If you’ve been on internet forums or any social media outlet, you’re probably aware that certain topics are almost always ground zero for a flame war- among them are circumcision, tipping waitstaff and breastfeeding.
A Tulsa coffeeshop owner managing a Twitter account for his business learned the hard way yesterday how pissing off the wrong contingent of Twitter can catapult a business to undesirable infamy when he tweeted that his shop was a no-breastfeeding zone. And we all know that hell hath no fury like a mommyblogger sent to her car or a toilet stall to feed her baby.
Double Shot Coffee Company owner Brian Franklin sent the ill-advised tweet sometime yesterday:
“Notice: No breastfeeding at the DoubleShot. Thank you.”
Putting aside the fact that he’s wrong, that women have rights in his state to breastfeed wherever they are legally allowed to be present and generally breastfeeding women are not looking to have you stare at their boobs; I also wonder who spends money in his shop while much of the population is out at their day jobs? Who has more time to spend in a coffeeshop during daylight hours- the workforce, or a woman spending the majority of her time with a breastfeeding infant? I mean, doesn’t this have “bad marketing strategy” written all over it? Multiplied by social media, it’s even worse.
Franklin quickly began backpedaling, but the sad thing is that he doesn’t seem to have ever grasped why his tweet was so inflammatory. He seems to be placating what he views as an angry set of “nipple nazis,” not ever realizing that if you’ve ever been asked to feed your infant in a filthy restroom stall, merely reading a tweet like that from hundreds of miles away still can make you apoplectic with rage. He sent some confusing and inconsistent tweets after he deleted his first:
Settle down, folks. We just don’t like walking across the room and seeing your breast. Maybe you could do it in private.
Ok ok, breastfeeding allowed again at the DoubleShot. Hey! Breastfeeding all around. :)
I was just kidding anyway. Didn’t expect that blow up. Sorry to get you guys riled up.
So women shouldn’t expose their “breast,” but it’s okay anyway and he was just kidding in the first place. Franklin clarifies further to the local news:
“Some of the people angry about this were concerned for their individual rights and the right of their baby to eat. It is as if I had tried to pass a law banning the practice of breastfeeding universally. The fact is, these people aren’t concerned with individual rights. They are concerned with THEIR rights. They would not fight for my right to ban breastfeeding in my establishment if I chose to do so. I don’t mind if people breastfeed in the DoubleShot, but it’s funny to me that people don’t consider the rights of others; only their own. If one really believes in the American dream of individual rights, they must believe in the rights of others to do or think or say things they don’t agree with. My capitalist ideals tell me that business owners should be able to make their own rules and individuals should then decide if they want to support that business or not. As it is, the over-regulation of our government seems to step in and tell us everything that we can and can’t do. I agree with the rights of people to boycott businesses they dislike, though in this case, people are mislead. We allow breastfeeding and women do breastfeed when they want,” says Brian Franklin.
No, Brian- the problem is not that individual businesses are having their rights assailed. It’s that if people with your level of ignorance were allowed to routinely ban breastfeeding in public places, many would, and women would be forced to use formula or breastfeed a child in a hot car or dirty restroom.
Laws are needed precisely to protect women from businesses that may behave as yours does- who exactly do you need protection from that requires a law? How is a woman nursing harming your business? And if an upset customer complained to you that a black person was sitting at the table next to them, would you ban black people from your establishment to retain business? Should there be laws protecting classes of people from discrimination, particularly in areas where there is known to be tendencies to discriminate? And if so, why should breastfeeding women be excluded from the same protection afforded other classes who tend to be discriminated against?
This all goes back the the fact that if this argument hadn’t made it to social media in the first place, Franklin a) probably would still have the offensive policy in place and b) wouldn’t have gotten all the attention from the Twitter scandal. The effects of incidents like this in social media on a small business are difficult to measure, but hopefully as angry tweets from lactivists roll in hour by hour, he’ll at least begin to understand why saying polarizing things on Twitter isn’t necessarily clever business practice.