Oh, did I hurt your feelings?

Although I consider “reader mail” posts a journalistic cop-out — a favorite tool of lazy columnists who can’t think of anything else to write — I’m willing to make an exception today.

During the last few weeks, we’ve had a spirited debate about annoying air travelers. It started with the remarkable story of a passenger who was forced to stand on a cross-country flight. Then I asked you to vote on the person you don’t want to sit next to on a flight. And finally, we had a little run-off election between the top two categories: XL passengers and babies.

Along the way, it seems, I offended some of you.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been accused of ruffling a few feathers. But it’s usually a clueless airline or greedy hotel that’s ticked off, and isn’t making them squirm my job as a consumer advocate?

I don’t really want to offend my readers. But sometimes I can’t help myself.

“Your singling out of large people is prejudicial and condescending,” says Donald Mounce. “As a large frequent flier myself, there are many more annoying personality traits than sitting next to a large traveler. Your column was very hurtful to a great many people, and simply not balanced or fair. I think you owe your readers an apology.”

Alright, Donald. Let’s take those one by one. I didn’t single out oversize travelers; the readers of this column did (see the poll). I agree that there are many other annoying things a seatmate can do (again, see the poll) but I will have to defer to the majority on the question of the most annoying thing.

I never claimed to be balanced or fair. This feature is intended to provoke a discussion about travel, and give people a place to voice their opinions, not build bridges of friendship.

And by the way, I am an XL passenger. My 6-foot-2 frame barely squeezes into an economy class seat, and I often can’t help sprawling across the armrests because I’m a big guy. I’m not offended at all when someone complains about me invading their personal space. You shouldn’t be, either.

“Why are you not on the case of the airlines who make everything so small that everyone cannot fly comfortably?” asked Arleen Horna, a self-described tall, long-legged passenger who “can’t fit well” into an economy class seat.

That’s a valid question. Truth is, I’ve been harping on the airline industry for decades to do something about this problem. Airlines want to stuff as many passengers on a plane as possible and they don’t seem to care how much their economy class passengers suffer. I have been something of a crusader on this issue, and let’s just say I’ve paid a price for it.

Horna was “so offended” by my “narrow-minded, prejudiced, and bigoted” story that she unsubscribed from my newsletter and promised to never read my site again.

“You are ridiculous,” she adds. “Telling the airlines to ban people that don’t fit in your picture of perfect is disgusting. I hope someday, when you are old and in a wheelchair and need to fly somewhere – you are discriminated against as much as you are discriminating against larger people. And now to add children to the list? Although a screaming baby is annoying, lighten up and LET EVERYONE HAVE A RIGHT TO FLY – YES EVEN THE LARGE AND THE CHILDREN! Obviously you are not a parent either or you wouldn’t discriminate against children either.”

No, Arleen, I’m not ridiculous; the name of this column is “That’s ridiculous!” And as I’ve already said, I’m a big guy and I have three young kids. Nice try.

Incidentally, Horna demanded that I not use any of her comments on my blog or newsletter. But since she’s never going to read anything I write again, I won’t have to worry about her seeing this, will I?

But big passengers weren’t the only ones who were angry about this debate. One very vocal group of readers who hated the columns were breastfeeding moms.

Here’s one thing you need to know about the inclusion of breastfeeding moms as a category on the poll. It was suggested by a woman and seconded by my editors. We all thought that passengers might feel uncomfortable — even annoyed — by having to sit next to a mother and child engaged in such activities.

“Seriously?” wrote Ginger Oppenheimer. “A breastfeeding mom drives people crazy?”

Full disclosure: Oppenheimer is Emily Gillette’s aunt. I referred to Gillette’s case in one of the stories; she was removed from a Delta flight because she was breastfeeding, and later sued the airline.

“I suppose there are some people who may get squeamish by the mere thought of glimpsing a little bit of breast,” she added. “Is it fear that a little breast skin might just be too titillating — pardon the terrible pun? Seems we Americans are easily offended by the human body when it’s used for what is a completely normal act in most parts of the world.”

Just a few observations: First, I am writing mostly to an American audience, and like it or not, we are a bunch of prudes. And second, while I agree that breastfeeding is a “normal act” so is going to the bathroom and having sex, and we tend to not do those things in public.

All three of my children were nursed, not bottle-fed, and we went to great lengths to feed them privately, in consideration of the feelings of the people around us. The folks who were offended that I would suggest passengers are bothered by a breastfeeding mom obviously feel that their right to feed their child anywhere should trump our collective sense of decorum.

And maybe they’re right.

Even so, why shouldn’t we debate it? That’s really the most troubling takeaway for me: that some of the good people reading this column think we should stop this topic from being discussed.

Come on.

(Photo: NFSA Australia/Flickr)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • y_p_w

    Must feel good to blow off a little steam.

    My wife was also rather private about breastfeeding.  She felt uncomfortably that people might be looking at her.  However, there are some things about breastfeeding that you might need to understand.

    Most states now have breastfeeding laws that make it clear that breastfeeding in public is not considered indecent exposure and that a woman is allowed to breastfeed in public in any place where she would otherwise be allowed.  A store clerk telling a woman to go to a more private area can literally expose the employer to a lawsuit.  Many states even have specific laws that explicitly state that exposing a nipple while breastfeeding is specifically allowed (i.e. a woman breastfeeding can’t be asked to cover up), including Florida:



    383.015 Breastfeeding.—The breastfeeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values, and in furtherance of this goal:
       (1) A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.
       (2) A facility lawfully providing maternity services or newborn infant care may use the designation “baby-friendly” if it establishes a breastfeeding policy in accordance with s. 383.016.”

    I guess the genie isn’t going back into the (baby) bottle.  It’s getting to the point where it doesn’t matter if people get offended or feel it’s indecorous when they notice a little bit of nipple while a woman breastfeeds in public, since laws specifically protects a woman’s right to do that anywhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some federal law or regulation (similar to these state laws) in the works to serve as a bridge to govern the right to breastfeed while airborne.  There’s already a federal regulation that specifically allows a woman to breastfeed anywhere on US government property.


    “§102–74.426 May a woman breastfeed her child in a Federal building or on Federal property?

    Yes. Public Law 108–199, Section 629, Division F, Title VI (January 23, 2004), provides that a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise au- thorized to be present at the location.”

