While shopping at Dillard's earlier this week, a Tennessee woman says she was told by an employee that public breastfeeding was not allowed in the store.
In addition to calling the store's breastfeeding policy into question, Wittney Hale pointed out a double standard she observed when leaving the store, posting a photo to Facebook that expressed her frustration about not only the breastfeeding incident, but also the fact that breasts on display for marketing purposes were considered appropriate, yet she was told her own breasts — used to feed her 18-month-old daughter — could only be visible in the restroom.
"As we were leaving the store I passed by this advertisement for bras," Hale wrote in the post. "I mean seriously the lady's face is not even in this. Why is it acceptable for a giant picture of BOOBS to be on the wall but I can not feed my child?"
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Hale says she posted the photo to help further the conversation about the rights of breastfeeding mothers, and the double standard that exists when it comes to the way women — and their breasts — are viewed by society.
"I was mad that a fellow woman thought I should feed my sweet baby in the restroom, but yet — everywhere you look (around the store,) you see breasts," Hale told TODAY. "I was not fully exposed, and I was using discretion in a secluded area."
In a statement posted in the comment section of the now viral post, Dillard's claims the incident was a misunderstanding on the part of the employee, and does not reflect the company's breastfeeding policy.
"Dillard’s strives to create a pleasing and comfortable shopping experience for all our guests at all times. Accordingly, we respect the right of mothers to nurse their children wherever they feel comfortable in doing so," the statement reads. "Upon becoming aware of this situation, our store manager immediately reached out to our customer and apologized. Our associates have been reminded of our breastfeeding policy."
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Hale says she did speak with a store manager, and was pleased by the outcome of their conversation.
"I am satisfied that they apologized. I think it's safe to say no woman in Dillard's, or the whole mall for that matter, will be told to nurse in the restroom again," said Hale.
Tennessee has laws in place to protect nursing mothers, stating that women have the right to breastfeed in "any public or private place she is authorized to be," and mandating that breastfeeding is not to be considered "public indecency or nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct."
Still, other states are taking further measures to support breastfeeding families. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill this week requiring certain city offices and service centers to provide a lactation room for nursing mothers.
Hale says it's shifts like this that she hopes her post will inspire.
"While I do not consider myself a breastfeeding advocate, I do hope that my post will help to change people's mind on the double standard," said Hale. "If not that, maybe even just to open their eyes."