Missouri mother Laura Trickle was simply trying to do several duties that day: her civic role as a potential juror and her biological role as a single mother nursing her 7-month-old son. Without any childcare coverage and at the mercy of the nutritional whims of her baby, Trickle brought her son to jury duty. The result? She now faces charges of contempt of court, a $500 fine and potential jail time. Talk about the price of milk going through the roof.
In an article for Salon.com, Mary Elizabeth Williams reported on this case and the nuances behind the Missouri laws that allow pregnant women to defer their service. In the case of post-partum moms, the law states: "breastfeeding mothers can pump or nurse on breaks or bring someone to care for their children when serving as jurors." There must be a big market in Missouri for stunt nipples. Leaving aside for the moment the ribald inanity of this particular situation and the law's insensitivity toward mothers that borders on embarrassing ignorance, what Trickle's ordeal underscores is the danger and damage of a disproportionate response to a perfectly normal (though sometimes as mechanically baffling as String theory) biological function. The shame meted out on women and the harsh public criticism leveled on moms over openly breastfeeding makes no sense -- especially when there are so many other disgusting things we, as humans, allow other humans to do unchecked, unpoliced and unpunished:
1. Nose Picking: The classic "Seinfeld" episode about "the pick" pretty much sums up our aversion to the uninhibited discovery expedition launched in our nasal cavities. Most of us grow out of the habit as kids, having been sufficiently scolded as children by our parents and elders to make the Pavlovian association that the humiliation of the pick outweighs its brief satisfaction. Those stickin' to the pickin' should be warned: the NSA is taking note and your filthy habit will find its way onto that JDate profile -- as it should.
2. Loogie Hocking: As the younger sister to a pretty typically gross boy, I can say with 100 percent percent certainty that "loogie" spitting was invented and honed with the express purpose of repelling any woman within a 500 yard radius. Congratulations, homoerectus, you just figured out the secret to your extinction.
3. Smoking: When women breastfeed in public, some people become concerned that their delicate sensibilities have been scorched, that the demonstration of a baby getting the sustenance she needs to live through the open exposure of flesh and glands is too upsetting, too real, too much of a private act made public, which makes those same people feel their uncomfortable feelings. Oh dear.
When people smoke, they die. End of list.
4. Catcalls/Whistles: This is such a strange and essentially stupid mating ritual, held over from Cro-mag days when a handy whistle from a hairy, unibrowed gent said both, "Hey baby, over here!" and "Hey baby, watch out for that sabertooth tiger." Today, however, it just reflects poorly on everyone. Shut it down.
5. Salad Bars: What was surely conceived as an inviting option for healthy, quick dining has turned into a breeding ground for bacteria and whatever will bring about the Zombie apocalypse. Humans have forgotten how to conduct themselves when laboring over the grand cornucopia of kale and Garbonzo beans, perhaps over-encouraged by the laughable strip of plastic bearing the mighty misnomer "shield." Or maybe the rules of general hygiene have been mentally crowded out by Twitter passwords and sneezing hamster gifs. Runny noses, flittering insects, flakey body parts and the sticky fingers of curious children who have already sampled half of everything in the store anyway make their inevitable additions to your quinoa and beet salad.
6. Eating a Messy and/or Smelly Sandwich on Public Transportation: I appreciate transit police who make their presence known to would-be muggers, attackers and run-of-the-mill pervs, but it might be time to take a harder stance on the burrito dribblers, the Pad Thai slurpers and the greasy gyro munchers. Fines, jail time, and even a good old-fashioned turn in the stocks would not be outlandish retributions for such a transgression. Please, for all our sakes, keep your clam chowder where it belongs: stinking up the microwave in the break room at your menial, soul-whithering job.
7. Going Shoeless on Airplanes: Not even Naomi Campbell, Brad Pitt or Jesus himself gets a pass for this one. An airplane is an excruciating means to an end -- and that's on a good day. It is not your living room, it is not your dojo or your girlfriend's mom's condo. Let's just avoid partaking in any airplane behavior that does not involve sitting quietly and keeping the foul cesspool you call a nervous system to yourself.
See? When we're confronted on a daily basis with the vile exhibitions of our sloppy, lazy, neurotic humanity, public breastfeeding seems pretty inconsequential and harmless... like giving candy to a baby.