Supreme Court Thinks Breastfeeding Discrimination Doesn’t Exist Because Men Can Lactate Too

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breast milk pump office settingGood news for women who have been fired over their requests for time and space to pump breast milk at work: while your firing may have looked, sounded, and felt exactly like sex discrimination, the Supreme Court wants you to know that it totally wasn’t. Because men can lactate too! What a relief, huh? Close the doors and turn out the lights, everyone, sexism is finally over now!

Yup, that’s right, finally the highest courts in the land have found a way to inject the question “but what about the MEN?” into breastfeeding discrimination cases. Last week, Raw Story reports, the Court refused to take on the case of Angela Ames, who was fired from her job at Nationwide Insurance after a litany of mistreatment following her return to work after maternity leave. The laundry list of grievances included:

  • Being told that she wasn’t allowed to use the designated lactation room for about three days, until special lactation-room paperwork was completed and processed;
  • Getting sent instead to pump in the room where sick coworkers usually hang out on breaks (with a non-locking door), which kept being occupied when she needed to express;
  • Having a supervisor tell her that she had two weeks to complete ALL of the work she’d missed while out on leave;
  • Being told by that supervisor, and I quote, “just go home and be with your babies”, shortly before having him dictate her letter of resignation to her and pressuring her to sign it (while, remember, she was painfully engorged after waiting unsuccessfully to use the shared sick-room to pump for hours).

I’m thinking this guy isn’t getting any “World’s Best Boss” mugs anytime soon. Take a deep breath to recover from that bullshit sundae before I add the cherry to the top: the ruling of the lower court, which the Supreme Court allowed to stand, is that all of this ridiculous garbage heaped on Ames was gender neutral. And therefore, A-OK!

Of course the vast, vast majority of people who will be subjected to this kind of workplace discrimination are women. While obviously it’s true that in some cases men do lactate (transgender men, for one, and in certain circumstances cis men as well), it’s ridiculous to assert that the terrible mistreatment Ames received had nothing to do with her sex. I mean come on: try imagining a scenario in which a man was cooingly told to quit his job to go home and spend time with his babies. Actually, don’t try – I did and I almost gave myself an aneurysm.

It’s likely, I think, that a man would also be harassed by his workplace for pumping breast milk. But that harassment would be centered around the perceived gendering of the act of lactating: the same way boys and men are often harassed for being ‘girly’, ‘sissies’, or ‘pussies’. In other words, men are harassed for being too woman-y. That doesn’t mean this type of mistreatment isn’t sexist! In fact, it means pretty much the exact opposite. At least it is on my planet – I’m not sure what’s going on in the weird fantasy world where the Supreme Court Justices seem to be living.

(Image: KPG Ivary/Shutterstock)