Opinion / Raymond Zhou

Abreast of controversy

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-07 07:31

Abreast of controversy

Wang Xiaoying/China Daily

A nursing mother has become the subject of ridicule and empathy, as people living in a rapidly changing society grapple with gray areas, such as provocative gestures and explicit content.

A young woman breast-fed her baby on the Beijing subway. Another young woman thought it "uncivilized", snapped a photo and posted it online. A website carried it, criticizing the nursing mother for "exposing a sex organ in public".

The consequences came in rapid succession.

The breast-feeding woman explained that her baby was crying in hunger, and they were on a long commute to suburban Daxing. She did try to cover her breast, she said.

Her husband said the other passengers offered them seats and looked away while his wife fed the infant.

He's now threatening to sue the photo-taker for infringing on their privacy. They had previously asked her to at least blur the exposed breast in the photo.

The website involved belonged to a nonprofit that cleans up leaflets and flyers on subway trains. It has since taken itself offline.

The photo-taker issued an apology, but according to online sources, she has taken on another handle elsewhere and is still attacking the breast-feeding woman and her defenders.

The subway authority responded that it does not have rules about breast-feeding.

"We won't interfere with it," said a spokesperson.

"Instead we should provide support to women with special needs. For a woman carrying a baby, the rule says that other passengers are obligated to offer her a seat."

Even the United Nations International Children's Fund jumped into the fray.

It issued a Chinese-language statement through its micro blog, saying: "Breast milk is the most natural, healthiest, perfect food for babies. It is the mother's right to feed her baby at the first possible time, including in public spaces. Society should give more support for breast-feeding so mothers and their babies can have quiet and comfortable spaces. Even babies have a right to use public resources."

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