A Belgian mother and her diplomat husband were thrown out of a posh country club after she breastfed at the table, according to a story published Sunday in the New York Post.
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Tom Neijens, 36, the first secretary of the Belgium Mission to the U.N., and his wife, Roseline Remans, 34, had stopped by the Metropolis Country Club in White Plains recently to eat lunch. Although they weren’t members, they were seated on the terrace along with other diners.
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Remans reportedly began to inconspicuously breastfeed her daughter Luka at the table when a female supervisor approached and asked her to leave. “She said, ‘Please leave immediately, you are disturbing the members,'" Neijens told the New York Post.
He intervened on his wife’s behalf, telling the supervisor that the feeding would not take long, but Remans was told to finish in the restroom.
“You don’t ask a person to have lunch in the restroom — why would you ask a baby to have lunch there?” Neijens said.
Shortly after the confrontation, the Greenburgh Police Department arrived. The couple told the Post that Detective Scott Harding yelled, “Close the doors!” and other diners were asked to leave the terrace.
“He was walking as if he was acting in a Western movie,” Neijens said. “He had one hand on his gun, one hand on his Taser.”
The officer reportedly told the couple that they were trespassing and that other patrons at the club believed them to be terrorists because of the black backpack the couple had in their possession. “In Sri Lanka, babies are used by terrorists,” the cop allegedly said.
When Neijens revealed his State Department-issued ID, the cop softened. “You have to understand, this club has had terrorism threats in the past,” he told the diplomat.
The family was reportedly asked to leave through a back door. A few days later, Neijens emailed the club, demanding an apology from Metropolis general manager Tracy Fraus and assistant general manager Audra Vaccari.
“I am deeply worried about your staff if they cannot distinguish between a European couple looking for a quiet place to breastfeed a baby and suicide terrorists carrying a backpack,” Neijens wrote, according to the Post. A representative from Metropolis Country Club did not respond to Yahoo! Shine's voice messages. Lt. B.J. Ryan, a spokesman for the Greenburgh PD, told the Post that the incident was a “cultural misunderstanding.”
The issue of breastfeeding has always drawn fire — the decision to do it, its benefits, its length of time, and where to do it are endless topics of debate. And recently, there have been a slew of mothers who allege they were shamed in public for breastfeeding. In May, a Michigan mom named Audrey Taylor was approached at the restaurant Tony Sacco's while breastfeeding and asked to finish the act in the bathroom. When Taylor challenged the request, the employee admitted that her own behavior was unlawful and, the restaurant later issued an apology. And in December, when Kendra-Ann Nugent, from Nova Scotia covered herself in a winter coat and nursed her 8-month-old daughter in a Claire's store, a clerk asked her repeatedly to leave, despite Nova Scotia laws that permit breastfeeding anytime, anywhere. That same year, Nirvana Jennette, a mother from Georgia says she was forced out of her church for breastfeeding her baby after her pastor called her “disrespectful,” and compared her to a stripper.
“Women are endlessly harassed and discriminated against for breastfeeding in public and it needs to stop,” Bettina Forbes, co-founder of Best for Babes, an organization that promotes breastfeeding, told Yahoo! Shine. “People tend to be uncomfortable with it because they associate breasts with sex; however, just as we use our mouths for both kissing and eating, it’s time to expand our views on breasts.”
“Most women are discreet about breastfeeding but some babies fuss when they're covered up,” she says. “Its better to breastfeed when you need to, rather than deal with a baby who is screaming and crying because he or she is hungry. Isn't that more disruptive to diners?”
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