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Breast Defense

Posted 3/28/2001

Your recent article about the House of Delegates and the breast-feeding bill (Mobtown Beat, March, 21) incorrectly gave the impression that, in absence of this bill, breast-feeding in public is illegal in Maryland. This is not the case. It is not illegal to breast-feed in public anywhere in the United States. The purpose of this type of legislation is to clarify the right of women to breast-feed in public, so that they are not harassed by people who incorrectly confuse breast-feeding with "indecent exposure." It is very important that Maryland women do not get the idea that they are not "allowed" to breast-feed in public.

I am disgusted by the prejudice and apparent lack of education displayed by those who argued against this bill. Breast-feeding is in no way "indecent." Many of the clothing fashions currently in style show more skin than would ever be shown by a nursing mother.

Breast-feeding is an invaluable benefit for babies, reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and a host of other serious ailments. Placing a stigma on nursing mothers and demanding that they go "somewhere else to do that" can only result in lowered breast-feeding rates. It is impractical to say mothers should "pump and use a bottle." Pumps are expensive, pumping is time-consuming, and some babies do not take bottles. It is neither practical nor fair to demand that mothers stop what they are doing and slink off to the bathroom every time the baby gets hungry. Are the delegates really so petty as to put their own squeamishness before the lives and health of babies?

I have two words of advice for the delegates and anyone else whose delicate sensibilities are assaulted by the sight of a nursing mother: Quit staring!

Catherine McCubbin
Baltimore

It is astounding that a new century has seemingly done nothing more than reproduce centuries-old thinking here in Maryland. That legislation allowing women to breast-feed in public was recently shot down by the House Environmental Matters Subcommittee seems to indicate that when dealing with issues of sexuality and the body, Maryland is, in fact, very much our father's Oldsmobile. Del. Robert Baldwin cited modesty as a justification for denying this bill; is he really saying that with a straight face? His thinking seems to follow this runaway train: The natural process of a mother feeding her baby milk from her own breast is unfit for public consumption, but feeding a baby from a plastic substitute for the breast (a bottle) is perfectly acceptable. Is this logic or prudishness?

Mr. Baldwin's secondary concern that the bill would result in "them [by which he means women, though the pronoun seems telling] just whipping it out" is laughable. That anyone in the year 2001 is suggesting that breast-feeding a baby is so dirty and immodest that it needs to be done in the privacy of one's own home, or a bathroom (we all know how sanitary most public bathrooms are, right?), or (why not say it?) a closet is a joke. It is a joke, isn't it?

Are the governmental leaders of Maryland really saying breast-feeding your child in public is bad? That Maryland would be irreparably harmed if the bill passed and a woman could, as Mr. Baldwin says, "expose her breast anywhere she damn well pleased as long as she was nursing"? Would anarchy somehow reign?

The idea that breast-feeding should be done only at home or in bathrooms or ahead of time using breast pumps begs the following question: Why?

It is entertaining to know the current culture can, almost simultaneously, award a Nobel Prize to the inventor of Viagra and prevent public breast-feeding. Here's to the forward thinkers running the show in Maryland.

Kevin Varrone
Baltimore

Baltimore: The City That Writes Letters
Tom Scocca did an excellent job exposing the latest Balt™ore Branding Boondoggle ("Bal™ore," March 14). Having lived in this area all my life, I'm constantly amazed at the goofy slogans our town seems destined to endure. "Baltimore: Suits to Nuts" is one graffito I'd rather not see on park benches anytime soon. And $165,000 is a lot of blind faith spent on restating the obvious.

Here's key insight No. 9 (no charge): Baltimore is about familiarity. People are born here and they never leave. Sometimes they never make it past the "digital" harbor. Everybody has already met everyone else, and there's something cool about that, something to possibly market. Call it six degrees of John Waters.

I say reserve the brain trust, save some of that Faith Popcorn money, and just borrow this slogan from TV land: "Baltimore--Where Everyone Knows Your Name" Cheers!

Tim Thompson
Stevenson

Cold Comfort
I waited an entire week before responding to Wiley Hall III's "Justice Served Cold" (Urban Rhythms, March 14). I was going to speak in a cold, callous, and indescribably cruel manner about how many times Mr. Hall went astray. I am still trying to find Mr. Hall's "motive" for writing such drivel. But suffice it to say, Mr. Hall should follow his own advice by keeping his "big, fat, stupid mouth" shut. Silence is golden, Mr. Hall, and when silent you might actually be able to hear the resounding cries of those left behind in Lionel Tate's wake of devastation.