    There are a lot of things that people have hangups over.  In Saudi Arabia it’s women driving cars.  In some countries it’s women showing any bit of skin beyond the face.  Heck – in this country it used to be people of color using the same drinking fountain as white people.  Eventually society learns to get over it.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Yes, those issues are polarizing. But the nature of the internet means people will leave comments that they dare not say out loud or to a real person. As a sometimes blogger, I’ve seen nasty uncalled-for comments and wonder what those people are like in real life.  I’m all for discussion and even disagreement, but let’s keep it civil! I was taken aback at how the “journalist” in a recent column got absolutely roasted. I’m wondering if he isn’t regretting being featured on your column. He certainly seemed peeved… As a high-strung type-A personality, I know I’m super impatient and judgmental. But I keep my snide (and very funny, at least to myself!) comments under my breath unless I feel really aggrieved and see a real-time solution…


  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II

    Its not the discussion that’s necessarily the issue, but rather when its done in a sensational matter.  That’s when it crosses into offensiveness. For example, in the discussion about XL passengers, the article suggests that XL passengers were a potential danger to other passengers.  The evidence for this contention: Suppose the XL passenger was too large to fit through the emergency exit and got stuck.

    Such a statements needs to be put into context, otherwise it merely feeds into the various prejudices and stereotypes against the so called person of size.  Exactly what is the likelihood of someone getting stuck in the emergecy exit? How large would you have to be?  300lbs, 400lbs, 500lbs, 600lbs?  Has this ever happened in recorded aviation history?

    Other posters were concerned that an XL passenger might be mobility impaired and thus slow down an evacuation in an emergency situations.  One must assume that those posters would have the same concerned about the disabled.

    Some of the posters grabbed these “concerns” and used them to justify their belief that XL passengers should be simply banned from flying, regardless of whether they purchased multiple seats, sat in first class, or otherwise took steps to ensure that they in no way encroached upon other passengers.

    Had the poll asked, who would you least want to sit next to, then, at least regarding the XL passenger, it wouldn’t have been so senstational.  But by asking for XL passengers to be completely banned from flying, that is beyond good taste.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TGXKQWFENNDILQLBI2U2QF2VMA Richard

    well spoken!

  • Raven_Altosk

    Once again, the XL activist comes out and whines. Look, I get that some folks don’t fit in their seats comfortably–actually, I don’t think anyone older than 12 years old fits in a coach seat comfortably.


    When you are so large that you are squishing me, then it’s a problem! Buy two seats until the airlines are forced to redesign their aircraft to accommodate the normal human AND larger people. Which, will never happen because the airlines want to cram as many behinds as possible on board.

    And the breastfeeding moms…I’m surprised you rattled that hornet’s nest, Chris. I have no problems with that, unless, once again, it encroaches on my space. Case and point, the RUDE, LARGE woman who decided to feed her toddler with his legs in my lap. No amount of dirty looks worked, until I said, “Please move him and move him now.”

    To which I was called, “A baby hater.”

    I told an FA who offered me a free drink but said if she said something to the woman, she’d had “La Leche League” crawling up the airline’s butt. Ah great, more activists.

    Perhaps the root of the problem, but the activist groups that want their cause seen, heard, and felt at the discomfort of others?


    All that I know:
    I hate it when I pay for a seat and get crammed in by XL pax, lap children, and idiot parents who just let their little darling do whatever s/he wants.

    (Did you hear about the family kicked off a flight for buying 3 seats for 6 people? Oh, it was beautiful. Course they’re claiming discrimination…because they have four kids. Idiots, you can’t put 2 kids in a seat!!)

  • http://www.deltapoints.com/ DeltaPoints.com

    It is a cliché but most hate to talk about the elephant in the room! You should have seen the reaction to me telling what some see as “insider only” information on my blog. Keep up the good work and don’t listen to those with thin skin! I love your blog.

  • http://richi.co.uk/ Richi Jennings

    Christopher, I was on your side right up to the point where you published Arleen Horna’s comments, marked ‘not for publication.’

    I suppose you should at least get a point for disclosing your breach of journalistic etiquette, but minus several million for the breach itself.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXOP2QJLRQ7BDDYYMRSIJZUMFE Kip Hartwell

    Reaction like that proves you hit a nerve and that means a good discussion may ensue.

    My opinions: naturally XL passengers should be allowed to fly and made to pay for any extra seats they need.  I would demand not only a refund but also a free flight if I was forced to fly with out a seat.  The airline should also get a huge fine for even taking off while over full like that.Breastfeeding is a bit harder.  I am all for it and being able to do it when and where needed, but a bit of cover for privacy should be used.  Privacy is an odd issue but it is a fiction we all must participate in or we embarrass everyone.  The problem with breastfeeding is more that the mother is not pretending to conceal therefore the bystander can not pretend not to see.  It may seem a small thing, but such social fictions smooth personal interactions and make living with 7 billion others possible.

    As for people reaction: it seems like people object to the description of events more than your analysis.  This seems odd to me.  Tell it like you see it and do not apologize for that.Let me add my criticism of your list: The gadget guy.  It is not FAA or airline safety issues that require cellphones to be turned off.  It is FCC requirements because it hurts the cell towers and switching systems.  Going that fast makes them lock on and reacquire to fast.  It is a common error.

    I voted “Dog” but really you mean pet :) and smelly people would be about equally bad for me.  But why are smelly people the same as chatty people?  Bad hygiene is not the same as annoying.

  • BillCCC

    I’ll try to keep this short. I voted for raising issues that are important to travellers. I thought that you were a consumer advocate, that’s what drew me to the site and prompted me to support the site both by donating and participating in discussions. If you have decided that you would rather become more controversial by inviting ‘interesting discussions’ such as who should banned from airplanes then I guess I will continue my search elsewhere.

    It seems that I was expecting Christopher Elliott but he wants to be Maury Povich.

  • Nikki

    I get the large-passenger argument… that’s probably going to be debated forever.  But breastfeeding, I’m kind of surprised anyone would have any hang-ups over that.  Isn’t that a natural, motherly instinct thing to do? Sounds to me like the Breastapo needs to find something else to do. 

    And Chris – it’s always good to vent.  Can’t please everyone all of the time, you know?  Don’t let anyone dictate what you write, and write about.  And certainly, don’t let anyone become your travel agent for a guilt trip. 

    Do what you do, guy… we’ll read anyway, whether we agree with you or not.  :)

  • 219kimrod

    I want to vote for both as they both reflect the present content and are part of what makes the column a part of my daily life where ever I am in the world. 

  • fedupgerry

    Welcome to Corporate America where we, the public, the so called “99%” have become “cannon fodder” in the eyes of major corporations & government at all levels.
    I refuse to give any of my hard earned dollars to Delta or American Airlines. I am no longer a patron of Marriott or Hertz.I do not buy GEor Samsung products because my experience with their idea of Customer Swervice stinks. It is my personal protest.

  • http://www.bestcarry-onluggage.net Jeremiah Johnson

    I have absolutely no problem with a woman breastfeeding her baby in public. I personally feel that some discretion should be used. Its not that difficult to cover the baby and the exposed breast with a light cover to retain some level of modesty however if a woman wants to be completely in the open with it then go for it. Its a natural thing! People should realize that its the most natural form of a woman feeding her baby.

