In September of 2012 a controversial topic arose when Adrienne Pine, professor of anthropology at American University, breastfed her baby while teaching her class. Pine had brought her sick baby to class so she would not have to leave her in a daycare nor stay at home and let down her students in the first week of school. Near the end of her “feminist anthropology” class her baby became hungry, and Pine felt she had no choice but to breastfeed her daughter, leaving the students to sit there in shock. Heather Mongilio, writer of the university’s newspaper The Eagle, began reporting on the event while Editor-in-chief Zach Cohen oversaw her progress. Pine claimed that the “sexist” and “anti-woman” newspaper was trying to report on something completely unnecessary and un-newsworthy. When Heather interviewed her the next day, Pine says Mongilio “hounded” her, and that her voice “became increasingly hoarse and pained” while answering Mongilio. Pine writes in an email to a faculty member: “I really don’t care what the slant of the article is. It’s just the fact of the article itself that I find offensive. I don’t think I should be singled out for permanent internet discussion of my breasts, simply because of a difficult labor choice I had to make.” Furthermore, as stated in her essay, she believes what the newspaper is classifying as newsworthy is “little more than tabloid fodder.” In her view, The Eagle’s intent was to make a hostile work environment for professors.
I believe that Pine breastfeeding in her classroom was newsworthy and that The Eagle had the right to report on this occurrence. Despite Pine’s support of the newspaper being sexist because of its date rape article, The Eagle is not anti-woman because the date rape article, which exclaimed that women didn’t have the right to say they were raped after being drunk, came out two years prior with a different Editor-in-chief. Secondly, Mongilio did not have hostile intentions. Mongilio said to Pine in her first email: “I was hoping to be able to talk to you in order to discuss what happened in class and allow you to speak about the matter in your own words.” Mongilio, along with the editors, was in no way choosing sides on the topic or calling out on Pine for anything. Rumors were circulating around campus so The Eagle took this as incentive to report on the overall idea of breastfeeding in the classroom. It was an unusual story that affected students and their ideals, and The Eagle had the right to report about it. It was never said that professors were forbidden to breastfeed in class or that women could not breastfeed in public. The whole event was spun out of control and brought on a national scale because of Pine’s reaction and essay.
Read the story and what the student journalists learned here.