like to know if students who are parents are able to bring sick kids with them to class?

    I say all of this as someone who grew up in a family of single-mothers who all had to work multiple jobs waiting tables, cleaning offices, working in daycares and working late nights in order to raise children and juggle childcare. I helped my sisters raise 5 kids and at times had to miss work and put my life on hold to do it. And when you are living day-to-day as many working-class single mothers are, missing work is nearly impossible but sometimes must be done. I resent a college professor who makes a hell of a lot more than a waitress or cleaning woman or many other jobs, thinking that the money her students are paying for tuition does not warrant them wanting a professor who is fully focused on their education for the few hours a week they have a class over the semester. I had my share of unfocused educators and if I was in that class, I would have been thinking about how many times someone I know had to miss work because of a sick child and lose that job because they did not have the luxury of working in a “family-friendly” place. I also would have thought about the amount of money I was paying to be distracted by the someone else’s child.

    All that said, I don’t really think this story needed to be national news.

    • EG says:

      a professor who is fully focused on their education for the few hours a week they have a class over the semester.

      As a side note, I loathe this rhetoric. Believe me, I’m working on your class even when you can’t see me doing it. I spend far more than just a “few” hours a week doing so.

      • Marissa123 says:

        For serious. I can’t believe people actually think we only work when we are performing our lectures in front of them. Or that we could just pick up someone’s lecture out of the blue. Seriously?! No wonder our education system is so greatly demeaned. Many people just don’t understand that university education means that the professors and TAs work every single day, evening, and weekends. I’ll just sit here and be floored for a good minute…

      • moviemaedchen says:

        Seconded. The people who think professors only work when in class and so don’t have a massive workload really, really get to me. Classtime is only the tip of the iceberg.

      • bleh says:

        No-one every assumes an MD is not working when they are not in surgery or that a lawyer is not working when not in front of a judge. But us professors only work a few hours a week. So friggin lazy…

      • Believe me, I’m working on your class even when you can’t see me doing it. I spend far more than just a “few” hours a week doing so.

        EG, FWIW, I think what she was going for is that you could have fifteen babies toddling around you while you grade my papers and it wouldn’t matter to me, because those babies wouldn’t be disrupting my education. It’s only the relatively few hours (relative to the total amount of work a professor does) you’re actually IN class, lecturing, in a group situation with your students, that a child’s presence has even the potential to mess with any of your students’ learning process.

      • Argh, that was supposed to be a reply to EG.

      • EG says:

        I hear that, but it just doesn’t jibe with my experience. I find it impossible to grade papers while taking care of my godson, unless he’s napping, and grading the paper is an integral part of the education, because part of what the student is learning is how to write a paper, and the typewritten paragraph of comments I give along with the marginalia is a major part of that…if I’m doing my job right, which I do try to do.

        Honestly, that takes far more concentration than running a class does. In some ways, running the class is the easiest part of teaching. Studying the text, prepping the lesson, grading the papers–all far more draining.

      • Oh, I totally hear you there, EG, I have like sixteen thousand teachers in my extended (and two in my immediate) family and I’ve done a lot of volunteer teaching, and all experiences and reports totally back you up there. Being in class is the only activity there that actually provides any kind of emotional/mental boost to the psyche; the rest is all nose-to-grindstone.

      • Marissa123 says:

        Grading papers is also the tip of the iceberg, much like the actual in-class time. In my field, every lecture requires large degrees of primary and secondary research, not to mention writing it up in a cohesive way. We _don’t_ lecture from the textbook. My lectures have taken weeks of preparation work per lecture. This is an extraordinarily time-consuming and intellectually challenging process. The idea that we could somehow do it with kids running around is… laughable at best.

    • Marissa123 says:

      “I resent a college professor who makes a hell of a lot more than a waitress or cleaning woman or many other jobs”

      This is only true some of the time. Lecturers for example, making up a HUGE proportion of many universities’ academic staffs, are often not giving benefits and paid well below poverty level. This is certainly true for my position as a TA and many undergrad students generally and wrongly assume TAs are paid a living wage at least.

      • nilbogboh says:

        Yep, and not to mention that most faculty are adjuncts getting paid sometimes as little as $1200 a class. (I certainly don’t intend this to sound like a professor pity-party. We are absolutely a privileged bunch in many ways)

      • Marissa123 says:

        Just to clarify your point, $1200 for the whole semester.

        For sure adjust faculty are privileged in quite a lot of ways, but if they can’t pay for basic needs like food and shelter and don’t have healthcare, this still counts as a severe injustice. It’s not like my advanced degrees will themselves somehow take care of my basic needs…

      • Marissa123 says:

        Just to clarify your point, $1200 for the whole semester.

        For sure adjust faculty are privileged in quite a lot of ways, but if they can’t pay for basic needs like food and shelter and don’t have healthcare, this still counts as a severe injustice. It’s not like my advanced degrees will themselves somehow take care of my basic needs…

      • Marissa123 says:

        Just to clarify your point, $1200 for the whole semester.

        For sure adjust faculty are privileged in quite a lot of ways, but if they can’t pay for basic needs like food and shelter and don’t have healthcare, this still counts as a severe injustice. It’s not like my advanced degrees will themselves somehow take care of my basic needs…

      • Marissa123 says:

        Just to clarify your point, $1200 for the whole semester.

        For sure adjust faculty are privileged in quite a lot of ways, but if they can’t pay for basic needs like food and shelter and don’t have healthcare, this still counts as a severe injustice. It’s not like my advanced degrees will themselves somehow take care of my basic needs…

      • Marissa123 says:

        Oops. Technical difficulties. Didn’t mean to post multiples. Argh.

  29. Megan says:

    I’m a working mom and have a lot of sympathy for this professor. A lot of the commenters here don’t have kids, so let me clue you in on what the reality of parenthood is.

    My total number of paid days off each year is 16. I use them for days when my kids don’t have school, have spring break, or if (god forbid) they get sick and can’t go to school. This is why we can never take more than a long weekend as vacation. And those 16 days are used up way before the end of the year.

    When your child is a baby, they are a LOT of work. If you think you can work from home or take a baby to work without someone else looking after him, you are delusional. Babies need attention and lots of it. They cry, they fuss, they want to be held, they need to be changed, fed, etc. Forget talking on the phone, concentrating on your work, or using the computer. Maybe you can do this for the 1 hour the baby naps, but don’t most of us work 8+ hour days?

    It’s even worse if you baby is sick. Now you can’t take him to day care because they don’t want your germy kid spreading his illness. You will find a babysitter if you are lucky, but since you were probably up all night with the baby, you will be a wreck. Then your exhaustion will affect your immune system and you’ll catch whatever the baby had. Hope you have some sick days left!

    Ever wonder why something like 1 in 4 women in this country are on anti-depressants?

    This is a feminist issue because it is affecting women, and the reason why it continues to be a problem is because it is affecting women. Let’s not forget that we live in a patriarchy. A culture that devalues women (I would argue a misogynistic culture) will ignore problems like these because they serve the very purpose of the patriarchy, which is to continue to oppress women.

    In a country with so many advances in medicine, science, the arts…why do we give up so easily when it comes to finding ways to better accomodate working women? Why do we reduce it to “we don’t have the money to pay for your daycare” or “we can’t afford to give you more time off”? We can think outside the box for everything else…why not this?

    • Bagelsan says:

      When your child is a baby, they are a LOT of work. If you think you can work from home or take a baby to work without someone else looking after him, you are delusional. Babies need attention and lots of it. They cry, they fuss, they want to be held, they need to be changed, fed, etc. Forget talking on the phone, concentrating on your work, or using the computer.

      So… are you saying she should not have brought the baby, because she would not have been able to work effectively with it there? Because many of us hooorrible childfree people agree with you. :p

  30. Kristen J. says:

    I wonder how many of her students would have complained if she had skyped the lecture from her office or otherwise lectured via video conference.

    • robotile says:

      This! An actual solution! Seriously, I’ve had Skype-ins with students for a lecture before, and it worked pretty well. And we routinely have conference call-ins. Maybe it wouldn’t be ideal, but it would have been better than germ exposure and distraction from crawling baby.

  31. Titfortat says:

    “But this story is interesting to me particularly because it illustrates how feminist ideals — supportive workplaces! balancing career and family! — butt up against the reality of many of our actual jobs.”

    Ah reality, sometimes at odds with ideals.

  32. EG says:

    Here’s what I think: shit happens sometimes, and you’re left with crappy options, and you pick one. Distracted teacher, no class, make a judgment call. Nobody’s going to be scarred for life by one session with a distracted teacher, and dropping a lesson sucks, but if her tenure isn’t at stake, it’ll be OK and the semester will roll on and be over soon enough. I say, who cares.

    • Kristen J. says:

      I sort of agree, but I think you’re dismissing as unimportant the institutional problem we have where people with communicable illness go to work and may cause real harm to people with compromised immune systems. We need a solution to both problems that isn’t conflicting. I’m not saying the prof is the worst person ever, or even that she chose wrongly, but her actions are part of a larger problem that has a disproportionate effect on already marginalized population. That institutional problem, rather than her specific actions, deserves some critique.

      • EG says:

        Sure, I’m on board. That would be a great conversation. I’m not immuno-compromised, but within the realm of non-immuno-compromised people, I get sick at the drop of a hat, and I’d love it if more people could stay home more often. Those institutional problems are significant ones. I just mean that I think that her choice, one way or the other, isn’t a big deal.

      • Kristen J. says:

        I guess…I’m objecting to the idea that its “no big deal”. For a person who might spend a few months coughing up blood, its a very, very big deal.

      • EG says:

        I understand that, but as has been mentioned elsewhere, sick people leave the house all the time, every day. I don’t see why Professor Pine is supposed to be so much more responsible for the welfare of immuno-compromised people than anybody on the subway if AU is a commuter school, or, if AU is a residential school, the girl down the hall using the same bathroom as you, or the cafeteria worker who can’t afford to take a sick day.

      • Kristen J. says:

        She’s not more responsible, she’s just as responsible. Doing all of those things puts other peoples health at risk. Blowing off that risk and the related harm is a problem.

      • EG says:

        I’m not sure that it is. It’s the kind of judgment call that we all make, every day, all the time–prioritizing the surety of a major pain in the ass to ourselves over the off-chance of a major pain in the ass to a hypothetical other. When it’s institutionalized so that it always shakes out one way, then I agree with you that it’s a problem. But when it’s about one given choice one individual makes within that institutionalized system, I think that it’s an example of a lose-lose situation, and not something to blow up into a big news story.

      • EG says:

        I mean, I have a cold, and I’m about to get on the subway right now, because I can’t stay home all day every day for a week while I get over it, in large part because I’d go stir crazy, it’s not the worst cold I’ve ever had, and I need to get shit done. And there could be an immuno-compromised person on the subway, and that would be awful for them. But I can’t afford my own car, and that’s the least practical way of getting around the city anyway. So that sucks for the immuno-compromised person who may or may not hold onto the pole after me. But does that make my decision to leave the house a big deal? Or just a normal part of life?

      • Kristen J. says:

        I agree to an extent…as I said, I don’t think she necessarily made the wrong choice, but blowing off the consequences of her choice as “part of life” further entrenches the point of view that people like me should just suck it up and stop bitching about getting so sick.

      • EG says:

        Kristen, is there other language I could be using that would make the point but also not make you feel dismissed or told to shut up and stop bitching? Because if it’s about language, I’d be happy to switch it for better language.

      • Kristen J. says:

        It isn’t just about language any more than calling an adult woman a girl is about language.

      • EG says:

        Than we’re just at an impasse. Any decision I make could potentially have catastrophic consequences for somebody. That doesn’t make every decision I make in the course of my day a big deal; making such decisions is part of life.

      • Ruchama says:

        A baby with a cold is far from the sickest person in most college classrooms. Students come in from all over, with different germs that they’ve been exposed to, and for the first few weeks of the semester, everybody is catching everything that everyone else has.

    • Sarah says:

      I completely agree with you here, EG. People with colds (even babies) HAVE to leave the house while they are still symptomatic, otherwise most parents would be housebound for 75% of the year because kids have cold symptoms what seems like constantly (at least kids that go to preschool, camp, daycare, playgrounds, playdates, etc.). If every parent (especially single parents, who don’t have anyone to take turns with them) had to take off work every time their child had a cold and then stay indoors for the length of the cold–parents would not be able to hold a job. Even countries with adequate sick days wouldn’t have enough sick days for that. Also, I don’t know many adults who stay home for a cold. Its as you say: major pain in the ass for me versus hypothetical pain in the ass for hypothetical person.

      Also, as someone who has worked with immuno-compromised babies, toddlers, and children (including children with HIV) it has not been my experience that a cold is the end of the world. These children lived in a group home and the sick ones did not have the luxury of staying in bed or being alone to recuperate. And unfortunately, the children with compromised immune systems were exposed to all the germs that come with volunteers, other children, and going to hospital. For the most part (barring a break out of the measles, which they also withstood like champs), they did great. Did they get the cold that the other kids had? Yes. Did they also get a fever with it? Yes, sometimes. But, a cold was never a big deal in the house. It was just a normal, irritating part of life. This is NOT to say, however, that this would be the experience of every person with a compromised immune system. But, it is to say that colds are often unavoidable, even for the people who should, in an ideal world, be able to avoid them entirely.

  33. Marissa123 says:

    I agree fully with Jill on this. I’d flip my shit if a professor brought a sick infant to class. I’d for sure get sick because my immune system has serious issues and I don’t get sick days. As a grad student, I would be SCREWED. Those things are seriously contagious and that’s just NOT okay. Breast feed publicly whatever, but no sick infants in places I don’t get a choice about attending.

  34. Ashley says:

    The judgment here is pretty anti-feminist, if you ask me. If you are going to say the professor did the wrong thing, you had better have a right alternative option for her. If you don’t (and I can’t see an option that doesn’t harm her career or the child), the problem is systemic, not with the individual. Personal is political, 101. This is the most basic feminist concept in the history of ever.

    • Tony says:

      I think people are overreacting to this. I had a few times in college where the professor just didn’t show up. It never became a national news story. Now what’s worse– an admittedly distracting baby being fed in class, or never showing up? Or sending a TA in your place to go over the cirriculum and let you out 45 minutes early?

      I’m interested to see what measurable loss there was to students of this. In a one hour class, for instance, what percentage of loss of teaching time was there, actually? 15%? 20%? It’s not good, but nor does it deserve the reaction it’s gotten.

      I agree with Lolagirl– what’s really making people uncomfortable– what’s really generated 1000+ comments on WashingtonPost.com and 100+ comments here so quickly, is the breastfeeding angle. It’s not really about classroom distraction, or even professional conduct (again, I had professors -rare but real- who simply didn’t show up, effectively cancelling the entire class for that day, and no one wrote a column in the school newspaper about it). There’s still a deep discomfort with breastfeeding in our society.

      As far as bringing a sick baby to class, I definitely see why people would find that inappropritate. However I don’t find that attitude fits in my personal life– for the past two weeks, for instance, there was a woman at my workplace who was sick and came in almost every day, and I never got sick or thought she was being rude. Granted, I wasn’t sitting next to her and didn’t have to talk to her. But I was in the same room as she was for eight hours a day for the better part of two weeks. If I had gotten sick, I would have just passed it off as bad luck. What about the phrase “going around the office”? I’d always thought it was perfectly normal to get sick in public places– after all, isn’t that how all germs are picked up? Not that I would go on a crowded subway and start hacking and wheezing all over the place, but having a cold and being in a public place has never seemed to be beyond the pale to me. After all, how else am I supposed to get to the doctor?

      And no, students don’t get sick days, but nor is it a particularly serious offense for students to miss a day of class. That was one of the joys of undergrad– no one really cared if you showed up (This coming from someone who got into a top 10 PhD program in my field right out of undergrad). The material could always be studied outside of class or made up if need be. Nor, frankly, did I ever give a thought in undergrad of staying away from class due to being sick myself. If I was sick, I’d usually just sit in the back and no one would bother me.

      • Bagelsan says:

        You say yourself that bringing a sick child is inappropriate; why can’t that be the reason this is a story, on Feministe at least? It’s not like we’re a really boob-shy bunch. It doesn’t always have to be about OMGNIPPLE. -_-

      • Tony says:

        Because not everything that is inappropriate in the world becomes a feminist topic.

      • Dude, are you missing the fact that literally no thread on this post is focused around breastfeeding, except to agree that it isn’t what was annoying about this incident?

      • I mean, seriously. Did that top PhD program include “reading comprehension on blogs 101″?

      • Tony says:

        macavitykitsune, I was making a point through indirect illustration. The people who are saying that the only thing significant here is the loss of whatever full attention the professor otherwise would have had to the class may be technically correct, but it doesn’t explain why so many people are interested in this story. I’ll expand my point and say (especially here on Feministe) it’s not just breastfeeding that makes this story interesting, but also the whole work/life balance debate. To what extent should work life be able to adjust to allow for child rearing? Do we place these things in a privileged position with respect to other personal activities interfering with work? But outside Feministe, the fact that it was breastfeeding and not leaving early to pick up her kid from daycare or school is the reason why the story was published in the school newspaper, and later, in national newspapers and on broadcast news.

      • Except, Tony, the entire thesis of your comment was

        what’s really making people uncomfortable– what’s really generated 1000+ comments on WashingtonPost.com and 100+ comments here so quickly, is the breastfeeding angle.

        So yeah, no, I’m really not seeing the breastfeeding hate here. (There’s been a couple of comments, posted after last evening, that tsked at the breastfeeding, but they’ve largely been shouted down or massively disagreed with.) I think that the ire, if anything, has mostly been from people arguing that Pine’s being either an irresponsible parent by not having a backup plan, or that she’s being an irresponsible teacher by pretty much guaranteeing her distraction.

      • Lolagirl says:

        It’s true that most of the commentary here at Feministe has not been critical of Pine breastfeeding her kid. But Tony is correct that the WaPo article and the circumstances that led Pine to write her Counterpunch article were all about and only about her breastfeeding. The Dean at AU has since spun the controversy as being about her bringing her kid to class, but the reality is that it was all started by some smartass kid tweeting and Facebooking about the horrors of his Prof breastfeeding in class.

      • Tony says:

        Aren’t you being defensive? You aren’t disputing my conclusion that there is a deep discomfort with breastfeeding in society. At most you’re minimizing the discomfort with it here on Feministe, which was tangential to my point anyway. My point wasn’t to try to insult or cast aspersions on anyone here.

        It was simply that the explanations of this story as a moral fable of poor professionalism (which you just repeated) are trivial and miss the point. That there’s a feminist angle to the story, a work-life balance, a mothering-public-life clash angle that makes it a story. Partly because even people who don’t object to breastfeeding and don’t post comments denouncing it have a visceral reaction to it; it’s a graphic and dramatic illustration of the clash between mothering and professional work. I mean come on– when the title of the story is “Breastfeeding Sick Babies in Class”, it’s kind of silly to argue that breastfeeding has nothing to do with it.

      • shfree says:

        Actually in one Spanish class I was dinged if I missed a session, no matter what the reason. So I brought my sick eleven year old, or took her on the days when she didn’t have school. Because technically, to leave an eleven year old home alone is neglect and can get them yanked from your house via CPS. Her dad would have stayed with her, but sometimes there are meetings you just can’t reschedule, and he travels for his work a lot. And the only people I know in Portland have lives of their own and can’t drop everything to stay with our kid, as I can count the people I know well enough to do so on two, MAYBE three fingers. Fortunately, she’s fourteen now so that isn’t an issue.

        I think my mom had the same experience, because I do remember having to go to some dull as dirt classes of hers as a kid. I would imagine she would have loved to been able to leave me with someone else, if nothing else to spare her the hassle of taking me out of the house. But, if you pay for these classes out of your own pocket, they are like gold, and like hell are you going to squander what you pay for, IMHO.

      • Tony says:

        The idea that a 12 year old child should or could be taken away by the government because their parents left them alone is monstrous, in my opinion. Society should be nowhere near accepting of that.

    • LMM says:

      If you are going to say the professor did the wrong thing, you had better have a right alternative option for her. If you don’t (and I can’t see an option that doesn’t harm her career or the child), the problem is systemic, not with the individual. Personal is political, 101.

      The alternative options she had available: cancel class and take the hit to her career. Call a babysitter. Call a friend. Contact a student and ask them to watch the baby while she taught.

      And, ultimately, being handed a choice that sucks all around doesn’t make you personally any less responsible for any harm that you may cause from your choice. (Stealing a loaf of bread to feed your family is a choice. That doesn’t mean you may not have harmed the shopkeeper.) The problem may be systematic, but the choice is not. None of us are free to make perfect decisions, all of us work from the system we are given, but, ultimately, that’s life.

    • Fat Steve says:

      If you are going to say the professor did the wrong thing, you had better have a right alternative option for her.

      OK, I can think of a decent alternative. She brings her child to the class, has the TA do all the speaking and description of materials, providing backup and support where and when necessary, but mostly concentrating on the child. It is made clear by Prof. Pine that her students had to warn her about the child’s potentially dangerous behavior on two separate occasions. This means that these students were distracted by her seeming lack of attention (in their view) to the child and were focusing on the child to make sure it didn’t harm itself, which they obviously did so for at least a short time before the potential danger occurred. As such they were clearly not paying attention to the lesson.

      Had Prof Pine not made herself and her child the center of attention, the twitter jerk might still have complained about her breast feeding in his vicinity, but every single complaint on here would be a non-issue. I also think if she had been openly breastfeeding while seated with the students it would have been a non-story in terms of even the school paper and the one or two idiots who were offended would look like just that.

  35. onetinythought says:

    Just wondering why she couldn’t leave sick baby with husband/boyfriend/partner for the day?

    • PrettyAmiable says:

      Does she have one?

    • SubjectVerb says:

      That was my first thought. Brace yourselves, everyone: Ideally, children should be brought into the world with two parents (of either gender), especially for these kinds of things. Before you decide to have children, you should take into consideration the difficulty of childcare and working full-time and you should take care to choose a partner who is reliable and of strong character. It takes two to parent. (I will make an exception if she is widowed.)

      I am waiting to have children with my husband until we are financially solvent enough to pay for childcare. Just because this professor did not wait like we are doesn’t mean she should get special treatment. Two parents mean twice as many sick days available to care for sick children and such, and twice as much maternity/paternity leave (we both have good, family friendly jobs). Two parents, of course, also means twice as much everything (love, support, attention, etc).

      • robotile says:

        how about this? I believe everyone should have 17 parents! That way we have 17 times as many sick days, 17 times as much maternity/paternity leave, and 17 times as much of everything else. Anyone who would deign to have children with just one co-parent is falling down on the job and deserves all the hardship he/she gets.

        Seriously, how incredibly presumptuous and judgmental.

        Also, just FYI, the nuclear, two-parent household is a super new thing. Joint households used to be the rule in many places, and these kinds of issues wouldn’t come up if you are a single parent as much. Our society makes it artificially hard to be a single parent.

      • Hee, I didn’t even read your reply before posting! Brain twins!

      • librarygoose says:

        (I will make an exception if she is widowed.)

        Well aren’t you the kindest person to condescend to the rest of us. I’m sure the knowledge that you totally won’t judge people whose spouses and partners are dead is deeply satisfying.

      • EG says:

        Well, you know, if she is deserving, then she can get a pass. But what if she’s one of those harridans whose abrasive ways have driven away her partner? Or worse, a worthless slut who never had a partner? THEN THE WRATH OF SUBJECTVERB FALLETH UPON HER.

      • EG says:

        I am waiting to have children with my husband until we are financially solvent enough to pay for childcare. Just because this professor did not wait like we are doesn’t mean she should get special treatment. Two parents mean twice as many sick days available to care for sick children and such, and twice as much maternity/paternity leave (we both have good, family friendly jobs). Two parents, of course, also means twice as much everything (love, support, attention, etc).

        Well aren’t you special, then? And what about those of us who are never going to achieve the hallowed heights of which you speak? We can just go fuck ourselves? We don’t have to live in a society that presumes a two-parent family. We can structure our society any damn way we like.

        I like your fantasy that two parents means twice as much love. Tell me, are you measuring your love by weight, volume, or unit?

        By the way, how do you know that Professor Pine didn’t have a partner when she became pregnant? Are you so smugly, self-righteously certain that you have control over your fate that you assume that everybody else does as well?

      • SubjectVerb says:

        Well, first of all, it’s called an IUD. Second of all, yes, we can control our fates (this is called “not being a victim”). Sometimes, we have to wait for the things we want, like children, and that is a symbol of maturity.

      • librarygoose says:

        Your use of “playing a victim” is really…disturbing? Yes. That’s it. You keep saying that like if everyone can just write down everything nothing bad will happen. Bad things happen all the time. With out warning.

      • EG says:

        Sometimes, we have to wait for the things we want, like children, and that is a symbol of maturity.

        I note you haven’t answered the question regarding what to do when the stars don’t align. I guess poor people and/or people without partners just don’t ever get to have children, because our society is the bestest ever and shouldn’t ever have to change just to increase human happiness or something like that, right?

        You seem to have a real fear of being a “victim.” Acknowledging that one is not omnipotent is not “playing the victim.” You might say that it’s a sign of maturity.

      • EG says:

        You really do seem to have a problem understanding that not all people are you. An IUD is right for you. Waiting with your partner is right for you. But other people are, try to grasp this concept, because it’s going to be difficult for you, other people are different from you. Not better. Not worse. Just different. Different strengths. Different vulnerabilities. Different values. Different desires. Different temperaments. And your decisions aren’t going to be right for all of them.

        You seem to really believe that you have found the One True Way. It is certainly fortunate for you that your happiness fits so neatly into our current social system. But that doesn’t actually make it better or more virtuous or anything. It just makes you lucky.

        Don’t feel bad, though. Like Yogi Berra said, it’s better to be lucky than good.

      • SubjectVerb says:

        I didn’t realize the phrase “playing the victim” was so fraught with controversy. Please substitute “not taking responsibility for your own choices.”

        I don’t believe that people should get passes for not making the right choices. I don’t think that just because this woman is a single mother she should be able to infringe on other people’s ability to go to a class that they paid for and not get sick from a child that should not be there.

        I am not “lucky;” luck implies I had nothing to do with my choice of partner. I saw the good qualities in him, and he saw them in me. I was wise to marry him, and I am wise to wait to have children until I can care for them. For others, they may not be so “lucky,” but that is not my problem. I am not responsible for other people’s choices; I may donate to charities to help them during hard times, but I don’t think they should get any more lenient treatment from employers than people that are more “lucky.”

        I am not apologetic that I believe people should, as has been said, “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” I did, and I didn’t complain one bit when I was doing it.

      • librarygoose says:

        And I bet those stupid poor lazy people are fucking lucky to get your scraps but not your empathy, huh? Of all the fucked up shit I have ever read, your tirade is near the top. You are so self congratulating it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yes you are lucky. You’re lucky you get to choose your partner, you’re lucky to have the ability and freedom to control your reproductive choices. Hell, you’re lucky that your egg cell managed to cling to your mother. All of these things don’t happen for a lot of people all the goddamn time.

        You can only pull your self up by your bootstraps if you are lucky enough to have shoes.

      • EG says:

        I don’t believe that people should get passes for not making the right choices

        How do you know what the right choices are for everybody? You seem not to be able to grasp that the “right choices” in life are not one-size-fits-all propositions. So far, the only choices you’ve suggested for Professor Pine are a) don’t be in the career you love and b) don’t have kids. What makes you so sure that those are the right ones for her? Because then she wouldn’t have caused some minor inconvenience for a class? That’s something she’s supposed to place above her own contentment when making life choices?

        I am not “lucky;” luck implies I had nothing to do with my choice of partner. I saw the good qualities in him, and he saw them in me. I was wise to marry him, and I am wise to wait to have children until I can care for them.

        You are lucky. You are lucky you met your partner. You are lucky you were attracted to him and he to you. You have been lucky, so far, that your relationship has worked. You are lucky that you can foresee a time when having children will be easier than it is for you now. You are lucky that you can make a happy life for yourself in some unnamed profession that you have implied is much more family-friendly than academia, though you haven’t specified what it is.

        You realize that pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps is a physical impossibility, right? I’ve never understood why people like you are so fond of using a metaphor that doesn’t actually work.

        I’ve also never understood why not complaining about institutional problems is supposed to be some kind of virtue.

