Monday, 25 July 2011

When in Rome ...

What has our country come to when a mother is asked to leave a Civic Centre in Oldham because she wanted to breast feed her baby?  She was told that it wasn’t permitted as it was a “multi-cultural building” and the act “would offend Muslim visitors” (Daily Mail 23rd July).

Now, I’m sorry, this makes my blood boil.  In the event, the woman was within her rights but the incident is indicative of the sensitive world in which we now live.  If you came to the blog looking for humour today you’re in the wrong place because I’m on my soap-box for a rant.

What can possibly be offensive about the most natural act in the world?

I’m sure the mother didn’t intend to whip out her puppies for all to have a good ogle - she would have done what most feeding mums do and been as discrete as possible.  It’s an art, but one that you quickly learn when you’ve got a screaming baby desperate for grub.  I can’t begin to count the places I performed this ‘offensive act’ during my year of breast feeding.  I was a human dummy so it was a question of, ‘Get the goods out now or put up with the incessant screaming!’  Believe me, if the Oldham Civic Centre had heard my son screaming for sustenance, they probably would have whipped out my milk jugs for him just for a bit of peace.

I’m well aware that there are, and always will be, people who feel that feeding should be done behind closed doors but when it comes down to a question of culture in our own country, something is going seriously wrong.

At the risk of sounding ‘unpolitically’ correct, I feel uneasy around groups of women in full burka - at a tube station or airport, how do we know if they are actually women underneath all their garb?  And yet this is something we have to live with - in our country.  We have no choice in the matter, it’s put up or shut up. If we travel to countries where we’re expected to cover up out of respect, we do it - their country, their rules.

It’s a wonder Muslims are able to walk through any London street without being offended by the way females choose to dress - or will that be the next thing?   The nanny state will be telling women to cover up, put away their mini-skirts and cleavages, lest we upset those who have chosen to live in our country.

Don’t get me wrong. Having discovered (and participated in) the rich customs of my Indian brother-in-law’s culture, I would really love to get to know this strain of the Muslim community but I find the inability to read facial expressions a barrier to conversation.  I honestly have no problem with living in a multi-cultural society and have friends and neighbours of all colours and creeds. What I have the issue with is the refusal to integrate and the constant pushing of limits to see how much can be got away with - we find ourselves living in fear of upsetting someone just by being British.

When I was an adult literacy tutor, I taught all nationalities.  Reading material and exercises had to be carefully considered, taking into account the students’ level of skill and also suitability for age, religious beliefs and creed.  You wouldn’t give a comprehension on childbirth to a seventy year old virgin or a debate on homosexuality to a devout Christian.

Sometimes students were encouraged to bring in their own reading material and I remember sitting down to help an elderly Jamaican lady with a very small paperback she wanted to attempt.  It was racist, filled with hatred for white people and I found it offensive.  When I told her it wasn’t a very pleasant read, she simply said “Well, it’s my choice and you’re here to help me.”

I raised the issue with the college head and was more or less told the same thing.  But I don’t understand why it isn’t one rule for all.  Had I been ignorant enough to choose a book that was racially offensive to black people, I’d have found myself being disciplined and yet it was OK for me to feel affronted with nobody there to fight my corner.

We’re always hearing the term ‘racial equality’ bandied around and I’m all for it - as far as I’m concerned, we’re all human so therefore, equal.  The trouble is, I don’t think we are equal anymore and that’s what gets my goat.

PS:  Hope I didn’t offend any goat worshippers there.

Diary of a Mummy Misfit is available on Amazon for Kindle.  Now also in paperback at Lulu.

1 comment:

  1. I've been watching this blog to see if anyone is 'brave' enough to comment. You've picked a really emotive subject of race & religion which most people would shy away from.

    However, I don't think this is about religion. I think it's more Daily Mail sensationalism and over zealous public officials. I don't think breast-feeding in public is something that's ingrained in the British way of life. You're just as likely to find objections from White Christians as you are from any other sector of the population. I agree with you that breastfeeding in public shouldn't be such a big issue as we seem to make it, and let's not forget mothers now have a legal right to feed their babies in public places, but I don't think objections to public breastfeeding sit only with minority communities.