  • jgb123

    I voted for the “controversial topics” for two reasons, one of which is NOT for provoking lots of comments. 1) Controversial topics are important as these affect people the most, both in positive and negative ways . 2) Although “issues important to travelers” are important issues (and some rightfully controversial) I wouldn’t vote for anything these days that’s “objective, fair and evenhanded” for the reason  that sounds too much like Political Correctness.  PC is the biggest detriment to accomplishing anything – ‘Oh, can’t do that it might offend someone.’ To which I say it’s about time they got offended.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OEPJGQPIEB75YYDE5CJY6R3VFE Carver Clark Farrow II


    If you are replying to my post, then you need to reread it.  My post has absolutely nothing to do with advocating for XL passengers who only purchase one coach seat.

    My issue is that even when the XL passenger has acted responsibly, purchased multiple seats, purchased a first class seat, has showered, and is in no way encroaching upon other passengers, we then invent other highly theoretical ways to discriminate, e.g. can they fit through the emergency exit, will they slow us down, etc.

  • MarkKelling

    I’m OK with both types of topics being covered – as long as both are not sensationalized.  If we want sensationalized discussions, there is the National Enquirer.  

    The topics covered here should include clear and precise details, not incomplete statements or wordy restatements of the item being discussed that lead the readers to incorrect conclusions about either the situations or the OP.  If the topic still annoys certain readers even when presented clearly, so be it.  

  • TonyA_says

    I commuted back in forth Sacratomato (SMF) and NY LGA when my 2 older boys were babies. When my wife would travel with us, she simply used a white diaper and draped it over the private area. No problems. That was during the very early 90’s. Has morality or norms changed that much since then?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    @Christopher Elliott:  I read your column every day and probably won’t stop, even if you go with the “winning” vote, which wants the controversial.  The sense I’ve gotten over the years and from reading “Scammed” (not done yet, I promise I’ll review) and from personal correspondence is you’re a nice, decent guy.  Venting is okay; printing a correspondent’s name who specifically requested anonymity isn’t.  Please consider editing your column and replacing the name with “Mary Worth” or something obviously fake.  It would affirm my belief in my image of you as a nice, decent guy (and journalist).

    I guiltily enjoy snarky comments like Raven’s.  I try not to post things I wouldn’t say face to face, but sure enjoy seeing my thoughts expressed.  I don’t like the personal attacks though, that sometimes ensue when the comments get out of hand.  To give a recent example: the issue of out-of-control child behavior became a battleground between 2 regulars about “autism”, whose comments I normally enjoy and I felt really bad for both commenters; one for phrasing something rather recklessly and perhaps regretting the phrasing and the other for defending his child.

    To conclude: If you present the facts, in your own entertaining and readable style, people being people will take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet will create their own controversy.  You don’t have to do so.


  • Familylawcourts.com

    Your comments about Horna (whose brain is clearly nowhere near the size of her mouth) made me laugh right out loud.  Thanks!

  • TouchyFeely

    “First, I am writing mostly to an American audience, and like it or not, we are a bunch of prudes.”

    No, we’re just self absorbed and not considerate of others.  You are too kind to use the wprd prude.

  • Familylawcourts.com

    Perhaps, those writing snarky comments feel they can say whatever they want in a sneaky quiet way….but I’m just as pleased Chris didn’t feel constrained by her demands.  After all, she wrote him.  She could have chosen merely to move on.  She wanted to insult him quietly and move on…while demanding her right to be sneaky and stupid.  Chris didn’t buy into her line of so-called reasoning.  Good for him, I wouldn’t have either. 

  • y_p_w

    Personally I would advocate for some sort of federal law or rule that would bridge the gap between state laws while one is in the air.

    I know some people are upset when they catch a fleeting glimpse of a nipple. However, Chris’s phrase about “normal acts” misses a simple and not insignificant point. Having sex or “going to the bathroom” in a public place are almost universally considered “indecent acts” under the laws of every state.  People doing those acts in public have gone to jail for doing so.  Breastfeeding in a public place (even when not covered up or even indiscreet) is almost universally not considered an indecent act under the laws of nearly every state.

  • cjr001

    There certainly seems to be more rebellion toward keeping breastfeeding a private act. It seems for many now that even the simple act of putting a cloth over the baby while breastfeeding is forbidden; that the act must be seen by the world for some reason.

  • TonyA_says

    I love this site. It allows for dissenting opinions and fierce debates. That’s what democracy is all about.

  • TonyA_says

    But gerry, is there anything that does not stink? Almost every product and service that is still affordable seems to be in a race to the bottom. Maybe one exception – Apple – but they also use slave-like Chinese labor that makes me sad.

  • Joel Wechsler

    Why did she write, if she didn’t want her comments published? Was she trying to satisfy her own ego or simply to insult Chris without know ing the facts as to his size or his family. BTW, if she were at all a regular reader she would know that he has three kids. I think he was right to call her out.

  • http://richi.co.uk/ Richi Jennings

    Journalists either honor NFP requests or they lose the right to be seen as journalists. Yes, there can be exceptions — say in the public interest — but this case isn’t one of them.

  • factseeker2

    Are you kidding?  Ever since I discovered your column, I can’t stop reading.  I love it, even if I disagree with something you say, which hasn’t happened often, and even if I haven’t been affected by something you are discussing.  Someday I may face one of those situations and will have a better idea of what to do.  For those who are upset, it is not being prejudicial to point out what annoys the traveling public.  It is what it is. A heavy person may not be able to control his/her weight, but that doesn’t mean we as the public do not have feelings about being squeezed next to such a person. I would not mind a heavy person next to me if I wouldn’t be claustrophobic.  I dread the day I will feel closed in by a heavy person.  Other people have reasonable reasons for their feelings, too.  All people, except terrorists have the right to fly, but all need to respect the rights of other travelers  to have a comfortable journey, also.  Those who know they are interfereing with these rights of others, need to take steps to make themselves more accommodating.  Parents need to try everything necessary to cntrol children.  Doing the best they can is all we ask.  More than that we can tolerate.  If you know others get upset by your weight getting into their space, it would be kind of you to spend the extra money for a first class larger seat.  Respect for others is the key.  I am tired of excusing yourself with the word prejudicial.  There are choices to be made.  Try to be nice and considerate of your neighbors.

  • Eric Stone

    Two major differences between breastfeeding and “going to the bathroom or having sex”:
    1. Breastfeeding does not involve exposing a sexual organ. No, female breasts are not sexual.
    2. Public breastfeeding does not create any sort of hygiene issue to others in the vicinity. On the other hand, breastfeeding your baby in a public restroom is unhygeienic and pretty gross if you think about it.

    People who are bothered by public breastfeeding really are the ones with the problem. They need to grow up.