      • moviemaedchen says:

        @librarygoose:

        You can only pull your self up by your bootstraps if you are lucky enough to have shoes.

        THIS SO MUCH.

      • EG says:

        you should take care to choose a partner who is reliable and of strong character.

        Wow, really? Because most divorced parents I know hadn’t realized that; when they married, they figured, well, I know this dude is a unreliable cad, but what the hell, I’m sure everything will be fine.

        And then sometimes, years later, twenty years in my parents’ case, the man’s true lack of moral fiber shows through, and those fools get what they deserve, of course. It’s a shame that we can’t all be eagle-eyed like you, with such insight into human character that will allow us to see decades into the future. Truly, you are a paragon of virtue among us lowly grubs.

        And if those single mothers can’t then get by with their minuscule sick days, then we should just fire them! Because you know what makes a good healthy society? Poverty-stricken families.

      • DouglasG says:

        In other words (far better than mine):

        “If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterward to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”

      • shfree says:

        Yeah, my ex is of reliable and strong character, and so far I can tell he is going to do the right thing by me and our daughter. However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t grow apart over the years and it wasn’t in our best interest to split up. Because things happen.

        Oh, and it was totally an unexpected pregnancy, the only one I’ve ever had that I’ve been aware of. (I could have had an early miscarriage, who knows) I had a crappy job at the time, so maybe you would have thought it was an inappropriate decision, but my daughter is wicked awesome. Life’s little messes can work out for you, so you can go to hell with your judgmental attitude about when, and who should be reproducing.

      • Ideally, it takes at least four people to parent one child in this world of full-time employment. I strongly suggest waiting to reproduce until you’ve acquired a boyfriend and the three of you can support at least one girlfriend (because it’s women’s work to care for a child) while she nurses and nannies and parents your sprog. Your two-parent lifestyle doesn’t seem geared towards providing childcare.

        Jeez, the things I have to explain to people.

      • shfree says:

        Four? I scoff at that. I think you need to live communally with six, and everyone needs to reach consensus as to who will birth the child and when. Also, a minimum income level must be established and maintained for at least five years, and full physical examinations of every single possible pregnancy carrier must be given within six months of possible conception, to make certain that fetus carrier is of optimal health. This should include genetic information, too. You want to make sure the baby has the best DNA possible.

        Also, a network of no less than thirty possible back up caregivers who are available around the clock are needed. Only when these restrictions are met, should anyone be allowed to have a child.

      • Li says:

        And in no circumstance should you be in a romantic relationship with any of your co-parents. A truly responsible parental hive would ensure that the primary emotional attachment each adult had was with their child. Insisting that you have to have children with a person you ‘love’ yourself is the height of immaturity IMHO.

      • (I will make an exception if she is widowed.)

        Well aren’t you generous! Cookies for you!

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Ha ha ha haaa – if,you ever do have kids, please be sure to write and tell us how all this “choosing the right choices” and “doing things the right way” and planning things out works out for ya.

      • speedbudget says:

        So what is the proscriptive advice is the partner in your perfect life can’t or won’t take off to care for the child? What then?

    • Ashley says:

      The fact that she is a single mother is key here. If the child had not been sick, you could argue that better, cheaper childcare options would solve the problem (and they would solve many problems). If the child wasn’t sick, you could argue that people need to learn to accept children and mothers in the public sphere, and get over it about the breastfeeding already (and that would also solve a lot of problems). But if a child is sick and can’t be in public for that reason, you need other people invested in the child as much as a parent is.

      The problem here is the nuclear family as the basis of our society. The nuclear family model, and the attendant practice of expecting parents to be the only primary caretakers, is isolating and damaging to everyone, but particularly to women and children.

      Shifting to a different family model and more collective care for children and more sick days, parental leave days, and vacation days would make it unnecessary to bring a sick child into work.

      (Not to mention, this would have been a non-issue in many industrialized nations because paid parental leave would still be in effect for a one-year-old.)

  36. Pingback: In The Classroom « words pursued

  37. onetinythought says:

    Well, okay then, how about her mom/friend/sister/aunt etc? I doubt that this woman is completely alone in the world. I agree with the above comments about not bringing sick anybody to work.

    • EG says:

      Did you read the above comments about academics being expected to drop everything and move to whatever random place offers them a job?

      • chava says:

        FWIW, this is one of the major reasons I’m fairly sure I won’t get tenure. I am not willing to live on another coast away from my partner and possibly child, and I’m not willing to move completely away from our painstakingly built-up support networks when there’s only a tiny chance of actually getting tenure.

        I’m slowly making my peace with that, but it breaks my heart.

      • EG says:

        Well, take heart. You never know. I lucked out. It can happen.

      • Kristen J. says:

        Yeah…well, this is the reason Mr. Kristen had to leave more than one tenure tracked position and eventually left teaching altogether. Being a prof when you’re the “trailing spouse” academia is very, very difficult.

      • chava says:

        what does mr. kristin do now, btw? (I’m collecting interesting-sounding backup career options with an eye towards padding the resume in the next few years)

      • Kristen J. says:

        He did a little corporate consulting and worked at a thinktank, but at present he’s an ethicist working for the feds. Who knew the feds hired ethicists?

      • bleh says:

        Sorry you are dealing with this reality of academe.

        Partner and I moved to the land of nowhere (to us) together. Luckiest of lucky – two tenure-track jobs in same University, but it still is far far away from anyone in our families.

        Stranger thing than two jobs together have happened. Good luck figuring it out!!!

    • EG says:

      Checking in, she’s been in DC for 3 years. Prior to that, she was in Cairo for two years, and she did her PhD before that in Berkeley. Yeah, I can believe that she doesn’t know anybody who doesn’t have to go to work herself to take the kid.

    • Lolagirl says:

      Stop with the doubting.

      Really.

      Getting childcare is not so easy as just snapping one’s fingers and having Mary Poppins materialize to take care of the kiddies. Even I have had a hell of a time finding child care for my kids, despite working all sorts of angles and even having my inlaws living nearby. Not everyone has someone who can just drop everything at a moment’s notice to babysit.

    • Dude, a lot of people have little to no social support for reasons they really can’t help. I’m more annoyed personally that she didn’t have a backup plan at all (really? who’s surprised that daycare won’t take a sick baby?), not because she couldn’t rely on family/friends. I transplanted across continents a year and change ago; building up new networks is not easy, trust me.

      • Tracey says:

        Not to mention the people in those networks might not have compatible schedules for looking after a baby on short notice and may not be comfortable caring for one. This seems like a short notice situation where the daycare administrator said “sorry, we don’t allow children with temperatures over X or with X symptoms” and the professor was left to find a sitter within a day or a few hours. Even if there are people who would watch a toddler or who would watch a baby and could at that time, that is extremely short notice. The only problem I have is with the child being sick, but even though it is often encouraged that sick people stay home I know of no mandates in offices/schools for them to do so. Sometimes things happen and she felt this was the best idea.

      • Yes, exactly. Make no mistake, I think Pine should have cancelled rather than engage in this clusterfuck, I think Pine should have done any number of other things, and I think she behaved like an asshole about it, but she doesn’t deserve to be shamed for not having a large ENOUGH support group either. I mean, one of my backups, I can leave my kid with her if it’s snowing, or whatever – I could even ask her to pick the kid up in an emergency – but I wouldn’t leave her with her if she was sick with anything infectious, simply because that backup has a toddler and now an infant. Etc.

    • Whoah, you just don’t get it, do you? Look, not all people have reliable support networks. That’s just the way it is sometimes – regardless of whether babies are involved.

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      Believe it or don’t. But it’s true for many of us. You just have no idea.

  38. onetinythought says:

    What I am suggesting here is that this woman chose her profession, chose to have a child, and chose to live where she does. She is not an indentured servant, sold into employment. I am saying that she needs to take some responsibility to develop a network of friends and other parents wherever she lives, so that when the baby inevitable gets sick, she might have some options other than daycare or bringing the sick child to work.

    • Lolagirl says:

      In other words, she needs to pull up harder on those bootstraps. Because girlfriend just isn’t trying hard enough.

      Give it a rest already.

    • EG says:

      I am saying that she needs to take some responsibility to develop a network of friends and other parents wherever she lives

      Yeah, yeah. “Develop a network of friends.” She’ll take care of that in her copious spare time.

    • er says:

      I have a better idea – rather than pretending like it’s the *woman’s* fault for not being able to find mythical back up care for her child, how about pressuring her university to institute a BACK UP CHILD CARE benefit? You know such things exist, right? A screened and qualified care provider comes to your house for a co-pay; you get a certain number of back up days per year that can be used for sick children (or watching well children on holiday) or elderly/ill partners or parents. Every employer should have this as a benefit option and then VIOLA these problems will disappear. It is NOT individual parents’ fault for not having “enough backup”. It took me six weeks of continual effort to find someone who could pick up my kids from school. It’s *very* hard in fact to find someone who can randomly watch a child – do you know why? Because people have JOBS. Yes, there is a sahm in my neighborhood who has watched my baby in a pinch, for about an hour, but this obviously wouldn’t work in every situation, or any day (she’s not going to plan her day around maybe being available to watch my kid).

      I would also like to say to Jill and everyone else out there on the supposed public health issue. Yes, a seriously ill person should stay at home. But c’mon, seriously, you’ve never left the house with a cold? A slight flu? What about 12 hours after your flu is over? I’m guessing you’ve gone to the grocery store, or a cafe, or the library in those conditions. Daycares have very specific and strict regulations regarding when “sick” children can and cannot come to school (some even encourage kids with runny noses to stay home, which if I had done that would have meant that my kids were at home roughly from November to March), usually based on a fever level (100 or 101, which is a relatively slight fever for a baby), and then they must stay out of daycare for 24 hours following the last recorded fever, which means if your baby had a fever the night before, even if she is perfectly well the next day (and baby fevers can be like lightening) you still cannot bring her to daycare the next day, because it hasn’t been 24 hours. Does that mean you can’t take your baby to the grocery store? Moreover, babies and toddlers get a sick a LOT, esp those in daycare, like amounts that you would not believe as an adult who probably gets sick every other year. They can have fevers as often as 5-10 times a year, at a minimum, and many of those fevers, like those associated with ear infections, are not contagious.

      I go to work sick. I bet almost everyone reading this post has been to work sick, whether it was a slight cold or a sinus infection or something much nastier. We’ve all felt that pressure to show up, and the pressure increases if what is on at work can’t be rescheduled. A class cannot be rescheduled. Missing a class can mean the entire semester needs to be restructured.

      I also find people’s general hostility to blurring the lines between caregiving, work, and public space to be discouraging (although typical even of feminist and social justice sites – it always boils down to some kind of woman-blaming [bad mother who didn’t have a back up plan! bad mother endangering the health of those students without giving it any thought! bad mother who let a baby put a paper clip in her mouth, obviously that terrible mother cannot take adequate care of her own child!] People bring babies to work sometimes – in genuinely family-friendly gender-neutral, woman-positive environments there is a lot more tolerance for the presence of babies and small children.

      And you know what? Students can be parents too. I would be more than happy to have a student with a babe in arms in my class, to nurse in my class; I would support her, her desire to continue her education and care for her child; I would sympathize deeply with the conflicting demands of that situation and support her in every way possible. To me, that’s what a feminist is.

      • chava says:

        I have a better idea – rather than pretending like it’s the *woman’s* fault for not being able to find mythical back up care for her child, how about pressuring her university to institute a BACK UP CHILD CARE benefit? You know such things exist, right? A screened and qualified care provider comes to your house for a co-pay; you get a certain number of back up days per year that can be used for sick children (or watching well children on holiday) or elderly/ill partners or parents. Every employer should have this as a benefit option and then VIOLA these problems will disappear.

        we have this at mr chava’s university; its lovely.

      • EG says:

        Holy shit, I had no idea such a thing existed. That is awesome.

    • speedbudget says:

      Oh, that’s just what I want. Some random person to befriend me just so they can rope me into caring for their sick child.

  39. onetinythought says:

    In other words, she is just a victim.

    • Lolagirl says:

      Right, because that’s not what anybody has said here.

      And now you’ve made it pretty clear that you’re just trolling, what with you’re putting words into people’s mouths and just asking questions that are all about showing how you know better and everyone else is a moron.

  40. onetinythought says:

    Funny, when I mention responsibility, people get irritable. Nowhere did I “put words in” anybody’s mouth, nor call anyone a name like moron or troll.

    Chill out.

    • librarygoose says:

      You never used the word “responsibility”. You posted one asshole sentence. You want people to respond to a certain idea, describe that idea.

    • mxe354 says:

      You dumbass. No one’s annoyed by the fact that you brought up responsibility. What’s annoying people is your silly bootstraps rhetoric that helps no one and reflects a lack of willingness to understand others’ circumstances.

      I wonder if you’re one of those folks who is just itching to find “proof” that feminists think all women are victims. I don’t think it’s a far-fetched suspicion, given your attitude.

    • SubjectVerb says:

      What I am suggesting here is that this woman chose her profession, chose to have a child, and chose to live where she does. She is not an indentured servant, sold into employment.

      I agree with onetinythought, and I am not “trolling.” I thought about going into academia, but then I realized I wanted a family and a career with a market that was not saturated so that I was not subject to relocation if I wanted a job. Responsibility is key here, and she apparently chose to have a child by herself (I have already addressed this in my post above.) There is a bit of playing the victim here, and it doesn’t do the rest of us women any good.

      Also, I do not care for the name-calling just because someone disagrees with your point of view, so I don’t want to hear it. Argue your point like an adult.

      • EG says:

        I realized I wanted a family and a career with a market that was not saturated so that I was not subject to relocation if I wanted a job.

        Tell me, what profession is friendly to single mothers? What, in your infinite wisdom, should she have turned her talents to?

        It’s a real shame that we don’t all map our lives out at age 15, like you have. I tell you what, though. I’d pay a chunk of cash for front-row seats to see the first time life smacks you upside the head with something you didn’t expect.

      • SubjectVerb says:

        I actually have a partner who is reliable and of strong character, so I have dealt which such things just fine. I don’t understand why you don’t think people can control their lives. It sounds like you are bitter and projecting, especially with your tone.

        And, yes, I am special, and yes, I am responsible. And, no, I haven’t had my life mapped out since I was fifteen. My life has only come together in the last 4 years, which actually coincides with my meeting, what do you know, a partner who is reliable, of strong character, and who is support of me and my life. It sounds like you need someone like that, because I think that is the only why you will understand what it is to look out on the world confident in the knowledge that you are in control of your life.

      • mxe354 says:

        I actually have a partner

        Good for you. Guess who doesn’t have a partner? The mom mentioned in this post.

      • EG says:

        Four years? Heh, yeah, right. Talk to me again in 15 years and let me know how things are going. Maybe then I’ll think you have special insight into choosing the right partner. More likely, I’ll just think you’re lucky.

        Why do I think people can’t control their lives? I guess it’s because I’ve spent many, many years living in the world, and have noticed that it’s not a fair or just one. I realize that it’s frightening to accept that, but it is ultimately an accurate understanding of the way the world looks. You lose the comfort of being able to assure yourself that you could never wind up in an unpleasant situation, but on the other hand, you gain an immense amount of empathy and compassion. It’s a pretty good trade.

        I may well be bitter–I’ve never understood why this is supposed to be such a bad thing to be–but I’m not delusional about the way the world works.

      • EG says:

        It sounds like you need someone like that, because I think that is the only why you will understand what it is to look out on the world confident in the knowledge that you are in control of your life.

        Hee. If only I could find the right partner so that I could know that I am in control of my life! If only I could find A Man who would solve all my problems. That would totes put me in control.

        You crack me up.

      • librarygoose says:

        Have empathy like a goddamn adult. Your previous post you allude to? It’s dripping in so much self righteousness it borders on the inappropriate. What doesn’t do anyone any good is pretending that we can plan every portion of our lives. What doesn’t do women any good is throwing around rhetoric like “playing the victim”. She brought her kid to class once. Dear completely fabricated god, she might as well be teaching these young minds about Marxism!

      • SubjectVerb says:

        Fine, don’t believe in the fact that health, equal, relationships exist and can bring happiness and strength to the people in them. I am going to go crawl into a warm bed. Enjoy yours.

      • EG says:

        Oh, sure, because I do not automatically accept the inherent superiority of your life, I deny the existence of healthy, equal relationships and shiver alone in a cold bed, cursing my miserable existence. You do get better and better.

      • Odin says:

        I’m going to assume you mean “healthy, egalitarian relationships” rather than a string of three nouns (health, Equal brand artificial sweetener, and relationships).

        Just because healthy, egalitarian relationships exist doesn’t mean everyone will be able to be in one all the time. We don’t know the fully circumstances of Prof. Pine’s becoming a single mother, and frankly, it’s not our business unless she chooses to share. It doesn’t mean she’s irresponsible. (Hell, for all we know she had an unplanned pregnancy and did what pro-lifers insist is the only Responsible option.)

        BTW, I’m being “responsible” according to your definition — I’m in academia with a healthy, stable relationship, but I’m not tenured yet, so we’re not even considering kids yet. But if we do decide to reproduce after tenure, we’re going to get accused of irresponsibility, since we’ll both be 36+, which is TOOOLDS for reproducing, don’cha know, because it will give your baby the autism and the Downs Syndrome. Both of which are a fate worse than death apparently. (And if we adopt, then we have to wade into the whole mess of making sure it’s an ethical, uncoerced adoption.)

      • Tracey says:

        I also think societal relationships should be strong, healthy and egalitarian. To me that would include understanding sometimes you need to bring your child, sick or otherwise, to work, and if you do when you’d rather not, that is likely a societal and institutional failing rather than a personal one.

        For instance, why aren’t these back-up/short-notice caregivers standard? After all, grade schools keep a bevy of substitute teachers on hand and some facilities keep on-call employees. If so many institutions recognize the need for back-up workers to fill their needs, why don’t more recognize the need for short-notice caregivers to fill the needs of their employees?

      • And, yes, I am special, and yes, I am responsible. And, no, I haven’t had my life mapped out since I was fifteen. My life has only come together in the last 4 years, which actually coincides with my meeting, what do you know, a partner who is reliable, of strong character, and who is support of me and my life.

        Sorry, but 4 years ain’t nothing.

        Pride goes before destruction, pumpkin.

      • DouglasG says:

        …and before Prejudice.

      • Bagelsan says:

        …Shortly followed by Zombies.

      • TheFormerAstronomer says:

        You seem to be focussed on the idea that Professor Pine’s situation occurred because she wasn’t in a relationship with a strong partner of good character, and that this renders her reproductive choices ‘irresponsible’.

        OK, so let’s change the situation slightly, just as a hypothetical*. A university professor is in a relationship (strong, healthy and egalitarian) with another person, but that person works for an NGO and spends a significant part of their time working away, possibly in somewhere like Kabul*. These two have discussed their situation like mature adults, come to the decision that their long-term goals are compatible and have decided to have a child.

        What happens when the the university professor needs emergency child care while her partner is abroad? Do you consider her situation to be ‘irresponsible’ as well? Or should people only have children in the event that both parents live in the same location with jobs that allow sufficient sick days or flexible working arrangements such that one of them could always provide this? Because if that’s the case then – well I’ll be charitable here – I don’t think you’ve thought your position out fully.

        If you *don’t* think that’s the case, then how does my hypothetical professor’s situation differ in its essentials from the professor in this story? Or are you just judgemental about single parents?

        *Not entirely hypothetical, since this reflects the situation of a friend of mine.

  41. onetinythought says:

    I used the word “responsibility” in my comment at 947 pm, sorry I don’t know how to link them together. “Asshole sentence”? Yikes.

    • librarygoose says:

      Hit the “reply” button. And yeah, you sound like an asshole.

      • onetinythought says:

        Harsh, very harsh. Did you read all of my comments, or just fixate on that one? Thanks for the “reply” tutorial, BTW.

      • librarygoose says:

        I read them all. You seem super sure that this woman’s life is simple and she’s a lazy “victim”. I have no sympathy for students who take an anthropology course centered around sex and gender who can’t handle the very real presentation of it.

        You’re welcome for the help.

  42. karak says:

    I think this is an interesting illustration at how child-unfriendly our entire working world is. We don’t take our kids to work. We’ve created environments with strong delineations separating adults from children, and this is actually unique in human history, where children usually accompanied their parents to work, doing whatever they did or staying out of the way with their own small chores.

    I don’t think our culture can really even mentally grasp the idea of children being a constant, unavoidable accessory to the parent. And since the role of “parent” is often given to “mother” our work world and our mothering words are fundamentally incompatible, and always will be.

    • EG says:

      Nicely put.

    • Matt says:

      Comparing the modern world to most of history is a poor decision. Circumstances are wildly different than in all the but the last 100 or so years. If you really want to push it we could extend back to 200 years to add the early industrial revolution.

      And really the tech/information age is separate even from the industrial period. So its more like the last 40 years.

      High end jobs ARE terrible places for children. One normal fussy episode could be worth millions of dollars as something like a lawyer or stock broker.

      Sure, children weren’t such a big deal during the pre industrial area. But that’s mostly because there was no work world then.

      People worked on farms or as artisans in their homes or attached workshops.

      That’s not remotely comparable to a world where the vast majority of jobs require some sort of commute and in which our decisions and actions and time are more significant and affect many, many other people.

      • Kristen J. says:

        Actually, I would say the exact opposite wrt to lawyers. My coworkers have brought their infants to work without us feeling much of the impact. A very high profile colleague of mine negotiated a $$$ deal via video conference with opposing counsel in five countries and eight cities from her house while visibly breastfeeding her newborn. Nobody batted an eye. Granted, she’s a genius and noone should be required to meet that standard of kickassedness, but it made no difference to us that there was a baby in the room.

      • Matt says:

        And there’s never been a problem with fuzzy babies or tantrums? And what about toddlers vs babies, since I was commenting wrt children in general?

        I know that I had a pretty good day care and I still put those poor people through hell. Granted I only remember from about 3 on but they tell me that me and my twin brother often broke out of baby containment and once let lose our whole class of 20 toddlers into the hallways. We are legendary there and even new teachers used to tell us they were glad we had been before their time.

        The reason we went back is cause our grandma knew all the peeps there so she took us to visit one time.

        Note that we were terrors from the crawling stage onward.

        I guess my personal experience is more with children who cause incidents, as opposed to nicer kids. There is no way my mom could have handled us in her 2nd grade class or math lab class and we gave out minder in daycare a panic attack by hiding under a basket as well as the afore mentioned breaking out of the gates and such.

        I made it to the road by the daycare one of those times. I was a bad ass that way. Luckily I saw a butterfly and got too distracted to cross the street. Benefit of ADD I guess. Those poor care workers shit bricks. They had to call my mom and devise new methods of baby imprisonment and from then on they had to check on us literally every other minute.

        Hell when we were four we raided the janitor’s box and tried to build a bomb. We cracked the lock and stole oodles of stuff with my 2 friends and like screwed and hammer metal stuff, I think mostly metal parts of hoses and those corner chair support things onto the playground.

        And if we were kept strapped to a back or front or in a stroller we pitched fits.

        This is my experience of kids from age 1 to age 5. I cannot imagine trying to keep a problem child such as myself under control during a lecture, or a video conference, or basically anything that involves serious focus. It takes one minute and mini-me would be scaling the copier or climbing into an open duct grate or something. I also loved to crawl down stairs. I could get down, but not up, the 34 step stairway at my house before I could even walk. I took a lot of scary falls learning the trick, too.

        And this is relevant since the prof’s kid could clearly crawl.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Oh, please. Most of a lawyer’s time is spent sitting at a desk pushing paper. I know, I did it for nearly 10 years. Yes, I also had to go to court and attend depositions and meetings, but still 60% plus of the work I did was sitting in my office by myself. That stuff totally could have been done from home, especially with all the computer technology we have these days. My outside the office time was actually much higher than most others attorneys I know, by the way, especially if they are not in a litigation related field.

        But the reality of face time office culture is what stands in the way of greater work place flexibility, regardless of whether or not one is a parent. And that is the sort of thing that must be changed in order to allow better work life balance for employees.

      • Jill says:

        I think this underestimates the level of concentration that being a lawyer or a writer or someone else with a desk job requires. The narrative of “you’re just sitting at a desk, so you can care for a baby!” is not good for women. It’s something I’ve discussed with writer parent friends of mine — many of them work at home but have childcare for their children during the day, and it’s been a source of tension with partners / friends / family / strangers who don’t understand why Mom can’t or won’t take care of their children if she’s “just” sitting at a desk at home all day.

        So yeah, I support greater flexibility so in the case of an emergency you can bring your child to work if you work at a desk job. I do, however, resent the idea that it’s just as easy to work as a lawyer or at any other kind of desk job with a baby on your lap or a toddler walking around. It’s not. And positioning that way is ultimately really bad for a lot of women.

      • Kristen J. says:

        I think this depends significantly on the parent and child involved. I concentrate best with my door closed and bad sci fi on the TV. A former colleague of mine said it was much easier to concentrate when herinfant was in the room because she didn’t have to worry or plan on pumping at certain times. Others seemed very frazzled when their kids were in the office. In either event, the problem is that women don’t have enough options and if its more convenient for them (and not dangerous for others) they should be permitted to bring their children to work.

      • Jill says:

        In either event, the problem is that women don’t have enough options and if its more convenient for them (and not dangerous for others) they should be permitted to bring their children to work.

        So I agree with that in theory, but in practice? There are a whole lot of people who will simply taking care of their child over performing effectively at work if the kid is in the room (duh). There are plenty of people who will want to save money on childcare and bring the kid to work, even if it means they aren’t performing their jobs as well. And that’s fine for them, but if I’m a boss, I want a worker who performs well. And I cannot imagine that productivity wouldn’t drop if employees started regularly bringing their kids to work.

      • Kristen J. says:

        I would argue that the focus on productivity as the measure of the quality of an employee is a problem rather than a rationale. The reason we’re in this fix is because the push for increased productivity has created a race to the bottom where people are forced to exchange large chunks of their lives to the exclusion of their health, their wellbeing, their families, etc to maintain job security. That is a large part of what is still driving thesecond shift phenomenon.

      • Lolagirl says:

        I was referring to working from home, which is a much more flexible set up with a small child. That work can definitely be done while the child(ren) is sleeping and when say the coparent/partner/spouse or other caregiver is around to take over with the child.

        Having been a practicing attorney and being a parent? I can say that this sort of set up would have worked for me just fine, if my employer hadn’t been so dead set against anything less than 70 work weeks in the office. Let’s not pretend that face time isn’t a huge deal in law firm culture, and it’s a bunch of nonsense.

        Between the reality that my Small-Law job paid pretty much crap (and childcare was going to cost most of that pay,) had pretty much no benefits to speak of, and was completely unwilling to work with me to create a more flexible work arrangement I left and haven’t looked back.

      • Jill says:

        I was referring to working from home, which is a much more flexible set up with a small child. That work can definitely be done while the child(ren) is sleeping and when say the coparent/partner/spouse or other caregiver is around to take over with the child.

        Maybe for you. For every other woman I know who works from home, hired help was necessary to make sure she actually had time to get her work done. For many women, hired help outside of the house was necessary, because when mom was in the other room, the kid(s) wanted to be with mom. Children also do not sleep all day long. And most people who work at home do not have a partner who also works at home.

        If being a practicing attorney and a parent would have worked for you, great. Facetime is a big deal in law firms, but that’s because there are often client meetings, necessary in-person discussions to go over documents, etc etc etc. I’ve worked with partners who spend large amounts of their time working from home. It’s really frustrating. And also having been a lawyer, I can tell you that doing it with a kid there all day long would NOT have worked for me. What exactly is a toddler supposed to do all day to entertain themselves while I write a brief?

      • chava says:

        I am finding this whole discussion deeply ironic in light of the “PLZ, childcare is just something parents do in the course of their everyday lives, it isn’t like, a JOB or anything” thread from a few weeks back.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Seriously?

        Face time is a long standing characteristic of the patriarchal culture that still pervades the practice of law. It’s about proving who is the most dedicated, hard working attorney in the firm by equating it to how much time is spent sitting behind a desk and how much time is not spent having a life outside of the firm. When the actual measure of an attorney’s bona fides is their billables, their number of wins, and number of satisfied clients. Face time culture doesn’t foster efficiency or good end product, but it does foster the sort of macho atmosphere that makes it very difficult for women to get in and be successful.

