Back in August for World Breastfeeding Awareness Week, I participated in the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign led by photographer Leilani Rogers. During the campaign, I photographed a gorgeous young mom tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler. One of the things that struck me about her was how calm she was – I feel like I would be a frazzled mess, but she made it look effortless. Her husband gave my daughter yogurt; as if they didn’t have enough going on, he helped keep an eye on my kids so I could spend time with Jill and their boys.
Needless to say, I was shocked after I heard she had been harassed for nursing her now 7 week old son by the management at a local Gold’s Gym. The situation escalated quickly, and in the end, they called their lawyer, and Jill left. She then contacted the owners to let them know of her interaction with the VP and Controller at the gym, expecting a simple apology. Instead what she got was a series of rude e-mails that served to distort the situation and victimize her. She has made the e-mails available via Google Docs and updates it as needed: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17VCUJ8dmZ8qQtWmjNGbe6NOsAa-mmLaQ_iJTZ0BRiVk/edit?usp=docslist_api
When I found out about Jill’s terrible experience, I got in touch with my friend Jocelyn, a breastfeeding advocate and local doula, who organized a nurse-in at the gym that I agreed to photograph. We spread the word online and the event gained momentum quickly. After hearing about our plans, Gold’s Gym posted a lengthy response to their Facebook page and in it they welcomed us to the facility for the event. I was thrilled – as a wise friend quoted from Sun Tzu, The Art of War: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” Unfortunately, it became very obvious that they didn’t truly want to welcome us as breastfeeding mothers. The welcome letter that the gym posted to their Facebook was removed and the night before the nurse-in, Jill received an email from one of the owners asking her to call it off. The owner likened breastfeeding to public urination and sex as things a child should not be witness to, and called our organized nurse-in a “witch hunt” and “non-religious antisemitism.”
The nurse-in was not called off, and I arrived at about 10am this morning and noticed a small spread of bagels and coffee with a sign welcoming nursing mothers. Jocelyn introduced me to two male employees (one of which I later learned was a co-owner of the gym), and after giving me permission to photograph the event inside the building, they said they would be in touch with a release form for me to sign. I asked to see the form and they said they didn’t have a copy on hand. I explained that Second Ave Photography is an LLC that retains legal representation and I would be unable to agree to sign something without seeing it first and running it by my attorney. They didn’t pursue the form any further, but asked if I would send my photos for their approval before I published them, which declined to do. I agreed not to photograph gym members who were not part of our nurse-in or any employees.
I think it is quite telling that none of the managers who initially confronted Jill, or the owners were present today. One of the employees at the gym did tell Jocelyn that the owners intend to build a nursing lounge in the daycare, which would be a huge step in the right direction, if they actually follow through.
There are people who may not understand the point of a nurse-in. As Jocelyn so eloquently put it, “We are not doing this to raise awareness for the right to be topless.” It is not about having our breasts out. It is to raise awareness and demonstrate what breastfeeding truly looks like – in almost all situations, you wouldn’t know what was going on unless you were really staring. Breastfeeding is the most normal and natural thing a mother and child can do and our society should find comfort in the sight. This was about a mother feeding her baby, and her right to do so in whatever way she chooses no matter where she is or who may be around. I certainly hope the owners and management of this Gold’s Gym will remember this in the future, and will have perhaps gained some perspective on the subject so that next time someone complains about a breastfeeding mother, they will remind them that the act is harmless and beautiful.
Fox 5 was there to cover our story and the video clip can be seen here.
Moms – I do have these photos in color as well, but chose to share them in black and white to minimize distractions in the background and focus the viewer’s attention on the subject. If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of a photo you are in (there may be more that aren’t shown in this post) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JillThank you, Blaire, for the beautiful photographs. I appreciate your dedication to PBAP and protecting our babies from harassment!
Nurse-In at Gold’s Gym | Ashburn, Va » nicoleinbold[…] participated in the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign as a subject which was photographed by Second Ave Photography. I of course chose to support this mom and asked to come to both nurse my little one and document […]
#DenimDay 2016: Epidemics of Harassment and Assault - The Badass Breastfeeder[…] https://www.secondavephotography.com/nurse-in-at-golds-gym-ashburn-va-breastfeeding-in-real-life-even… […]