  • TiaMa

    Well said.  I, too, come to this site for travel information and read the scenarios that can serve to help me avoid potential problems with future trips.  That previous topic was purposely inflammatory and Chris knew what he was doing when he posted it.  As an ombudsman/travel/consumer advocate, I wouldn’t have expect him to stoop to that level.  The only time I would consider that “journalism” is if it were in the editorial section of the paper.  Epic fail, Chris.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I was replying to Chris.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yeah, I do regret my comments in that thread. I’m generally a snarky person and will say what’s on my mind. However, I definitely couldn’t told that story in a less offensive way.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’m only bothered by it when some inconsiderate mother puts her child’s legs in my lap. That’s just rude.

  • ClareClare

    Dear Chris, if you never (inadvertently, of course) offended anybody, your column would be boring as **** and nobody would read it.  (It would be kind of like those flyers handed out by government agencies describing their programs to the public.  Ever read one that actually said anything?)  Consider it a mark of your success that you apparently managed to get rid of some of the deadwood among your readership, and without even trying… 

  • http://twitter.com/Lonnieclar Lonnie Clar

    Re large size passengers, breastfeeding, etc., etc.:

    Common courtesy: let large passengers fly, let breastfeeding mom’s anywhere, etc.,

    More Common courtesy: don’t impinge on other’s space, cover up lightly so as to respect others, etc., etc.

    Doesn’t it all come down to both sides in all of these issues simply respecting the others’ feelings as well?

    Am I missing something?

  • ClareClare

    Thank you to you and to your wife for doing that–maybe you gave some less-thoughtful mothers a good example and idea.

    As a woman (for what that’s worth) I do NOT want nursing mothers in my face about it in a public space.  Yes, I know, it’s natural and normal… but so is coughing up mucus.  Capeesh? 

  • Pdoggs

    oh my!  “Inside information” found on your blog?  I must go read it right now and so should everyone else! 

    I hope my sarcasm is coming across you sucky spammer.

  • Steve_in_WI

    I don’t know that I’d go as far as to compare Chris to Maury Povich, but I agree that the best posts on this site are those in which he takes up the case of someone who has a dispute with a travel provider and tries to negotiate a compromise that both the traveler and business are satisfied with. I’ve learned a lot from those stories that I keep in mind when I’m traveling, and I also find those posts to be interesting and entertaining.

    Debating what is to be done about large passengers, breastfeeding, etc, might make for heated discussion but in the end it really doesn’t solve anything.

  • DavidYoung2

    Some people LIKE the attention they get whilst breastfeeding and think everyone should enjoy how ‘cute’ and ‘natural’ it is, and what ‘wonderful mothers’ they must be.  It’s the self-centered thing of new parenthood.  This is perfectly normal, so let’s just all say, “Oh, how cute” and give them their kudos.  It never hurts to be nice….

  • rarnold2000

    Discriminating against XXL people?  Is this a protected disability?  A religion, race, or creed?  Yeah ,yeah, it’s glandular.  Give me a break.  Your right to fly stops at my rump.  Yes, coach seats are actually too small for most people to fly comfortably, but as long as the airlines continue to build ’em that way (and we let them get away with it), people who can’t fit in one seat need to buy two seats or fly first class. 

  • y_p_w

    I don’t think there’s has ever been anything particularly immoral about breastfeeding in public, although yeah – norms and acceptance has changed.

    There was some sort of federal recommendation that breastfeeding was best in the late 90s, and since then most states have passed laws that allow a woman to breastfeed a baby anywhere she’d otherwise be allowed. Some states even protect the right to express milk in public without a baby present, which I understand is an issue when there’s pain. Federal regulations say that it can be done at any federal property. Some  laws are specific that “covering up” can’t be compelled, while with some it’s implied because indecent exposure categorically excludes breastfeeding.

  • y_p_w

    It’s legally a civil right now.

    I guess you don’t have to like it, but since it’s the law there’s nothing you can do about it.

  • y_p_w

    As I said, the right to breastfeed in public and not be compelled to cover up is protected by state law.  Some people may not like it, but to equate that with having sex or urinating in public is so off-base, since those are illegal acts while breastfeeding in public is a legally protected act.

    The only problem now is a confusion about what laws apply when a plane is in the air, and I wish that the Feds would do something to clarify rather than allow each airline to have (or not have) its own policy.

  • RITom

    Sorry but as a gay man I do not want to see a breast out feeding a kid so when they cover it up that is fine but when they stick them out there like it is a watering can. GROSS.   But they have to eat too so, that is life.
    The same goes for the 400 lb guy in buying an econony seat.  You do not see him buying a Mini Cooper do you no he goes for the GAS EATING HUMMER but is too cheap to buy a first class ticket that he can fit that big butt into. Because he thinks he the ticket is for getting his 400 lb from point A to B like it is being shipped by UPS. 

  • Kristi Nelson

    Those who say that it’s easy to cover up while breastfeeding obviously never had a baby who resisted being covered up while nursing.  It’s easy for you to say its no problem, but some babies fight having covers placed over them while they eat.  My baby would fight me to get the nursing cover off whenever I tried it.  Because I’m a modest person, I went out of my way to plan my schedule so I wouldn’t have to nurse in public.  Thank goodness I had no need to travel on an airplane as I wouldn’t have had a choice but to nurse in public without a cover.  Some babies also refuse to drink from a bottle, so by insisting that nursing mothers cover up, it could result in the mother not being able to feed her baby.   

  • y_p_w

    Well – I got into a discussion with a neighbor over a parking space. It was in fact quite similar to the XL passenger situation. I park outside, and normally try to park as far forward as possible, since there’s about 38 feet from driveway to driveway. There’s a next-door neighbor who also likes to park there, but almost always in the middle (blocking me from using any part without blocking a driveway) if she gets there first, and behind me (not blocking any driveway) if I get there first. Well recently I got home a bit earlier and decided to park in the middle because the next morning was trash pickup day where there would have to be clearance between the trash cans and any parked cars.

    So I’m watching TV when she rings the doorbell and complains about my car blocking her from parking in front of her house. I tell her that that’s the way she usually parks, but that I’ve almost always pulled forward unless it was a trash pickup day. In the end I think we got to some understanding that for this to work out, both sides have to be reasonable and that her consistently parking down the center was not reasonable.

    Wow! It really feels good to vent.

    Still – there “ain’t nuttin illegal” about breastfeeding in a public place, although many people are still so prudish about it that they act as if it should be illegal.

  • http://www.treadmillreviews.com/ Jessica Staheli

    Ever hear the phrase “Modest is Hottest?”

    Both my religion and childhood were very strict on modesty, even wearing a tank top was inappropriate. Even when my mom would breastfeed her children, she would always make sure she was behind closed doors.

  • y_p_w


    If it offends you then perhaps move to community that enforces religion-based modesty laws (the breastfeeding law in Illinois has a specific exemption for houses of worship).  However, most states have breastfeeding protection laws that trump local ordinances.

