Surely that’s illegal, even in Africa

Most days, living in Cape Town you could make yourself believe that South Africa has at least a veneer of the First World about it. But some days, you are jarringly reminded that this is the Third World, and that we are living in Africa.

Case in point: this weekend I was sitting in the shoe department of a middle class department store, in a middle class mall, in a middle class suburb, trying on a pair of Cats. This was also the men’s shoe department, because I just so happen to prefer the style of boots they had there. I was sitting on the bench provided for the very purpose of trying on shoes, and next to me on the bench sat a large african woman breastfeeding her baby. Not subtly, i may add. Her tits were out for all the world to see, and she was just sitting there in the men’s shoe department, staring off into space, while her child suckled at her exposed breast.

I’m no prude, i can assure you of that, but surely even in Africa indecent exposure is still illegal? Seriously, if someone was found breastfeeding in the middle of a department store in the US, UK, or Australia, how long would it be before she was hustled out by management, if not reported to security? In the states especially, the populace has a collective stroke if even a little side-boob appears in an advert – I think a woman with her entire breast out in public would be considered socially unacceptable, if not illegal. Not here though. People just walked past as if nothing was wrong with this bizarre and tasteless tableau.

And yes, we’re adults, we should be able to deal with a little nudity. But I might add that the men’s shoe department was right next to the children’s wear department. Do you really want to be taking your child to get a new jacket, and have her shout at the top of her lungs, “Mommy! I can see that lady’s boobs!”

14 Responses to “Surely that’s illegal, even in Africa”

  1. hah! that’s nothing!

    you just took me back to when i was fifteen. working for a pitiful sum, keeping an eye out for thieving in a factory outlet. some women came in with the express purpose of breast-feeding. without batting an eyelid, plonked herself down and popped out an udder.

    what the hell was i supposed to do about it? nobody else paid any attention, so i spent my time staring everywhere else. i wonder if she scaled any shoes during the procedure?

    it is disquieting, but fuck it. it’s africa. and probably most of the rest of the world wouldn’t give a damn either. who knows?

  2. Actually, I think breast feeding is explicity permitted in Aus, US and UK. But was she just sitting there with both tits out? That sounds a bit weird.

  3. i’m not sure how many boobs were out – i saw boob and looked away very quickly.

    a quick googling shows that you are right – most places do seem to classify public breastfeeding as legal. But even if you have a right to breastfeed in public, why would you??? Is there something about having a child that turns otherwise normal women into flagrant exhibitionists?

  4. This is probably going to come across as racist, but hell – I wonder what the reaction by staff would have been if it had been a white woman breast feeding?

    More importantly, what’s the difference between breast feeding in public and simply pulling your breast out in public for a few minutes and putting it back in? Ultimately it’s the same thing, only that one has a little-satan-in-training attached and the other is probably more pleasant to look at.

    It’s ridiculous. Next you’ll tell me that changing babies in public is okay too! She should have the common decency to breats feed in the public toilets where they have the baby changing stations. Maybe that should be recommended to the Mall as an improvement to their customer service – Breast Feeding Booths.

    At least save the rest of the community from having to see that.

  5. jebb_x: hail and well met, fellow roleplayer. Schpat tells me you are a roleplaying.co.za peep! I thought the nick looked familiar in a roleplaying context.

    P.S. come to schpatcon.

  6. Hah hah hah🙂

    Wish I could, but it’s not going to happen this year. Too many other things I’m sorry to say.

    Maybe next year.

  7. Scotland’s Public Breastfeeding Law.

    It seems Scottish parliament do actually do something other than sit in that god-awful mostrosity of a parliament building.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, most of you lot are pathetic wannabe fascists. Jebb_x I hope you eat in the toilets too when you are in public places, as you expect of the young ones.
    And to make out if Africa has anything to do with it is stupid too. A while ago a museum attendant in the UK got herself into deep trouble for asking a woman breastfeeding in the museum to move on.

  9. you should know that there are two ways to have your comment not taken seriously: post anonymously, and come out of the gate calling people names. If that’s the best you can do to support your standpoint, then maybe you should rethink it. You’re not doing your side any favors.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Ok, “fascists” is a bit over the top. But expecting a mother & baby to breastfeed in the toilets is also over the top and mean.
    Here in the UK, you can see mothers breastfeeding in public – hardly anyone thinks it is wrong or indecent, because if you think about it, it isn’t. It is the most natural thing and I have also seen African mothers breastfeed in public in SA many times. I don’t think it was against the law pre-1994, and there is no way such a law (if it exists), will stand the scrutiny of the constitutional court today, because if there was such a law it would be against basic human freedoms. It is wrong to expect a baby to go hungry or be banished to the unhygienic toilet just because of some people’s unreasonable sensibilities.

    As for posting anonymously – your whole blog is anonymous, and sometimes there are good reasons for that. I am currently job hunting – if my prospective employer types my name in a search engine, he shouldn’t see I spend my time making comments about breast-feeding (which I don’t normally – it is just the unreasonableness of your post and jebb_x’s nasty suggestion that got me responding).
    I am sure you have good reasons for blogging anonymously too – maybe you do it at work & don’t want your employer to know.

    I also don’t think South Africans should always ask what the standard is in the US, UK, or Australia is as your post seem to suggest. The African mother clearly only took her baby’s needs into account, which is far more sensible than imitating the sensibilities of Bible-belt prudes. And you are just plain wrong to think there is anything exhibitionist about it. Maybe you should try motherhood – you’ll discover that what others think quickly take a long slide down your list of priorities.

  11. just because something is constitutional doesn’t mean everyone should rush out and do it. There’s nothing in the constition that says you can’t run around butt naked, but i don’t see people doing that, regardless of how ‘natural’ it is.

    also, why shouldn’t africa look to the first world and aspire to its values? Are you assuming that africans need a different set of values to westerners? isn’t that just a little racist?

    Frankly, i don’t see why shopping malls don’t provide feeding areas, nice rooms with soft couches where women can go and feed their baby in private. They provide baby changing rooms… why not feeding rooms? I intend to have children, i intend to breastfeed them, and i absolutely do not intend to whip out my breast in public just because i lacked any forward planning in my life, like, i don’t know, feeding the baby before coming to the shops. If it came to it, i would rather feed in a toilet cubicle than expose myself to people who did not come to the shop expecting to be flashed.

    Also, why shouldn’t your employer know what you value enough to comment about? You can’t hold your beliefs that highly if you’ll sacrifice them just to get a job. My employer knows about this blog, he’s even read it. We’ve had big, loud ‘discussions’ about alternative medicine (his family are deeply into it). I still have my job.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Mothers breastfeeding in public are not ‘flashing’ or exhibitionists – It would have been good if we could talk again when you can also talk from experience.

  13. sure thing. Maybe by the time i have kids you’ll be able to argue a point based on its logical merits, rather than based on your own emotional investment as a mother.

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