        I’ve worked with and known plenty of attorneys (not surprisingly, all men) who made much noise about how awesome they were because they were in the office 90 hours a week. Despite the fact that they were spending plenty of that time dicking around on their computers doing stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with getting client work done, or lingering over their coffee and the Sports Pages, or even socializing with fellow co-workers.

        Guess what? It’s these same guys who give women attorneys shit when they get married, and then have the nerve to reproduce because they are supposedly no longer sufficiently dedicated to their work.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Lola,

        My wife is a partner in a small litigation support firm. They have 5 partners and 10 employees, they ALL work from home and they are all extremely well compensated.

        I have no idea if you’d be suited to the work, but they are always looking for someone with law firm experience. If you like, feel free to shoot me an email at fatsteverecords@gmail.com and I’ll send you a link to her company’s website. If it matches your particular skill set and looks like the kind of place you’d like to work for, I’ll pass your CV along.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Thanks, Steve, I might just take you up on that.

      • TheFormerAstronomer says:

        I think that this is true for some jobs – I’m just not sure that teaching/lecturing/academia is one of them. I mean, I have no idea how I’d go about teaching Maxwell’s equations whilst corralling a crawling baby or toddler, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done, and done well.

        University life is only considered ‘adults only’ because it sprang from a time when it was only accessible to men, and the wives of those men were pretty much constrained to stay home and take care of the kids (or supervise the nannies doing the same, if they could afford it). I think that this can be changed, without any deleterious effects on either the quality or quantity of teaching. Yes it would mean some significant changes, and the inertia to overcome is huge. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing though.

      • Tracey says:

        I seriously think any job that can call itself high end and deals in transactions of the millions needs to have onsite daycare with provisions in place to care for children who are sick, or have it so that employees can easily tele-commute when their children are sick and on short notice (being able to call-in the morning of and say “hey, telecommuting today”).

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Comparing the modern world to most of history is a poor decision.

        Thank you for the Manly Proclamation, O Wise One. Next up: Which jobs will be RUINED by babies?

      • karak says:

        But why did we organize our work-world in such a way that children are insufferable annoyances?

        That’s kind of like making an office without bathrooms, because people pissing and shitting is annoying. Well, yes, but people must piss and shit, just as they must be children, and, for the business to have a future, have children.

        When your business runs on the assumption that humans are below it’s consideration, it is something to stop and marvel at.

      • Jill says:

        Because let’s be real: Sometimes children ARE insufferable annoyances. Lots of human behavior is extremely annoying. At the very least, children require a whole lot of attention. Workplaces try to maximize productivity. Pissing and shitting is annoying, and so we have separate bathrooms with closed doors so that people aren’t pissing and shitting in the hallways. Yes, children exist, so we should create childcare centers and reasonable work policies etc etc etc. But I do think it’s unrealistic (and not in any way ideal) to make every single workplace totally open to children at all times.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Jill, children’s being “insufferable annoyances” does not mean we should shunt them aside, automatically privilege the needs of adults over theirs, and punish MOTHERS (We take the brunt of this crap, you know? We really do. The dads, not so much.)

        Several bosses I’ve had? Insufferably annoying. The guy who clipped his toenails at this desk? Ditto. The woman who talked loudly on her telephone? See above.

        You often act as though children are some sort of special case of annoyance, bother, and hassle. Trust me, they’re no more annoying than asshole adults. And I actually have children, as well as compassion for small human beings who have no say in anything and yet are expected to act as though they’re mature, well-behaved adults.

      • Fat Steve says:

        You often act as though children are some sort of special case of annoyance, bother, and hassle. Trust me, they’re no more annoying than asshole adults. And I actually have children, as well as compassion for small human beings who have no say in anything and yet are expected to act as though they’re mature, well-behaved adults.

        You don’t think it’s at all possible those asshole adults were asshole children?

        When exactly do you feel it’s right start vilifying kids for being slightly annoying? Is it just at the point that they decide to work for the school newspaper?

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        When exactly do you feel it’s right start vilifying kids for being slightly annoying? Is it just at the point that they decide to work for the school newspaper?

        Never, Fat Steve. It’s never okay to vilify children, who are an oppressed class by definition.

        The rest of your comment is ridiculous. If you are referring to the AU student reporter, she is an adult. But way to infantilize her. Furthermore, I haven’t villified her at all.

        Finally, my comment was addressed to Jill, not to you, so I’m not clear why you felt the knee-jerk need to play some stupid, irrelevant game of “gotcha.” if you had something of sibstance to offer, great. But that wasn’t it.

    • Bagelsan says:

      As I mentioned above, a lot of jobs are “fundamentally incompatible” with having small children present. All the goodwill in the world wouldn’t make a baby wandering the ER (or the kitchen of a McDonald’s) a great idea.

      Children have to be somewhat separate from the adult sphere because they cannot always safely be in the adult sphere. You can’t train a baby to take work-related safety precautions or stick a baby in a teeny hardhat.

      • chava says:

        Sure….but what’s your point? Just because some things won’t work, doesn’t mean many more than currently do, COULD. And for jobs where you can’t have the child with you, on-site or nearby daycare, and a provision for sick you, child, or close relative.

      • Bagelsan says:

        And for jobs where you can’t have the child with you, on-site or nearby daycare, and a provision for sick you, child, or close relative.

        That *is* my point; there needs to be a separate “baby sphere” for children, and full adult/child work integration is not a feasible solution.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        I am finding this whole discussion deeply ironic in light of the “PLZ, childcare is just something parents do in the course of their everyday lives, it isn’t like, a JOB or anything” thread from a few weeks back.

        Word.

    • Chataya says:

      children usually accompanied their parents to work, doing whatever they did or staying out of the way with their own small chores.

      Ah yes, the good old days before child labor laws and workplace safety regulations. Truly a glorious era of human history.

  43. pedestrian says:

    One more thing: I teach a class schedule geared toward working people, in which class meets once a week for 2.5 hours. So cancelling class means one week of instruction is missed. Is that really preferable to having a baby in class?

  44. Henry says:

    Sicks kids were the norm at our workplace, as the company only provided a few days a year of emergency day care and no one none of the secretarial staff could afford to otherwise care for a sick child barred from regular day care. Thankfully we had a few empty offices and some office supplies for them to play with.

    We need proper functional affordable day care solutions. Children get sick, some people have jobs where they and only they can do the job, so there’s no possibility of covering. I do question whether a teaching assistant could have covered that day’s material adequately, or was the prof trying to make a point, given this is an anthropology class.

  45. I think anyone who refers to a sick, breastfeeding baby in class as an “incident” is a fucking idiot. The actual word is “inconvenience.”

    Inconveniences happen. Shit, I was once lectured by a professor who was recovering from a pretty serious accident – and at one point, it became really hard for him to go on. Was it awkward and uncomfortable for us all, including the prof? Sure. But that’s life – the life of an academic who is under pressure to not cancel class. If any one of my classmates had decided to write an expose about the “incident” later on, I think the rest of us would have called them out for being little shits.

    And as I recall, I had a prof who regularly had to combine office hours with breastfeeding time. Amazingly enough, no one freaked out – not even the overgrown man-children with the popped collars and the frat membership. Why, even *they* could be adults about the whole thing! Amazing, I know.

    Interestingly enough, my husband has had to do his share of work with the baby by his side. He’s a director and actor, so his working day is less structured, but stuff happens. Naturally, most people think of him as being an Awesome Dad when he’s going about his business with the kidlet tucked under his arm. If he were a woman, he would have been an Inconsiderate Bitch who Should Have Thought About It Before Procreating, of course.

    • Fat Steve says:

      I think anyone who refers to a sick, breastfeeding baby in class as an “incident” is a fucking idiot.

      She did not call the baby an ‘incident’. She called the incident (def: an occurrence of an action) an ‘incident.’ It’s all fine and good for you to call a journalist who refers to the occurrence of an action as an ‘incident’ as a fucking idiot, but I hope you do so to everyone who uses the proper dictionary definition of words. Besides, who are you to tell a young inexperienced woman aspiring to be a journalist that she is a ‘fucking idiot’ because she doesn’t use verbiage (one word, which she uses properly,) you approve of? Certainly not a sympathetic understanding role model, which is what I would hope you would be, as a professional journalist yourself.

      • Oh no. I used bad words. Angry words, even. How unladylike of me.

        Though seriously, my bad. “Sexist idiot” is much more descriptive than a mere “fucking idiot.”

        Because, guess what? Covering this story from a ZOMG PROFESSOR FEEDS HER BABY WITH *BOOBIES* DURING CLASS angle is sexist. The idea that this is a “delicate” subject matter that ought to have both the professor and the students reaching for their smelling salts is sexist. Treating the prof as some sort of cross between a damsel in distress and a sultry vixen who has corrupted young and impressionable minds is sexist.

        I’ve got no interest in being a role model to a person like that – though I’m sure that Rush Limbaugh will take the poor dear under his wing.

        Most student journalists are full of themselves. I know this, because I was one. What I needed most was a good dose of reality – as opposed to “sympathy” or “understanding,” I’m afraid. I got it when I was living in the Middle East, but perhaps our intrepid student reporter won’t have to go that far.

        So here’s her dose of reality: if you want to get good quote from people, level with them. There, I’ve dispensed this earth-shattering wisdom for free. I shall henceforth be known as a role model – the snarky, non-condescending kind.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Oh no. I used bad words. Angry words, even. How unladylike of me..

        No, not all, you saying: “anyone who refers to a sick, breastfeeding baby in class as an “incident” is a fucking idiot,” is a completely irrelevant hallucination, as no one referred to the baby as an incident. SO basically you are making up a lie in order to insult a yound woman who you’ve never met.

        I’ve got no interest in being a role model to a person like that – though I’m sure that Rush Limbaugh will take the poor dear under his wing.

        Yeah, sure, write her off with knowing nothing about her. However, I don’t think Limbaugh would have her either, because his criticisms of women he doesn’t know are just as knee-jerk, misappropriated and hateful as yours.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Steve, stop being disingenuous. And while we are at it, why are so insistent on spinning this as poor student journalist squashed by big, bad meany Professor? It’s clear from Pine’s telling of the story that this student was referring to her breastfeeding her (sick) baby as an incident, and Natalia’s comment is clear on this point as well.

        Being a journalist does not insulate one from having his or her ass handed to them in pursuit of a sensationalist story with a sexist spin to it. Hopefully, Heather the aspiring journalist learned an important lesson about how sexism still persists even in the 21st century and why that’s a very bad, no good thing.

      • Jill says:

        You all do know that Heather, as a student journalist, was probably assigned this story by an editor? And was not, on her own, heading out to investigate it? And frankly it sounds like she was attempting to be sensitive. She just didn’t use the right feminist lingo.

        Also, if campus was buzzing about the prof breastfeeding her child in class, it was an incident. Maybe it shouldn’t have been, but it was.

      • Revolver says:

        Lolagirl, you can’t deny the power differences. It probably isn’t a case of one is right and one is wrong, but there are sure as hell power-differential issues here.

      • Also, the full phrase I used does not imply that the baby herself was treated as some kind of “incident.” I mean, geez.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Well, your context was difficult to understand. You said:

        “I think anyone who refers to a sick, breastfeeding baby in class as an “incident” is a fucking idiot. The actual word is “inconvenience.””

        So you weren’t saying anyone who refers to the sick, breastfeeding baby as an “incident” is a “fucking idiot”?

        You were saying a person who refers to the incidence of a sick, breastfeeding baby in class as an “incident” is a “fucking idiot”?

        The correct term, you seem to go on to say, should be ‘inconvenience.’

        So you would have been perfectly happy, had the journalist said ‘What were you doing the time the inconvenience occurred”? And you think Prof Pine would?

      • Natalia says:

        But that’s not what I said, Steve.

      • So you would have been perfectly happy, had the journalist said ‘What were you doing the time the inconvenience occurred”? And you think Prof Pine would?

        Steve, you’re being deliberately obtuse. It’s kinda funny actually. But fine, I’ll answer you seriously:

        Like I said, you have to level with your subject, as a journalist. And as human beings and and alleged adults, the students themselves should have recognized the situation for what it was. It’s not hard. Frat boys can do it.

        It’s sad and pathetic that what was a hassle became, once again, an incident. Oh, and fucking idiotic too. Idiotic in a sexist way.

      • Fat Steve says:

        No. As you are fully aware, the “incident” was that a woman breastfed her infant in front of other people.

        I’m not fully aware of that. I assumed you were a feminist. It been insisted upon by commenters such as Lola and Natalia that describing the breastfeeding as an ‘incident’ is extremely anti-feminist. I’m surprised at you using such anti-feminist language, tinfoil.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        What was “the incident,” Fat Steve. Pray tell.

      • Fat Steve says:

        What was “the incident,” Fat Steve. Pray tell.

        Some Neanderthal got all offended when a professor fed her baby, then immediately publicly badmouthed her via Twitter.

        Sorry, haven’t you been following?

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        No. As you are fully aware, the “incident” was that a woman breastfed her infant in front of other people. When the student-reporter asked Prof. Pine about it, Pine had no idea anyone had tweeted anything. Furthermore, the dude who tweeted said nothing about the baby being sick.

        Yeah. “Disingenuous” – at best.

      • Fat Steve says:

        No. As you are fully aware, the “incident” was that a woman breastfed her infant in front of other people.

        I’m not fully aware of that. I assumed you were a feminist. It been insisted upon by commenters such as Lola and Natalia that describing the breastfeeding as an ‘incident’ is extremely anti-feminist. I’m surprised at you using such anti-feminist language, tinfoil.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Any particular reason you insist on acting like a jackass around this subject, Steve? You and your male privilege, ha-ha isn’t it FUNNY that people would consider breastfeeding an “incident” worth reporting on?

        Of course, according to you, the “incident” was (wide-eyed innocent look) RILLY RILLY all because a professor brought her sick baby to class!

        At least I am a feminist, unlike you.

      • Fat Steve says:

        No. As you are fully aware, the “incident” was that a woman breastfed her infant in front of other people. When the student-reporter asked Prof. Pine about it, Pine had no idea anyone had tweeted anything. Furthermore, the dude who tweeted said nothing about the baby being sick.

        Yeah. “Disingenuous” – at best.

        You ask me what the incident was…then when I tell you what I think it was, you tell me I’m wrong and you know exactly what it was.

        You ask a question you don’t want the answer to, solely for the purpose of winding me up, and I’m being disingenuous?

      • Bagelsan says:

        Hattie, this is ridiculous. Fat Steve is a feminist, he’s just a feminist who agrees with other feminists instead of with you. That’s not a crime.

      • Fat Steve says:

        To be fair, I’m not sure if as I man I feel I have the right to call myself a feminist and don’t feel it’s worth the energy to figure out whether I have that right. I simply say I support the goals of feminism, and that I try my best not to be sexist.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        bagelsan, feminists don’t make sexist comments. They certainly don’t have to AGREE with me. I wonder why you have to create this whole projected persona onto me?

        Wait – no, I don’t wonder. I don’t CARE.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        @Fat Steve, you keep insisting that the “incident” was: this professor brought her sick kid to class. Oh, and she fed it. Isn’t that HORRIBLE?

        If you are honest, and if you set aside your male privilege, you will listen to what real mothers who have breastfed are telling you: the “incident,” according to THE DUDE WHO TWEETED IT and brought the school paper running, was grossed out by his professor breastfeeding.

        This happens all the time in the real world. All. the. time. To pretend this would never have been tweeteed, and made into a “story,” if the baby hadn’t had a cold, is to be willfully ignorant of the real discrimination and sexism and outright hatred breastfeeding mothers face.

      • Fat Steve says:

        @Fat Steve, you keep insisting that the “incident” was: this professor brought her sick kid to class. Oh, and she fed it. Isn’t that HORRIBLE?

        If you are honest, and if you set aside your male privilege, you will listen to what real mothers who have breastfed are telling you: the “incident,” according to THE DUDE WHO TWEETED IT and brought the school paper running, was grossed out by his professor breastfeeding.

        What an absolute bald faced lie!

        I said

        Some Neanderthal got all offended when a professor fed her baby, then immediately publicly badmouthed her via Twitter.

        then you said

        No. As you are fully aware, the “incident” was that a woman breastfed her infant in front of other people.

        You’re seriously going to say I said the exact opposite of what is up there for everyone to see? And deny that you said what you’re claiming I said?

        Tinfoil, I’m happy to have a conversation with you, but this is just utterly ridiculous and outright dishonesty.

      • Fat Steve says:

        @Fat Steve, you keep insisting that the “incident” was: this professor brought her sick kid to class. Oh, and she fed it. Isn’t that HORRIBLE?

        Oh, and please tell me where I said this ONCE, much less insisted. I have always ‘insisted’ that NOTHING wrong happened in the classroom, and that Prof Pine’s treatment of the young journalist and the Counterpunch article is what I took issue. Which I might remind you, is almost the identical position you’re taking. But if you want to put words in my mouth that I never said, you could still keep this adversarial…

  46. LotusBecca says:

    It doesn’t seem too healthy to me that a segregation between the world of work and world of family even exists. I think having tons of kids running around all sorts of workplaces would be great because it would undermine the sterile professionalism and the bottom-line mentality that’s to be found at most jobs. It would encourage an ethos of viewing workers as whole people, not just means to an end to be exploited by bosses or used up by customers (or in this case students). So some people get distracted? So what? Maybe these people shouldn’t have been so hyperfocused in the first place on the bullshit job they were doing or service they were receiving that probably didn’t even matter very much to begin with. I find it hard to name many things that’d be more important than caring for vulnerable individuals (children, sick people, etc.) who rely on others to live. So maybe the diners at Applebee’s should be prepared to wait an extra fifteen minutes on their appetizer sampler platter if it means we get live in a society that’s not a atomistic, anti-human, capitalistic dystopian nightmare.

    • Jill says:

      Yeah, having kids run around the kitchen at Applebees sounds like a great experiment in making sure that workers don’t take their jobs too seriously. The kids can play with the deep-friers and help move the hot pans from the stovetops (just watch out for the vats of boiling oil and water, kiddos)! Who cares if they’re a minor distraction to the guy at the chopping station? Maybe he shouldn’t be so hyperfocused on his bullshit job handling super-sharp knives.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Yeah, having kids run around the kitchen at Applebees sounds like a great experiment in making sure that workers don’t take their jobs too seriously.

        …couldn’t make the food any worse.

      • Bagelsan says:

        It’s efficient, because the babies will deepfry themselves!

      • Ledasmom says:

        Hey, as long as they’re well-salted, I’ll be there with my plate and napkin.
        Can we get somebody to spill a little black pepper on them first?

      • LotusBecca says:

        I think my point was more that if kids could be almost everywhere that adults were hanging out than places like Applebee’s wouldn’t exist. And that this would be a good thing.

      • DouglasG says:

        You think that was your point? I like that.

        As I don’t eat out, I’m curious – not that there seems anything appealing about it, but what puts Applebees onto the Kill With Fire list?

        While I like de-emphasizing the bottom line, somehow it seems that your system would be a bit too easy to game.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Well DouglasG. . .it wasn’t anything personal toward Applebee’s, although I certainly don’t find the place very appealing. It’s more that I support completely dismantling capitalism. Capitalism is destroying our planet and harming 99% of the people who live here for the benefit of a tiny, super rich elite. So this social revolution would involve the end of all corporations, including (sorry to say) Applebee’s, Chili’s, TGI Friday’s and Outback Steakhouse. Maybe some of them would survive as workers’ syndicates.

      • Bonn says:

        As a celiac sufferer, I actually love these big chain restaurants. The foods are standardized to a point where they can produce allergen menus and more or less ensure that I can actually eat things. If I go to little privately owned restaurants, chances are high that they have no idea what I can eat safely. (Usually the manager at a place like Applebee’s or Outback–one of the few restaurants with an actual GF menu–is educated on allergens.)

        I love being able to walk into a restaurant and actually pick something off the menu knowing that it’s more or less safe. Makes me feel like a human being. I wish we had an Applebee’s here …

    • LMM says:

      Maybe these people shouldn’t have been so hyperfocused in the first place on the bullshit job they were doing or service they were receiving that probably didn’t even matter very much to begin with.

      Yeah, who cares about the woman with ADD who is working on her dissertation in a corner? So what if she keeps getting distracted? It was bullshit research, and it didn’t matter at all anyway!

      I get that some people have criticized Woolf’s statement that women need a “room of one’s own” to write in, but I think it’s generally true that such tasks are much easier to accomplish when separate space *is* available. And saying that we should abolish that for everyone is just … well, rather callous for those of us who can’t manage to multitask.

  47. Jill says:

    I find it hard to name many things that’d be more important than caring for vulnerable individuals (children, sick people, etc.) who rely on others to live.

    We should take care of children – which is why we have childcare. Some workplaces are physically dangerous for kids. Some are exceptionally boring. And taking care of children should not mean that a parent’s needs (read: a mother’s needs) are trumped. A lot of times, mama has to work, and mama will work best without distraction, and without her kids wanting her attention. What you’re suggesting isn’t going to distract “workers” or decrease the productivity of “workers.” It’s going to distract working mothers and decrease the productivity of working mothers. Expecting women to provide full-time all-day childcare and also work full-time at an office job or as a waitress or whatever is expecting women to be superhuman. Childcare is a job for a reason. Expecting women to do two jobs at once is not feminist.

    • The problem is – childcare is usually a) too expensive or b) totally exploitative. And I say this as someone who has a wonderful nanny, who gets paid a living wage. Also as someone who has no compunction to take the kid to work.

      In general, care is just not prioritized, rewarded, or made manageable. We don’t value it as a society. At all. At best, care is viewed as this altruistic thing that very naive people with few ambitions do “out of the goodness of their hearts.” Goodness, in this case, is equated with foolishness – and is meant to be taken advantage of. And that’s really sad.

      • Jill says:

        Oh for sure – I totally agree with the fact that care is not prioritized, rewarded or made manageable. I just don’t think that’s a very good reason to argue that women should do it for free, in addition to (and at the expense of) their paid jobs.

        I don’t have kids, but I have been a full-time live-in nanny. I have also been a full-time lawyer at a big law firm. I have also been a work-at-home writer. I could not have done two of those three things at once, or at least not productively. Taking a kid to work once or twice a year? No biggie. Taking a kid to my law firm every single day? I would not have been an effective employee. It would have been unfair to expect me to shoulder that burden under the guise of a “family-friendly workplace” or “breaking down capitalism” or whatever.

      • Athenia says:

        From the post, you said that she couldn’t stick the kid in daycare cuz the kid was sick, right?

        So even if there’s a childcare option, it still doesn’t help.

      • DouglasG says:

        [In general, care is just not prioritized, rewarded, or made manageable. We don’t value it as a society. At all. At best, care is viewed as this altruistic thing that very naive people with few ambitions do “out of the goodness of their hearts.” Goodness, in this case, is equated with foolishness – and is meant to be taken advantage of. And that’s really sad.]

        This could be right out of the first episode of Cracker. I can hear Robbie Coltrane’s Fitz arguing with his wife’s friend about how little she pays her nanny/household help (he suggests two pounds an hour and she bridles as she responds, “Three!”) while she goes out to teach Women’s Studies for twenty pounds an hour. The next time I watch that episode, I’ll see how similar his point is to yours. I can’t be sure, but what you say seems close.

    • LotusBecca says:

      I think you’re misinterpreting my point. . .granted I made my point in a rather undeveloped, flippant way, and you can’t read minds. . .so that’s more on me than on you. But let me clarify.

      I’m definitely not expecting mothers to do full time childcare on top of another job. You’re right that wouldn’t be feminist. In the short to medium term, I totally support goals like taxpayer-funded childcare, provided by trained professionals, that’s available free of charge to all mothers who want it. And also an expansion/reform of Social Security to provide a guaranteed, monthly, liveable income to all adults of all ages. That way working in the capitalistic economy wouldn’t be a necessity for people, and if individuals chose to be full time stay at home moms/parents, or political activists, or artists, or whatever. . .they could choose to do that and still know they would have shelter, clothing, adequate food, and all that good stuff.

      But in long term, my political goal would more involve less of a division of labor, and a communal society with communal childcare. . .so that kids could be pretty much wherever adults were (within reason. . .maybe they’d have to stay away from the sharp knives) and they would be freely cared for by all adults who were close by in a fluid sort of way. And no one would care if this reduced “productivity” because no one would care about things like that anymore. . .people would care about meeting human needs first and foremost. And this wouldn’t be an imposition on women because there wouldn’t be rigid gender roles anymore, and men and women would be equally invested in caring for others.

      Of course, it’s quite likely none of this will ever happen, and it certainly isn’t going to be happening any time soon. But I would like it to happen. And it provides clarity to me about which sort of things to do politically in the present, and which sort of things not to do. And I don’t see how criticizing or critiquing women who bring their kids to work could ever accomplish anything that I see as politically beneficial. Mothers should never have to be around their kids, but they should be able to be around their kids whenever they feel like it. That’s not working two jobs. . .that’s individual autonomy and freedom of association. I’m going to defend those rights and inform people who feel that it creates a less productive work environment to either help the moms with their childcare or get better at minding their own business.

      • Jill says:

        In the short to medium term, I totally support goals like taxpayer-funded childcare, provided by trained professionals, that’s available free of charge to all mothers who want it. And also an expansion/reform of Social Security to provide a guaranteed, monthly, liveable income to all adults of all ages. That way working in the capitalistic economy wouldn’t be a necessity for people, and if individuals chose to be full time stay at home moms/parents, or political activists, or artists, or whatever. . .they could choose to do that and still know they would have shelter, clothing, adequate food, and all that good stuff.

        Ok… I don’t want to totally derail here, and that sounds all fine and dandy, but who exactly is paying for all of this in our current capitalist economy? “Taxpayers,” I’m sure, but if huge swaths of those taxpayers are living off of the government, you no longer have government money to pay for those kinds of social services. That’s a very nice theory, but it’s not actually functional.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I think these ideas are a lot more workable than you give them credit for. In terms of the government-funded childcare, that’s something that several social democratic countries around the world have already implemented versions of: Sweden, for example. The basic guaranteed income for everyone would be harder to set up, but the main unrealistic thing about it is achieving the political will to implement it–not the economics behind it. If all income (including dividends, capital gains, inheritances, etc.) in excess of, say, $500,000 a year, was taxed at a marginal rate of 95%, and the corporate tax rate was double what it is now, and the national defense budget was cut in half, there would be more than enough money not only for government-funded childcare and a bunch of other socially progressive programs, but also to provide a basic income guarantee for everyone. Capitalists aren’t going to stop trying to make money just because they are forced to redistribute a sizable chunk of it.

        My idea of a basic income guarantee is a standard socialist idea. The state of Alaska has a program similar to it to distribute its oil revenues amongst its citizens, and as recently as the 1970s it was something that liberal Democrats could publicly advocate for on a national level. George McGovern proposed something similar to it in his 1972 Presidential campaign, and even Richard Nixon supported something vaguely like it that would have provided a guaranteed annual income to all poor and working class people (but not those of higher economic status). So, given all this, I’m not sure why any progressive person (to be flippant) would think it’s better to have a large military or an obscenely rich overclass than to make sure that every individual has enough money to provide themselves with housing, clothes, nutritious food, and so on (and these things should be human rights, not things contingent on being properly obedient to a manager at work. . .or on being properly obedient to your husband who is properly obedient to his manager at work).

        The real problem is building the political movement to achieve something like this, as I said, not the economics of it. If anyone is interested, they could read about the idea of a basic income guarantee here. Sorry for the derail, Jill, but you started it!

      • Jill says:

        Of course, it’s quite likely none of this will ever happen, and it certainly isn’t going to be happening any time soon. But I would like it to happen. And it provides clarity to me about which sort of things to do politically in the present, and which sort of things not to do. And I don’t see how criticizing or critiquing women who bring their kids to work could ever accomplish anything that I see as politically beneficial. Mothers should never have to be around their kids, but they should be able to be around their kids whenever they feel like it. That’s not working two jobs. . .that’s individual autonomy and freedom of association. I’m going to defend those rights and inform people who feel that it creates a less productive work environment to either help the moms with their childcare or get better at minding their own business.

