Friday, November 17, 2006

Offended? Don't Be a Boob!

By Alan Burkhart

I’ve often thought that there are people in this world who spend their days walking around just looking for something to get offended about. An article in the November 17, 2006 edition of USA Today has confirmed that notion. The most inoffensive and natural act a person can perform, that of a mother nursing her baby, caused a young family to be removed from a Delta Airlines (operated by Freedom Airlines) flight back on October Thirteenth. Why? Because a flight attendant found it offensive.

Emily Gillette had just begun feeding the child while awaiting takeoff. According to her own account of the incident, she was using her free hand to hold her shirt over her breast. She had a window seat and her husband was sitting next to her in the aisle seat. They were seated near the rear of the aircraft. Offensive? Hardly.

Nevertheless, a flight attendant insisted that Mrs. Gillette cover herself with a blanket. When she refused, the entire family was booted from the plane.

The incident took place in Vermont, and Mrs. Gillette has filed a complaint through the Vermont Human Rights Commission. Vermont state law protects a woman’s right to breast feed in any place “of public accommodation.” A group of parents and children have staged a “nurse in” at the Burlington International Airport in support of the Gillette family.

Let’s put this in perspective. There are some activities that simply should not be done in public places. Some activities are socially acceptable depending upon where you are at the time. And in some cases it’s a matter of context. A woman whose breast is partially-exposed during nursing is not the same as a drunken stripper who “loses” her top in an IHOP at three in the morning.

A commercial airliner is in essence a bus with wings. Breastfeeding in an airliner does not equate to mooning Luciano Pavarotti in a fine opera house (now there’s an idea).

For the life of me, I cannot fathom how the flight attendant’s life might be adversely affected by a young woman feeding her child. Some people are uncomfortable around a nursing mom, but rarely does anyone make a fuss about it. I for one am sick and tired of reading every day about self-important people getting offended over the most trivial of matters. Life would be so much simpler for all of us if we’d just live our own lives and stop meddling in the lives of others. Emily Gillette was absolutely correct to file a complaint.

Think about it. We’ve got people out there in the world who are offended by Christmas decorations, religious symbols, music, literature, movies, free speech (if they don’t agree with the speaker) and even the act of eating meat. What are we supposed to do? Should we just stay at home, keep our mouths (and shirts) closed and read books about how to be more sensitive to others?

And now an arrogant flight attendant has chosen to be offended by the simple act of a mother feeding her child in the most natural and healthy way. What’s next? Seriously folks – we’re reaching a point in which just about anything we do or say runs the risk of offending someone else.

The only people in this scenario who have the right to be offended are the Gillettes. Frankly, I hope they (groan) milk the airlines for all they’re worth.

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