Josh Moore, the New Hampshire State Representative who said that women who breastfeed in public should have no problem with being grabbed by strangers, doesn’t need to apologize, according to his co-worker, who was the recipient of the strange declaration. Nor, she says, does colleague Al Baldasaro, who made similarly inappropriate comments. Though she makes it clear that she does consider the comments sexual harassment, she says she doesn’t want to pursue legal action or demand an apology. There’s something else she wants from the pair instead.
The Facebook debate between three New Hampshire State Representatives has gone viral, with Josh Moore’s name getting the most attention, in part because his commentary was the most out-of-the-ordinary and shocking to hear from a public figure.
Slate covered the basics of the initial story. Representative Amanda Bouldin posted on Facebook her feelings concerning a bill that would label exposure of a woman’s breasts, specifically nipples and areola, as indecent and a misdemeanor charge.
Though her post has since been deleted, Slate described the condemnation of the bill as sexist and as contrary to the objective of “smaller government.”
Her colleagues responded. Bouldin shared a screenshot on Twitter of Representative Josh Moore’s response.
“If it’s a woman’s natural inclination to pull her nipple out in public and you support that, than [sic] you should have no problem with a mans [sic] inclantion [sic] to stare at it and grab it.”
Another State Representative, Al Baldasaro, also offered his own opinion, which amounted to the suggestion that Bouldin in particular should not expose her breasts in public, because he personally would not be interested in seeing them.
He later tweeted to Bouldin to maintain that being topless wasn’t a part of his idea of personal liberty.
“Liberty to you is turning our beaches or public place into topless. Not me, we just have different values. No big deal.”
Since the story began to go viral, the response has been immense. People have demanded that Josh Moore and Al Baldasaro apologize, either to Bouldin in particular or to women in general, and have been expressing support to Bouldin on her social media accounts.
Moore has remained silent about the entire debacle, but Baldasaro has offered further opinions and comments on Twitter.
“New year & all the stupid people r jumping on bandwagon on false media. Bill has nothing to do with breastfeeding.”
Despite calling his own constituents “stupid,” Baldasaro has one thing right: the bill is not about breastfeeding. It even has a specific exemption.
“IV. This section shall not apply to the act of breast-feeding.”
However, the majority of the backlash is not aimed at the bill itself, but at Representative Josh Moore’s expression that exposed flesh is public domain and can be grabbed at will. Moore did not say that he thought women should cover up unless breastfeeding. Moore did not suggest that a woman going topless should be subject to groping, but a woman breastfeeding should be an exception. His statement was broad and inclusive, declaring that anyone who believes it isn’t indecent for a female nipple to be seen must also support the right of men to grope and grapple at will.
There was no line in Josh Moore’s comments stating that breastfeeding is any exception; it’s not terribly surprising that breastfeeding mothers see his comment as inclusive of them, as supporting an infringement of the right to breastfeed, and as supporting the harassment of breastfeeding mothers.
Of course, the statements would still be a matter of concern if there was somehow an exception built-in for breastfeeding, but it’s important to clarify that, while the law in question does not necessarily pose a problem for breastfeeding mothers, the overall incident certainly does have implications for nursing in public. Stating that the law isn’t about breastfeeding is true, but dodges the fact that breastfeeding is certainly part of the overall issue.
Regarding calls for an apology, Rep. Amanda Bouldin says she doesn’t need apologies from Reps. Josh Moore and Al Baldasaro. She just wants the bill to die.
“To those who’ve been demanding an apology of Rep. [Josh Moore] or Rep. [Al Baldasaro] – I don’t need that. Just kill the bill.”
[Image via Twitter]