    Me – I notice a woman breastfeeding these days and just walk by without another notice. At this point it’s so common an occurence that I don’t even give it a second thought. Sometimes it’s even gotten to the point where I’m just randomly looking at someone but didn’t even notice that attached to that someone is a baby breastfeeding in plain sight without a cover.

  • http://gspirits.com/ Zod

    On breastfeeding moms…I was taught way back in school that if I didn’t bring enough for everybody, then I was to wait for the appropriate time to eat…just saying…

  • ViviWang

    I, too, voted for “raise issues important to travelers in an objective, fair and evenhanded way.”  What bothers me about this poll is that the choices aren’t mutually exclusive.  To “bring up controversial topics that make for interesting discussions and provoke lots of comments” doesn’t mean the coverage of these topics can’t be objective, fair and evenhanded by the blogger.  People disagree, that is what makes the debate interesting, it doesn’t have to be made deliberately controversial by the blogger.  As for the poll of the most annoying passenger, it was solely designed to generate posts and promote outrage, not inform.  Bowing to people’s baser instincts is fine for a blogger but not a journalist.   As BillCCC and others have said, I come to this site to be informed about possible travel mishaps, companies that don’t deal fairly or honestly with their customers and to learn how to avoid potential issues/scams.  As a number of the comments posted show, you have succeeded in your goal of provoking lots of comments (again) about XL passengers and breast feeding.  You didn’t need to add another fake poll.

    So, Chris, to answer your question: Oh, did I hurt your feelings?    No.  But I have lost respect for you.  Worse, I no longer view you as a journalist but simply another blogger looking to stir the pot to get comments to your site to feed your advertisers.

  • Jessica Smith

    Some people need to get over themselves!

    I am tall, for a female, overweight, and have broad shoulders (no matter what I weigh)  My butt fits into one seat on an airplane still.  And while the person in front of me may not be able to recline their seat (sorry i have long legs, I can’t help that!), the arm rest can go down between seats, another larger person will not be comfortable next to me though.  I try to choose a window seat in a row with only 2 seats.  I am more comfortable next to the window as I can lean over a little and go to sleep….thus allowing a little more room in the shoulder area for the person sitting next to me (sorry, my shoulder width will not shrink any either…they have been broad for years, i used to rip out shoulder pads when they were “in”).  Sorry if you don’t like sitting next to me, but I fit in the space I purchased about as well as any smaller person can….and do my best to help ensure your comfort while sitting next to me.  When I can no longer fit my big butt into a single seat, I will not fly unless I can afford the business class seat (or better) I require….not only for my own comfort and safety but for those who are seated next to me as well.      But, even as a plus sized woman, I agree the airlines have been shrinking the space per seat to fit more people in the plane, and yet, they rarely do anything regarding larger passengers and ensuring that they will fit into the space they purchased.  I am big but don’t look humongous, but I don’t care about sensitivity, take a customer aside and politely say that there may be an issue with them fitting into the space alloted by 1 seat and they will need to purchase a 2nd seat if it is available….and they should offer it at the same price as paid for the original ticket.  I’m sorry, i can look at a large person and guess pretty accurately if they are going to fit into a seat….especially after having ridden public transportation for years.  It isn’t hard and people need to get over themselves…..don’t tell me an extremely large person cannot notice how large they are! Get over yourselves!

  • http://www.treadmillreviews.com/ Jessica Staheli

    I wasn’t offended or anything, I was only stating how I was raised because I find the diversity of other people’s opinions and lives to be extremely interesting. I thought other people would like to know how different it was for me when I was growing up :)

  • Lindabator

    It just might be a bit uncomfortable SEATED next to someone breastfeeding, and laying the child half in your lap to accommodate this.  I’ve seen it a couple times, and can say although breastfeeding is a natural state, and the woman is fully entitled to do so when and where she needs to, she must ALSO have consideration for the folks next to her.  Its not like she’s seated separate from someone and they are whining about it.  In that case, I can understand some folks not being comfortable with it – I’m a woman, and I wouldn’t be cool with the intrusion either.

  • Lindabator

    but this is a PUBLIC venue, not a case of journalistic need to protect a source.  You don’t go on a public forum and EXPECT privacy.  Good for Chris!

  • Lindabator

    Agreed!  And I have seen it several times — I know I would be ticked off!

  • http://www.pipdigital.com Nancy Dickinson

    I don’t know I would ever refer to breastfeeding as “an indecent act”.  I feel you, dear poster, are taking it to an extreme to make your point.  Additionally, IMHO, comparing a nursing mother to a person of color once not being able to drink from the same drinking fountain as white people is a blatant attempt on your part to inflame the conversation.

    While a mother nursing her child in public is not an indecent act, *I* would be extremely uncomfortable with her breast flopped out in front of me so she can provide nourishment to her child.  I have breasts and am comfortable with that but I don’t necessarily feel comfort at a woman taking out HER breast in front of me.

    Nursing mothers have the option of pumping their breast milk prior to flying so they might give their child the tremendous benefits of mother’s milk when unable to publicly nurse at the breast.  Knowing people are uncomfortable with the act of breastfeeding and being mindful of this goes a long way towards gaining public “approval”.  Being militant about it only causes defensiveness.

    There are a number of acts a person CAN perform in public but that doesn’t mean they should; the expression of flatulence comes to mind.  Just because one CAN do this in public as a “natural act” doesn’t mean they should.  This is not considered “indecent” but one shouldn’t do so in a crowded airplane.

    If showing one’s breast in public is so acceptable, perhaps all women everywhere should walk around with their breasts exposed so the rest of the world can get used to it?

  • http://www.pipdigital.com Nancy Dickinson

    When did Chris start making his column all about paternity tests?

  • y_p_w

    Yeah – and people need to get over their hangups as time moves on.  Someone mentioned an ultra-orthodox Jewish family that got upset because the women were being forced to sit next to men. In the past people would be upset (even complain) if they were assigned to sit next to someone black, Asian, etc.

    I’d hope that we would get over these assorted hangups and prejudices by now.

    I remember when gas was 70 cents a gallon, TVs still used vacuum tubes, and most cars had bias-ply tires.  Things change.  Social acceptance changes.

    20 years ago women were arrested for indecent exposure for breastfeeding even if they attempted to cover up.  Now it’s fully protected by most state laws.  I think it’s time for society to fully embrace this.

  • Prairie Girl

    I can recline my seat… I’ll just do it when you’re in the bathroom. 

  • y_p_w

    Again, the **laws** are very specific.  They were deliberately written to first stop women from being arrested (which did happen) for breastfeeding in a public place and second to hopefully result in greater societal acceptance that it’s a natural thing that shouldn’t be viewed as dirty or shameful.  It’s certainly not the same as public urination (BTW – I’ve heard of public street urinals in Europe, where they have fewer hangups about it all hanging out).


