There's an article in today's 'The Age' about a woman who tried to breastfeed her child on a Tiger Airways flight, only to be told to cover up by one of the hostesses.
The pivotal moment of the article for me was:
Mrs Ward said she told the attendant that she had a right to breastfeed, but was asked again to cover her baby because a man seated near her ''might not like to see it''.
''I said to [the man], 'Does this offend you?' and he said, 'No, not at all.'
The man sums up what I suspect is the view of 95% of us. No, we are not offended by breastfeeding. There may be some that are slightly uncomfortable, some may even be squeamish, but, I imagine they are in the minority. The rest of us have a 'whatever' attitude. Hell, the kids need their milk. Beats having a screaming kid next to you on the airplane / in the cinema / at the shop.
1. There seems to be in general Australian society these days some sort of workplace-driven set of things that are considered offensive but ironically do not happen to offend anyone at all. They are offensive only in that they are said to be offensive, but I don't know of one person that is offended by them. Breastfeeding is one. Swearing is another (maybe not 'cunt', but, let's say, 'shit'). Cleavage is another. Dress-sense is another.
I know, it all depends on what industry/environment one is in, but I'm talking very generally.
What's more, people will be offended by these things in the workplace even though they may not be offended by them the second they walk out the door. "Oh, you can't say 'bullshit'", the woman may say to the bank-teller, even though that same woman may say it herself all the time. There's every chance that the hostess on the plane wouldn't care if her sister was breastfeeding at the kitchen table, but, because it's in the workplace, suddenly this thing that does not offend her, offends her.
I told a client recently that her idea was 'stupid' and she laughed. But, a work colleage looked at me afterwards and said, "You shouldn't have said 'stupid'. You should have played it safe and said something like, "I don't believe your concept has a viable outcome." I threw a copy of Don Watson's 'Death Sentence' at her and claimed my right to speak plainly... to speak and act like a normal human being.
Maybe it's our Englishness (even an Aussie without any English blood adopts / retains elements of Englishness that most of England even gave up on years ago).
Foucault has a lot to answer for. We're not just muddying the language in order to appease a non-existent fringe element, we're muddying behaviour.
If you want to breastfeed your child, do so. Nobody really cares.
UPDATE / ANECDOTE / ILLUSTRATION
A few years ago I woked at a company with about 150 employees. The Maltese receptionist wore, in summer, low lying tops, thus revealing some cleavage. Not slutty, but a bit revealing. She wasn't slutty in herself either. She was a really nice girl and was popular amongst the staff. Anyway, one day, the HR woman told her to not to reveal cleavage any more. I happened to be talking to the HR woman later and this was the convesration...
HR: I had to tell Receptionist to not wear such revealing clothing. It was awkward, bit it had to be done. She's so nice, and she was really embarrassed.
Me: Did someone complain.
Me: So why stop her?
HR: Well, it could be deemed offensive.
Me: By who?
HR: Clients, perhaps.
Me: Did a client complain?
Me: She's been here more than a year, she's a brilliant receptionist, clients come in all day... nobody has a problem with her dress sense, and yet, you have now made her feel bad.
HR: But it had to be done!
HR: Because you can't dress like that in a professional environment.
Me: Why not?
HR: Because it's not professional.
Me: Who says?
HR: Umm... society.
Me: But we're society. Her colleagues, and our clients, and none of us have a problem with it.
HR: But they might.
Me: But they don't!
(May I emphasise, it's not like she dressed like a hooker. There was just a bit of cleavage, and indeed some of the management women dressed far more seductively, but because she was 'the receptionist' and at the front desk of the building, a different rule seemed to apply for no apparent reason).