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Dana Lynch

Does Bard on the Beach's "No Kid Under 6" Policy Discriminate Against Breastfeeding Moms?

By August 22, 2011

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At lunch today (with my 17-month-old son), I read the story of the "Breastfeeding mom barred from Bard" in the Province: Vancouverite Leanne Scorah tried to bring her eight-week-old baby (then asleep in a sling on her chest) into a matinee performance of Bard on the Beach's As You Like It, only to be turned away at the door.

Bard on the Beach--Vancouver's famous summer Shakespeare theatre festival--has a clearly-stated policy disallowing all children under six years old: "In consideration of the actors and other patrons, infants and children under the age of 6 will not be admitted."

Ms. Scorah was so angry that her baby was refused admittance that she wrote letters of complaint to several media outlets, including the Georgia Straight and the Province. The Georgia Straight quotes her as saying, "We strongly feel that this is a violation of human rights and discrimination against breastfeeding mothers, and possibly others."

Does a theatre company's general "no child under six" policy discriminate against breastfeeding mothers?

This is a tricky one. On the one hand, if we, as a society, believe in promoting breastfeeding (which, given all the pressure on mothers to breastfeed, I would certainly say that we do), then we must make it as easy and convenient as possible. To that end, organizations with blanket "no small kids" policies should make exceptions for breastfeeding babies under a certain age (perhaps six months), so that mothers can both breastfeed and enjoy all the normal privileges to which they are accustomed.

On the other hand, I do believe adult-only (or, in this case, over-six-years-old-only) venues are important, too; people should have spaces to go to that do not include young children. And the problem with making an exception for breastfeeding babies is that not all young babies breastfeed. Which, should a breastfeeding exception prevail, presents another case of possible discrimination: parents of eight-week-olds who do not breastfeed would not be able to bring their baby while mothers like Ms. Scorah could.

Ultimately, I think we should err on the side of making breastfeeding easier; I think Bard on the Beach and every other organization/public space/workspace should make allowances for young breastfeeding infants that they may not otherwise make. In other words, keep the general "no kids under six" policy but make exceptions for breastfeeding infants under a certain age who are accompanying their breastfeeding mom. To do otherwise undermines any effort to promote breastfeeding as the healthiest option for moms and babies.

What do you think about the situation? Should Bard on the Beach make an exception to its policy in favour of breastfeeding mothers? And if not, why not? I'd love to hear your opinions in the comments!

Comments

August 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm
(1) MPE says:

NO WAY. Pump some milk and leave the baby at home

August 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm
(2) Anonymous says:

I think Ms. Scorah is a militant self absorbed twat. I had a baby when I was 21, and nursed her until she was almost 2. I am no stranger to breastfeeding… and I am all FOR breastfeeding rights, if you need to nurse your baby on a bus, whip it out, and nurse your baby.

But seriously, what was she thinking? I would have NO MORE taken my 2 week old baby to a three hour play expecting admittance than have fed her whiskey in a bottle. Breastfeeding rights include being allowed to breastfeed in PUBLIC because a baby needs to eat. It is not about you NEEDING to go see a SHAKESPEAREAN PLAY and subjecting 800 PAYING PATRONS to your screeching mewling baby and the shuffle shuffle shuffle across the aisles while you have to make an embarrassed exit with your baby who no more wants to see Shakespeare than my PUPPY does. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and i find it deplorable and incredulous that Ms. Scorah would even CONSIDER making such a selfish demand.

Talk about stupidity. Would you take your two week old baby to a bar and demand admittance? Because you’re breastfeeding? Hell no!

Pump milk and get a sitter, go to places (of which there are SEVERAL in this city) who are happy to have babies and families running around and playing, or STAY home.

Give me a break!

August 25, 2011 at 1:09 am
(3) anon II says:

I don’t think they should be allowed if the policy states that! They have a choice and can go elsewhere. If they don’t like it then they are free to not go to that establishment.

Just because a vegetarian restaurant does not serve meat, should I cry fowl and demand they do so???

August 27, 2011 at 10:06 am
(4) MPU says:

Setting aside the obvious passion of the comment writers, I must take this opportunity to give special recognition to anon II for neatest pun on the blog this week. Crying fowl while entering a vegetarian restaurant was indeed a masterful play on words. It gave me paws while reading the other comments.

August 31, 2011 at 3:02 pm
(5) ejhickey says:

I think the policy of no children under 6 is not meant to discriminate against breastfeeding but to avoid disturbing the actors and patrons by the noise of a fussy child who cannot be expected to sit quietly during a play he or she hardly understands. therefore I concur with the other posters that this mother should have left here child at home.

August 31, 2011 at 5:30 pm
(6) Grant J says:

This has nothing to do with breastfeeding, it is all about maintaining a quiet audience so as not to disrupt a theatre performance.

If Bard’s policy was “No breastfeeding allowed” then it woudl be discriminatory. However Bard’s policy is “No children under six years old allowed”, whether breastfeeding or not. This woman is just trying to use it as an issue, because she didn’t get her way.

She should be like everyone else there, and show some respect for the performers and the audience., and not be so selfish.

April 3, 2012 at 9:25 pm
(7) Lisa says:

I totally disagree with you. Grant J is correct – this is not about breastfeeding. It has nothing to do with breastfeeding. It has to do with a quiet audience environment that allows the actors to do their best and the audience to enjoy the show. The problem isn’t that “not all young children breastfeed”, the problem is that small babies cry. A lot. It’s what babies do, and that makes it impossible to maintain a quiet audience.

The idea that this is a human rights violation is utterly ridiculous. This mother does not have an inalienable right to attend the theater. And let’s be honest — everyone who has children knows that there are certain things you have to give up in order to be a good parent. You chose to have children and so you chose to adjust your life in a lot of little ways to accommodate them. This is simply one of those accommodations. You can’t take your tot to the theater. You can still go, but you need to plan ahead and make some adjustments.

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