        Sure. I see what you’re saying. But in the current capitalist economy that we live in, mothers being around their kids “whenever they feel like it” has an impact on other workers. And on things like safety. If having a kid around makes that kid’s parent less productive, then sure, mind your own business. But if having someone else’s kid around is making me less productive, and impacting my own ability to do my job (and, in doing my job, put food on my table and pay my rent) that is a problem.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I sympathize with your position, but I just can’t look at things this way. I’m against this current capitalist economy that we live in, and I can’t support reasoning that justifies it. If your productivity lags because you are distracted by someone’s kid at work, and then you get fired because of this. . .the person to blame is the boss who fired you, not the parent or their kid. If you then can’t pay your rent and put food on your table because you have no job–here are the people to blame: your landlord from expecting rent from you, the police for being willing to evict you if you don’t pay rent, the grocery stores for not giving their food away for free to people who need it, and the government for not providing the social safety net to protect you from all these contingencies. The mom and her kid at work are the least of your problems. This reminds me of racist white people who think immigrants are taking their jobs. . .rather than seeing that corporations employ as few people as they possibly can in order to maximize profits. When the 99% constantly fights amongst ourselves than there will never be any real economic change in society, and your basic needs will always be under threat, whether there are noisy kids in your law office or not.

      • Jill says:

        I sympathize with your position, but I just can’t look at things this way. I’m against this current capitalist economy that we live in, and I can’t support reasoning that justifies it. If your productivity lags because you are distracted by someone’s kid at work, and then you get fired because of this. . .the person to blame is the boss who fired you, not the parent or their kid. If you then can’t pay your rent and put food on your table because you have no job–here are the people to blame: your landlord from expecting rent from you, the police for being willing to evict you if you don’t pay rent, the grocery stores for not giving their food away for free to people who need it, and the government for not providing the social safety net to protect you from all these contingencies. The mom and her kid at work are the least of your problems. This reminds me of racist white people who think immigrants are taking their jobs. . .rather than seeing that corporations employ as few people as they possibly can in order to maximize profits. When the 99% constantly fights amongst ourselves than there will never be any real economic change in society, and your basic needs will always be under threat, whether there are noisy kids in your law office or not.

        That’s all fine and great. But (a) not all of us are actually opposed to a capitalist economic system, and (b) I live in reality, not theory. And in reality, if I lose my job, it doesn’t matter who I should be “mad” at. What matters is the reality of not being able to live.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Cosign Jill. In theory I would like a free pony, too.

      • DouglasG says:

        Also, wouldn’t such a system basically push everyone’s personal choices towards the LCD of the most chaotic? Mentally watching the sitcom play out, I can see someone who chooses personally to have Nice Things instead of children (though without an inherent prejudice against occasional other people’s children-at-work when it goes smoothly) gradually adjusting to not expecting to be able to work at full productivity (and some people like working productively whether they have to do so or not). But then sooner or later someone’s child will spill coffee or fruit juice all over her designer suit or throw up on her best shoes, and Mamma will just raise an eyebrow as if to say it was her own fault for wearing expensive things in the first place. By the end of the season, Ms CFBC will have gotten together with a few like-minded friends and started her own Efficient Company that will drive Chaos, Inc. completely out of business.

        It just seems as if, in order to provide the admirable choices you’d like, you’d have to steamroll a lot of other people’s choices.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Well, all this is why the “nuclear family” model sucks. Community-based child care, the idea that it’s not just the parents’ responsibility to do all the work of rearing children in a vacuum – all very socialist and maybe even communist, and definitely not capitalist!

        Capitalism is good for making money and buying things, largely on the backs of unpaid and underpaid citizens (usually people of color, usually women). It’s not so great for creating a happy, healthy, well-rounded society. Different priorities.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Yes, I’m aware you’re a supporter of capitalism, Jill. I live in reality also. And I have been fired from a job because my productivity wasn’t good enough, and I have been homeless, living on the street, because I didn’t have enough money to pay for a place to live. I’m a socialist because of these experiences, not in spite of them. And it does matter who people should be mad at when such things happen. . .if one wants to stop them from happening, that is. I don’t want anyone to be homeless or hungry or get fired for low “productivity.” Criticizing working single moms is not going to prevent even 1% of these injustices from happening. Ending capitalism will. That’s reality.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Oh and also what tinfoil hattie said. The “nuclear family” model does suck. And capitalism (an economic system where the rich oppress everyone else) dovetails nicely with other oppressive systems such as patriarchy, white supremacy, imperialism, colonialism, ableism, heterosexism, and cissexism. I believe no person is truly free unless all people are free, and the feminism I personally stand for is against all oppression, including the oppression visited upon us by the super rich economic elite.

      • Okay, seriously, speaking as someone from a culture that does the whole extended-family thing, you guys are seriously underestimating the benefits of nuclear families in terms of ensuring the kids aren’t physically/sexually abused. Just saying. You think the rates are horrific right now in NA? I haven’t met one person – one single person in my entire bloody country – from an extended family, yours truly included, who wasn’t abused by at least one person. Honestly, I think I’ll take a few sick days and a few hits to my career over exposing my stepkid to the kind of shit I grew up facing. Christfuck, if you guys are going to call something a miracle cure for parents’ issues, I’d recommend experiencing it, or, like, asking around about societies where it’s actually a thing that happens. I’m all for community involvement in parenting and the easing of stress on parents, primarily because those offer relief to abused children, but extended families are not the goddamn solution. Seriously. Just. Not.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I hear what you’re saying about extended families Mac. I’m not very knowledgeable about their dynamics, but I believe what you are telling me, and I can see how they could really be recipes for the abuse of children. And India is certainly not a model for the sort of society I’d like to live in. I’m aware that it’s a patriarchal, heterosexist society with an authoritarian social structure.

        Anyway, when I was thinking of communal childrearing, I wasn’t exactly thinking of extended families. I was more thinking of a world where children wouldn’t belong to anyone at all. All adults, regardless of any blood or marriage or other kinship relation, would feel an obligation to ensure that all children in their community were raised in a loving, respectful, egalitarian sort of way. Also, depending on the size of the community, maybe some sort of central but democratically controlled computer system could help manage things and ensure all kids were receiving sufficient care suitable to their needs (sort of like in the novel The Dispossessed). Obviously, it sounds strange, and it’s hard to precisely imagine, but I believe some sort of arrangement that was both communal AND egalitarian/non-abusive/child-centered would be better than the current system based on the family and the idea that parents have a right to control their children.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Oh and I should have also said, Mac, that you sounded exasperated and possibly also triggered in your post. I’m not sure exactly what you went through, but I’m sure it was shitty and unacceptable, and I’m sorry you had to go through it. The fact that everyone you know in India has suffered from physical or sexual abuse as a child is really horrifying also. I’m well aware that over the course of my life I’ve advocated for many things that I thought were good simply because they were different than the bullshit I knew here in the US. . .things that when I actually learned about them turned out to be pretty bad. But I don’t think this was an instance of that. I had been aware societies like India’s were awful for kids. Still I hadn’t been aware until now of how awful they really were. I think it’s wonderful that you care so much about your stepkid and want better for them.

      • LMM says:

        If your productivity lags because you are distracted by someone’s kid at work, and then you get fired because of this. . .the person to blame is the boss who fired you, not the parent or their kid.

        I shouldn’t get into this. But —

        It’s not about getting fired. It’s not about the bottom line. It’s about getting things done.

        If I’m a programmer (say) and I’m working on beta-testing a piece of medical software, reduced productivity is the least of the world’s concerns. What people are concerned about is whether something was left out of the testing — whether there’s a major flaw in the system that’s going to harm people. And getting that right, making sure those errors don’t exist — all of that is more important than letting my coworkers’ children run around the office.

        The same goes if I’m writing a novel, or if I’m painting a picture, or if I’m doing anything I want to do for the sake of doing it. It’s not about capitalism. It’s about personal accomplishment — about doing something important. There are people who can multitask, who could get pulled away and then immediately come back in and finish the task. I get that. I can’t.

        And, when I wrote my dissertation? That thing was *important*. There’s a moment when you realize that what you’ve been working on — what you’re writing — is something that’s greater than yourself, something that needs to be out there or else it dies with you. Getting that thing written, getting everything that needed to be recorded in written form and getting it to my committee — that was, in many ways, the most meaningful thing I’ve ever done in my life.

        I have ADD. I can’t deal with distractions pretty much ever. I can’t stand up and help the toddler up and take her back to her father and then just sit down and start up where I left off. I can’t.

        Saying that children should be allowed in an office because decreased productivity doesn’t matter, when there are certain people whose productivity is *much* more sensitive to distractions than others? That’s pretty damn ableist of you.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Thanks for getting into it actually! I appreciate critiques and yours is a solid one. I especially want to address what you said about ADD and the ableism implicit in what I’ve been saying, because I think you are correct there. . .and I think I should have framed some things differently now. But first I want to tell you where I think you’re wrong!

        I guess where I’m coming from on this is the belief that taking care of kids is more important than 90% of jobs people work at. Perhaps unlike you, I think most of a modern economy has no redeeming social purpose and merely serves to keep people busy so they are too exhausted to live the lives they really want or challenge the powers that be. I certainly know that for every job I’ve ever personally worked at, if I could have chosen to have received my paycheck without having to actually have done any of the work, I would have chosen that. I see no inherent value in the work I did in a fast food restaurant or the work I did in a call center. And I think most people feel similarly. After all, most jobs are stressful, monotonous, dehumanizing, and physically and/or psychologically dangerous/unhealthy. So if you are one of the few people who has the capability or privilege to find intrinsic value in the work you do. . .well, I’m envious. I’m cynical about the value of most jobs, and that’s why I’m so blase about people getting distracted at work and making mistakes or performing less efficiently.

        Still, you’re right about the ableism. There’s work that is actually important out there. And sometimes it’s time sensitive or the quality of it really matters, whether to society or to the individual doing it. And easily distracted people should have as much a right to do that work as anyone else. So people with ADD should have access to work environments, I think, that are free of anything they might find distracting, including kids. Solitude is an important value also. In a future communal society, even if most spaces are open to all people of all ages, it’d still be very important that there are plenty of places and times for individuals to find solitude. So thank you for pointing these things out. . .and I’m sorry that some of what I was saying was ableist.

      • LMM says:

        I get that a lot of jobs aren’t meaningful. But meaningful isn’t the same as important, and I think there are a *lot* of jobs that people do that are drudgery yet are necessary for society to function. (*)

        That brain surgeon almost certainly thinks her job is meaningful. But she needs nurses to prep the patients and technicians to run the tests. Maybe they find their work meaningful; it certainly could be interesting. But the guy whose job it is to sterilize the room and autoclave the equipment probably doesn’t find his job meaningful in the least — yet the hospital needs him to do that work in order to function. I’m not sure one could arrange a collective in which the person with the most training is going to scrub toilets once a week — let alone arrange such a collective when anyone who had to scrub toilets would probably be happier at home on their guaranteed income.

        I get that some jobs are unnecessary. But a lot of them aren’t, and a lot of the ones that aren’t aren’t necessarily meaningful or enjoyable, even though they are *still* more important than taking care of any specific child.

        One thing that no one has pointed out about this life-work combination (and this isn’t just you who is advocating this) is that making it standard practice to bring children into work will create a very real division between “parents'” (read: women’s) jobs and those for other people. A lot of jobs can’t incorporate children (see: brain surgery). And people who take such jobs will be seen as bad parents.

        (*) This isn’t even capitalism or the kyriarchy at work. Someone needs to peel the potatoes and fold the laundry and clean out the gutters. None of that is work that’s going to end with capitalism, yet very few people are going to find any of it meaningful. It’s just things that are necessary for society to function. One might argue that hunter-gatherers or some such didn’t have to deal with such things — but that would require a world with far, far fewer people in it.

      • anonymous says:

        What you’re suggesting, LotusBecca, is not possible. You’re incredibly naive — people are wired to want more and more, to have the best of everything. Your world in which everyone cares for children, helps others with their problems and just generally relaxes and has a nice time is nonsense!

        After only a couple of hours you’re going to have people fucking each other over, taking advantage of their niceness and so forth. People are wired to want the best for themselves and their family and fuck everyone else. That’s just how it is. Capitalism and laws at least keeps it in line a little.

      • LotusBecca says:

        I feel like my point has gotten a bit muddled, LMM, because it involves different time scales, which can be confusing. I have a long term political ideal (feminist anarcho-socialism) and also things I support or oppose in the present. In the present, I just think that parents who bring their kids into work shouldn’t be shamed or harassed or punished (in the spirit of respecting their individual liberty). If I was working with a parent who was bringing her kid into work, and that was proving to be a distraction for me. . .I totally would have a talk with her, and see if we could figure out a way to make the situation better for both of us. But I wouldn’t start shaming her or try to get her in trouble with management or whatever.

        A lot of your last comment, LMM, seems aimed at critiquing my long term political ideal, however. And I do recognize that in our current system a lot of shit jobs are “necessary.” I just don’t support the current system. Ultimately, I feel that if modern hospitals, for example, can’t exist on a basis of complete social equality and individual self-determination for people of all genders, races, and classes, then they shouldn’t exist at all.

        And the sort of specialization in menial work you describe is very much a part of the kyriarchy, being as such work is disproportionately done by people of color, women, and people of lower socioeconomic standing. In my opinion, menial work that’s not fulfilling should be collectively shared by everyone: that’s the only fair way to do it. If the brain surgeons and the nurses and technicians value a clean hospital, then they should occasionally help out in scrubbing toilets, too, rather than passively benefiting from a system that forces certain less privileged people to exclusively do it.

        And such a system wouldn’t be hard to arrange if society had a different value system–and society needs to have a different value system. If everyone truly believed in equality, if everyone truly believed in solidarity, then people would willingly help each other with all things. . .and such tasks would become meaningful because they’d be symbolic of the reciprocal, mutually beneficial social bonds that tied us together. In anarchist thought, this is called the principle of mutual aid, and I think a society operating on that principle would be much healthier than our current capitalistic society, where certain people get to arbitrarily receive the most fulfilling work, and the most money, and the most freedom. . .and to hell with everyone else.

        In general, I want there to be less of a division of labor and less of a compartmentalization of spheres of life. So it’s not just kids that I think should be most places. Music and art should be most places. Drinking and eating should be most places. Rest and leisure should be most places. I envision a world where “work” ceases to exist. If you were a nurse, cleaning the toilet at your hospital would seem no different than cleaning the toilet at your apartment; having a beer at your hospital would seem no different than having a beer at your apartment. You’d just be part of the community–wherever you went, surrounded by friends who would help you and love you.

        LMM, I think you brought up a good point earlier about the ADD also. This is one of many disabilities that would need to be accommodated better in a future egalitarian society. There would need to be spaces that were calm and without distractions for people who needed that sort of environment to complete their tasks. I think that would be very important.

        But your criticism that what I’m advocating for would reinforce gender roles is completely bogus. In the short term, allowing more women to bring their kids to work only reinforces gender roles in the sense that allowing women to wear lipstick reinforces gender roles. An individual women should be free to make the determination for herself–it’s her life–and she can’t be held responsible for how other people may interpret such an action in a way that reveals their own prejudice.

        And as for my ideal society (which may never come, but I’m still advocating for it). . .well, there would be no gender prejudice or stereotypes in such a society. People would recognize that there are an infinite number of ways to be a woman and an infinite number of ways to be a man. . .and that these two categories overlap as well. . .and that therefore, no one should be limited or judged negatively on account of their gender. And no one could be a “bad parent” because parents wouldn’t have any particular obligation to raise their biological children. . .besides the general obligation that everyone in society would have to ensure that all children were loved and cared for.

      • Becca, sorry for the very late reply, I had to tuck that away and chew on it for a while before getting back to you. Thanks for the compliments ^__^

        To address the points you made: I dont’ think it’s that extended families are innately evil as much as it allows a much smaller number of evil people to inflict much greater evil on a greater number of victims. If you have a totally benevolent and enlightened extended family, sure, go for it, but…I’m not sure those exist, frankly. >_> Though maybe I’m just bitter and upset.

        Communal systems like what you outlined are really a much better option IMO. I could also babble on about democratic education systems and how they fit perfectly into your vision, but that would be horribly OTT!

      • LotusBecca says:

        No problem Mac! I’m happy when my comments give people something to think about. :-)

        And I totally see what you’re saying about extended families. It reminds me a bit (I’m not sure if this is an accurate analogy or not) of how a predator can become a priest or a baseball coach and by hiding out in a broader network can abuse far more victims than he would be able to otherwise.

        As far as democratic education systems. . .that sounds really interesting! . .if indeed probably OTT. I’m a big believer that to reach a truly just society, all of our institutions will need restructuring to make them more democratic and egalitarian–the government, the workplace, the family, religion, arts and culture, the media, and education.

      • LMM says:

        LB: Every complex society to date relies on a division of labor. That need increases substantially when the skill in question requires massive amounts of specialized training. Dividing out menial tasks in a situation where highly specialized tasks can’t be evenly distributed seems, well, stupid. (Should the plumber also spend their time delivering mail?) Besides, your ideal society is not going to be racist, so the menial tasks will be evenly distributed, remember?

        Ultimately, though, this is all nonsense. Declaring, for example, that children should be everywhere except the spots we’re reserving for people with ADD (say) is ABSoLUTELY ableist – because separate but equal isn’t equal. Either the people with children or the people with ADD are going to wind up separated from their cohorts. You are suggesting the latter – which means that you are endorsing a system in which people with disabilities are separated from their NT coworkers. As for hospitals not existing if they can’t fit a pre-defined ideological spot – that’s definitely ableist and ageist and sexist, since PWDs and older people use hospitals much more frequently; similarly, the maternal mortality rate in childbirth is much much higher than anyone today would be willing to tolerate without medical facilities.

        And how, in the short term, would women bringing children into work not increase sexism? Again, a lot of jobs can’t tolerate them in the workspace; others have other people who can’t tolerate them in a workspace. If I go to interview at a position, should my decision have to depend in part on whether or not others bring kids into work? Should another person’s decision be based on whether I can tolerate children?

        I get that you think this is feasible – but it’s very clear you haven’t thought much of this through.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Dividing out menial tasks in a situation where highly specialized tasks can’t be evenly distributed seems, well, stupid.

        Forcing certain individuals to constantly do menial tasks is an injustice. I don’t think correcting that injustice is stupid.

        Ultimately, though, this is all nonsense. Declaring, for example, that children should be everywhere except the spots we’re reserving for people with ADD (say) is ABSoLUTELY ableist – because separate but equal isn’t equal.

        Actually, what you’re saying is nonsense. Having particular workplaces reserved for people with disabilities is no more ableist than having particular parking spaces reserved for people with disabilities. I was talking about accommodation, which is not the same thing as forced segregation. Disabled people should be free to be wherever they want, obviously. And I find it ironic that you are criticizing me for advocating segregation when YOU are the one who is saying children should be forcibly kept out of workplaces (which is actual segregation).

        As for hospitals not existing if they can’t fit a pre-defined ideological spot – that’s definitely ableist and ageist and sexist, since PWDs and older people use hospitals much more frequently; similarly, the maternal mortality rate in childbirth is much much higher than anyone today would be willing to tolerate without medical facilities.

        LOL. Sure. Because I don’t want hospitals to be oppressive, I apparently, er, want all hospitals to be shut down. And I’m being sexist, because I said I don’t want hospitals to be sexist. Makes sense.

        And how, in the short term, would women bringing children into work not increase sexism?

        You need to read my posts better because I never said I thought women had to bring their kids into work. I said women should be allowed to bring their kids into work. Allowing a woman to do what she wants is not sexist.

      • mxe354 says:

        @anonymous

        What you’re suggesting, LotusBecca, is not possible. You’re incredibly naive — people are wired to want more and more, to have the best of everything. Your world in which everyone cares for children, helps others with their problems and just generally relaxes and has a nice time is nonsense!

        Our ardent desire to consume senselessly is mostly socially constructed. In reality, we aren’t relentless consumers. Blame our consumerist culture for turning us into such people, not human nature.

        And you greatly underestimate the utility of cooperation and solidarity for humanity. As Max Stirner said, there are very few things more egoistic than cooperation.

        Also, do you really believe that no one would actually want to care for other children in such a society?

        It is you who is naive.

        After only a couple of hours you’re going to have people fucking each other over, taking advantage of their niceness and so forth. People are wired to want the best for themselves and their family and fuck everyone else. That’s just how it is. Capitalism and laws at least keeps it in line a little.

        You sound like one of those Hobbesian folks. Have fun with your leviathan.

      • EG says:

        People are wired to want the best for themselves and their family and fuck everyone else. That’s just how it is. Capitalism and laws at least keeps it in line a little.

        How, precisely, does capitalism keep consumerism, selfishness, and antipathy toward others in line?

      • Miss S says:

        Perhaps unlike you, I think most of a modern economy has no redeeming social purpose and merely serves to keep people busy so they are too exhausted to live the lives they really want or challenge the powers that be.

        I couldn’t agree more, with this and most of everything else you’ve posted. I consider capitalism as oppressive a system as racism and sexism.

      • Lolagirl says:

        I consider capitalism as oppressive a system as racism and sexism.

        Well, as our capitalist system is propped up in no small part by racism and sexism I think a healthy dose of skepticism is certainly warranted. Capitalism is notoriously bad at taking advantage of the labor of POC and women specifically because their labor is not valued as highly as white men’s. Unless (general) you are at or towards the top of the heap I just don’t understand being all Huzzah! Capitalism!

        The fact that our capitalist system here in the U.S. and elsewhere is so exploitive of those at the bottom should not be dismissed out of hand. It’s a huge and terribly unjust flaw.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Thanks for this, Miss S! I’m aware that a lot of what I was posting here wasn’t strictly on topic. . .but I feel it’s OK to take more liberties with that now that we have a threaded comment system. So I’m glad to hear, even if I’m slightly off topic, that some people agree with me and find value in what I’m saying!

        I often try to bring up the oppressiveness of capitalism on this website because I think it’s something that’s invisible to a lot of mainstream feminists, it’s something that they consider to be “normal.” But having a difficult life due to your economic circumstances is just as unjust as having a difficult life due to your gender, race, or disability. Especially given how hard it is to change one’s economic circumstances (contrary to what capitalist propaganda tells us).

        So I’m glad to see there are others here who feel this way also. :-)

    • amblingalong says:

      If the brain surgeons and the nurses and technicians value a clean hospital, then they should occasionally help out in scrubbing toilets, too, rather than passively benefiting from a system that forces certain less privileged people to exclusively do it.

      This is stupid. Both janitors and brain surgeons can mop floors. Only brain surgeons can do brain surgery. For a brain surgeon to wipe a floor is to purposefully misallocate resources in a way which has no effect aside from reducing the number of brain surgeries that get done and unemployed janitors.

      Specialization of labor is absolutely critical to getting anything more advanced than basic agriculture done. And yeah, sometimes it means people don’t like their jobs. It’s the price we pay for non-subsistence living.

      Frankly, this type of hypothetical communist hypothesizing is

      a) silly, because it would never, ever work in reality
      b) obnoxious, because of how obvious a) is to anyone who actually understand super-basic economics
      c) futile, because it will never, ever happen (because of a) and b), among other things)

      • amblingalong says:

        And no one could be a “bad parent” because parents wouldn’t have any particular obligation to raise their biological children. . .besides the general obligation that everyone in society would have to ensure that all children were loved and cared for.

        Your utopia is going to be full of neglected, horribly abused, sexually assaulted children.

        If you were a nurse… having a beer at your hospital would seem no different than having a beer at your apartment.

        And if you were a patient, you’d be totally OK with your doctors being hammered while they opened you up!

        You’d just be part of the community–wherever you went, surrounded by friends who would help you and love you.

        Also, everyone will have a pony.

        Ultimately, I feel that if modern hospitals, for example, can’t exist on a basis of complete social equality and individual self-determination for people of all genders, races, and classes, then they shouldn’t exist at all.

        Yes, if we can’t achieve perfect equality immediately, then let’s all stop taking antibiotics and going in for surgery. Good call. That’ll show them.

        You know what, I would normally feel bad for being this sarcastic and arguably rude to a poster who’s been universally polite and kind to people (and I recognize that), but not in this case. Communists and anarchists never seem to realize how much their utopias are everyone else’s nightmare. The things you advocate, as good as your intentions may be, would only lead to suffering on an unimaginable scale. Thank god that ya’ll seem to be confined to internet forums this century.

      • LotusBecca says:

        You know what, I would normally feel bad for being this sarcastic and arguably rude to a poster who’s been universally polite and kind to people (and I recognize that), but not in this case. Communists and anarchists never seem to realize how much their utopias are everyone else’s nightmare. The things you advocate, as good as your intentions may be, would only lead to suffering on an unimaginable scale. Thank god that ya’ll seem to be confined to internet forums this century.

        Hah, well I appreciate the compliment that I’ve been universally polite and kind. I’m not gonna address you point for point. . .because we obviously just disagree on this stuff, and I seem to remember that we’ve been through this all before. I will make one point though. The difference between anarchists (anarchists like me anyway) and Communists (of the Marxist-Leninist variety) is that I don’t advocate forcing people into my utopia. I merely think that the society I describe would allow more people to live free, happy, and fulfilled lives than is currently the case. But it’s up to the people as a whole to make it happen. I don’t believe in vanguard parties or the violent overthrow of governments. If the society I talk about ever emerges, it will happen through a gradual social revolution that the majority of the population supports. Essentially, all I’m really advocating is that as many people as possible be allowed to choose whatever course they want in life. If that leads to a society similar to what I describe–great. If not–that’s fine, too. My personal political contribution is simply to live the life I want with courage and without abusing others. . .and to stand in solidarity with others who are doing the same.

      • amblingalong says:

        Essentially, all I’m really advocating is that as many people as possible be allowed to choose whatever course they want in life. If that leads to a society similar to what I describe–great. If not–that’s fine, too. My personal political contribution is simply to live the life I want with courage and without abusing others. . .and to stand in solidarity with others who are doing the same.

        Well, I can definitely get behind that, and I think in that case it probably makes sense to just agree to disagree about what the hypothetical best future society should look like.

      • mxe354 says:

        Your utopia is going to be full of neglected, horribly abused, sexually assaulted children.

        What an absurd conclusion. That’s only if no one gives a shit about the children. Which isn’t what LotusBecca is advocating. All she wants is for children to not only be taken care of by parents but by members of the community as well. In other words, the welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility – although parents should have more responsibility due to the natural connection between the parents and their children.

        Also, everyone will have a pony.

        It’s far from impossible for society to be based on solidarity and community. Obviously no anarcho-communist society can be perfect, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t work.

        Yes, if we can’t achieve perfect equality immediately, then let’s all stop taking antibiotics and going in for surgery. Good call. That’ll show them.

        You missed her point entirely. That was merely another way of saying that hospitals should be egalitarian.

        Communists and anarchists never seem to realize how much their utopias are everyone else’s nightmare

        I wonder if you even know anything about how anarchists wish to change society.

        Thank god that ya’ll seem to be confined to internet forums this century.

        As an anarchist, I have absolutely no plans to stay on the internet only. ;)

      • Treebeard says:

        You missed her point entirely. That was merely another way of saying that hospitals should be egalitarian.

        I don’t think her point was missed, but hopefully it was badly expressed. She did explicitly say that if hospitals couldn’t be the way she pictured then they shouldn’t exist at all.

      • EG says:

        Your utopia is going to be full of neglected, horribly abused, sexually assaulted children.

        How would we tell the difference between that scenario and today?

        Communists and anarchists never seem to realize how much their utopias are everyone else’s nightmare. The things you advocate, as good as your intentions may be, would only lead to suffering on an unimaginable scale.

        Could you please give an example of how anarchists have created suffering on an unimaginable scale?

      • LotusBecca says:

        I don’t think her point was missed, but hopefully it was badly expressed. She did explicitly say that if hospitals couldn’t be the way she pictured then they shouldn’t exist at all.

        Mxe354’s interpretation of my opinions on hospitals is the correct one. My point was to make an attention grabbing statement (mission accomplished?) and illustrate how I think that social justice for women, people of color, and the working class is so important, that it’s even more important than hospitals. If I could choose to live in a society that had no hospitals, no roads, no computers, no wine, no movies, no bicycles, no libraries, and no refrigerators but that did have true equality and freedom for all people, I would choose to live in that society hands down. But this is pure rhetoric, and I don’t have to make that choice. I want hospitals and roads and computers and such to exist. Yes? I want them to exist. And I think their existence is perfectly consistent with the ideals of justice and freedom, and that they would continue exist in a future egalitarian society. It’s the people like you who say otherwise in conversations like this one. . .usually as a scare tactic to dissuade people from socialism or anarchism. So I like to take the scare tactic and throw it back in your faces.