    If you feel that equating the feeling about breastfeeding to that of people of color using drinking fountains, then yes it is over the top.  However, Chris used an analogy of a public sex act or public urination/defecation as similar “natural acts”, which is as equally over the top.

    A woman flashing her breasts to arouse titillation in a public place is almost always defined to be an indecent act, although there seems to be a distinct lack of enforcement in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

    Again, I point to laws enacted around the last decade or so to protect a women’s right to breastfeed and which specifically state it’s not an indecent act.  One of the reasons for this is an attempt to reduce the stigma people have about it.  I think it’s an irrational stigma.

    As for pumping, some women start feeling pain if they don’t feed or pump every 2-3 hours.  Try being on a long domestic or international flight, and there will be a time when action has to be taken to avoid severe pain and/or the possibility of infection.

    All I can say is, get with the program.  Society has changed in its acceptance of what is and isn’t acceptable.  That’s why I mentioned “whites only” drinking fountains.  There was a time when women could be arrested on the beach for not wearing a full getup that covered pretty much every inch of skin below the neck other than the hands.  Twenty five years ago people would have been shocked to see a woman breastfeed in public, and I noted women getting arrested.  This is the reality.  If a woman seated next to me is breastfeeding and doesn’t particularly bother me physically, then more power to her.  I’m not going to stare and I’m not going to find it abhorrent.  I’d certainly prefer that than to have a baby absolutely crying and unable to latch on because an unfamiliar cover is placed (a lot of babies won’t tolerate having their heads covered) or when and if the mother can find a “more private” place to nurse.

  • Debbie Lott

    Self-disclosure – I’m fat.  Okay, now that we have that out of the way, when I travel, I sit with my family and no one complains.  Of course I don’t overflow onto other seats.  But still. 

    At any rate, I like know what upsets other passengers so as to not be guilty of the same.

  • Joe Farrell

    Everyone has a right to fly?  Huh?  Where is that in the Constitution?

    Flying is a purchased activity – everyone who flies buys essentially the same thing. 

    Hey fatso – you do NOT have ANY ‘right,’ made up or otherwise – to put one ounce of your overly fattened slovenly roll one micron into my seat space.  You did not PAY for it – I did.  If you are of such a largess that you require more space – then BUY IT. 

    I do not CARE that you are heavy boned or whatever you want to call yourself, or that you have a thyroid condition or whatever it is you use to justify it this week – but you have ZERO ‘right’ to my space.  [Yes, I know that there are in fact people who have thyroid conditions and are large boned . . . and we also all know that they constitute probably 1% of the lardazzes we see every day]

    Yeah, its harsh, but you know how wide the airline seat is and if you don’t fit – then BUY TWO.   I REALLY do not care about your waistline – I only care if you slop over into my space. You live your life the way you want to live it. Seriously. I don’t really care if you are obese. I only care when you shove in my face, literally.

    If you are TALL and don’t fit – then don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  If you are TALL then you really need to decide if as a matter of course you need to buy those extra leg room seats or fly first class.  I know it would cost a lot more to fly first class but it is what it is – being tall has many advantages but being in a coach airline seat is not one of them. 

    As for kids – kids are kids.  Sometimes you just can’t do much about it.   Take a deep breath and complain to the parent.  Vocally if they are not doing all that is remotely possible to restrain their pride and joy. 

    As for breast feeding?  Who cares.  Its a boob.  I like boobs.  I have two myself.  They won’t make milk ever, but whats the big deal here?

  • y_p_w

    I just wanted to clarify that I used the term “indecent act” because in the past women have been arrested and convicted for indecent exposure because they were breastfeeding in a public setting.  Even with the laws, security has tried detaining people in federal buildings because they thought it was illegal.

  • Sadie_Cee

    You may not care about the reasons why people are obese, but they are human beings and deserve to be treated with respect.  Why do you find it necessary to use such insulting language?  In other postings in the last few weeks I have read words such as “low-life” and “lazy” to describe overweight and obese people.  If you intended to cause offence, you have succeeded.
    Think of it…an obese person presents at the ticket counter.  The agent who applies airline policy cannot avoid observing the person’s size.  The agent knows that seating this person in an economy class seat will present a problem.  Should the onus not fall on the airline to ensure that seating this PAX will not discommode anyone?  Instead, the boarding pass is issued and the hapless individual is treated with contempt when he or she takes a seat in economy.

    Airline policies should cover this eventuality.  If there are two adjoining vacant seats, the second seat should be assigned to the PAX either free of charge or with payment.  If there are no vacant seats, then the PAX should be asked to purchase a first- or business-class seat.  Under no circumstances should an airline allow a PAX to be subjected to ridicule because of a disability.

  • Ann Lamoy

    Chris-you personally didn’t say anything offensive to anyone. But by opening the topic up so broadly, it allowed some of the commentors in your post to be absolutely nasty. And you did have to be pretty aware that it was going to end up that way. So you do need to assume some small portion of the blame for how nasty it ended up.

    As for the rest of the debate?

    Breasts are not sexual objects, despite what Hugh Hefner would like the world to think. Nature designed them to nurture us in our infancy and if women need to breast feed, then they should be allowed. If it offends you-don’t look. If you are sitting next to a breast feeding woman, ask to have your seat changed if it offends you that much. It isn’t like she is going to end up squirting breast milk all over you for pete’s sake.

    And there are some things that you (general you) may not be aware of if you have never breast fed/had a person in your life that breast fed. Number one, most women are adept at getting the baby to latch on without exposing the breast at all, much less the nipple. Number two, some babies hate to have their head covered when they are breast feeding and won’t feed or will kick up a huge fuss. Can you blame them? Would you like to be forced to eat with a blanket over your head? I wouldn’t. Number three-for those folks suggesting women breast feed their babies in a public restroom (whether on the plane or elsewhere). Seriously?? Would you eat in a public bathroom? Oh hell no. So why make a baby.

    Now Raven brings up a good point-if the mother has the baby hanging over into another seat? That is very wrong. She needs to keep her child in her seat.

    XL Pax? Face it, most airline passengers don’t fit comfortably in airline seats anymore. I am all for solutions that help the XXL passengers find a way to fly more comfortably for themselves and others. Not everyone can afford to pay for two seats but does need to fly for one reason or another. Maybe the solution is to have a couple of rows of size and a half seats that are a bit higher in price-but only available for the XXL PAX. Keep them open until the flight and as the PAX check in-if they can’t fit into the regular seats, they are discretely given the option to upgrade to the bigger seats or take an alternate flight that may have empty seats. (which in this day and age is highly unlikely). Or maybe start forcing the airlines to have bigger seats for all. But outright banning them? Horse hockey. And the excuses a few people came up with were just lip service to disguise their fat phobia.

