Rachel Papantonakis was never attacked for breastfeeding in public, but she is taking action on behalf of all moms who have been shamed.
"There have been too many news stories lately about women being told they can't feed their babies in places where they are legally allowed to do so," whe wrote on a Facebook page she created for what she is calling "The Great Nurse-In." It is an event to raise social consciousness, a massive demonstration, to be held on the West Lawn at the Capitol, tentatively planned for August 4th during World Breastfeeding Week.
The stories Papantonakis refers to include a D.C. mom's experience of being told she couldn't breastfeed in a government building, another woman in Michigan who was asked to leave a courtroom because she was feeding her child, and most recently, Michelle Hickman's actions. Hickman was reprimanded at Target, and responded by organizing a nurse-in too -- a nationwide protest at multiple Target stores.
When Janice D'Arcy, who writes The Washington Post's "On Parenting" blog asked Papantonakis why she is planning the nurse-in, the mother of two recounted the story she was most affected by -- a museum guard who told a mom she had to feed her child in the restroom only.
"It got me thinking... Wouldn't it be cool to have a nurse-in on the National Mall? Just a bunch of nursing women, their babies, and supporters spending an afternoon on the Mall and nursing when they needed to in order to raise awareness about the law."
Papantonakis, a mother of two, is still nursing her youngest. So that no one can question her own right to breastfeed in public, iVillage reports that she carries a La Leche League card with the public breastfeeding laws of D.C., Maryland and Virginia printed on it.
Her goal for the nurse-in is to do more than uphold these laws. According to Papantonakis's Facebook page, she aims to "demystify breastfeeding and make it as commonplace as bottle-feeding to passersby."
As for numbers, she wants to draw 500,000 nursing moms -- that's one million boobs -- to participate. (The event was originally going to be called the Million-Boob-March, but that changed because nobody wanted it to be confused with the pro-nudity Two Million Boobs March.)
Papantonakis also wants to be clear that the focus of the event is on choice; she is not suggesting that breastfeeding is the only way. "It certainly is option #1 for me and for my children, but it doesn't work for every woman/child/family for a variety of reasons," she explained to D'Arcy.