Protest, when it works, makes it hard to ignore something that was previously ignorable. Yesterday, women held a nurse-in at the Anthropologie store in Beverly Hills. The flash meal was a response to an incident earlier in the week, when a store manager hustled a nursing mother off to a bathroom. The mother, Ingrid Wiese-Hesson, took to Facebook and Instagram to recount the incident, her embarrassment and anger, and the fact that the store manager broke the law. California law allows women to nurse anywhere they and their babies are allowed to be.
Although brick and mortar stores will do almost anything to increase their street traffic, the assembly of babies doing lunch probably wasn’t a super great retail opportunity. But it certainly made a point. Antropologie quickly issued an apologie, and affirmed its commitment to the customer experience and better training for its employees. Beyond the store and the chain, the protest increased the visibility of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which had otherwise escaped at least my attention.
The nurse-in tactic was new to me, but it didn’t start this week in Beverly Hills. Nearly two years ago, activists targeted Target with mass action, and earlier this year nursing mothers appeared at Facebook’s shareholders’ meeting to protest the site’s policy of censoring pictures it deems too revealing. Instagram has a similar policy, and has engendered similar opposition.
It’s interesting that that the social media sites were so useful in organizing a protest that wasn’t targeted at them.