Pumping in Public: Harassment at the Theater

I’m pretty good at advocating for myself as a breastfeeding mother. I have a lot of years of experience at this, I know my rights, and I’m very resourceful. However, something happened to me this weekend that had me shaking, in tears.angry woman

My husband and I had a rare date night–tickets to a film festival. We were so excited to leave our boys behind with my mother! I have plenty of milk in my freezer stash, but I knew I’d have to pump during intermission to relieve engorgement.

I tried calling the theater earlier in the week to see what sort of accommodations they had and was told there were outlets in the bathroom lounge. Yuck! But, I was willing to deal with it, so excited was I for this date.

During intermission, I went to guest services and asked which was the best bathroom to use my breast pump. I was ushered into an adjacent family restroom. They even brought me a stool to sit on. I started pumping, and I heard a group gather outside. Folks wanted to use that bathroom.

The usher began telling the group that I was using my breast pump in there, and the group, all women’s voices, began to shout; they were angry. They shouted with increasing urgency that I shouldn’t be using the bathroom for that purpose–meanwhile a nearby elevator was available to take all patrons down to another handicap-accessible bathroom.

Eventually, the house manager for the theater came to evict me from the bathroom.

By this point, I was shaking and near tears. She said I needed to leave because “people are waiting to use this bathroom.”

When I shouted that *I* was using the bathroom, I got scolded for raising my voice. I asked where they would prefer I pump my breastmilk and exited the bathroom to face a group of angry, hostile women. At that point, I knew there was nothing else I could do productively, if even the house manager was involved in the harassment. All I wanted to do was return to my seat and my husband.

This morning I wrote to the president of the theater. I explained my situation and asked specifically what their intended accommodations are for breastfeeding mothers and I asked them what their procedures are to communicate this policy to staff members and ushers.

I await his response! That will dictate my next move.

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