Nigel Farage has waded into the row about a mother being asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby by suggesting that women should avoid ‘openly ostentatious’ behaviour. The Ukip leader told LBC:
‘I’m not particularly bothered by it but I know that a lot of people do feel very uncomfortable and look, this is just a matter of common sense, isn’t it?’
Nick Ferrari then asked what was common sense. Farage replied:
‘Well, I think that given that some people feel very embarrassed by it, it isn’t too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that isn’t openly ostentatious.’
He then suggested that breastfeeding women could ‘perhaps sit in the corner’.
What is ostentatious breastfeeding? Does it involve a small brass band and a neon sign saying ‘A SMALL CHUNK OF BREAST PARTIALLY OBSCURED BY FEEDING CHILD ON VIEW HERE’? Presumably this means that Farage sympathises with any expression of discomfort when breasts appear in public in whatever context, on Page 3 of the Sun, or in Vogue or on a statue. Because whatever your views on Page 3 or a Vogue photoshoot, that is arguably just a teensy little bit more ostentatious than a mother exposing just part of the gland that provides the food that every NCT class, government leaflet and health visitor will tell you is best for a newborn baby.
Perhaps Farage sees a constituency of uncomfortable voters out there, who just feel a bit awkward seeing a woman feeding her baby. I’m endlessly uncomfortable with most aspects of life: people hugging you unexpectedly, people crying, people singing ‘Wonderwall’ in an intense manner. But those are just facts of life that I’ve had to learn to deal with and that are far less essential than a mother feeding her baby. Does a woman really have to stop doing something just because a grumpy person feels a bit uncomfortable? Wouldn’t it be easier for said grumpy person to just stop staring at the mother’s chest and get on with their Claridge’s tea?
Anyway, Downing Street has been very happy to clarify that David Cameron does disagree with Nigel Farage on breastfeeding. Will Farage have to clarify his comments?
UPDATE 12:53pm: The clarification has arrived, earlier than we might have expected.
I said if rules of place (i.e. Claridges) dictates a certain discretion, then that’s up to the venue. Once again, pure fabrication by media.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) December 5, 2014
UPDATE, 13.15: And now he’s issued a statement.
The media fabrication over breastfeeding has been extraordinary. Let me get this clear, as I said on the radio and as I repeat now, I personally have no problem with mothers breastfeeding wherever they want.
What I said was… and it is immensely frustrating that I have to explain this… is that if the establishment in question, in this case Claridges, wants to maintain rules about this stuff, then that is up to them, as it should be. I remarked that perhaps they might ask women to sit in a corner. Did I say I believe they should have to? No. Did I say I personally endorse this concept? No.
We do however have to recognise that businesses have a responsibility to all of their customers, some of whom may well be made uncomfortable by public breastfeeding. It’s a two-way street: breastfeeding women should never be embarrassed by staff asking them to stop, and most mums will recognise the need to be discreet in certain, limited, circumstances. It just a question of good manners, and in this case, accurate journalism.