        In short, my real point was to note that I care more about social equality and individual self-determination than the people who hold your position, not that I care less about hospitals.

      • LMM says:

        LB: “Scare tactic” or no, your ability to make such a statement is a serious sign of privilege. A lot of people COULDN’T live in a world without hospitals – and your cavalier attitude towards modern medicine says far more about your own ableism than any ideal you claim to possess. It’s like a cisman saying he’d gladly live in a world without birth control if it didn’t have sexism. It may be a very high-minded claim, but it completely ignores the ways in which material culture correlates with cultural practice – and all it really does is signify how little he’s thought about the situation.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Could you please give an example of how anarchists have created suffering on an unimaginable scale?

        In 1997 anarchist band Chumbawamba released the song Tub Thumping.

        I rest my case.

      • I have to say, I’m with ambling on the fact that more caregivers for a child=greater chance of abuse. It also means a greater chance of the abuse being caught/reported, but we’re aiming for prevention rather than punishment, I hope.

        If I could choose to live in a society that had no hospitals, no roads, no computers, no wine, no movies, no bicycles, no libraries, and no refrigerators but that did have true equality and freedom for all people, I would choose to live in that society hands down.

        Yeah, you know what, Becca, I’m goign to have to disagree violently. I have chronic tonsillitis, have had typhoid and infections and a poorly functioning immune system which mean that, in the absence of modern medicine (particularly antibiotics) I would be dead ten times over today. I also have disabilities that mean I couldn’t be a productive member of an agricultural society, if I even survived childhood. So you know, I’ll take the imperfect society that lets me live over the death sentence your utopia would be for me. Not to mention my wife, who was suicidally depressed for years until she got medication that let her climb out of it, my aunt who needed a hysterectomy for menopausal issues (and whose low blood pressure meant she flatlined briefly on the operating table), my best friend with MS….

        We are survivors of child sexual abuse. We are survivors of domestic violence. We are the face of surviving racism. We are the face of surviving colonialism. We are the face of domestic violence. All those things that the society you speak of would eradicate. Unfortunately, we’re also the face of mental illness, of fibromyalgia, of multiple sclerosis….and a few months of pure equality followed by death-by-throat-ache isn’t my idea of utopia. So please believe me when I say that your statement is extremely privileged and take a look at it again. I realise that freedom isn’t incongruous with hospitals and bicycles (naturally), but your comparison, even as rhetoric, pissed me off really badly.

      • EG says:

        In 1997 anarchist band Chumbawamba released the song Tub Thumping.

        I rest my case.

        I concede the argument. I had managed to block out the horror of the past. Until now.

      • mxe354 says:

        This is stupid. Both janitors and brain surgeons can mop floors. Only brain surgeons can do brain surgery. For a brain surgeon to wipe a floor is to purposefully misallocate resources in a way which has no effect aside from reducing the number of brain surgeries that get done and unemployed janitors.

        Nonsense. You seem to be assuming that this is a zero sum game. There won’t necessarily be less brain surgeries if they also help out with janitorial duty. And it’s not like brain surgeons are the only ones responsible; everyone directly concerned with the facility is. And if you think that this requires people to be forced to be stuck with jobs they don’t like, then you’re the one being absurd.

      • amblingalong says:

        How would we tell the difference between that scenario and today?

        Are you intentionally missing the point? You honestly don’t see how communal childraising drastically raises the potential for abuse? When it’s considered normal for any adult to pick any child up from school? Yeesh.

        PS- this is empirical, not just hypothetical. The rate of sexual assault of minors goes up the more adults are responsible for their caregiving. I’m sorry if reality gets in the way of your ideology.

      • mxe354 says:

        Are you intentionally missing the point? You honestly don’t see how communal childraising drastically raises the potential for abuse? When it’s considered normal for any adult to pick any child up from school? Yeesh.

        I admit that I’m phrasing my points poorly. All I’m saying is that child care should be more communitarian, not that everyone should be trusted as a caretaker. Think about it this way: the welfare of the elderly, sick, etc. is also in the community’s hands, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should be trusted. Even an anarchist society will have its share of terrible human beings. None of us anarchists are proposing a utopian model, contrary to popular belief.

        As for your second point, I would like to know why exactly that correlation exists. Also, like most people, I also believe in fighting the causes of child sexual abuse; I’m not so stupid as to suggest that we have a non-hierarchical society in which rape culture is still prominent or no one cares about dismantling it. I believe in gradual social change.

      • amblingalong says:

        Think about it this way: the welfare of the elderly, sick, etc. is also in the community’s hands, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should be trusted. Even an anarchist society will have its share of terrible human beings.

        What’s your plan for immediately identifying them from a distance?

      • amblingalong says:

        None of us anarchists are proposing a utopian model, contrary to popular belief.

        Funny, I thought we were discussing the society where dirty floors will get cleaned because people will want to mop them.

      • What’s your plan for immediately identifying them from a distance?

        Amblingalong, fwiw I agree with your base point – too many caregivers is a bad idea – but honestly, the likelihood of anyone abusing a child goes down with the degree of their importance. From my experience and study of statistics, I would fisheye parents and step-parents, hten grandparents and uncles/aunts, then siblings, then parents of friends. So while your argument stands, “any adult” picking up a child from school is statistically less likely to be abusing them than the people waiting for them at home.

      • mxe354 says:

        What’s your plan for immediately identifying them from a distance?

        Identifying people from a distance in that context is absolutely foolish and is not what I’m advocating.
        But opposing a culture that hides and protects rapists, abusers, etc. and blames victims for their own suffering certainly will make such a judgment easier.

      • EG says:

        None of us anarchists are proposing a utopian model, contrary to popular belief.

        Don’t be silly mxe354. Capitalism has worked so well to minimize suffering and increase justice that any contemplated change must be to a utopia, or it would be for the worse. Obviously.

        What’s your plan for immediately identifying them from a distance?

        What’s your plan for identifying abusive parents from a distance in a capitalist society that assigns almost total control of a vulnerable child to its biological parents with very few constraints? I want that taken care of before I accept that such an idea is reasonable.

      • amblingalong says:

        Capitalism has worked so well to minimize suffering and increase justice that any contemplated change must be to a utopia, or it would be for the worse.

        Yeah, actually, it has. Industrialization came with MASSIVE increases in quality of life for basically everyone. Free markets make people better off. Not every person, not all of the time, but on the balance, yep.

        People who think the world hasn’t been steadily becoming a better place to live have no sense of history.

      • amblingalong says:

        What’s your plan for identifying abusive parents from a distance in a capitalist society that assigns almost total control of a vulnerable child to its biological parents with very few constraints?

        This must be trolling, right? You aren’t actually arguing that because child abuse exists now, arguments that a given system would increase child abuse are a priori false? ’cause that would just be obtuse.

      • Treebeard says:

        Communists and anarchists never seem to realize how much their utopias are everyone else’s nightmare. The things you advocate, as good as your intentions may be, would only lead to suffering on an unimaginable scale.

        Love this comment.

      • EG says:

        Both janitors and brain surgeons can mop floors. Only brain surgeons can do brain surgery. For a brain surgeon to wipe a floor is to purposefully misallocate resources in a way which has no effect aside from reducing the number of brain surgeries that get done and unemployed janitors.

        This assumes that the current number of brain surgeons is the greatest possible number of brain surgeons. On the contrary, because racism, misogyny, capitalism, there are numbers of people who would be great brain surgeons who are currently stuck scrubbing floors. Capitalism misallocates resources by depriving talented people of the resources they need to make the most of their talents. In a society such as the one LotusBecca and mxe354 describe, there would be more brain surgeons, and thus less of a burden on each individual one. Leaving more time for taking care of chores as well as leisure.

      • matlun says:

        So you are saying that in this utopia there would actually be a significant surplus of good brain surgeons so that it would not make sense for all of them to focus on doing brain surgery? (And presumably the same holds true for all other highly skilled professions?)

        I see no reason to believe this.

        Even if we had a perfect society where everyone could reach their full potential, it would still be a waste having the most skilled doing chores that could be done by anyone.

      • hmm says:

        No, I think it assumes that no matter how many brain surgeons you have, a lot more training goes into them than goes into becoming a janitor. Having people do a ton of training to get a skill and then insisting that they spend a significant amount of time doing unskilled labor is a misallocation of resources. Also purposely training more brain surgeons than you really need because you want to make sure they spend X number of hours a week mopping the floor is also a misallocation of resources.

        (And this one I haven’t thought through as much, but a lot of those skills need a lot of time devoted to constantly maintaining them – its not necessarily a good thing to insist on lots of downtime not using that skill just because other people also have that skill. And depending on the type of unskilled labor any serious amount of it could actually be damaging to a fine motor skill like brain surgery or piano playing or whatever.)

      • LMM says:

        On the contrary, because racism, misogyny, capitalism, there are numbers of people who would be great brain surgeons who are currently stuck scrubbing floors… In a society such as the one LotusBecca and mxe354 describe, there would be more brain surgeons, and thus less of a burden on each individual one. Leaving more time for taking care of chores as well as leisure.

        There are a lot of people who would be great brain surgeons doing other things. Many of those things are misallocated under our current system.

        But those people who would be great brain surgeons? Might also be great programmers or engineers under another system. Children are not born with (or grow up to develop) a set of skills that specifically designate them to be great brain surgeons. They’re born with a set of skills that would suit them to one of a hundred different careers — and, even given all the choice in the world, they’re going to pick a niche in part based upon what skill sets their society requires. People are born systematizers (for example) — whether they choose to become chemists or programmers or physicists or linguists really depends upon what they’re interested in and, yes, what society feels like it wants.

        There are careers which can develop from a hobby. I’ve met women who have fallen in love with knitting and bought a goat farm so they can spin and dye to their heart’s content. They learned to knit in their spare time. That’s feasible. And that could easily be balanced out with a few hours scrubbing floors.

        Brain surgery isn’t like that. Brain surgery requires intensive hands-on training, both in medicine in general and in the techniques needed for brain surgery. But it also requires practice — lots and lots and lots of practice. It’s a very specialized technique.

        It’s not like being a knitter. It’s like being a high-end Olympics-level athlete. Five part-time athletes are never going to be as good as that one full-time athlete, because they aren’t able to invest as much time in their sport. The same goes for many types of art. (This is, after all, one of the crucial reasons why the upper end of many forms are art are dominanted by men — women, historically, have had to divert their attention to children. And it’s very hard to write a novel if you’re constantly interrupted.) And that’s fine if you’re dealing with sports, or even with art. Both are nice, but nothing is going to happen if we have fewer great artists or basketball players.

        Ten not-so-experienced part-time brain surgeons? Are going to result in a lot more people dying. Arguing otherwise is like saying that we could easily replace an experienced pilot with four or five trainees — after all, it’s the same amount of overall potential!

        There are fields where experience matters. There are also fields which require split-second decisions. Fields which require both are going to suffer if they start to replace one or two full-time people with lots and lots of part-time people — because most of those part-time people aren’t going to have the experience needed to judge a situation immediately, and they aren’t going to have the time to consult someone else (let alone a LOT of other people) for advice.

      • mxe354 says:

        Having people do a ton of training to get a skill and then insisting that they spend a significant amount of time doing unskilled labor is a misallocation of resources.

        “Insisting”? Do you really think that no one really cares about a clean workplace?

        Also purposely training more brain surgeons than you really need because you want to make sure they spend X number of hours a week mopping the floor is also a misallocation of resources.

        Where has anyone said that there should be more brain surgeons than needed? And where has anyone said that only brains surgeons should be concerned with mopping? Or that they should be forced to do mopping even if it leads to significant problems?

        Look, the way many anarcho-communists expect people to do dirty work is for workers directly concerned to do it – but only to the greatest extent possible. If brain surgeons are able to help out, then they should contribute to keeping the place clean, assuming that they actually care about clean facilities (which I’m sure they do, given the nature of their work). If they can’t, then so be it. That doesn’t mean other people have to be forced to do it, though; as long as it is recognized (as it already is) that a clean hospital is essential, people will do dirty work. And there is virtually no division of labor required for them to do it.

      • LotusBecca says:

        Having people do a ton of training to get a skill and then insisting that they spend a significant amount of time doing unskilled labor is a misallocation of resources.

        Fine. So It’s a misallocation of resources. I don’t give a fuck. Your ideal of efficiency is bullshit, and we need to focus on the basics, like making sure everyone can have a decent life, before we focus on fine tuning things and getting more efficient at them.

        Also, doing a bad thing efficiently (like efficiently maintaining a shitty, racist, sexist, classist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic society–which would be the effect of your apparent policy preferences) is not something to be proud of. It’s better to do something worthwhile inefficiently.

      • LotusBecca says:

        This assumes that the current number of brain surgeons is the greatest possible number of brain surgeons. On the contrary, because racism, misogyny, capitalism, there are numbers of people who would be great brain surgeons who are currently stuck scrubbing floors. Capitalism misallocates resources by depriving talented people of the resources they need to make the most of their talents. In a society such as the one LotusBecca and mxe354 describe, there would be more brain surgeons, and thus less of a burden on each individual one. Leaving more time for taking care of chores as well as leisure.

        Yes. Precisely EG. You and mxe354 seem to have eclipsed me in the ability to coherently articulate such ideas. . .it feels like my stamina for explaining and defending my viewpoint on this thread has finally run out–not that it hasn’t been fun thus far! But perhaps I should stop since I’ve been becoming more and more snappish with my critics, and I don’t want to make my political philosophy look bad. In any event, thanks for pitching in comrade!

        And thanks for your stellar contributions also, mxe354. :-)

      • mxe354 says:

        Fine. So It’s a misallocation of resources. I don’t give a fuck. Your ideal of efficiency is bullshit, and we need to focus on the basics, like making sure everyone can have a decent life, before we focus on fine tuning things and getting more efficient at them.

        Also, in an anarcho-communist society, if the workers directly concerned with the facility collectively pitch in and do janitorial duties and so on, misallocation won’t be an issue. So, there won’t be a “significant” amount of time devoted to cleaning up a hospital. Mopping a goddamn floor isn’t that difficult or time-consuming. And it’s not like people who are unable to do janitorial work would be forced to do so anyway. As for unwilling workers, that’s unlikely unless somehow no one has a problem with a filthy workplace or recognizes the importance of hygiene. Fortunately, no one needs to be forced to do dirty work because people will want to do it anyway. It’s funny how people assume that no one wants to do the dirty work even though the reality is totally different in regards to self-managed workers directly concerned with the facility.

        And thanks for your stellar contributions also, mxe354. :-)

        Hehe, no problem, comrade! =D

      • EG says:

        What on earth makes you think that we already have enough brain surgeons, and so can do without the ones who are currently scrubbing floors? What if it’s one of those who can make some major technical breakthrough?

      • Safiya Outlines says:

        With having to do very long (several hours, if not all day) operations, reviewing patients in clinic, on call time, teaching and study to ensure their knowledge is up to date, I’m not sure when brain surgeons would actually have the time for floor mopping – it’s not exactly a 9-5 job and a tired surgeon is not one you’d want operating on anyone.

        But having floor mopping as the dirty job which must be shared out, doesn’t get away from the mind set of hierarchy of labour and is rather patronising, why not just respect people (as people rather then as their worth) and know that everyone’s work is a valuable contribution.

        I’m also very dubious about children belonging to no one being posited as good for social justice, considering the fight many women have had, especially women of colour, in poverty or with disabilities, to claim and raise their children as theirs on not have them taken off them by the state, and likewise the children in those situations who have had to fight to belong to their parents and their biological roots.

        Finally, as someone who works in a children’s hospital, I find the idea that hospitals should not exist, unless they achieve some level of social justice perfection hitherto not achieved by humankind to be grotesquely offensive. it’s not much better then naval gazing about people being better off dead.

      • EG says:

        Doctors of all kinds are already required to pull 24-hour shifts, so while I agree that a tired surgeon is a bad idea, I don’t think it’s one that would be unique to LB’s proposed society.

        I’m happy to value everybody’s labor, but I’m not happy about denying people their desired labor based on their group membership. One problem with capitalism as it now stands is that only some labor is valued (and that value represents a set of values that I find noxious), but another is that only members of certain groups are expected to do that devalued labor. The idea isn’t that all janitors secretly want to be brain surgeons because brain surgery is inherently better; the idea is that anybody who wants to be a janitor is welcome to, but if nobody wants to be, or not enough people want to be, even when the labor is valued, respected, and well compensated, then the labor has to be shared out rather than strong-arming some people into doing it by holding the welfare of their families hostage.

      • mxe354 says:

        But having floor mopping as the dirty job which must be shared out, doesn’t get away from the mind set of hierarchy of labour and is rather patronising, why not just respect people (as people rather then as their worth) and know that everyone’s work is a valuable contribution.

        Again, why are you assuming that it all has to be planned and shared out? What I’m proposing is that, in such a society, everyone directly concerned (who isn’t completely overwhelmed by their current work) with the facility is responsible for doing dirty work. But that doesn’t need to be imposed because works will do dirty work anyway (it’s in their interest, after all), and so that won’t require any division of labor.

        I’m also very dubious about children belonging to no one being posited as good for social justice, considering the fight many women have had, especially women of colour, in poverty or with disabilities, to claim and raise their children as theirs on not have them taken off them by the state, and likewise the children in those situations who have had to fight to belong to their parents and their biological roots.

        I think a better way of looking at our position is that the community, in addition to the parents, ought to be responsible for the welfare of children.

      • amblingalong says:

        But that doesn’t need to be imposed because works will do dirty work anyway (it’s in their interest, after all), and so that won’t require any division of labor.

        You know who having a clean hospital is in the interests of? Patients. Brain surgeons? Less so.

        Read, please.

      • amblingalong says:

        Your math doesn’t work, either. Being a janitor at a hospital is a full time job. So is a brain surgeon. You can’t have one person with a full time job now having two full-time jobs if you want either job to be done well.

        Perhaps you want to just hire twice as many brain surgeons. Well, ok, but where are they coming from? Do you honestly believe every janitor has the capacity to do brain surgery? Probably not.

        You’re essentially trying to fit a smaller number of people into the same pool of work to be done. It doesn’t make any sense.

      • EG says:

        1) Yes, I honestly believe that a far greater number of people have the capacity to be good brain surgeons than ever get the opportunity. Maybe you think that we are already swimming in so many qualified people that we can afford to screw over huge swathes of them, but that is not my experience of the world.

        2) “Full-time” is not a measurement that is set in stone. 100 years ago, 96 hours a week was full-time. Today it’s less, and yet work still gets done. We don’t have so few people in the world that there just won’t be enough manpower to wash hospital floors if we cut the hours.

        3) I guess that if you assume that brain surgeons don’t care if their patients die, then they have no incentive to wash hospital floors. I tend to think better of doctors than that, these days. Now, as to the Tragedy of the Commons, from the article you link to:

        Hardin’s work has been criticised on the grounds of historical inaccuracy, and for failing to distinguish between common property and open access resources. As Hardin acknowledged[6] there was a fundamental mistake in the use of the term “commons.” This was already noted in 1975 by Ciriacy-Wantrup & Bishop (1975: 714)[7] who wrote that we “are not free to use the concept ‘common property resources’ or ‘commons’ under conditions where no institutional arrangements exist. Common property is not ‘everybody’s property’ (…). To describe unowned resource (res nullius) as common property (res communis), as many economists have done for years (…) is a self-contradiction.””

        “Hardin’s essay has been widely criticized. Public policy experts have argued that Hardin’s account of the breakdown of common grazing land was inaccurate, and that such commons were effectively managed to prevent overgrazing.[20] Referring to Hardin’s crucial passage on page 1244,17 Partha Dasgupta, for example, comments that “it is difficult to find a passage of comparable length and fame that contains so many errors as the one quoted.”[21]”

        “Some of this controversy stems from disagreement over whether individuals will always behave in the selfish fashion posited by Hardin. Others have argued that even self-interested individuals will often find ways to cooperate, because collective restraint serves both the collective and individual interests.[23] Hardin’s piece has also been criticised as promoting the interests of Western economic ideology. G. N. Appell, an anthropologist, states: “Hardin’s claim has been embraced as a sacred text by scholars and professionals in the practice of designing futures for others and imposing their own economic and environmental rationality on other social systems of which they have incomplete understanding and knowledge.”[24]”

        (emphasis added by me)

        You can’t just run around writing “Tragedy of the Commons” and act like it’s some kind of trump card.

      • LMM says:

        as long as it is recognized (as it already is) that a clean hospital is essential, people will do dirty work. And there is virtually no division of labor required for them to do it.

        You know, that works for dishes (sometimes). That works for organized festivals and the like (sometimes).

        But a hospital? Where someone failing to completely sanitize the operating room is going to seriously harm *patients*? Where things need to be done on a very tight schedule, in a setting that few are going to visit and most are not going to think about until they need it?

        Yeah, no.

        This isn’t tragedy of the commons. This is the reverse.

        The reason why we (correctly) don’t trust corporations to police themselves when it comes to health and safety is because it’s easier to cut corners. It’s easier to let things slide. Sometimes that doesn’t really matter. But when it does, we want (rightly!) rigorous inspections and regulations and procedures. That doesn’t change if you switch to some sort of anarcho-communist system. Either way, if you depend on a heart medication, you want that active ingredient to be present in *very* specific quantities in each and every pill. And either way, that means you need to have a very rigorous protocol that everyone needs to follow — and that protocol relies both upon a supplier (your starting materials should be pure) and upon your distributor (your pharmacist better recognize the drug and distribute them properly).

        True story: There’s a major pharmaceutical research center in my hometown. A family friend there works as a janitor. When he started, he was told to fill out a form every time he switched out a lightbulb — because the labs were performing long-term experiments that could be worth millions of dollars and, if things suddenly change, they want a record of every single event that’s happened in that room.

        They want, in short, a highly rigorous system — all of which involves documentation and bureaucracy and training, even for the menial tasks.

        And I have yet to hear anyone explain how that’s possible under a system where we don’t want to assign anyone to perform menial tasks like, you know, cleaning and sterilizing bloody ORs according to very specific standards or spending days analyzing dozens of samples to make sure each and every one of them contains the right amount of the right drug.

  48. A4 says:

    I don’t know about y’all, but I just emailed Professor Pine a letter of support and I think her essay on this incident is hilarious, insightful, incredibly even-handed, and far more worth reading than the awful post article.

    Professor Pine’s language is amazing. The way she sets the issues firmly within a feminist paradigm using language and descriptions of personal experience is to be admired.

    I don’t understand why we have cast this discussion as “But what could this mother have done better, to serve the tender needs of privileged college students to which she is capitalistically bound”

    Professor Pine’s point about this being a non-story is extremely appropriate because of one simple fact: It’s more newsworthy that there is a national article about a professor breastfeeding in a feminist anthropology class than that there was a professor breastfeeding in a feminist anthropology class.

    • serve the tender needs of privileged college students to which she is capitalistically bound

      This working class student (also a caregiver, by the fucking way) would like to kindly invite her to capitalistically bind herself to some other profession where she can have her sick child crawling around her workspace without interference.This working class student (also a caregiver, by the fucking way) would also like, even more kindly, to invite you to fuck yourself sideways for assuming that all college students are rolling around in boatloads of money. Some of us (actually, almost all of us) are going into massive debt to study and actually give a shit whether the person teaching us is remotely interested in our welfare or not.

      • EG says:

        I agree with most of this statement, Mac, but I also think you’re making a leap from “brought the kid in” to “remotely interested in her students’ welfare.” Believe me, most of us are rather more than remotely interested in our students’ welfare, and I can’t help but feel it personally when a professor making a judgment call or being somewhat distracted is taken as evidence that we’re not. I mean, who among us has never been distracted during work? Even work we care about? I know you can’t have meant to imply that, given the conversation we had above about teaching, but that’s how this comment comes off to me.

      • Sorry, that was a statement of “interested or not” that came off rather wrong, as in, I’ll base my college experience on wehther my professor’s interested in my welfare or not. It came off horribly wrong and I apologise.

        Wargh, I am having massive brainfail the last couple of days! Feministe, plz to be adding edit feature, love you for it.. I’ve had to correct, what, three comments in the last 12 hours alone?

  49. pheenobarbidoll says:

    Wouldn’t have cared about the breast feeding, but the baby crawling on the floor would have distracted the hell out of me. And I’d be right pissed if I got sick because of it.

  50. Fat Steve says:

    For all the people who are so willing to believe that this piece would be a hatchet job, solely based on the word ‘incident’ or due to the fact that 3 years ago the paper ran an editorial by some libertarian who dismissed the idea of date rape, how about looking at the young journalists’ previous work on The Eagle? I just did. Nothing, literally nothing there, gives the impression of a person with a right wing agenda, not one story is in any way an ‘expose’ or a hatchet job AT ALL. Take a look for yourself:

    http://www.theeagleonline.com/staff/profile/heather-mongilio/

    • Lolagirl says:

      This humorless feminist is unmoved. A past track record of inoffensive journalism doesn’t really mean a whole lot of anything. And nobody is saying that she is some right wing plant with an agenda to ruin it for all the women, that’s really besides the point.

      Do you really need schooling on how sexist notions can be so deeply socialized and ingrained into the collective pysche such that even plenty of women don’t realize they are there until they have a knee jerk reaction to something? Heather the aspiring journalist very likely did not grow up with breastfeeding as anything even vaguely approaching normal, and I don’t find it all surprising that she had the knee jerk reaction of ZOMG! breastfeeding where other people can see IT!

      Because here’s the thing that any breastfeeding parent who has ever been hassled will tell you if you actually bother to ask and listen to what they have to say: there is no hard and fast rule on the age or sex of those who are freaking out over the breastfeeding.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Heather the aspiring journalist very likely did not grow up with breastfeeding as anything even vaguely approaching normal, and I don’t find it all surprising that she had the knee jerk reaction of ZOMG! breastfeeding where other people can see IT!

        We don’t know any of this, in fact, had she reacted like that Prof Pine would have mentioned it. It was much more likely the ‘ZOMG’ came from a student who called the paper. Regardless of all that let’s accept your premise for the sake of argument:

        So, we’ll say “Heather the aspiring journalist very likely did not grow up with breastfeeding as anything even vaguely approaching normal.”

        Does that mean that she should be written off immediately? Was your feminism fully formed before you reached your 20’s? Do you want to be judged on the way you were raised? Do you want to be judged on a sexist article your paper has published written by a guy who has probably already graduated or your own work which is in no way sexist? Do you want to be treated as an annoyance by a professor when you’re doing an extra-curricular activity in a job which clearly is one that you view as your future and your passion? Do you want to be badmouthed by a professor at your university publicly based on an article you haven’t written?

        Lola, your blanket defense of Professor Pine doesn’t seem to indicate that you are willing to concedethat she may have done anything wrong. I’ve already mentioned the numerous ways in which she wasn’t wrong, yet you find it impossible to acknowledge Pine handled this anything other than perfectly, so I’m having trouble seeing how you are arguing in good faith.

    • Fat Steve says:

      and also…to all those complaining that this has become a ‘national news story,’ How many people have read the ‘national news story, that Jill linked to in her OP in the sentence below?

      At one point, the baby gets fussy, and so the professor breastfeeds the baby. Normal “this is life” stuff, or a national news story?

      It links to an article from the Washington post.

      1) The hyperlink is

      washingtonpost.com/local/education/american-university-professor-breast-feeds-sick-baby-in-class-sparking-debate/2012/09/11/54a06856-fc12-11e1-8adc-499661afe377_story.html

      So, it’s a local story, not a national story. Hence the word local. But it happens to be a local paper with a wide readership. The reason why this story ‘went national’ in the sense that Jill read it, is due to the internet age. This story would not have been picked up by the national news if it was on the local pages of the Washington Post pre-WWW.

      2) According to the article, university officials issued a statement that seemed to indicate some disapproval of Pine’s actions, generally citing them as a health issue because the baby was sick.” Any comments made towards breastfeeding by the school were positive or neutral. The only comment about an objection to breastfeeding was “Some students interviewed Tuesday said breast-feeding doesn’t belong in the classroom.” which again was neutral and not treated with any moral weight or something which was defended.

