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To-wen Tseng's picture

On August 26, 1920, women achieved the right to vote in the US, thus the Women's Equality Day. On this very special day, I want to do something that I rarely do--write a little bit about my thoughts on this heating presidential election. 

Living in America, I often have an illusion that we women are completely equal to men. Unfortunately, whenever I have such an illusion, things always happen to break it. Something like, just yesterday, the GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump once again called the FOX anchor Megyn Kelly a "bimbo."

Trump's twitter tirade against Kelly was soon challenged, Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, said, "if you think Kelly is a bimbo, then you are an idiot."

The incident reminded me another commend Trump made on another woman. Just a while ago, Trump called a breastfeeding mother and lawyer who needed a break to pump her breast milk “disgusting.” I remember how that farce disgust me.

Is Trump allowed to call Kelly a bimbo? I suppose yes, just like Graham is allowed to call Trump an idiot. Is Trump allowed to be disgusted by breastfeeding? I guess yes, just like I’m allowed to be disgusted by calling breastfeeding mothers disgusting. So what’s the problem?

The problem is, in spite of the "men and women are equal" illusion, we still have wage, hiring, and other discrimination against women and mothers. While women makes 78 cents to a man’s dollar, mothers make 69 cents to a dad’s dollar. And remarks like those from Trump fuel that discrimination. While moms and dads across the country expect our future president to work on working families’ rights and equal pay, it is very disappointing that any presidential candidate would make such comments on women and breastfeeding.

From personal experience, I also deeply understand how this kind of discrimination can affect a mother's attempt to breastfeed and a woman's career path. 

I still remember vividly how my previous company refused to offer me lactation accommodation when I returned to work after giving birth, and how my colleague told me "don't wash your dirty panty here" when I was trying to wash my pump parts in the office kitchen. Legal Aid Society helped me settle the case just one year ago today. Still, the incident eventually result my resignation from the newspaper.  

I also remember vividly how nervous I was the first time I nursed my child outside of our house. It was a humid summer day and my parents visited from Taiwan wanted to check out the San Diego Zoo. After spending an hour in the Safari Park, it was clear to me that my then 1-month-old was hungry and more than a little tired. I tried to find a place to hide so that I could feed him without “disgusting” anybody. When I couldn’t find such a place, I just sat down in a rest area, covered my baby with a scarf and latched him on. My mom put up an umbrella to escape people’s look. You could imagine how awkward it was.

It was really hot on that day and my baby sweated a lot under that scarf. I started to feel very uncomfortable and wanted to go home. So we tidied up and got ready to go. 

Just before we leave, I saw another family on the other side of the rest area. A mother was breastfeeding. She was not covered up. Her baby was eating and the rest of the family was eating at the same time. I also noticed that no one was looking at the mother or paying her any special attention. All in a sudden, I was embarrassed by myself for making such a scene with that stupid umbrella.

We ended up spending the rest of the day in the zoo. You have no idea how much I appreciated that mother. I started to breastfeed wherever I could, with the hope to normalize breastfeeding.       

The comment from Trump was a reminder that we still have a long way to go equalizing women and normalizing of breastfeeding. And the politician who made such a comment probably has a longer way to go understanding the realities of American families.

Happy Women's Equality Day.

To-wen is a wife, mother, former TV reporter turned freelancer, and children's book writer.

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