In the past few years, many activists have begun to look at how institutions regulate an activity that has struck a nerve with some officials: breastfeeding. In 2017, protests dogged the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which apologized after asking a breastfeeding woman to cover up, and now a museum in Mexico said it would alter its policies about breastfeeding following a public protest.
A group of women staged an action on Sunday, November 24, at Mexico City’s Museo de Arte Moderno (MAM) to protest the recent expulsion of a woman breastfeeding at the museum, according to the Associated Press. The action, which began at noon local time, started with dozens of protestors breastfeeding their infants on the grounds outside of the museum before proceeding into the museum’s galleries, and was organized by a collective known as Normalizando la lactancia maternal (Normalizing breastfeeding).
The group had posted to Instagram a letter sent to MAM on November 22 about their intention to stage the action as a first step “on the road to normalization of breastfeeding and as an example for other public spaces.” They officially called the day’s event a “tetada,” Spanish slang for breastfeeding. In a comment to that post, MAM replied that it would be “receiving [the women] with open doors.”
In the afternoon of Tuesday, November 19, a woman was asked by security to stop breastfeeding in an exhibition gallery at MAM. Security cited the museum’s policy against drinking beverages inside the galleries, interpreting that to include breastfeeding. The following day Normalizando posted to its Instagram about this incident.
On November 22, MAM posted issued a public apology on its Instagram page, saying that the museum is “an open and plural space” and promising to “sensitize our staff because this attitude is not compatible with [our] views.” The AP article reported that MAM’s director, Natalia Pollak, said there was now a policy in effect that allows for breastfeeding anywhere in the museum.
Sunday’s action at MAM coincided with another protest down the street in Mexico City, about a 20-minute walk away, at the Angel of Independence monument. That protest involved dozens of women painting on barricades around the monument and stringing up pink and purple crotched hearts to decry the alarming rates of violence against women in Mexico City and throughout the country. (According to the AP report, on average 10 women are killed in Mexico each day, and in general, fewer than 10 percent of murders are ever solved in the country.)
One of the women who participated in the breastfeeding action at MAM, Ximena Rueda, told the AP that felt that breastfeeding needed to be normalized, particularly at an institution that exhibits paintings, sculptures, and more of many topless women.
Rueda added, “This shame we feel is the thought that breasts are for something sexual and not something as natural as feeding.”