      3) Over half of this ‘national’ news story was solely based on Pine’s response, which was of course, based on an imaginary article that hadn’t been written yet. As below:

      “Pine wrote that she was “shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy.” She lamented that her workplace had suddenly become “a hostile environment.” She also upbraided journalists at the Eagle student newspaper — which, as of Tuesday afternoon, had not published any article on the matter — and wrote that the tone of a reporter’s questions implied an “anti-woman” view.

      She was shocked, she was annoyed, she equates answering a female students’ questions with a hostile work environment, she ‘knows’ what this young journalist will write based on her tone.

      In summary, this woman used the fact that a few ignorant and backward students may have been ‘grossed-out’ her breast feeding, but she is using this tiny group of sexists to deflect from the legitimate criticism of the majority of students who very well may have found the contagious child, (and contagious professor the next day,) and the paper clip/socket incident problematic. She clearly knows that she did all those things wrong which is why she is focusing on the breastfeeding, the only defensible aspect of this.

      • Lolagirl says:

        She clearly knows that she did all those things wrong which is why she is focusing on the breastfeeding, the only defensible aspect of this.

        Or, maybe, just maybe, the Administration is playing cover our asses by trying to turn the emphasis away from the breastfeeding and towards irresponsible Professor and her terrible exposure of students to the common cold virus.

        this woman used the fact that a few ignorant and backward students may have been ‘grossed-out’ her breast feeding, but she is using this tiny group of sexists to deflect from the legitimate criticism of the majority of students

        Steve, you’re veering into mansplaining territory. Proceed with caution.

        Pine has every right to be be offended and infuriated that students at her school are treating breastfeeding in public as a big scandalous scandal. We should be offended and infuriated by such a thing, because it’s asinine. You aassuming she is using that as cover for the story of bringing her sick child to class with her once, in an isolated incident just smacks of apologism to me. It’s not as though Pine has made a habit of bringing her child to classes with her, or of even abusing her Teaching Assistants time and free labor as babysitters.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Steve, you’re veering into mansplaining territory. Proceed with caution.

        Huh? Mansplaining? I really thought I was sticking to the exact facts of what the article says- and what most of the criticism on this page has been. No one has publicly criticized the breastfeeding. Bringing the sick child to school has been publicly criticized. She is defending the breastfeeding. Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word deflect, if that’s what you mean, but how can you deny that the school’s statement only mentioned the ill child, and her statement dealt with everything else.

      • Fat Steve says:

        It’s not as though Pine has made a habit of bringing her child to classes with her,

        So far, in these student’s eyes, she has done it 100% of the time.

      • Fat Steve says:

        I would also like to add, that in my personal educational experience male professors were far more arrogant and self-important and would easily treat a student reporter with far more contempt.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Steve, you specifically opined that the Professor was “using” the breastfeeding aspect of the story to deflect attention from the issue of her bringing her kid to class with her. That isn’t just the fact, Ma’am, that’s you putting your own spin on it, and the spin is that Pine is being dishonest while the Administration at AU is being 100% upfront and honest.

        When you tell women how it is, because you know better than them, you need to be very cautious about how you got to that end conclusion. Why are you so inclined to believe the Administration over the Professor? Why are so quick to dismiss her conclusion that this is really about her breastfeeding her child in class, especially in light of the quote from the WaPo that some students were unhappy with her doing exactly that?

        Also, the Washington Post is a national paper. If I can buy it at most newstands in Paris or London or Rome or whatever? It’s a national.

      • Lolagirl says:

        So far, in these student’s eyes, she has done it 100% of the time.

        Gotcha! Oh, wait, no.

        The fact is that Professor Pine had never before brought her child to class with her. Are we now so concerned for the fragile sensibilities and narrow experiences of her students that the potential for their minds being blown by a one time incident becomes paramount? Especially and even if the controversy is limited to the one time bringing of the kid to school, it still doesn’t merit all of this hand wringing.

      • EG says:

        So far, in these student’s eyes, she has done it 100% of the time.

        So what? No, seriously, so what? If they’re that delicate, they can drop the class, and if they’re not, they have a semester’s worth of classes in which they can reassure themselves and soothe their jangled nerves.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Steve, you specifically opined that the Professor was “using” the breastfeeding aspect of the story to deflect attention from the issue of her bringing her kid to class with her. That isn’t just the fact, Ma’am, that’s you putting your own spin on it, and the spin is that Pine is being dishonest while the Administration at AU is being 100% upfront and honest.

        The Professor doesn’t deny anything that the University said. You have a weird habit of seizing on one word and deciding it explains every thing in a person’s tone so I guess I shouldn’t have said ‘using’, but how else would you describe the use of something?

        When you tell women how it is, because you know better than them, you need to be very cautious about how you got to that end conclusion.

        I was not ‘telling women how it is,’ I was expressing an opinion, in fact, I specifically said I was basing my opinion on many of the comments made by women on here.

        Why are you so inclined to believe the Administration over the Professor?

        I’m not. As I said before, the Professor does not dispute the Administration’s account.

        Why are so quick to dismiss her conclusion that this is really about her breastfeeding her child in class, especially in light of the quote from the WaPo that some students were unhappy with her doing exactly that?

        ‘This’ is really about her breastfeeding in class? What is ‘this’? The article she wrote is certainly about breastfeeding in class. So far the article SHE wrote is the only one that focuses on breastfeeding.

        Also, the Washington Post is a national paper. If I can buy it at most newstands in Paris or London or Rome or whatever? It’s a national.

        It was in the local news section. My grandfather’s obituary was in The New York Times, does that mean his death made national news.

      • Lolagirl says:

        As I said before, the Professor does not dispute the Administration’s account.

        This isn’t 100% correct, though. Pine’s piece in Counterpunch attributes the controversy in no small part to her breastfeeding her child in class. In the WaPo piece, the Administration tried to downplay the breastfeeding angle, but felt it necessary to point out that they have space for breastfeeding mothers to pump milk if necessary. The subtle implication there could also be taken that she should have used the pumping area to feed her baby instead of the classroom.

        What is ‘this’?

        The controversy and hand wringing going on about Professor Pine bringing her child to class and breastfeeding her. “This” is the point I have made repeatedly.

        My grandfather’s obituary was in The New York Times, does that mean his death made national news.

        Good for you , so was my grandfather’s obituary when he died. You know what? When the obit ran, all I had to do was walk down to the newstand in the lobby of my office in Chicago to buy that issue of the NYT. So much for that gotcha.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Good for you , so was my grandfather’s obituary when he died. You know what? When the obit ran, all I had to do was walk down to the newstand in the lobby of my office in Chicago to buy that issue of the NYT. So much for that gotcha.

        And you told people that your grandfather’s death made national news?

        I certainly didn’t go around saying that- not even once- in my opinion it would seem like overstating things incredibly.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Reading comprehension is your friend, Steve.

        This whole sidetrack about it being national news is nonsensical. The article was in a national newspaper, once that paper gets disseminated throughout the U.S. and beyond, it’s silly to stomp one’s foot and continue to insist that it’s only a little local story of little to no import.

        The point about the obits is that it doesn’t have to be a national story to be accessible to millions of people outside of the geographical area in which the story originated. That’s why we get all fired up about stories that take place far, far away from where we live, even if they involve people who are complete strangers to us.

      • Fat Steve says:

        That’s why we get all fired up about stories that take place far, far away from where we live, even if they involve people who are complete strangers to us.

        So, you, like me think it’s ridiculous that people are asking ‘why is this national news’?

      • Lolagirl says:

        Two separate issues are at play here. Should it be national news? No, it shouldn’t be. Is it national news? Yes.

        The WaPo article? Sure makes it sounds like this controversy is ultimately about breastfeeding in public.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Lola,

        Let me just ask you. Do you really think Professor Pine treated Ms. Mongolio with respect, understanding and courtesy in every way? Because I don’t think she did, and that’s really all I’m arguing here- an authority figure treating a student like shit.

      • Lolagirl says:

        all I’m arguing here- an authority figure treating a student like shit.

        Fair enough.

        Maybe Pine was ott with the way that she responsed to Mongolio. On the other hand, her Counterpunch article details how she attempted to respond to Mongolio’s initial overtures for her response and that Mongolio refused to leave it at that.

        The reason that I won’t cede too much ground on this whole kerfuffle is precisely because it is about breastfeeding in public. Publicly confronting someone about breastfeeding their child is shitty and sexist, no matter who is doing it or why they are so misinformed as to not understand why it is shitty and sexist. Pine was put on the spot about something that should not be a controversial thing in this day and age. That it remains so controversial speaks a great deal to how much progress we still need to make to eradicate sexism in our society.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Publicly confronting someone about breastfeeding their child is shitty and sexist, no matter who is doing it or why they are so misinformed as to not understand why it is shitty and sexist. Pine was put on the spot about something that should not be a controversial thing in this day and age.

        Pine was neither “publicly confronted” nor “put on the spot”: she was privately interviewed. After class. By a student. That’s not exactly the Spanish Inquisition. She didn’t like it, but she wasn’t mistreated; if anything she was being treated very fairly by giving her a voice in the matter.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Pine was neither “publicly confronted” nor “put on the spot”: she was privately interviewed.

        Are we really going to split these hairs?

        According to Pine’s telling of the story, Heather the student journalist was waiting for her outside her classroom in the hallway. That certainly has the potential for public confrontation.

        And the student who tweeted and Facebooked about the breastfeeding incident? That was a pretty intensely public way to confront Pine, and but for that confrontation there wouldn’t be a national controversy.

    • Lauren says:

      Steve, instead of toothlessly defending this student journalist again and again, please let us know what your bottom line is here. No “suppression” of “news” ever? Journalists are always doing their best and should never be criticized? Just say what you mean.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Steve, instead of toothlessly defending this student journalist again and again, please let us know what your bottom line is here. No “suppression” of “news” ever? Journalists are always doing their best and should never be criticized? Just say what you mean.

        I am in no way making blanket statements like “No “suppression” of “news” ever?” or “Journalists are always doing their best and should never be criticized.”

        and I was kind over this.

        But since you asked my bottom line:

        I think that Prof Pine’s reaction towards the paper was inappropriate reaction to an article that hadn’t been written, but her worries were understandable. I keep saying I have no problem with anything related to bringing the child into class.

        I have huge problems with her Counterpunch article as I feel she was arrogant and dismissive towards the journalist and did not treat her as a fellow human being worthy of a conversation. Maybe I do have a bias against teachers who I percieve arrogant and dismissive of students. I had quite a few of them throughout my scholling. All the ones I can think of were men, FWIW. But as I was saying I though her article was arrogant and dismissive towards the journalist and specifically blaming her for the entire issue (and I can’t even begin to comment on the phone number thing…anyone here defending that?)

        I just went back to check the CounterPunch article against my memory and easily 75% of it is devoted to the exchanges between her and the journalist. The name ‘Heather’ occurs 13 times in the piece, while the term ‘breastfeeding’ appears 7 times including the header. Nowhere are any of the students who actually complained named, shamed or blamed.

        That is my bottom line issue. Which, is more or less the only thing Prof. Pine apologized for. I understand she was ill and this may have caused her to react more angrily than she would have. She isn’t defending herself against any of the actions I had issues with and has apologized, which is why you will see down below, why I said I felt I had nothing more to argue.

  51. Miss S says:

    With regards to the baby being sick- you all do realize that sick people leave the house all the time, right? In my part time waitressing job, I’ve witnessed servers coming in and working with colds, fevers, sinus infections, and one girl that hardly had a voice. I see sick people come to class, too. If you have a compromised immune system, how do you avoid all of the sick people in public?

    It sounds like this woman didn’t really have any good choices- cancel a lecture, leave the baby alone (which isn’t actually an option) or bring the baby to class. Oh right- she could have waited several years before having a child, chosen a different career, chosen a different man (seriously? Is there a woman alive who hasn’t been involved with a less than ideal partner before?), used her bootstraps for something…..

    She had limited options. I didn’t realize professors caught so much flack for canceling classes, but I can’t recall any students being upset when it happened. This was in undergrad, most of the students had no children, everyone had a parking pass anyway, etc. When one of my professors canceled due to a death in the family, she remarked when she returned that she was surprised at the kind words and condolences emailed to her from her classes. I would hope that no one would be like “fuck your grandma, I paid for this.”
    Another professor left for a week and half when his wife had a baby. He left us the lectures on video, but it was statistics, and since he couldn’t clarify or answer our questions (it was a recorded video, not Skype), the material was a little harder to learn. When he got back and realized that we didn’t really grasp the material, he changed the rest of the curriculum around for us. So it worked out just fine.

    If workplaces realized that we’re humans, not robots, our workplace policies would look very different.

    • shfree says:

      With regards to the baby being sick- you all do realize that sick people leave the house all the time, right? In my part time waitressing job, I’ve witnessed servers coming in and working with colds, fevers, sinus infections, and one girl that hardly had a voice. I see sick people come to class, too. If you have a compromised immune system, how do you avoid all of the sick people in public?

      Hell, I had legitimately been exposed to hepatitis A when I worked food service (my boyfriend at the time contracted it when he had been visiting me) and I got pushback from my boss about my decision to not come to work until I got my test results back. And hepatitis A is one of the contractible diseases that a restaurant has to report to the health department, should an employee contract it. You would think that it would be a situation of whether or not I was sick, I should bloody well stay home until I know for sure.

      • Miss S says:

        Food service places are notoriously bad about this. No paid sick days and management that demands no one ever call out means alot of the people handling your food probably shouldn’t be. It should be considered a health hazard.

      • Matt says:

        Considering the number of food service works who intentionally desecrate your food with their bodily substances and those of the floor, I would hazard that the addition of illness hardly has an affect on the integrity of our food.

      • cherrybomb says:

        Considering the number of food service works who intentionally desecrate your food
        Yes, because the vast majority of minimum wage food service workers are intentionally contaminating your food. Conspiracy amongst those dirty poor people, don’tcha know.

        As someone who worked in fast food for my first few jobs I can’t count the number of times I witnessed a coworker intentionally contaminating food. I can’t count it because I never saw it— not once.
        I realize there are some fucked up individuals who have done this and made national news, and likely some who have done it and gotten away with it, but they are not the norm. I had a few of cowrkers who stole, some who needed to have the concept of cross contamination explained to them (from an allergen/vegetarian stand point, concerning the contamination of one food with another), but no one who intentionally put their bodily fluids or non-food items in food.
        There are a lot of shady practices in the fast food industry, including harassing workers for taking sick days, making workers work off-the clock, and not providing gloves for workers who have to clean the bathrooms, but the industry is not overrun with cranky workers trying to put dirt, spit, or whatever else in your food.

        (sorry this is rather off-topic, but the amount of bs food service workers put up with both from their employers and the public is ridiculous, and the perpetuation of the “dirty, stupid/evil food worker” stereotype gets my ire up. If I’m too vengeful or dirty or poor to be trusted with your food you can make your own damn sammich.)

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      I would hope that no one would be like “fuck your grandma, I paid for this.”

      LOL! One never knows.

  52. A4 says:

    Oh Also, obviously there are some students in that class who are not very interested in the anthropology of sex, gender, and culture.

  53. Revolver says:

    The power differentials are what really make me uncomfortable with this situation. I have no dog in the fight of whether someone should/can bring a baby to class. (Not a big fan of bringing sick children, but that is a systemic issue that has been mentioned above.)

    What really bothers me, however, is that this professor put the students’ full names out on mainstream internet (at least, much more mainstream than a college paper), while demanding and accepting anonymity for herself.

    Sure, she may face risk of negative consequences to her career. But it looks like she’s got some wicked awesome credentials and experiences to her name, and she has the support of her department and colleagues.

    The student journalist, on the other hand, is a fucking student. She’s learning, she’s beginning to build the foundation for her career. This kind of national attention with Professor Pine’s scathing degradation of her and her journalistic style seems like it would have much more of an impact on the student’s career. Prof. Pine seems pretty well established in her field; maybe not at her university, but she is still in a position of authority.

    That’s career-wise…emotionally-wise I would have been devastated if I were the student journalist. I know it’s just my experience, but I was in a really formative stage in college and looked up to my (and mostly all) professors as authoritative figures. If any professor had posted something like this about me, maybe regarding the (real) fuck-up I had doing and presenting a research project, it would have figuratively killed me.

    It just seems like the consequences of posting the situation on the internet has much more risk to the student than to the professor. It feels icky to me that Prof. Pine so thoroughly and publicly degraded the student and her editors.

    • Bagelsan says:

      Yeah, Pine is really responding in nearly the most assholish way possible, as I see it. She didn’t need to dump on some college kid just because our culture has stupid priorities.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Yeah, Pine is really responding in nearly the most assholish way possible, as I see it. She didn’t need to dump on some college kid just because our culture has stupid priorities.

        No, don’t you get it? She’s perfect and could never be assholish, because- breastfeeding.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Ah, I forgot; breastfeeding sucks all the asshole right out of a person! :p

      • Ah, I forgot; breastfeeding sucks all the asshole right out of a person! :p

        I think it’s that uterine upsuck thing or something. I guess there’s a profound brain-breast connection too!

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Go to hell. Your misogyny is showing.

      • Revolver says:

        And that’s the kicker…sensationalist news sells, unfortunately. I think the student could do better, that that’s what she’s in college for, to learn to do better. So to publically denounce and degrade her? Super assholish. Prof Pine could have asked to speak with the chair of the journalism program, or to set up a meeting with the editors to fully explain her objections. But nope.

    • Ashley says:

      I think you’re underestimating how vulnerable a non-tenured professor (who is a single parent) is, and how this might negatively impact her life. The professor was legitimately scared of what would happen to her, and rightfully so. Plenty of places will now be unwilling to hire her, and it’s unclear how her tenure process will be affected. And the student? If she writes for the school paper, all her articles are already on the internet, with her name attached. Particularly because mainstream society considers the professor awful for breastfeeding in public, I don’t forsee the student having any problems as a result of this story. This was a “legitimate story” for major news outlets. If anything, it will help the student’s journalistic career.

      The professor had every right to respond forcefully to what amounts to a potentially career-destroying attack, and to what she has rightfully called a hostile work environment (sexual harassment). She doesn’t have any obligation to be ladylike, and I don’t think a man would be judged as “assholish” for a response like this to someone attacking him.

      • Revolver says:

        But her school paper doesn’t have the national attention…and this wouldn’t have been in the national news if Prof. Pine hadn’t posted it on the web for all to see.

        I think Prof. Pine is absolutely within her right to protest the subject and manner in which the story was going to be told. HOWEVER, I find it ridiculously hypocritical of her to ask for anonymity while using a very public platform to completely shame someone who holds a much lesser place of power.

      • Revolver says:

        And hell yes, I would judge a man for doing the same thing as being an asshole. It’s one thing to express your displeasure (even in unladylike terms!) at how something is handled…it’s another to publically humiliate someone in a lower place of power.

      • EG says:

        Except this situation wouldn’t happen to a man. That’s part of the issue. Men who bring their babies to work on rare occasions are almost always met by murmurs about what good daddies they are.

      • Revolver says:

        I am not denying that the whole thing reeks of sexism and “mommy wars”. What’s stuck in my craw is that a person in a professorial, authoritative position publically called out a student operating within an academic sphere. Someone can (and has) argued that a school newspaper is published on the web, but the audience of such a paper is so much smaller than where Prof. Pine posted her side.

      • Tony says:

        The national press picked it up from counterpunch? I was wondering what the lineage of this was.

    • Former student journalist, current desperately-trying-to-stay-afloat-in-a-changing-media-market journalist here, and I personally disagree.

      It’s on the other students for initially making this into some kind of “ZOMG incident,” not on the journalist in question, of course. But we also choose how we approach a story. I would have quashed the news story/refused to do it – but would have suggested inviting editorials and letters on the subject, but hey, whatever. That’s me. Let’s say I was stuck with doing it anyway – I would struggled to recognize the different power differentials – in what ways is a non-tenured single parent prof is vulnerable here, in what ways she is not. The fact that journalist was criticized for how she approached her subject (and sometimes, there is no right way to approach your subject, mind you) – not only will she survive that, she may also learn a lot. If she chooses to.

      Learning doesn’t just happen when someone kindly takes our hand and explains how to do it right. It also happens when someone screams, “YOU DONE FUCKED UP.” Especially in this profession, or that’s what I believe.

      • Fat Steve says:

        But we also choose how we approach a story. I would have quashed the news story/refused to do it – but would have suggested inviting editorials and letters on the subject

        Prof Pine specifically said that your idea of presenting ‘both sides of the story,’ was a horrible idea and the last thing she wanted.

      • Lauren says:

        Prof Pine specifically said that your idea of presenting ‘both sides of the story,’ was a horrible idea and the last thing she wanted.

        Well, yeah. When one side of the story is illegitimate, it’s a stupid idea. That’s like when the news reports on pro-lifers opposing birth control pills because it’s equivalent to abortion, vs. pro-choicers arguing that birth control is standard medication for women. One side is right. The other side is bloviating.

  54. Athenia says:

    In regards to cancelling class, I know students have sued universities for cancelling class due to weather, so technically class can’t get cancelled. Students are paying a crap ton of $$$ per class–not to mention missing one lecture may mean missing a lot of material.

    This article makes me think about the current Chicago Teacher Strike. The media is very much “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!” right now.

    Considering the teaching profession consists of a lot of ladies, I can’t help but feel that people expect the ladies to live up to the definition–as in the ladies must be accommodating, the ladies must put the greater good before their own.

    Anyway, I think this situation really illustrates that sometimes they are really no good solutions because caregivers work outside the home now.

  55. Lolagirl says:

    But when Pine started to breast-feed mid-class, Carias said, it crossed a line.

    “I found it unprofessional,” he said. “I was kind of appalled.”

    Carias fired off a tweet: “midway through class breast feeding time.” He also posted a message on his Facebook page. He said he later dropped the class.

    Now, the Northwest Washington campus is abuzz.

    This is a direct quote from the WaPo article. Here is a second quote:

    At the Tavern, a dining room just off the central quad, Jenna Wasserman, 18, a freshman from New Jersey, said she has heard two opinions from students: that breast-feeding “is very much natural,” and that doing so in class is “kind of unprofessional.” Wasserman said she leans toward the latter view. “There were alternatives,” she said.

    All of this back and forth about how the initial controversy is really over bringing a baby to work, as opposed to being about breastfeeding in public seems to ignore the reality of what really happened here. Apparently, Mr. Carias’ tweet was was set off this whole chain of events in the first place. Nowhere in the tweet does he take issue with (a.) a baby being brought to class, (b.) a sick baby being brought to class, or (c.) his professor being unable to teach in a competent manner because of the circumstances at hand.

    Carias does express his distaste at Pine’s appalling behavior by breastfeeding her child in class. Apparently he is such a shrinking violet that he had to drop the class as a result.

    So tell me how this isn’t about sexism and societal dissaproval of breastfeeding?

    • Fat Steve says:

      All of this back and forth about how the initial controversy is really over bringing a baby to work, as opposed to being about breastfeeding in public seems to ignore the reality of what really happened here. Apparently, Mr. Carias’ tweet was was set off this whole chain of events in the first place. Nowhere in the tweet does he take issue with (a.) a baby being brought to class, (b.) a sick baby being brought to class, or (c.) his professor being unable to teach in a competent manner because of the circumstances at hand.

      Carias does express his distaste at Pine’s appalling behavior by breastfeeding her child in class. Apparently he is such a shrinking violet that he had to drop the class as a result.

      So tell me how this isn’t about sexism and societal dissaproval of breastfeeding?

      In the same way the Watergate Scandal wasn’t about a break in. It was about the cover-up.

      • Lolagirl says:

        In the same way the Watergate Scandal wasn’t about a break in. It was about the cover-up.

        Haha! Stop, Steve, you’re killing me over here.

        You can not be serious that this is really about some horrible attempt to cover up an important journalistic mission. Please, tell me you aren’t serious.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Of course not, it was just an analogy about how covering something up makes things worse. My parents used to use it all the time in the context of minor misdemeanours, I wasn’t implying the two incidents were themselves analagous in every way.

      • Lolagirl says:

        I wasn’t implying the two incidents were themselves analagous in every any way.

        Fixed that for you.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Fixed that for you.

        Aw, c’mon…meanie! You don’t ever want to give me a break do you? You’re giving me excellent mental excercise, I’ll give you that…gotta watch every word!

    • Aydan says:

      While I’m sure (non-snarkily) there were lots of other students in the class who were giving, or trying to give, the professor their full attention, and that having a baby in the room could have been legitimately distracting… I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the potential distraction of the student who was tweeting in class.

    • Aydan says:

      Which is kind of a derail from this comment thread, for which I apologize. It was in the excerpt that Lolagirl posted that I first really noticed the bit about the tweeting.

      • Lolagirl says:

        No, Aydan, I agree with you that someone complaining on the one hand about how their delicate emotional constitution just couldn’t countenance breastfeeding in public is being hypocritical when he was already distracted by tweeting in class.

        That he also took to Facebook with his outrage? I feel no compunction in concluding that Carias is a creep, and a sexist one at that.

        Who else suspects that Carias thought this was going to be his one blow off class for the semester?

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        It wasn’t until she PULLED OUT HER TIT AND STUCK IT IN A BABY’S MOUTH EWWW EWWW EWWW that Dude was so traumatized he HAAAAAD to share his pain! Oh, the humanity!

  56. gwyllion says:

    no prob with breast feeding
    BIG problem with coming in with sick child – if you are sick STAY HOME! Prof, student, child, whomever! i DO NOT WANT YOUR DISEASE!

    • A4 says:

      Why do we have a right to disease free public spaces? People get sick. They also might have to go out in public. Why don’t YOU stay home if you’re so worried about it? Oh right, because like everybody, sick or not, you do not have the luxury of staying in bed whenever going out is inconvenient.

      • Sarah says:

        Yes. Thank you.

      • Why do we have a right to disease free public spaces?

        I don’t know, someone go back to the Middle Ages and find out what their quarantine measures were.

        For fuck’s sake. “Stay home if you have the flu” is not some horrible life sentence. “Stay home if anyone, ever, has the flu, otherwise you’re just hysterical” is, however, ridiculous. Kind of like “put a condom on if you’re having sex” is a base minimum, but “don’t ever have sex because the last person your partner slept with might not have used a condom!” is edging into paranoia.

        Also, some of us have poorly functioning immune systems. What would you recommend I do? Never go out again? Stop my education because someone else can’t be arsed to take a seven-day course of amoxy or a motherfucking Advil for a fever?

      • Bagelsan says:

        Whaaaat? The Middle Ages were so hygienic! *picks at her fleas, eats a rat, throws some feces out the window, goes to work with open wounds*

      • henribemis says:

        I’m not an MD, but since when did Advil stop someone from being contagious?

        It’s disingenuous to compare disease in the middle ages to modern times. I would love it if everyone who had the flu was able to stay home and fully recover without having to jeopardize their job and financial stability, but that’s not the world we live in. What would you have everyone else do? Get fired because they caught a cold? Give up their education because their professor doesn’t give a shit why they missed classes?

        You’re right that staying home for a few days isn’t a horrible life sentence, but in a society that demands bootstraps, taking even a single day off can have terrible consequences, no matter how badly you need it or how important it is to the overall health of a community.

        If there was a reasonable way to make public spaces disease free, I’d be all for it. And those who CAN stay home while sick should. But not everyone can afford that.

        As for the story that sparked all of this, I sincerely doubt “Professor brings germs to class!” would ever be a lede worth printing. This became an issue because she breastfed in class.

    • Athenia says:

      I’m guessing bringing a sick kid to work isn’t exactly the top priority of the department of health.

    • Donna L says:

      I don’t have the greatest immune system myself — to an extent that I always can get a flu shot no matter how much of a shortage there is. But I have yet to see an explanation of exactly how a baby with a cold, crawling around on the floor in the front of the classroom, probably 5-10 feet away from the closest students (at the very least, depending upon the classroom configuration) is a danger to any student’s health, unless said baby climbs up on a student’s lap and sneezes or coughs or spits up in that student’s face. I think some people are seriously overestimating the ability of a mildly (or even not so mildly) sick baby to project her floating miasma of contagion to Olympic distances beyond her immediate proximity. You’re far more likely, sitting in a classroom, to get sick from the guy in the row behind you coughing or sneezing without covering his mouth. Or from somebody coughing at you in the hallway on the way to class. Or in the street. And I haven’t heard a single person here suggest, with a degree of outrage remotely similar to that expressed with respect to little Typhoid Mary, that students should be prohibited from attending class if they have a cold.