    (And full disclosure. I am a person that once used to buy 2 seats because I couldn’t fit into one. I have lost enough weight that I do fit into one. Although with my broad shoulders, it is still a very tight fit. I buy a window seat so I can lean into the window and give the person next to me more room)

  • TiaMa

    Well said, Ann.  Congratulations on your weight loss.  Not an easy thing and something I continue to struggle with.  It’s sad when the anonymity of an online forum make people feel that they can make such hurtful comments that they most likely wouldn’t make to a person’s face given the opportunity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sommer.gentry Sommer Gentry

    I love the open conversation about controversial topics I find at elliott.org.   I think, though, Chris, that the straw that broke the camel’s back here was the suggestion that *any* demographic group ought to be banned from air travel.  Your original article, just asking which types of passengers bothered people the most, wasn’t likely to lose you any readers even though the comments section got very heated.  I think if your follow-up article had been: “Do babies or XL passengers bother you the most” rather than “Should babies or XL passengers be banned from flying”, then you wouldn’t have gotten such vitriolic response from your readers.  I know this was done for dramatic effect and that you weren’t literally calling for any passengers to be banned from airplanes, but some people aren’t able to read between the lines.

    I’m glad for arguments in the comments section.  Commenters are responsible for what they post. 

  • sdir

    Thank you for your post. So many commenters seem to forget than every human has feelings and deserves a little dignity.  As a larger person myself, I can’t describe the shame of realizing you don’t comfortably fit in a seat. I flew recently to attend a funeral and opted to purchase two seats.  I found nothing on the airline website describing how I should do that properly, so I had to talk to a phone rep, who then had to ask his boss. I arrived early at the airport, so the desk employee could assign my two seats together.  On the return flight, I had to speak with two different desk employees to help with my seat assignment, because the first couldn’t figure it out. Then I dealt with a delayed flight and forced rebooking, which messed up the seating again.  I put up with a woman next to me who kept putting her purse and newspaper on my second seat. 

    All I ask is that I be treated respectfully, and I will do so in kind. 

  • Julie Northrop

    I have just lost complete respect for you as a journalist. I don’t really see you advocating for much to begin with. When a person comes to you for help, and you put the scenario to a vote on whether you should help them or not, you are not advocating for them. You are being lazy, and to be honest it’s disrespectful to the person seeking help.  Secondly, your snarky attitude with “I don’t really want to offend my readers. But sometimes I can’t help myself.” just goes to show the type of character you have.  Lastly, in the case of Arleen Horna, who asked you not to post her comments, but you felt it was acceptable to do so because she’s not coming back to read them anyway, has definitely shown me the type of person you really are. 
    If this is the type of attitude and behavior, I’m not so sure I care to read your collumn any longer.  If I want to see this kind of thing, I’ll go watch Jerry Springer or Maury Povich, or read The Enquirer.  I’m very disappointed that you would choose to have polls where voters get to choose what’s more annoying, and yes that is singling out Chris, and then taking no accountability when someone gets offended.  You’re not a journalist Chris, you’re a sensationalist.

  • Sadie_Cee

    You are welcome.  As you have gathered, I feel strongly about bullying, in general, and the way people of size are treated in our society, in particular.  They are bullied verbally and sometimes physically, which just increases the emotional pain that they are suffering.  Words can be sharper than knives.  Would such invective be directed at any other group of people with a disorder?  Where bullying is concerned, there are no innocent bystanders.  The anger at having one’s seat encroached upon by a large person should be directed at the airlines who placed him or her there, not at the individual. 

  • JimFerri

    Thanks for running this Elliott– it’s a great post.

  • orsay

    Have NO problem with breastfeeding.. jeez people what’s the big deal.. DON’T look!!!! Now– oversize people spilling into your seat is something you can’t ignore!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P2YNBONSBUI2DAJT7OBCR4YOTI Barbara

    I fit into an economy seat (not especially comfortably), but I’m tall and broad shouldered and have been most uncomfortable when I have to keep my upper body sideways so I’m not bumping shoulders with my seat mate.  There’s nothing I can do about making my shoulders narrower!

  • Debbie Lott

    Good thing I’m just fat instead of mean… I can always lose weight.

  • ClareClare

    Yep, thanks for illustrating the snarky attitude that causes disagreeing people like me to dig in our heels… very diplomatic.  You’ll win over lots of people that way.

  • Sam Wehrung

    y_p_w’s post below is a good example of the worst aspects of American life these days.  There might indeed be a Florida law saying that public breastfeeding is not indecent exposure, and there might indeed be a federal law that says a woman can breastfeed on public property.  (That’s a far cry from a “federal civil right” to breastfeed, by the way.)  Similarly, there might be a First Amendment right to burn the American flag, or as one recent Supreme Court opinion held, to upload videos of puppies being crushed to death by the blunt ends of stillettos.  But just because there might be a legal right to do something does not make that activity moral or polite to other people.  In other words, just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

    In the context of breastfeeding, I think it’s safe to say that it puts the stranger sitting next to the mother in a fairly awkward situation.  Seats are very close together.  If a breastfeeding mother is in the middle seat, the passenger to the left or right basically has to look straight forward for the duration, and then there’s always the issues of noise and potential hygiene issues.  I can’t remember the last time I saw someone breastfeeding in a public place like a mall or an office, but I’ve had to sit next to someone doing this on an airplane.  We were in the last row of the airplane, and the (empty) bathroom was one row behind us.  It would not have been difficult for the mother to breastfeed in private, in the bathroom.  The breastfeeding couple also wasn’t the friendliest duo – before the breastfeeding, I had several curt replies to the typical “hello” and “what a nice baby” comments.  The main takeaway?  My impression was that this couple just didn’t care about anyone but themselves, and they just didn’t care whether or not their fellow passenger was placed in an awkward position.

    A see a remarkable similarity in y_p_w’s post.  “I don’t care if you feel uncomfortable.  My wife is going to breastfeed because it’s her civil right dammit!”  Learn to show some restraint.

  • Sam Wehrung

    y_p_w’s post below is a good example of the worst aspects of American life these days.  There might indeed be a Florida law saying that public breastfeeding is not indecent exposure, and there might indeed be a federal law that says a woman can breastfeed on public property.  (That’s a far cry from a “federal civil right” to breastfeed, by the way.)  Similarly, there might be a First Amendment right to burn the American flag, or as one recent Supreme Court opinion held, to upload videos of puppies being crushed to death by the blunt ends of stillettos.  But just because there might be a legal right to do something does not make that activity moral or polite to other people.  In other words, just because you have a right to do something doesn’t mean you should do it.