Heather Murphy
Baltimore

Yes, We Can Say "Overrated"
Tom Scocca: Now that we are in the land of Sweet 16, it's time for a little payback (8 Upper, March 14) . Big Ten overrated? How about three Big Ten teams in to only two ACC, and we both know what will happen to Maryland. Just a little reminder if you forgot about last year as well. Two Big Ten teams in the Final Four to one ACC. Also, Purdue made it to the regional final. Who beat them in that regional final? Another Big Ten team, of course. Who had to beat Wisconsin in the Final Four? Another Big Ten team, of course. Why did Michigan State win it all? No other Big Ten teams to knock them out. Look for history to repeat itself again this year. Now can you say "overrated"? How do you spell North Carolina and the sorry-looking ACC? You say the best ball is played in the East? Get your ass out of the past. Only four of the Sweet 16 are Eastern teams; there are six from the Midwest and six from the West, including four from the Pac-10. You are right on about predicting Maryland's eventual demise, but think again about the East in general. Those days are over.

Christopher Schmidt
Baltimore

Tom Scocca responds: Now that Mr. Schmidt has learned firsthand the perils of weekly sportswriting, it pains me to point out that he misread the column. The whole point was that I am always wrong about the Big 10 and the Pac-10, and about Maryland's abilities, which is why I always lose the office pool. But it turns out, to my glee, that I was wrong about being wrong about the Pac-10 and Maryland--whereas Mr. Schmidt is wrong about being right. Oddly enough, I am getting clobbered in the pool anyway.

Czech Your Facts
I found Lily Thayer's review of Jill Paton Walsh's book A Desert in Bohemia very interesting (Books, March 14). The period of Nazi and Soviet occupation certainly provides a fertile field for a novel. The review was well written, and I will probably acquire the book. However, I must disagree vehemently with Ms. Thayer's statement that "the Czechs . . . are lacking in a concrete national history or even culture." This is totally ridiculous!

The Czech lands have an old and glorious history. The Great Moravian Empire began in 623 a.d., and the first documented Prince of Bohemia was Borivoj in 850 a.d. Even before that, the Celtic tribe known as the Boiis entered the region around 400 b.c. and were recorded in Roman writings. The Czechs and Moravians have always fiercely maintained their ethnic identity while struggling to survive in the turbulent center of Europe.

As for culture, consider the music of Smetana, Dvorák, and Janacek; the writings of Kafka, Capek, and Kundera; the art of Mucha; the films of Milos Forman and Jiri Mendel. Consider also that in 1918 the Father of the Country, Tomas Masaryk, was a professor of philosophy and that the first president of the state that emerged from under the Communist yoke in 1989 was the famous author and playwright Vaclav Havel.

If Ms. Thayer truly believes her statement, I suggest she contact the Czech and Slovak Heritage Association of Maryland (czslha.org). They will be pleased to tell her about Czech history and culture in great detail.

G. Edward Horak
Baltimore

Great Shit
My compliments go to Brennen Jensen for his superb article "Poop Dreams" (Feb. 21. html). What a fantastic walk through history.

It was amazing to learn about the letter from a laborer on Navassa Island that succeeded in getting past this tiny outpost's corporate censors to reach the desk of President Benjamin Harrison. This dramatic plea for help outlining brutal working conditions moved the president to send a naval vessel to investigate. It proves that the pen is mightier than the sword, which is a lesson we all need to remember.

Now let's move onto Easter Island. To imagine that a unique culture was wiped off the face of the earth because all male residents of Easter Island were forced into slavery to dig bird shit just boggles the mind. It was brutal corporate greed, 1862-style.

Even though it's now 2001, unique indigenous cultures around the world still are threatened with destruction by economic forces beyond their control. Unfortunately, the worldwide corporate impulse to exploit natural resources still exists. For more information on this incredibly important issue contact www.survival-international.org.

This leads me to my final thoughts on biodiversity. For obvious reason, native flora and fauna are notoriously vulnerable to extinction. A good example is Hawaii. According to the Endangered Species Coalition (www.stopextinction.org), "Nearly 40 percent of Hawaii's endemic bird species are already extinct and 75 percent of the remaining birds are threatened or endangered. Forty percent of Hawaii's native plants are listed as endangered species."

Even though Navassa Island, which is teeming with unique plant and animal life, is exclusively controlled by the federal government, Uncle Sam hasn't appropriated money for no trespassing signs or even begun a rat-eradication program. It's ironic that our government is spending billions of dollars exploring dead rocks floating in outer space (not to mention planets) while the U.S. agency in charge of protecting this unique island can't afford the most basic necessities. It makes you wonder about our government's spending priorities. Doesn't it make more sense to spend our taxpayer dollars on protecting a precious treasure like Navassa Island instead of worrying about the mineral content of Mars?

Dan Greifenberger
Baltimore

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