The 21st century is shaping up to be no easier for mothers and working women, and if you happen to be both of these things, boy, do you have your work cut out for you. And while activists have pushed for a society more accommodating for its working moms, countless incidents have proven how much work there is left to do. One example? Look no further than this reporter's tweet about flying with a breast pump, which highlights a common problem working moms face.
Jo Kent, an NBC news correspondent, posted on her Twitter account Friday detailing her experience traveling as a working mom. According to the tweet, Kent was traveling with a breast pump that was pre-approved by the TSA. However, when she reached the airport gate, a Delta agent allegedly stopped her. According to Kent’s account, when she tried to explain to the agent, he asked her, “Well, where is your baby?” Kent concluded the post by saying, “Perhaps you haven’t met a working mother before.” Touché.
On the thread, which has gone viral since it was posted (it has received 24,000 likes as of Sunday), Delta responded by saying, “This is very disappointing to hear! I sincerely apologize for this experience.” The airline company said that it would “look into this further.”
Delta and Kent have yet to respond to Romper’s requests for comment regarding the incident.
The stigma around breastfeeding and consequences working mothers have to face are not new. Mothers have been criticized for breastfeeding in public, along with other decisions like choosing to feed newborns formula instead of natural milk. In fact, research suggests that fear of judgment and sexualization of breasts in popular culture often prevents mothers from breastfeeding in public places.
Other barriers to breastfeeding include a lack of information provided to mothers on the topic. Studies show that even health professionals, including obstetricians, rarely provide new mothers with information on breastfeeding during their prenatal visits.
And speaking of information, it's clear society still has a lot to learn about breastfeeding, especially where it pertains to working parents. In Kent's case, for instance, the airline worker supposedly didn't understand what a breast pump is and why it's important. Educating employees (parents or not) about the topic of breastfeeding seems like it could help reduce stigmas.
Not only do women face an ever-present stigma around breastfeeding, but providing children with alternative options, like formula, is sometimes met with backlash as well. Research suggests that “a worryingly high percentage” of mothers feel guilty or stigmatized for their use of formula, according to Pacific Standard. A 2014 study’s findings suggest that mothers diagnosed with HIV, a disease which makes breastfeeding risky for the child, can experience feelings of self-blame and guilt if they revert to other options like formula, according to a study published in the International Breastfeeding Journal.
Research aside, some people were shocked to learn of Kent's account.
"I mean, I am not a parent, but isn’t the whole point of having a breast pump to be prepared when your baby isn’t necessarily around?" someone penned.
"Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seat belts before we begin our slow descent into Gilead..." one person joked.
Others, however, shared similar anecdotes, proving that this experience is all too common.
"I’m so sorry. I pumped and traveled for a total of 4 years for 2 kids. Endured a lot of this kind of thing," a person commented. "Getting one of the 'medical equipment' bag tags for my pump helped. Good job mama."
Another parent commented: "This happened to me too. I was like, I am NOT going to explain lactation right here in the TSA line. Or if I do it's going to involve the details. But in reality, analogy to urinating works in a pinch. And imagine if there is a flight delay or they lose your luggage??"
With society’s continuing stigma around the female body and its various miraculous functions, incidents like the one Kent faced are important to identify and call out with hopes of eventual change. Stay strong, working mamas.