first time being escorted ‘off the sales floor’ for breastfeeding. After
purchasing $700 worth of clothing, my baby started crying, so I sat down in the
back of a nearly empty store and put on a cover. Within moments, I was asked to
do it elsewhere. Happy Breastfeeding Month, Anthropologie!
I took two steps outside the
Beverly Hills Anthropologie before my shaking hands typed the Facebook update
that would go viral within an hour, garner international press and launch an
in-store “nurse-in.” If you want to know
the details of what happened, you can read them here, or here or here. These articles tell
you what happened, but I want to tell you how I felt: betrayed. How dare you do me like that, Anthropologie? I thought we had something special.
The day began with the idea to
get baby out for our first postpartum independent journey. Anthropologie felt like the natural place for
this experience. It had always been my special
spot. It was where I went in my twenties
when my heart was broken, where I went I my thirties when I had a bad day at
work, it was where I wanted to go at forty-one with my six-week old son to feel
like a woman again. Anthropologie was
like an old friend, with me through the good and bad. I felt like I was sitting at my friend’s
kitchen table, the perfect tranquil environment to breastfeed my baby when he
began to cry. But just like an old
friend can change when you have a child, the minute I revealed my breast and
advertised my motherhood — Anthropologie was embarrassed to walk beside me.
“I’m here to escort you to the
bathroom and off the sales floor to finish breastfeeding your baby,” said the store manager. “We prefer this sort of thing happen off the sales
floor,” she added as we rode up the elevator towards the staff bathroom.
Something was off about the
entire experience. I was confused,
embarrassed and angry. After 20 years of loyalty to this store, I was suddenly
not welcome if I advertised my motherhood. It was a fear I had harbored since the day I discovered I was pregnant
with my second child. One kid was OK,
but two made it entirely impossible to be glamorous. Breastfeeding wasn’t hip and *gasp* neither was I anymore. My favorite store
was just one more piece of mounting evidence that motherhood, and the sensible
decisions that accompany it are not cool.
After 20 years of loyalty to this store, I was suddenly not welcome if I advertised my motherhood.
The rejection festered in my
gut. I played out the events in my head
over and over until I could no longer take it. I pulled the car over and called the store.
"Hello Meredith, I was just in the store, breastfeeding, and wanted to verify what just occurred. Did you ask me to leave the sales
floor because I was breastfeeding?” I asked.
"I just thought you would be more comfortable, and that
our other customers would be more comfortable if you breastfed in the bathroom,"
she said in a cheery voice.
I furthered, "Did someone complain?"
"No one complained, but other cultures could have a
problem with it. So I thought you would prefer to be in the bathroom."
"To be clear, you weren't asking me. You escorted me to
an employee bathroom without a chair. I was embarrassed."
"Well, I'm sorry you were embarrassed. Other women have
breastfed, but they use a cover."
"Oh, so my cover wasn't discreet enough for you?"
"Well, I don't think it's fair to other customers to
breastfeed on the sales floor."
"Is this a store policy?"
"Well, it's not written anywhere like our return policy
but I just think other cultures might have a problem with it and we need to do
what's right for everyone, not just moms."
"That's all I needed to hear."
And there it was. I hung up the phone and let the shock wear back
into anger until I was gripping the wheel with white knuckles. Did
that just happen? Was I doing something
bad? Should I have asked for a private
place to breastfeed? Have I been doing
something wrong these last few weeks? Should I have stayed home today? Was
I just shamed? How dare she shame
me? What is wrong with the very natural process
of breastfeeding a child? Did my favorite store just let me know that I am no
longer an important customer?
According to the hundreds of Facebook
comments on my page by the time I arrived home, there were plenty of other women
outraged by the scolding. By the time I got home and unfolded the tale to my
husband at the kitchen table, the Facebook Likes had grown to over 300 and the post had
been shared 25 times. Several of those
shares landed on mommy group pages and, buoyed by the support of other moms, I spent
the next 30 minutes composing a letter to Anthropologie Corporate and phoning
855-NIP-FREE, a hotline to report incidents like the one I had just
experienced. It had been less than two
hours since the incident when the first reporter called. I did four television interviews and spoke
with eight reporters within the next twelve hours. The number of times the original post was
shared skyrocketed. I received 428
friend requests, the comments in various threads throughout the Internet
numbered in the thousands. Chatter multiplied. The haters entered the debate
and that fueled more chatter and more interest. My complaint was copied and
pasted to the Anthropologie Facebook page and there were already over 1,000
My adrenaline rushed; I felt
like we moms had a voice. Things were happening. A nurse-in organized by the
many moms on Facebook brought over 100 moms to the Beverly Hills Anthropologie
and they made a statement. Anthropologie
made a statement too.
