Never one to sit on the fence and hide his feelings, UKIP’s Nigel Farage has again voiced his opinion without perhaps considering the emotions that his comments can engender in a significant part of the very voters he may one day look to gain support from. His ‘target’ this time around was a particularly sensitive issue, that of breastfeeding in public places and therefore new mothers in general.

After the decision by Claridge’s hotel to suggest to a breastfeeding mother (35-year old Louise Burns) that she should cover herself up after providing a ‘shroud’ with that in mind, Farage was initially quoted as saying that they may be best advised to “perhaps sit in the corner” when they intend to breastfeed instead. His comments indicated his belief that it should be at the discretion of the particular venue where the ‘act’ occurred as to whether it should be permitted or not, a form of local ‘rule’ that customers would be obliged to adhere to when on the premises. He had added that breastfeeding in public places made some people feel uncomfortable, although it was not an issue that he had any strong opinions about.

Clearly seeing that his comments had been misconstrued and misinterpreted by the media, he later clarified his views somewhat by insisting that he had no issues with women choosing to breastfeed “wherever they want” but that the whole issue was just a consideration of what is classed as “good manners”.

The comments (however unintended they may be) are sure to raise the blood pressure of many people who would view any such restriction as going against a woman’s natural right to breastfeed their child whenever and wherever they may be. Not only could that offend from a public liberty viewpoint but it could be suggestive of viewing such a grouping as the ‘dunces’ in the class. This may not be an age when breastfeeding in public places is as common as it used to be, but it does occur from time to time and is surely a natural behaviour for a woman to want to do to maintain the close (and natural) link to their new offspring.

Whether a particular company or corporation has a right to impose their own ‘values’ on the general public when they enter their premises could be a moot point, in a way it could be viewed as an extension of their own homes being open to the public as soon as the doors are unlocked on a working day. Would they suggest a similar “covering up” or less ostentatious approach if they found the same situation occurring in their own home or would they expect the mother to ask them at the time if they had any objections to such behaviour?

For many mothers it is not really a civil liberty issue that they commonly come across, as many choose to bottle feed rather than breast feed, but surely they would not expect such a draconian approach as to be directed out of the way should feeding time arrive while they were out and about. Of course, from a practical and comfort point of view, a seat in the corner might actually be a more pragmatic way of meeting the need, ensuring that mother and child are not bumped into by other shoppers while breastfeeding is occurring, but that is surely their choice when considering how best to carry it out.

Some may well agree with Farage’s belief of it being concerned with ‘good manners’ (although the very term sounds old-fashioned in the extreme) in that a mother should consider how other people may view her actions and not just assume ‘carte blanche’ when outside of their own homes. It could be argued that feeding time is more than likely to be at a ‘pre-arranged’ and planned time to get feeding into a regime or pattern. In which case the mother is being perhaps slightly naive and unprepared to be in the store when the time arrives, although in a busy day it may be a case of ‘needs must’ when the time is reached.

On the other side of the argument you have the viewpoint of a more ‘enlightened’ generation who would perhaps take no notice of people exposing their bodies in public anyway, as there is nothing to be shocked or made uncomfortable about, in which case the consideration becomes academic.

Whatever one’s standpoint, it is clear that the UKIP supremo has once again raised yet another heated discussion point and one somehow doubts it will be his last!

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