      • Fair enough, Donna. I left a ragey comment above (that went into mod) at the idea that people who don’t want to get sick should never go out in public – because what teh fuck, seriously – but a baby with a cold isn’t exactly going to do more damage than a student with a cold. Which, in the first week of classes, isn’t exactly a rarity. (Hi there! I get flu-like things on the go when I’m stressed!)

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        I think some people are seriously overestimating the ability of a mildly (or even not so mildly) sick baby to project her floating miasma of contagion to Olympic distances beyond her immediate proximity.

        This is just full of so much awesomeness.

      • Sarah says:

        Yup. Agreed.

  57. I’ve brought an infant to a class I was teaching. I did not want to do it, but I had no alternatives. I went to drop my daughter off at daycare and there was a sign on the door saying they were closed for air conditioning repairs. I received no advanced notice, and I had to teach in a matter of hours. My husband was already at work (an hour commute away) and due in court. I have no family in town.

    Canceling class would have meant that my students received no feedback on the work they were doing as I also did not have time to arrange a substitute. I decided that the most beneficial thing for the students would be bringing my daughter in with me (who, incidentally, spent almost the entire class period asleep in a car seat).

    I certainly wouldn’t make a habit of doing that, but I still think that the students got more out of that class period than they would have if I had not come at all.

    I–like some of the above commenters–question whether bringing a “sick” child is really as horrible as you suggest it is in this post. I taught my class today with almost no voice because I have a cold. I certainly cannot cancel class every time I have a cold, so am I being irresponsible and disrespectful by continuing to do my job when I am sick? Most daycares have very strict policies about when they’ll allow a child to attend. A child with a runny nose and a fever might be turned away from daycare but really may just be teething or suffering from a mild cold. While bringing in a child who you know has the flu or something more contagious is certainly a bad decision, I don’t think that bringing in a baby with a cold is any more of a risk to students than a teacher attending when under the weather. (And I seriously question that teaching is the only profession where people work sick. If so, those other careers must have MUCH more advantageous sick leaves.)

    Also, as previous commenters have mentioned, canceling a class is not always the same as calling in sick. I worked a 9-5 job before becoming a teacher, and I was much more able to use sick days and reschedule meetings than I am able to use a sick day to cancel a class. It’s nearly impossible to reschedule and there’s a lot of pressure to make the class happen, both from administration and from the students.

  58. Sarah says:

    As much as I want to sympathize with the professor for being stuck between a rock and a hard place on childcare, which really sucks and is part of a really unfair system we’ve got in this country, I think I have to side with the students on this one.

    Students are there (and pay ever-increasingly ridiculous amounts of money and incur impossible-to-recover-from debt) to get a degree, not to babysit their teacher’s sick kids. I don’t know about this professor in particular, but when I was in college, “Because my kid was (x)” was never an acceptable excuse for missing a class or an assignment, and bringing babies and small children got students turned away at the door. I rather wonder what this professor would have done if her students turned up with fussy, unhealthy infants.

    Yes, there is pressure not to cancel classes, but sometimes, it is necessary for the safety and well-being of everyone concerned; it was probably not reasonable for her to think that she could watch a small, sick child and give a lecture, and ended up doing both of those things poorly and to the detriment of both the kid (who almost ate a paper clip) and the class (who had to keep an eye on the baby because the professor’s attention was split). And then tried to bully a student to keep her from reporting on it, which is pretty much where my sympathy kinda tapers off.

    The breastfeeding thing… yes, I know it’s total feminist heresy to think that maybe, just maybe, there are some places where breastfeeding is not appropriate, but I’m going to go ahead and say ‘in the middle of giving a lecture’ is one of those places.

    • Eh, I agree with most of the rest of the comment, but I don’t know about the breastfeeding, Sarah; from the POV of someone who’s never breastfed but who’s been around lots of people who are/do, it never seemed to me to really hamper their ability to do whatever job mentally/emotionally, as opposed to physically – as in, I can’t imagine someone deep-frying potatoes while breastfeeding, at least not while in their senses. (Also, what was she supposed to do, let the baby scream its head off? That would just have pissed me off more, were I a student in her class.) Letting it run around, the students having to keep an eye on it, the TA having to hold it – all of that seems much more egregious to me in terms of distraction.

      • Lyanna says:

        Letting it run around is worse, but yes, it’s a bad idea for a professor–who has a captive (to some extent) audience of students there–to do something involving intimate body parts in front of the class. Teaching is a performance. Students have to watch a teacher. It’s not like the ordinary breastfeeding-in-public scenario, where people can just look away.

        And I’m far from convinced that it’s a horrible burden to put on a professor to have a back-up childcare plan in case the kid gets sick. Sorry. Having actual professional standards isn’t oppression. This woman dropped the ball. It’s a pretty minor thing, and doesn’t deserve this level of attention, but she’s at fault here.

      • Lolagirl says:

        but yes, it’s a bad idea for a professor–who has a captive (to some extent) audience of students there–to do something involving intimate body parts in front of the class. Teaching is a performance. Students have to watch a teacher. It’s not like the ordinary breastfeeding-in-public scenario, where people can just look away.

        No.

        She was feeding her baby. That her breasts were involved is besides the point. And the need to avert one’s gaze so as to not offend the delicate sensibilities? Good griend, talk about ridiculous. You are choosing to be offended when someone is breastfeeding, and if you choose that choice, that’s your problem and not that of the person doing the breastfeeding.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Sorry for the typos, I’m typing whilst breastfeeding (avert your gaze, internets!)

      • Whu? My cousin-in-law was breastfeeding her baby the other day while I was sitting right next to her, making conversation with her and only her. I wasn’t directing my attention anywhere but her, but I wasn’t gaping at her boobies either. There’s a whole neck and face above them to which it’s perfectly socially acceptable to address your attention and remarks. And that’s even assuming Pine wasn’t feeding the baby under a sheet or feeding towel thing like most women do when in public.

        Also, for fuck’s sake. Boobies happen. Get used to it. There, I traumatised six people over the internet. Boobies. Boobies. Booooooooooobs. Now it’s nine! I’m on a regular roll, y’all.

      • onetinythought says:

        “And I’m far from convinced that it’s a horrible burden to put on a professor to have a back-up childcare plan in case the kid gets sick. Sorry. Having actual professional standards isn’t oppression. This woman dropped the ball. It’s a pretty minor thing, and doesn’t deserve this level of attention, but she’s at fault here.”

        I agree.

        This is what I was attempting to say last night, albeit a little clumsily. For those efforts, I was called a troll, an asshole, and a dumbass.

      • Fat Steve says:

        And I’m far from convinced that it’s a horrible burden to put on a professor to have a back-up childcare plan in case the kid gets sick. Sorry. Having actual professional standards isn’t oppression. This woman dropped the ball. It’s a pretty minor thing, and doesn’t deserve this level of attention, but she’s at fault here.

        OK, now I’m sticking up for Prof. Pine. Just because on one occasion you are stuck does not mean you don’t have a back up plan. You may have 2 or 3 but on occasion the universe converges to leave you in a tight spot.

        Also, while it’s true some professors are paid handsomely, not all professors make great money from their actual university job, books, consulting, and such making them rich through ancillary income. My aunt was an Eng. Lit professor at Sarah Lawrence for 30 years when my sister got her first job as a freshly graduated PhD teaching in the MBA program of a big private university, my sister earned over $20K more per year than my aunt did. And my aunt was a woman you’d have heard of, (if you’re in academia,) with a huge rep, whereas my sister is just a very good accounting professor.

      • henribemis says:

        “And I’m far from convinced that it’s a horrible burden to put on a professor to have a back-up childcare plan in case the kid gets sick. Sorry. Having actual professional standards isn’t oppression. This woman dropped the ball. It’s a pretty minor thing, and doesn’t deserve this level of attention, but she’s at fault here.”

        Whose professional standards are we talking about? It hasn’t been all that long since women started entering traditionally male-dominated professions, and there are some things, like breastfeeding, that still need to be navigated and that we don’t yet have professional etiquette for. But we’re still so caught up on “ew, I mean oooooh, I mean ewww boobies!” I don’t have children, and I don’t plan to, but I do think our idea of what is and is not professional needs some scrutiny.

      • Lolagirl says:

        It hasn’t been all that long since women started entering traditionally male-dominated professions…but I do think our idea of what is and is not professional needs some scrutiny.

        This is a crucially important point, and I think it doesn’t get nearly enough attention from and subsequent deconstruction by Feminism today. Much of what is considered to be professional even is based on some very outmoded standards that were put in place by men. The notion of productivity at all costs, complete and utter dedication to work, and no exceptions ever for real life circumstances is still borne unfairly by women. Because, like it or not, women are the ones who bear and birth the kids, and too often are the one’s providing the lion’s share of daily care for their children (either because of single parenthood, partners that also have demanding jobs, or even because their partners hold onto outmoded and sexist attitudes themselves about parental responsibilities.) It’s still pretty inevitable that women are going to be on the losing end of the “is she sufficiently professional” calculus.

      • Lyanna says:

        Boobies aren’t besides the point, sorry. Like it or not (and I don’t), they’re a sexualized and private body part in American culture. Having an authority figure who the students have to look at, whose presence they can’t avoid, and who can give them grades displaying that part in front of them, even if it’s to serve a functional purpose, is unfair to the students. This is not a cousin-in-law or random people over the internet. This is a teacher.

        This “you choose to be offended” line is nonsense. If a woman felt uncomfortable seeing a man’s penis, even if he had some thoroughly practical reason for pulling it out and didn’t intend to harass her, would you tell her she “chose to be offended”? I wouldn’t.

        You’re right that she might have had a sheet or whatever, though. And, as I said, the whole thing is minor. Going on sarcastically about being “scarred for life” misses the point.

        And yes, professional standards are often male-dominated, but you know what? Female students and co-workers are just as inconvenienced by having a sick baby crawling around the place. This particular standard isn’t sexist, though the failure to have daycare is.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Naaah, Lyanna, this is your issue. Breastfeeding mothers didn’t sexualize breasts. They’re for feeding, too. You and everybody else will just have to get over your shame and embarrassment.

        The penis analogy doesn’t work, BTW. Nobody feeds another human being through a penis.

      • Fat Steve says:

        . If a woman felt uncomfortable seeing a man’s penis, even if he had some thoroughly practical reason for pulling it out and didn’t intend to harass her, would you tell her she “chose to be offended”? I wouldn’t.

        I’m back on Lola’s side with this one.

        She said “You are choosing to be offended when someone is breastfeeding, and if you choose that choice, that’s your problem and not that of the person doing the breastfeeding.”

        First thing, she didn’t say there’s something wrong with feeling uncomfortable, as you can see, she didn’t mention the word ‘uncomfortable’ at all. Someone may be made uncomfortable at seeing a professor with a bad facial injury or because they look like someone who they had a bad experience. That’s not the same as being offended.

        So to re-word you question based what Lola actually wrote: If a woman felt offended seeing a man’s penis, even if he had some thoroughly practical reason for pulling it out and didn’t intend to harass her, would you tell her she “chose to be offended”?

        If it’s thoroughly practical and not intended to harass, there would be no point of her taking offence, so of course it’s her choice to be offended. There aren’t many occasions where both those requirements would be met, but if, for example a masked gunman had come into the classroom and forced the professor to hand over valuables and his clothes (I know, I know, I’m stretching to find an example of this ludicrousness,) then absconded, and after the police arrive a woman in the class says ‘I was offended when I saw the professor’s penis’, she is definitely ‘choosing to get offended’.

      • If a woman felt uncomfortable seeing a man’s penis, even if he had some thoroughly practical reason for pulling it out and didn’t intend to harass her, would you tell her she “chose to be offended”? I wouldn’t.

        Seriously? Breastfeeding is like flashing people?

        Uncomfortable and offended, as Steve pointed out, are two different things. I wouldn’t want to see most guys’ penises, being homoflexible and all (though fuck knows I’ve seen my share anyway, to my infinite displeasure), but I wouldn’t be offended by some guy doing penis things for valid reasons, though I’d definitely turn away. And, you know, like I pointed out in other comments, MOST of a human being’s body isn’t breasts. And if you can’t look at anything BUT breasts, I’m thinking that most of the uncomfortable is in your pants.

      • Fat Steve says:

        eriously? Breastfeeding is like flashing people?

        Uncomfortable and offended, as Steve pointed out, are two different things. I wouldn’t want to see most guys’ penises, being homoflexible and all (though fuck knows I’ve seen my share anyway, to my infinite displeasure), but I wouldn’t be offended by some guy doing penis things for valid reasons, though I’d definitely turn away. And, you know, like I pointed out in other comments, MOST of a human being’s body isn’t breasts. And if you can’t look at anything BUT breasts, I’m thinking that most of the uncomfortable is in your pants.

        Exactly, and there are I would imagine many classes where you are required to see penii. I’m thinking Anatomy, Biology, all sorts of medical classes, nude figure drawing, rennaisance art, etc.

        It’s all about the context.

      • Lolagirl says:

        This “you choose to be offended” line is nonsense. If a woman felt uncomfortable seeing a man’s penis, even if he had some thoroughly practical reason for pulling it out and didn’t intend to harass her, would you tell her she “chose to be offended”? I wouldn’t.

        This? Is just so much bullshit. False equivalencies like that are where the argument against breastfeeding in public fall apart.

        Breastfeeding is NOT THE SAME THING AS RANDOMLY FLASHED PEEN. Yes, I realize I’m shouting here, that’s for extra emphasis because you are being so egregiously offensive, Lyanna. The baring of any breast while breastfeeding is solely for the purpose of feeding a child. It’s not done for giggles or to offend or anything else of the sort. That you feel free to take such personal umbrage at it is all on you.

        If there was some necessary reason for someone to expose their penis? I would put on my big girl undies and get over myself.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Upon further reflection, I am even further into camp random peen flashing is not a big deal either. Having boy children running around naked at random from time to time means that it happens. I totally don’t even sweat it, and tell them to go do that in private if they insist (except the baby, he doesn’t understand the differences between public and private nudity.)

        Who knew a random benefit of parenting could be desensitization of and deprogramming from my prudish, Catholic upbringing?

      • Sarah says:

        Just FWIW, this is the Sarah that posted up thread. I may start having to refer to myself as BFing Sarah from now on, to distinguish myself from the Sarah that thinks there are places where it is not okay to bf. Fine, there are things I would not do while breastfeeding…like cook over a gas stove or grill. I wouldn’t go to the porty-potty while breastfeeding. I wouldn’t have surgery while breastfeeding. I probably wouldn’t teach a class in a public elementary school while breastfeeding (although, I don’t really see the problem with it outside of the fact that the school board would explode with righteous indignation and fury). But I would definitely breastfeed while teaching a class on feminist anthropology IF I brought my baby to said class.

      • Sarah says:

        Yes, we all know I’m a feminist heretic for thinking it is not appropriate to breastfeed while trying to give a lecture, thank you for disagreeing.

        Seriously. My mother taught me that a baby eating is still a *person eating*, and used what she called the Pudding Cup Rule. If it wouldn’t be rude to eat a pudding cup, it’s not rude to breastfeed.

        Sitting on a park bench minding your own business? Pudding cup is cool. Reading a book? Having a conversation with a friend or family member? Riding a bus? Totally cool.

        While speaking to a large number of people, who paid money to listen to you and are expected to give you their full attention? Not okay to eat a pudding cup: not because it’s bad to eat pudding or because watching ladies eat pudding is sexualized, but because it is rude.

        Seriously, we do not have to treat the idea that sometimes it is not cool for ladies to do something as some kind of anti-woman attack just because it is something that only ladies do. It’s not about sex, or prudishness, or trying to control ladies’ bodies, or whatever buzzwords we’re looking to apply here. And I fully acknowledge that I am a COMPLETE heretic for thinking that I am a feminist and expecting mothers– even breastfeeding mothers– to observe basic social etiquette.

      • EG says:

        Really? I’m not allowed to eat a pudding cup while lecturing? Because…it’s rude? This is a classroom, not the Nobel Prize ceremony.

        Fuck that. If my students want my full attention, then they sure as hell don’t want me to be hungry. I have lectured while eating a spinach role. I regularly lecture while drinking tea. I have no problem with my students eating during class. They can deal with me eating a pudding cup or a baby nursing.

        Seriously. It’s rude to eat a pudding cup while lecturing. I’ll worry about that when my students stop whispering and pay sufficient attention that nobody asks a question I answered in the past 10 minutes.

        And one more thing: do you think the students would have gotten more of the professor’s attention if her baby had been screaming and fussing? And does your mother apply this bizarre rule to bottle-feeding as well, or just the boobies?

      • (BFing)Sarah says:

        I’m not sure why you are calling yourself a feminist heretic. I think that gives you too much credit for being a ‘rebel’ or something, when really you are just kind of clueless. A baby eating anything is not the same thing as an adult eating, IMO, because a baby doesn’t understand what ‘rude’ means and because a baby has to eat about 12 times a day. So they are supposed to limit themselves to 3 meals because the people (adults) around them only eat 3? That’s just ridiculous. Babies eat around the clock: milk/formula, snacks, baby food. If they are hungry, they need to be fed. They don’t understand the concept of waiting patiently and its not developmentally appropriate for them to be made to wait. Plus, what’s the point of that? So that the baby will be crying and upset and further distract the class? I don’t think a baby eating is the same thing as an adult having a pudding cup snack. An adult can plan ahead and eat earlier if they really wanted to avoid eating in front of their class (not that I’m saying they should want to avoid eating in front of their class, but if they WANT to avoid it). A baby can’t do that. Plus, I don’t really think its rude for a teacher to eat or drink in front of students unless the students are also not allowed to eat or drink. There were a few classrooms in grad school in which beverages and snacks were not allowed for anyone. But, for the most part, myself and my fellow students ate sandwiches, chips, and I actually think I did bring a pudding cup one day (truth) and we drank coffee, soda, water, etc. If students can (and did) eat, why shouldn’t a professor? What if the professor is thirsty from talking all day? What if a nice pudding cup would soothe their aching throat?? I don’t think that’s rude at all. Its not like she is ordering a pizza and then eating it in front of the class–that might be crossing the line.

    • Deborah says:

      But the choice for the students is not either (a) class with professor in full teaching mode vs (b) class with professor who is managing her small child as well as teaching. The choice was either (b) class with professor who is managing her small child as well as teaching vs (c) no class at all.

      The professor is probably fully cognizant of the cost of tuition, and the sacrifices her students have made to be there. After all, she has been through that process herself. So knowing how much her students have paid, she as opted for (b), because it’s a better option than (c), and option (a) simply wasn’t available.

    • Sarah says:

      WHOA. This is NOT the same Sarah as the Sarahs above. I don’t agree with pretty much anything said here. I have breastfed two babies (and toddlers) in about a million public places…and not because I am a lactivist. Mostly because I am a parent and babies get hungry and then you have to feed them. You have to feed them on planes, trains, malls, and, yes, even sometimes classrooms. Because a screaming baby is a baby that is MUCH more distracting than a nursing baby. I swear to you that I’m not a boob flasher, I’m pretty good at keeping all of my ‘naughty-bits’ covered up while feeding a child, don’t you worry!

  59. I have not read all of the comments, but I feel like the story has become about breastfeeding, when the appropriateness of bringing a baby to class vs. the terrible choices available to working single mothers is the real issue. If Prof. Pine had given her baby a bottle during class, I could still see there being a story in the school newspaper about the fact that she’d brought her kid to class, but it would not have become a national story.

  60. Jill says:

    I’m also a professor, and I’ve certainly taught when sick. Hell, at one school where we absolutely weren’t allowed to cancel for any bloody reason short of being in the hospital and when no one was available to cover me I tutored a whole BUNCH of students as a walking biohazard one afternoon. I TOLD them I was sick and warned them away and they still came. It was horrible. If anything, that is MORE of a health hazard than a baby whose illness most of the class has probably already had, and I certainly wasn’t a national news story!

    That said, even when you are the soul care taker of an animal (I have so cancelled class for sick dogs before, now that I work somewhere else!) you have to get creative when you have to miss class.

    The teacher could have come in before class, left the syllabi on the table, and left instructions for the students: introduce yourselves to one another, discuss the following topic, post your answers to the discussion board that nearly every class has online now. Or go out on campus in groups with your syllabi and try to find examples of some of the things we are going to discuss in class (since this was a women’s issues class) and post them as your groups to the discussion board. We’ll talk about the syllabus the next time class meets.

    But Universities need to be more understanding of women with children too. Christ, my school has 15 spots at its daycare. That’s not enough for the faculty, let alone students with kids. An institution I used to work at only gave TWO WEEKS maternity leave, after which a professor or graduate student was expected to be back (or, in the case of a graduate student, fail the term). Creative re-planning can only get us so far.

    • Katya says:

      Not just universities. I work for a very large government agency (thousands of employees in DC alone) and there are less than 45 daycare spots in the agency’s daycare (they take about 12 new babies a year). For the whole department. Also, no maternity leave–you get FMLA and your own accrued sick leave/vacation, but no paid maternity leave.

  61. Treebeard says:

    I hadn’t thought of it on first reading, but I have to agree that the professor has hurt the reputation of this student journalist for no good reason. Prof could have posted her entire piece exactly as is without including the student journalist’s full name – especially since they had already offered to print their story without her full name. Sure, the people involved at their college would still be able to identify both of them, but that’s different than having the story show up on google results for your name forever. Its not clear whether the journalist was being terrible or not – its pretty subjective – but given that she’s a student and the professor is a professor at her school, I think it would have been more appropriate to not print her full name while complaining about her publicly.

  62. number9 says:

    Tuition at AU is over $18K; that’s before the fees. I know a few AU graduates and they carry massive debts. So I think given what that degree costs, the students do have some cause to be upset. As a first generation, immigrant, working class student who went to a private school, I would’ve had a coronary if those kinds of shenanigans happened in one of my classrooms. And its not the breastfeeding, it’s the half-assed, distracted lecture coupled with the TA being involved in something she should’ve never been put in a position to have to do as a professional looking to gain teaching experience. I can sympathize with prof Pine, because she was in a really shitty position, but I don’t think the solution was fair to the students.

    I also went to three schools (one for my BA and two grad programs at very large public schools) and our profs cancelled classes all the time. One of my profs once cancelled the first class of the semester because it snowed like 2″ and she was from the south and couldn’t handle driving in the snow. This was in a state where it would take feet of snow before any public school or university would officially shut down for the weather. She actually had the fact that she did not “do snow” right in her syllabus and covered it in great detail in the first lecture. And yet the program was very specific that the students would be penalized for missing more than one lecture (this was in every syllabus). But I know things have changed in academia since my grad school days due to all the hideous budget cuts at public universities. So I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m going to keep my sympathy for the students who are being severely underserved by postsecondary institutions in every way right now.

  63. Jenny says:

    It is incredibly presumptuous and exploitative that she had her teaching assistant care of her child during class. This prof is focusing on her own working conditions, her own right to breastfeed, etc. even as she exploits someone who makes a fraction of her salary to do work that has nothing to do with her/his job description. Using a TA as a babysitter = feminist fail.

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      Jenny, Prof. Pine specifically said she did NOT feel it was an option to ask the TA to care for her child. She told the TA this. The TA picked up the baby anyhow.

      • Treebeard says:

        It sort of seems like the professor created a situation where the TA would feel social pressure to hold the baby (I hope she knew the baby was sick before she picked it up), but it also seems like the professor has enough plausible deniability on that one to avoid getting in trouble for having the TA babysit, since she DID tell the TA she didn’t have to do it.

        Personally, I like babies. I’d probably offer to hold someone’s baby in a lot of situations (maybe not if it was sick). But I’d be afraid of offering at work for a superior because it might turn into people thinking they could ask me to babysit at work. I don’t know what I would have done in this situation.

      • It sort of seems like the professor created a situation where the TA would feel social pressure to hold the baby (I hope she knew the baby was sick before she picked it up), but it also seems like the professor has enough plausible deniability on that one to avoid getting in trouble for having the TA babysit, since she DID tell the TA she didn’t have to do it.

        THis. I fucking HATE and am borderline phobic of babies (only slightly less than babies hate and are scared of me – seriously, they react like the zoo scene in The Omen) but if a parent were letting their baby run around and put stationery in its mouth, and that parent had authority over me, I’d feel obliged to pick the baby up anyway, just to keep it safe and to prevent my boss/prof/wev from getting angry with me for letting something happen.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Now, you’re just projecting. Seriously, were you there? Are you, perhaps, the TA in questuon? Or are you just channeling her?

      • Bagelsan says:

        We get it, tinfoil hattie; Pine can do no wrong. :p

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Thank god bagelsan is here to interpret what I am saying, and change it around to what she wishes I meant, so she could continue to say nasty things about women, babies, and breastfeeding.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Lol, now who’s projecting?

      • amblingalong says:

        Thank god bagelsan is here to interpret what I am saying, and change it around to what she wishes I meant, so she could continue to say nasty things about women, babies, and breastfeeding.

        Holy shit, I never realized Bagelsan was such a… monster!

        FFS tinfoil, you’ve never been such an asshole before, but I can practically feel your knee jerking from (what I assume is) the other side of the Atlantic.

      • chava says:

        Really, you “HATE” babies? I get not being comfortable with humans at different points in their life cycle, but I have to tell you, saying “I HATE and am borderline phobic of [babies, old people, teenagers, children]” seems….well, hateful.

        I mean, I’m not crazy about pre-teens. But I recognize that it’s my own damn crazy talking, there…

  64. Fat Steve says:

    I am curious how many people have witnessed a professor breastfeeding in the middle of a lecture.

    • librarygoose says:

      Not first hand, although I would not have been surprised, but photos of more than one prof. breast feeding? Yup. What could only have been hours of footage of women breastfeeding? Yup. Untold amounts of reading devoted to breastfeeding? Yup. Also, the demonstration of different holds for breastfeeding done with the doll I got to shove through a plastic pelvis. Why? Because I took anthropology and I took a few classes devoted to gender and culture, like these poor scarred students.

      • Fat Steve says:

        I wasn’t talking in terms of it being offensive, just wanted to know if anyone had actual experience that they could share a story, because my opinion of this particular one is admittedly tainted because of a negative impression I got from Professor Pine’s article where I felt she put all the blame (by name) on the female journalist who followed up on a lead, rather than the jerky male student who started the whole thing.

      • librarygoose says:

        I agree that her reaction to the student journalist was harsh ( although I don’t think I’d respond any better to something like that, someone even tangentially fucking with my career would suck). Prof. Pine demanding anonymity while blasting a student by name is horrible

        However, the fact that this was an issue at all is very much due to the fact that she was breastfeeding, and the entire thing makes me want to flip off the internet.

    • Saw it during office hours, as well as during an exam. Naturally, I am scarred for life.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Saw it during office hours, as well as during an exam. Naturally, I am scarred for life.

        Wow, neither of us have ever seen a professor breastfeed in the middle of a lecture. I bet that has scarred both of us for life.

    • (BFing)Sarah says:

      I went on an interview once where the interviewer began to breastfeed while interviewing me. I think I was about 19 or 20 and I will be honest that I did react to it internally. I kind of gave myself an internal pep talk along the lines of “Grow the fuck up. She is feeding her baby. She is entitled to feed her baby and have you not react to it.” I guess I registered no real reaction because she did offer me the job and she specifically commended me for not reacting to her breastfeeding. Unfortunately, I never had a lecture where a professor breastfed their infant, but there were a few times where the professor brought a child to class and it was no big deal.

    • Lolagirl says:

      I have witnessed myself breastfeeding at least six to eight times a day, on and off for coming up on eight years now.

      I have yet to be either offended or upset by it.

    • Momentary says:

      I have participated in a high end scientific workshop (computer science) where the professor hosting and leading the workshop had her infant with her and breastfed him while chairing workshop sessions. It was not a problem in any way.

  65. Lauren says:

    Re: “back up childcare” and personal parental responsibility

    I’ve been a parent since forever and I have yet to figure out this “back up childcare” people keep talking about. Typically, childcare is paid for on a weekly or biweekly basis, and you pay for every day regardless of whether your child is there or not. If your kid is out for the week, you pay anyway to “keep the spot.” Folks frequently pay $150-300 a week or more for standard childcare, depending on whether this is an in-home or corporate facility. Because the per-child wages are so low (they are otherwise prohibitive to the middle and working classes), childcare providers take on multiple children. There are laws pertaining to how many kids a licensed and unlicensed provider can keep at any given time, meaning they often carry that many children and do not float extra spots for other irregularly attending kids. No childcare provider will ethically take sick kids if they can avoid it.