We are disappointed to hear of the unfortunate
experience that occurred in our Beverly Hills store. As a company comprised of
hundreds of mothers, which seeks to put the customer first, we celebrate women
in all of their life stages. Given our staff’s dedication to providing
exceptional customer service, we welcome this as an opportunity to enhance our
customer experience by providing further training and education for our staff.
Our aim is that all women — all mothers — be comfortable in our stores and
delight in their relationship with Anthropologie.
By the time Anthropologie
posted this statement on their Facebook page, my anger was dissipating. I was
being lifted by the voices of these other moms. I was moved by the collective
power of their voices. And then this. This politically correct non-apology
followed by nothing. No action. No publication of their training policy, no
photo of a breastfeeding mom modeling in their next blog. No announcement to
partner with mothers in making their stores breastfeeding friendly. No mention of my name or direct response to
me at all. You can post a comment to the
Anthropologie Facebook page about the size of a sweater and get a response in
under three minutes. But somehow the
hundreds of moms left unimpressed with this non-apology and demanding more were
It began to occur to me that
Anthropologie doesn’t want to acknowledge this because they don’t want to
encourage it. They don’t want women
breastfeeding in their stores. They don’t
care if they lose breastfeeding customers — in fact, they don’t want them! They don’t want the word "mom" associated
with their product. The overwhelming
reality of that statement washed over me like a wayward dampening wave on an
otherwise calm summer day.
According to a Forbes 2010
article, “Anthropologie’s ideal demographic is affluent, settled-down career
women in their 30s and 40s, with an average family income of $200,000 a year.” I fit
the demographic, so why the snub? Anthropologie, like most retailers, sells aspiration. And who truly aspires to be all the parts of
being a mom?
A mom isn’t always glamorous. At any given moment, despite her best
efforts, she likely has puke in her hair and poop stains on her shirt. Her bra strap is showing, her skirt is stuck
in her butt crack and she doesn’t have a free hand to pull it out. She may carry a diaper bag, cart around a
stroller that knocks into people while she walks, or have bright pink car seats
in her once stylish sedan that is currently covered in Cheerio residue. A mom might have to use their vacation days
for their toddler's sixth sick day in the past three months. Most moms can’t get drunk at the club on Friday
night because they have to wake up at 5:00 a.m. with their child, make them
breakfast and force them to brush their teeth. At some point, a mom may worry their kids aren’t eating enough, or worry
they are eating too much; they may worry there child has no friends, or worry
they have too many; they worry that they worry too much, or worry that they
don’t worry enough. Mother’s make tough
choices to do what’s best for their children and that may include choosing to
breastfeed if they can. It’s not sexy,
and it’s unfortunately not aspirational. It doesn’t sell clothes, but maybe it should.
We live in a society that largely doesn’t find
motherhood sexy at all. Magazines sell celebrity moms on their covers
that have “already lost the birthweight” — translating to “no longer looks like
a mom.” And the breastfeeding thing,
well, that’s just confusing for most of society because breasts are sexy to them.
And a baby on a woman’s breast is not sexy. Apparently, women should always aspire to being sexy.
“What’s wrong with being a mom?” I wanted to ask
my old friend Anthropologie. “Let’s
celebrate motherhood and the tough personal choices women make to raise good
kids.” But Anthropology turned their
back on me.
Anthropologie would take my money, but they
wouldn’t stand up for me. And I felt
The store may have missed the
point, but lots of great things came out of "Nipplegate 2014" — people are talking about breastfeeding and moms
are showing they can come together and have a voice. And I have realized that I can’t be cool
forever. It’s time to let go of those
friends that can’t change with me and embrace the friends that will.