    In the context of breastfeeding, I think it’s safe to say that it puts the stranger sitting next to the mother in a fairly awkward situation.  Seats are very close together.  If a breastfeeding mother is in the middle seat, the passenger to the left or right basically has to look straight forward for the duration, and then there are always the problems of noise and potential hygiene issues.  I can’t remember the last time I saw someone breastfeeding in a public place like a mall or an office, but I’ve had to sit next to someone doing this on an airplane.  We were in the last row of the airplane, and the (empty) bathroom was one row behind us.  It would not have been difficult for the mother to breastfeed in private, in the bathroom.  The breastfeeding couple also wasn’t the friendliest duo – before the breastfeeding, I had several curt replies to the typical “hello” and “what a nice baby” comments.  The main takeaway?  My impression was that this couple just didn’t care about anyone but themselves, and they just didn’t care whether or not their fellow passenger was placed in an awkward position.

    A see a remarkable similarity in y_p_w’s post.  “I don’t care if you feel uncomfortable.  My wife is going to breastfeed because it’s her civil right dammit!”  The fact is, most fellow travelers consider this rude or awkward.  The polite thing to do would be to have breast milk in a bottle or to simply use the bathroom.  Otherwise, just stay at home.  That’s not too difficult.

  • y_p_w

    You’ll have very little luck if you’r in relatively tight quarters, you’re next to a mom, and she decides to whip out the “feeding devices”.  You’ll have a much easier time trying to convince (let’s say) a restaurant manager that a fellow customer is doing something wrong like coughing up mucous or picking his nose, because those actions in a public place aren’t specifically protected by law.  You complain about a breastfeeding mom who somehow offends you because of that mere act, and (depending on the state) you’re likely to get a response that they can’t do anything because it’s a legally protected behavior and the business could get sued for violating a civil right.

    As an example, there’s Illinois’s Right to Breastfeed Act:


    “Public Act 093-0942

    SB3211 Enrolled

    AN ACT concerning health.

    Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly:

    Section 1. Short title. This Act may be cited as the Right to Breastfeed Act.

    Section 5. Purpose. The General Assembly finds that breast milk offers better nutrition, immunity, and digestion, and may raise a baby’s IQ, and that breastfeeding offers other benefits such as improved mother-baby bonding, and its encouragement has been established as a major goal of this decade by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. The General Assembly finds and declares that the Surgeon General of the United States recommends that babies be fed breastmilk, unless medically contraindicated, in order to attain an optimal healthy start.

    Section 10. Breastfeeding Location. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding; however, a mother considering whether to breastfeed her baby in a place of worship shall comport her behavior with the norms appropriate in that place of worship.

    Section 15. Private right of action. A woman who has been denied the right to breastfeed by the owner or manager of a public or private location, other than a private residence or place of worship, may bring an action to enjoin future denials of the right to breastfeed. If the woman prevails in her suit, she shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and reasonable expenses of litigation.”

    Even a state like Utah (where you’d expect they would be somewhat prudish due to the local population) there is a similar law. If this bothers you so much, perhaps you could ask your representative in your state (if you live in the US) to try to do have that state’s breastfeeding protection laws repealed or modified.

    However, air travel is different since it’s a no-man’s land of various laws.  It’ll get interesting if and when there are more consistent laws that apply to being airborne.

  • y_p_w

    Uh no.  My wife was highly uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public.  She almost never did so and went out of her way to find a less conspicuous place for a feeding.  I mentioned that.  Sometimes this was to the detriment of our baby, who got agitated and wouldn’t latch on if kept waiting too long.

    There are people who are uncomfortable about all sorts of things.  Some people will get upset because of someone of a specific race is sitting nearby.  A case of an ultra-orthodox Jewish family was mentioned here – where the family was upset that their women were seated next to men on their flight; this was not normal to them even if it was OK with the society at large.  I know people who complain that people in wheelchairs have should have no right to go out and should just “stay home” because it makes people uncomfortable.  There was a time when black people were arrested for trying to get service at a Woolworth’s lunch counter, or where they have to drink from a “colored” water fountain.  Fortunately those days are over.

    This is the “new normal” now.  Maybe one catches a fleeting glance of a nipple, but it’s not as if the world will end.  Even in a place such as Utah (where the Mormon Church has a strong influence on alcohol sales and laws governing public behavior) there are state laws that protect a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere regardless of whether a nipple is exposed.  Many of these state laws give a woman the right to sue a business if they attempt to stop a woman from breastfeeding.  The laws specifically protect and practically encourage women to breastfeed in public.  I see no laws encouraging “squish videos” – what was actually the subject of an arc on the TV series “The Practice”.

    Like I’ve said – you don’t like it?  Then perhaps call your state representative and ask for a law to place public breastfeeding back in the category of “indecent exposure”.

  • y_p_w

    OK – I realize that perhaps I’m coming across as “in your face” that people are just going to have to put up with mothers breastfeeding in public.  To some degree I do feel that it’s the case.

    However, there’s a whole lot of static regarding the language used to describe this.  Chris even mentioned sex acts in public as well as going to the bathoroom in plain sight, which isn’t exactly what I would call an apt comparison.

    Some of the rhetoric seemed to be quite loaded.  These are the categories I would put for acts or behaviors that are performed in public:

    1) Acts that are patently illegal and where one could clearly be arrested and or serve jail time.  This would include indecent exposure or public urination.

    2) Acts that aren’t specifically illegal under the law, but which there are also no particular protections under the law if it’s a private business.  An example used in these comments was coughing up mucous and flag burning.  In that case, a business owner could conceivably ask a customer to leave for doing so.

    3) Acts that are protected under the law.  Right now this includes the right for the blind to be accompanied by a guide dog or for those with medical needs for a service animal.  The way most state laws are written now, public breastfeeding is just as protected a right.  A business owner who attempts to keep a mother from breastfeeding could be sued and/or enjoined from trying to stop such behavior in the future.

    There is NOTHING immoral about breasfeeding in public.  What we have are some with outdated notions that this is immoral or impolite.  That’s why I said “get with the program”.  This is specifically protected under the law.  That doesn’t mean a mother has the right to phsycially run roughshod over others while feeding a baby, but it does mean that when someone objects to such behavior (simply on the basis of finding it a visual offense) and complains to a manager or employee, that employee is going to have to balance the chance of getting sued for violation of what states now consider a fundamental right.

  • Melanie Pini

    Frankly, I’m 5’4″ and airline seats are uncomfortable even for me, with 120lbs being a heavy day for me.

    And why wouldn’t someone use a simple cloth to provide privacy while breastfeeding?  It’s simple courtesy to others, not a commentary on whether the act of breastfeeding in public is appropriate or not.

  • Jessica Smith

    not likely to happen…..and if it does, see how comfortable it is when I try to get back in my seat and if I can’t….you will still sit up and not be able to recline again as I get the flight attendant to make you put your seat up so I can sit back down again. My height is what blocks your seat from going down in front of me, not my weight, and that cannot change….