    In other words, the out of pocket cost for childcare is prohibitive, and there aren’t places where you can just “drop in” a child, especially not a sick child. If you don’t have the money to hire an in-home care provider on a regular basis, and if you don’t have the good (or bad, ha) fortune to live with family nearby who are responsible enough to watch your children for you, good luck to you getting back up childcare during the work day on short notice.

    • Treebeard says:

      On a college campus, one idea would be to know some students (NOT students in your department or taking your classes, to avoid conflict of interest) who regularly babysit and who might be willing to watch the baby on campus for an hour while the lecture happens. That’s not a last minute solution though – you have to get to know those babysitters first (advertise or look for their ads), find out if they’re trustworthy, find out when they have class, if they’re worried about germs, etc. But my point is that backup childcare doesn’t mean another official daycare center, it means a person whose job has different hours than yours who can make occasional extra cash by coming to babysit when you call them.

      • Lauren says:

        it means a person whose job has different hours than yours who can make occasional extra cash by coming to babysit when you call them.

        However you shake it, as a working class woman with kids, and when I was a single parent in college, this is/was still a very tall order. I think you’re overestimating the number of people sitting around during the work day who are able to drop everything last minute and babysit. Outside of family, that’s basically no one.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        I think you’re overestimating the number of people sitting around during the work day who are able to drop everything last minute and babysit. Outside of family, that’s basically no one.

        What about that list of qualified, licensed, independent child care providers in your area that every parent gets after the baby is born or adoption is complete? You know, the one that’s convenient to your work or home, and has adults your baby already knows and likes …

        … you didn’t get thay list? Oh – what an I saying? NEITHER DID ANYONE ELSE, ever.

      • Bagelsan says:

        In this economy? I find it hard to believe you can’t dig up anyone to babysit. My generation is incredibly un- and under-employed; we have nothing but time.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        bagelsan, you don’t have kids, you have never had to find child care, you don’t know what it’s like, so maybe you could stop creating these made-up scenarios of what parents (mothers) SHOULD do and COULD do and JUST HAVEN’T DONE because we’re way stupider about this than you and other child-free people.

      • Fat Steve says:

        bagelsan, you don’t have kids, you have never had to find child care, you don’t know what it’s like, so maybe you could stop creating these made-up scenarios of what parents (mothers) SHOULD do and COULD do and JUST HAVEN’T DONE because we’re way stupider about this than you and other child-free people.

        Yeah, thank god no parents ever started off child-free. They wouldn’t have any idea what to do and any ‘made up scenario’ they create would be undoubtedly wrong.

      • Bagelsan says:

        Tinfoil hattie’s just looking for something to have a chip on her shoulder about, clearly.

      • In this economy? I find it hard to believe you can’t dig up anyone to babysit. My generation is incredibly un- and under-employed; we have nothing but time.

        Bagelsan, I live in Moscow – there’s more broke young people than you can shake a stick at.

        Still, finding responsible emergency childcare is often next to impossible. They key word here is “responsible.”

        When you’re a parent of a small child, you have someone completely helpless and ignorant depending on you – leave them to their own devices, and they’ll start looking for tasty bleach they can drink, or whatever.

        Pick the wrong babysitter – your kid may very well end up injured or dead. That’s the amount of responsibility that’s on you.

        So no, Hattie doesn’t have a chip on her shoulder, I believe. She’s just frustrated at how flippant you’re being about a subject that’s a huge big deal to anyone who has been a parent or guardian to a small child.

        I know someone who lost their three-year-old daughter because of a neglectful caregiver, so I don’t find the subject matter hilarious either.

      • Lauren says:

        In this economy? I find it hard to believe you can’t dig up anyone to babysit. My generation is incredibly un- and under-employed; we have nothing but time.

        That’s weird. All the broke and un- and under-employed people I know aren’t sitting at home waiting for phone calls.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        Yeah, those feminists. Always making up shit so they can have a chip on their shoulder. Can’t they just be nicer? There’s really nothing to complain about.

        LOL re: your child free comment, Fat Steve. When I didn’t have kids, I never presumed to tell the be-childed how do do their job. Because I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

        And a lot of stuff I thought about how I would do it turned out to be completely unrealistic once I became a mother. Including the idea that I’d have public support for breastfeeding.

      • Fat Steve says:

        LOL re: your child free comment, Fat Steve. When I didn’t have kids, I never presumed to tell the be-childed how do do their job. Because I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

        And a lot of stuff I thought about how I would do it turned out to be completely unrealistic once I became a mother. Including the idea that I’d have public support for breastfeeding.

        Tinfoil,

        Maybe we do only interface when we take offence at each other and that seems to have made you think I have a specific dislike of you. I don’t. I don’t know you to dislike you personally, and I do like some of your contributions here and I really appreciate your perspective. I will admit that on contentuous issues I am taken aback by your arguing style. I suppose this is what leads us to get into a massive argument about something we essentially agree on. And as such we probably both seem to have ‘chips.’

        To give an example, of the kind of thing I should be saying is that the comment of yours I quoted above- I love. A perfect example of what a blog comment should be.You get your point across, you by no means agree with me or are being flattering, but you treat me like a human being of value. I honestly haven’t felt that from a lot of your comments, but that’s not your fault- it’s my interpretation, my hangups, etc. Obviously you’re free to continue as you wish, but I will be making an effort not to react to you with such vehemence, because these little tiffs we have probably aren’t particularly entertaining for the rest of the readers.

      • EG says:

        On a college campus, one idea would be to know some students (NOT students in your department or taking your classes, to avoid conflict of interest) who regularly babysit and who might be willing to watch the baby on campus for an hour while the lecture happens.

        How on earth would I meet students not in my department or taking my classes? Am I supposed to stroll the hallways of the chemistry department randomly asking students if they babysit? It’s not like I spend a lot of time interacting with undergrads who don’t study English or who aren’t in my classes. Quite the contrary.

      • Donna L says:

        I’m pretty sure my ex once told me that when she was at Barnard, they had a babysitting service that she and other women could sign up for, and that most of the people she sat for were faculty. Do they have anything like that where you teach?

      • EG says:

        I know and love that service! It’s where I got my start as a babysitter! Sadly, it’s the only one of its kind I’ve ever heard of. But I would/will totally use that service.

      • Treebeard says:

        I didn’t mean accosting random students, I meant literally by looking at ads on craigslist or campus websites for people who usually babysit, and asking if they’re available for on-call babysitting. Or posting an ad saying you’re looking for a babysitter with a flexible schedule. Lots of students have flexible schedules outside of actual class time and would be happy to make some extra money. I used to do tutoring and the scheduling was generally like that – just meet at some point in the day when you don’t have a class. When I posted tutoring ads I also saw lots of childcare ads along those lines. If you know you’re going to sometimes need a babysitter it seems like a good idea to follow up on ads for babysitters. Tons of students would be thrilled to occasionally get paid for one or two hours of last-minute babysitting on campus, if they didn’t have a class at that particular time.

      • EG says:

        That sounds to me like something that would work well at a college that was mainly residential, but significantly less well at a college whose students were mainly commuters.

    • Ledasmom says:

      There is such a thing as drop-in childcare – my husband once worked somewhere that offered it as a benefit. However, not for sick kids (and I should point out that, at least around here, the public schools don’t even expect you to keep your child home with a cold. Strep or ‘flu, yes. Cold, no).
      I have been trying to figure out the logistics for emergency sick-kid childcare, and it’s mind-boggling. Would they take kids without a doctor’s note? Without a note, but only if no fever and strictly cold symptoms? Upset stomach? I can’t figure out how to make it even remotely feasible.

    • robotile says:

      Maybe it’s because of where I live, but there are a lot of people who are into doing part-time babysitting and “mothers helper” gigs. Hell, there’s a whole website for it called sitter city. I recently went through the experience of having to scramble to find backup care because my MIL backed out on coming to look after kiddo at the last minute. It was the first week my husband was back from paternity leave so he couldn’ right off the bat stop. I found a few people happy to come on short-notice. Babysitting is lucrative in SF and there are lots of people with nonconventional professions, making the pool of people quite large. Also, call CPS on me, but for an hour of class, the babysitter doesn’t have to be Mary Poppins, just not Hannibal Lecter. The babysitter could even have been someone on campus, looking after the kid in a lounge area that’s easily check-up-on-able if need be. If you pay someone for 3hours of work and they only do one, you’ll get lots of takers, believe me.

      Finally, I am just not convinced by Prof. Pine. Sure, she was in a bind and I have totally sympathy for that. But she made a series of choices in sequence that show her to be thinking mainly of her own problems and not considering how they might inconvenience others. In addition, she showed herself to be petty and hypocritical.

      For instance, if she had time to go to lunch with a friend to bemoan the lack of childcare, she had time to either line up backup care or email her class in advance warning them that a kiddo would be there and that class might involve a few minor distractions. Or set up a conference call-in.

      Once she did bring the kid into the classroom, don’t wanly tell the TA not to babysit while failing to actually hold the baby or keep tabs on him–there’s just tons of implicit pressure on her to pick up the slack.

      And yes, there’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding in class, but given that we live in this society, it is naive or disingenuous of her to be surprised it became an issue. If you’re a feminist anthropology professor, you know that breastfeeding is a hot button issue and that our society is pretty hostile to breastfeeders. So either choose to do it, knowing full well it “makes a statement,” or don’t do it because you don’t want it to become the focus of class. But don’t do it and then act shocked, shocked that some undergraduate 18-year olds who were raised in our patriarchal culture might be slightly unnerved. As an aside, if she’s routinely pumping for daycare, I fail to see why she couldn’t have pumped for a one hour class that she might already be pumping for anyway. That just seems like poor planning.

      Finally, when you are worried that a story may appear in the school newspaper and undermine your career, don’t preemptively try to frame the story by ruining an undergraduate’s reputation, especially when you are offered anonymity. Don’t insult the entire newspaper–sure it’s free speech, but it’s speech that makes you sound like a jerk. (The whole experience may actually have been good training for the student journalist, but that’s because journalists often have to work with jerky sources who try to intimidate them and then publicly drag their name through the mud. The key word here is jerk. Pine seems like a jerk all around. )

    • cherrybomb says:

      Glad you called out the “back-up childcare” bs, lauren. Even when I did live in my hometown near family and friends I had the worst time finding someone to watch my son last minute– like me, most my family and friends worked or were in school. The only SAHM in the family had 5 kids and was too busy running her kids around most days to be able to take my son last minute (or even not-so-last minute). The only blessings were that I had professors who understood why I had to miss class (and one who didn’t mind me bringing my then-2-year-old), and an employer who sympathized why I had to miss work when he was sick and didn’t punish me for it.

      No daycare will take a sick kid, most babysitters, friends, and family members (if one is lucky enough to have any living nearby) are usually too busy with their own obligations to drop everything and watch a sick kid– and even if they are free, some don’t want to be around a SICK kid. But yeah, how dare we mothers be stupid and lazy enough to have not found this mythical “back-up childcare” provider who sits by the phone all day, hoping to be asked to babysit. (This provider also happens to be independently wealthy, so she doesn’t have to worry about not getting work some days, as sick kid care tends to be seasonal, and also happens to be a safe and reliable non-child-molester who we are comfy leaving our kids with). Lazy mommies just not TRYING hard enough to plan for the unplanned.

  66. tinfoil hattie says:

    II’m mostly annoyed at Professor Pine for simultaneously wanting to NOT “identify” herself as a mother, while bringing a child to class and feeding that child. A mother cannot separate motherhood from the sum total of her identity, nor should motherhood be such a socially fraught identity that one would feel the need to.

    Furthermore, if Pine ever gave more than a snide look at those “lactivists” she so derides, she might not have been shocked – shocked! that breastfeeding in front of other people is so controversial that women have been ABUSED, and worse, while doing it. She emits an attitude of, “I’m not like those OTHER, bad women who make breastfeeding such a big deal!”

    Finally, her treatment of the (young, woman) reporter was high-handed and rude. And I’m not talking about tone, here – just common decency.

    • Lolagirl says:

      Hattie, I have to admit that even though I have defended Professor Pine wrt the breastfeeding controversy, I was also similarly annoyed by the points you’ve made in your comment. She did seem somewhat circumspect towards the end of the Counterpunch piece that her previous dismissal of lactivism may have been misguided. I would hope that she also learned that her “won’t happen to me because I’m different” attitude was wrongheaded. Furthermore, she seems to fall into a subset of feminists who feel as though they have to apologize for and distance themselves from their role as a parent in order to maintain their credibility and professionalism (yes, I realize I made something of a broad, sweeping generalization there.) We still have a very long way to go in removing the sexism and misogyny in our U.S. culture towards those things that are traditionally coded as feminine. Until we do, women will not be treated as equals to men.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Hattie, I have to admit that even though I have defended Professor Pine wrt the breastfeeding controversy, I was also similarly annoyed by the points you’ve made in your comment. She did seem somewhat circumspect towards the end of the Counterpunch piece that her previous dismissal of lactivism may have been misguided. I would hope that she also learned that her “won’t happen to me because I’m different” attitude was wrongheaded. Furthermore, she seems to fall into a subset of feminists who feel as though they have to apologize for and distance themselves from their role as a parent in order to maintain their credibility and professionalism (yes, I realize I made something of a broad, sweeping generalization there.) We still have a very long way to go in removing the sexism and misogyny in our U.S. culture towards those things that are traditionally coded as feminine. Until we do, women will not be treated as equals to men.

        Don’t you see that I was saying just that? I have never denied the root cause may have been the breastfeeding, though the initial thing that annoyed the tweeter may have been the mere presence of the child in the class, the breast being the impetus for the tweet.

        However, the only criticisms I have had of Pine are the same as tinfoils: that she was completely unwilling to defend breastfeeding as a right of women, merely defending her right to be left alone AND her apparent complete unwillingness to try to relate to the student journalist as a fellow human being and educate her.

      • tinfoil hattie says:

        I hear you Lolagirl, and I think you and I are on pretty much the same page for all of this. Yeah, she acted like a jerk and she has a sense of entitlement around “how dare people judge me!” while judging other women.

        AND, feeding a baby is a fact of life, and to hell with people who insist on freaking out because a BREAST

    • Ashley says:

      From my reading, she is saying she doesn’t identify with lactivists because they are privileged and totally lack an understanding of poor women. Not because she thinks breastfeeding isn’t a right. And she doesn’t want to be identified solely with motherhood because of the cultural baggage that comes with that, and the ways people project incompetence and other crap onto mothers. Not because she also believes this–because she is trying to maintain a career when a lot of other people believe it, and not every element of your life can be an activist statement if you want to make a living.

      The stuff about Pine being “mean” sounds to me like a tone argument. Pine is responding to someone actively oppressing her (the student’s intent is not magic) with anger and retaliation–a response I have seen defended in this space many times.

      • Lolagirl says:

        That’s not what Pine said, but this is:

        I have specifically tried to distance myself from lactivism, which has always seemed hopelessly bourgeois to me- those marauding bands of lactating white women who go to collectively feed their babies in places where the right to breastfeed has been called into question.

        Sure, she waves away lactivism by throwing around labels like bourgeois and white women, but she also refers to lactivists as marauding bands of lactating women. Which is a great way to dehumanize and diminish them, and not such a great way to prove that she is correct in her evaluation of those who may be supportive of breastfeeding and breastfeeding education.

  67. Esti says:

    So now the story in AU’s newspaper has actually been published, along with a separate note from the paper’s editor on the controversy, and I don’t think it’s all that bad. (And yes, I’m sure the amount of attention that this whole thing got impacted the piece to some extent, but there isn’t really any way to know whether or how different it would have looked absent Professor Pine’s post and the subsequent media attention.)

    But something I did learn from the article: the professor initially published the cell phone numbers of the student reporter and editor in her Counter Punch article and then took them down a day later and eventually apologized to both individuals for that and for the tone of her piece. I find that kind of shocking, honestly. Whether she thought the reporter should be trying to make a story out of this or not, it was totally out of line to publicly go after two student journalists, accusing them of “hounding [her]” and of “craft[ing] a poorly-written story” and of being “determined to create a hostile work environment”–when the article in question hadn’t even been written yet–and then, after asking them to withhold her name from their story, to turn around and publish both their names and their cell phone numbers.

    • Revolver says:

      I’m about to go on a HULK SMASH episode after reading this.

    • EG says:

      Yep, that sucks. Phone numbers are off-limits.

      • Lolagirl says:

        Yeah, I agree that sucks. It sounds like Pine really lashed out angrily as a result of feeling put on the spot. Putting phone numbers in her article was over the line.

    • Katya says:

      That is awful. Demanding that they not publish the story is bad enough, but publishing private personal information is just beyond the pale.

    • Lauren says:

      But something I did learn from the article: the professor initially published the cell phone numbers of the student reporter and editor in her Counter Punch article and then took them down a day later and eventually apologized to both individuals for that and for the tone of her piece. I find that kind of shocking, honestly.

      Yeah, that’s bad news. I’m generally not a fan of scorched earth tactics. But it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that while the professor had the student’s future in her hands, the school newspaper has the professor’s future equally if not more so in their hands. People keep pointing out the power inequality between the student reporter and the professor, but according to the professor’s account anyway, it sounds like what we really wanted to see was the professor hand-hold the student through a process that could ultimately ruin the professor’s career. By “investigating” this “story,” the newspaper fucks the professor no matter what, whether or not she cooperates.

      It’s easy to see, especially with the school newspaper’s history of sexism, the political controversy that still exists around breastfeeding, women in the workplace, and the belief that students get to dictate their university experience because they pay for it (dearly!), it’s easy to see how the rhetoric got elevated to the extent it did.

      Although I have sympathy with Pine, she really shot herself in the foot in a variety of ways here. It’s not about whether she should shut up and put her head down — she shouldn’t — but she just torched her class relationship for the rest of her semester and alerted all of her local higher ed administration (and some national, too) to her name and her willingness to get down in the mud.

      I don’t know what the right answer is, but it wasn’t this one.

      • Revolver says:

        Since I’m the one that’s been talking about power inequality…

        While it would be nice if Prof. Pine had the capability and willingness to try to educate the student journalist, I did not say she was required to “hand-hold” the student. I understand that it wasn’t her responsibility to do that.

        However, like I said before, she could have
        A) Posted her article without names
        B) Talked to the dean or journalism department chair about the students’ actions and discussed possible consequences if needed
        C) Anything really except post the students’ names
        (and CELL PHONE NUMBERS…I. can’t. even.)

        She could have protected herself and her career without exposing the students. There is no reason her editorial at Counterpunch wouldn’t work without naming the students.

      • Esti says:

        But it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that while the professor had the student’s future in her hands, the school newspaper has the professor’s future equally if not more so in their hands. People keep pointing out the power inequality between the student reporter and the professor, but according to the professor’s account anyway, it sounds like what we really wanted to see was the professor hand-hold the student through a process that could ultimately ruin the professor’s career.

        I don’t think the professor needed to “hand-hold” anyone through writing a piece about her breastfeeding in class, but there is a huge middle ground between the extremes of happily cooperating with a story you disagree should be written and publishing your own article in which you call out by name and phone number two students for creating a hostile work environment based on an article that hasn’t even been written yet.

        This isn’t about who had more power, it’s about what they used their power to do. Writing an article about a professor breastfeeding in class, even a critical article, is not remotely in the same league as deliberately revealing confidential information about students, especially when that information is their cell phone numbers and you put them in a very angry article about how those students are sexist assholes trying to ruin your career. Even if she didn’t intend to provoke harassment of the two students, she certainly should have known there was a real risk that would be the result.

      • Revolver says:

        Esti, you wrote that so nicely, while it took me a million posts to try to get at that point!

        Between here and Captain Awkward, I have an internet-friend-crush on you.

      • Lauren says:

        I don’t disagree with you. Pine clearly jumped the gun. But I still empathize with her concerns.

        Straight up, if Pine had bottle-fed her baby we wouldn’t have known this situation existed.

    • tinfoil hattie says:

      What a jerk. Maybe if she spent less time acting as though whatever women do is just fine and dandy with the rest of society, and READ SOME REAL-LIFE STORIES of what happens to women, she wouldn’t have PUBLISHED A WOMAN’S CONTACT INFORMATION online.

      And, FWIW, I hate Counterpunch. I find the entire publication to be dude-heavy, dude-friendly, and not a little sexist.

      • librarygoose says:

        Her contact info? Fuck…I don’t even… what the hell would make anyone think that is okay?

      • Jill says:

        Agreed agreed agreed. Counterpunch is ridiculous, and publishing the contact info was not only bad on Pine’s part, but a huge judgment lapse on the part of her editor.

    • At this point, I don’t care if she’s a mother or a professor or a feminist or what the fuck ever. This is a shitty human being behaving in shitty human ways and should be treated as shitty human beings deserve to be: with a loud fart in their general direction. Love that she’s playing the wronged-woman card while being a total asshole to all other actual women involved in this clusterfuck.

    • number9 says:

      That is such a disgusting, bullying, shitty move. And wouldn’t the AU administration have to do something about this due to FERPA? I find it sort of ironic that she wrote the counterpunch piece because she was worried about the story’s potential to impact her tenure, and in reality it’s her writing of that piece that might end her hopes of getting tenure at AU. Which is exactly what should happen, given her treatment of a student.

    • Yeah – revealing people’s numbers is shitty and irresponsible. I understand she may have felt cornered – but some lines you just don’t cross.

  68. Lauren says:

    Link to the Eagle newspaper response to the national news attention:

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

    Students range from reporting that a professor breastfeeding in the classroom “for less than 45 seconds” is “no big deal” and/or “unprofessional.”

    • Revolver says:

      “A statement released by the University said AU does not agree with the characterization of students in Pine’s essay.”

      Sounds like Prof. Pine ended up damaging her reputation much more than the story did/would have.

    • Lolagirl says:

      This Eagle article highlights the ridiculous way these events played out. Professor, who was legally permitted to breastfeed her child in class does so, scandal erupts, she panics and tries to defuse the situation before it erupts into mega controversy and fails miserably. Administration, knowing that they can not legally forbid or even discourage staff and students from breastfeeding on campus, seemingly tries to shift focus away from breastfeeding towards Professor bringing sick child to class with her.

      Super-gigantic national controversy shitstorm ensues, complete with pearl clutching and fainting couches over breastfeeding in public.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Super-gigantic national controversy shitstorm ensues, complete with pearl clutching and fainting couches over breastfeeding in public.

        Super-gigantic national controversy shitstorm?

        What about the amazingly unbelievable super-gigantic passionate support she is receiving on a worldwide international level?
        (i.e. you defending her on this blog)

      • Lolagirl says:

        Steve, look around the internets a bit. From what I’ve been seeing I am a minority voice in support of the legally protected right to breastfeed in public. Numerous articles with oodles of negative comments are all over the place. Local and national tv stories about the professor nursing in class and interviews with the Dean asking if Pine will be subject to any disciplinary measures for breastfeeding/bringing sick baby to class. So far, on the other two “Mommy” boards I read on a regular basis there have been extensive pearl clutching and catastrophizing about how Mama Bear would never stand such a thing and would be calling the Dean to complain post-haste and how unprofessional of her, down to those poor children should never be exposed to the horrific sight of a baby with a boob in its mouth.

        Really, there is a serious shitstorm abrewing. I don’t doubt that in the next few days I’ll hear about it when I go to pick up my older kids from school from somebody trying to start shit, because I’m already known as that granola mom who breastfeeds her babies and can you believe the horror of it?!

      • Fat Steve says:

        And Lola you have asked me on a few occasions why I was seemingly so on the side of the journalist…to which I have always replied that the tone of Pine’s article seemed completely dismissive of Mongolio. Now we learn that Pine herself eventually apologized to her and another student she named and shamed “for that and for the tone of her piece.”

        Now my opinion of Pine has changed because she is mature enough to acknowledge where she made mistakes and apologize for them, and also realizes you CAN acknowledge you’re wrong about some things without it being an admission that you’re wrong about everything.

    • Caperton says:

      The Eagle’s EIC has written an editor’s note. Excerpt:

      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.

      Had Pine never posted her now well-known essay on CounterPunch, we may have never run a story in the first place. If we had, we would have honored our promise to grant her anonymity.

      • Lolagirl says:

        That’s all well and good, but why did they ever believe that a Professor breastfeeding in class warranted a journalistic “investigation” in the first place?

        I still don’t see why anyone is still doubting that the Eagle and Ms. Mongolio were attempting to turn something perfectly legal and non-controversial into a controversy.

        Furthermore, even if they had not posted the Professor’s name in their article, the cat was already out of the bag as the campus was already abuzz about the matter. Thanks to a student posting about it on Twitter and Facebook, any attempts by the Eagle to maintain confidentiality were pointless. Thus the preemptive strike on Counterpunch, |

        I will say again that I agree Pine was over the top in the way that she dealt with Mongolio and that she was wrong in posting any phone numbers. But the fact still stands, no controversy would have ensued but for Pine breastfeeding her child in class, something she had a legally protected right to do.

      • Jill says:

        Because she was under administrative investigation for breastfeeding in class? Whether or not that’s right, it’s a story. Add that to the fact that campus was buzzing about it. It’s not like the newspaper editors pulled this out of their asses. Newspapers cover things all that time that are perfectly legal and fine but still become controversial.

      • Lauren says:

        What she actually under administrative investigation? Maybe I should re-read the article(s), but I was under the impression that the newspaper was running solely off of the buzz from Twitter/Facebook when they first contacted her.

      • Lolagirl says:

        The protest followed days of controversy after Pine, an assistant professor of anthropology in CAS, breast-fed her sick child on the first day of her “Sex, Gender and Culture” course, after which The Eagle began an investigation. This is the first story the newspaper has published on the event.

        I agree that it isn’t clear from the Eagle article, quoted above, which differs from the Letter from the Editor also posted by the Eagle. The article itself states that their investigation was launched after they got wind of a professor breastfeeding in class. The Editor states that it was as a result of an administrative investigation.

      • Fat Steve says:

        What she actually under administrative investigation? Maybe I should re-read the article(s), but I was under the impression that the newspaper was running solely off of the buzz from Twitter/Facebook when they first contacted her.

        From what I understand the paper said they contacted her because they heard it had been reported to the administration and the next natural step following a complaint is an investigation.

      • Lauren says:

        I believe it says it’s because they “thought” she was under investigation. It’s never clear that she was, in fact, under investigation.

        In any case, the editor’s note is interesting because it strongly suggests that they were going to write in her favor, since the university’s policies are quite liberal when it comes to breastfeeding rights.

      • Lolagirl says:

        From what I understand the paper said they contacted her because they heard it had been reported to the administration and the next natural step following a complaint is an investigation.

        This still begs the question of why the breastfeeding was turned into an incident and an ensuing controversy. What if some student filed a complaint about a student having the nerve to walk across the campus in the middle of the afternoon? Nothing done wrong and no reason to launch an investigation, so dismiss the complaint, close the file and move on to more pressing matters. Breastfeeding on campus is no different, because it does not violate any rules or laws.

      • number9 says:

        Well, putting together all the different stories and claims into a timeline, it seems to me that the newspaper wasn’t trying to create any sort of controversy. It seems that what happened was more like this:
        1. The Eagle staff heard that a professor on campus was under administrative investigation for breastfeeding in class. That’s obviously a story that would be of concern to a student paper – a prof under investigation by administration for a legal act.
        2. They investigated and sent Heather to interview the prof. From the Counterpunch article, Prof Pine seems to think that Heather was sympathetic and thought she was some kind of a “hero.” I agree with tinfoil hattie’s analysis of that article – it’s all about how she’s not like one of those wacky lactivists, so how dare this student ask her questions about it and making everyone see her as a mommy!
        3. Prof Pine freaked out about the very idea of an article that would make her motherhood and potential wacky lactivism known to the public!
        4. She started bullying the student and the paper, and published her own article to get out in front of the story and let everyone know that she was most certainly not a wacky lactivist no way no how!
        5. At this point, the Eagle obviously has to publish the story, since now it’s become news.

        I mean, I totally agree that treating breastfeeding as some kind of controversial incident is total bullshit. I just don’t think that’s what happened here.