Target Boob-in Scheduled

Perhaps a Global Boycott of ‘Target’ is in Order?

A friend from my Boston days, Erica, posted a link today about a “Nurse-In” scheduled to take place at all
US Target stores nationwide on December the 28th. This follows a Texan Mom, MichelleHickman, reporting that she was bullied by Target employees for breastfeeding her child in-store while Christmas shopping. I know that this sort of stuff creates all sorts of reactions – many not supporting the mother in question – but I think this is worth exploring a little deeper.
The article linked to a recent English boob-in and it also reminds me of another group of women staging a protest in Singapore a few years ago. Unfortunately I can’t find any coverage, but this happened because a Caucasian woman was kicked out of a cafe for breastfeeding. The next day, the cafe was mobbed by breastfeeding mothers and it got a lot of attention. The cafe naturally changed its policy.

We’re almost in the year 2012 and this is still an issue? I mean come on. Is there anything more natural in the world than breastfeeding your baby? Look at the English article - people complained because they found it a disturbing sight while eating! And it’s not just men, women complained too.

But the Target story really got to me for two reasons – the demographic most likely to shop at Target is lower-income earning women. They will shop not only for themselves, but for their entire family. Secondly, it is this group that is probably most at risk of being isolated in their early parenting years, and as a Mother who spent a lot of time in isolation for various reasons, this is probably the thing that concerns me the most. Mothers need to be able to get out in the world, so they’re not sitting at home, isolated and driving themselves crazy. Attitudes like this DO NOT help.

So I have an issue with Target in this instance, but also any other organisation that claims to market itself to women – because lactating mothers are definitely part of this demographic and they need to be factored into the overall experience.  This is not the first time Target has been accused of “breast-causes-distress” behavior apparently – it happened in 2006, when a woman was shooed from the fitting rooms for breastfeeding. Target’s public response?  

“Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores. We apologize for any inconvenience the guest experienced and will take this opportunity to reaffirm this commitment with our team members,” company representative Kristi Arndt said.

“For guests in our stores, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms. In addition, guests who choose to breastfeed discreetly in more public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable.”

Of course the discussion always moves on to other recommendations where women can breastfeed. I’ve heard people suggest women should go to their cars or public toilets to breastfeed. Now the car is do-able if you have one child – perhaps – and if it’s not -40 degrees outside and if you’re not in a behemoth shopping centre where it is going to take you 20 minutes at least to get to your car. Anyone with a screaming, hungry baby knows how long 20 minutes feels like.

BUT public toilets? I was a discrete feeder and regularly found myself in public toilets feeding my boys. Let me tell you, Singapore is a hot and humid place, so this is NOT a pleasant thing to do. But it was my choice. The challenge with public toilets is most are filthy, stinking cesspools you want to escape as quickly as possible. Also if you are feeding a child in a toilet for at least 30 minutes – which is about right for most – someone is going to take a dump, and that is not a pretty experience for anyone. So, no, public toilets are not a great solution for the average woman who does not feel the need to hide away to feed her baby.

Living in Asia the challenges of breastfeeding are quite different. As a general rule, most women do not feed their children for very long – it’s just one of those things. Even though I decided long before my boys were born that I would never, ever feed in public, I certainly would not do it in Asia. My gargantuan tits would have caused a stampede, more out of curiosity than anything, so hiding away was always my preference. Before I gave birth, I went to all of the shopping centres I expected to frequent with my babies and checked out their feeding facilities. Those who had great facilities got my custom. Those who didn’t still haven’t seen me back. However, as a general rule, Singapore has excellent feeding facilities and parent’s rooms – which was a bonus for shy me.

I am appalled that Target does not have facilities for feeding mothers, and Target, it’s time to change. It’s simple. Make sure all of your stores world-wide have comfortable feeding rooms, with comfortable chairs and entertainment for older kids and do it now. Other stores targeting women and families should take note. Please also make sure these rooms are nowhere near the stink of public toilets and make sure they are cleaned often. There is nothing worse than being in a filthy room with your precious little baby.  Also put proper nappy disposal bins in the rooms – the stench of another baby’s boggy nappy has made me gag on several occasions.

Secondly train your staff to be more sensitive and aware. There is no point issuing a statement that you support breastfeeding anywhere in your store if your staff is unaware of, or untrained in, this policy. There is nothing worse than dealing with immature dickheads when you are trying to do the most natural thing on the planet – feed your child. I had a ridiculous reaction from a steward on a Singapore Airlines flight, so I know how it feels. Grow up and get over it. But it is up to the big corporations to ensure staff are trained to sensitively serve all customers – no matter what.

But it’s also about delivering on your mission. On your Website, you claim that Target’s BrandPromise is:

“Our mission is to make Target the preferred shopping destination for our guests by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and an exceptional guest experience by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less.® brand promise.

To support our mission, we are guided by our commitments to great value, the community, diversity and the environment.”

I would suggest that providing a family room is a key part of delivering on your mission of “an exceptional guest experience.”

There is no Target in Singapore, and I am no longer lactating to show my support, but maybe my blog will reach some listening ears? Who knows. I hope the sit-in makes the point, and if it doesn’t – boycott the store until it does. It would be great if lactating mother’s worldwide joined the cause and staged a lactating protest at Target on 28th December – because then you’d really make an impact! If that doesn’t work, hitting profits is always the best way to make a point. Maybe this action will inspire other consumer businesses - primarily relying on the spending power of women - to take action?

And women should never forget that we are VERY powerful in the consumer space. Any business that serves families relies on women. That is power and we should not forget it. In fact, we should be demanding businesses compete for our spending power by showing us they really do understand us - their customers – because let’s face it, a family room is not going to cost a fortune. Then again, it’s not like Target isn’t making any money?

Ladies as consumers, we have a lot of strength and we can demand more. The corporations know it. It’s time us women knew it too. A bit passionate, but bloody hell – this is a bigger issue than just breastfeeding. This is about helping women, at the most isolated time in their lives, feel like they are part of humanity, so I believe it’s REALLY important – especially stores that claim to care about their customers, and in Target’s case, women are their primary customers.

I know people are not going to grow up about breastfeeding. There is such a childish attitude to it in too many parts of the world – I get that. BUT at least make it possible for women to do it in comfort. I’d really like to see a stop to this bollocks about women suffering this prejudice. Even if you have never breastfed, please try and support women who want to?

Yours, without the bollocks
Andrea
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