The unbelievable just happened to me not ten minutes ago… When I first came back to work after having my daughter, Amara, I would sit in a restroom to pump breastmilk for her twice a day. Sometimes I would have a chair to sit on, sometimes I’d have to stand or sit on the floor (hygienic, I know). There was no lock on the door, and the bathroom was commonly used by both staff members and the people we serve who have developmental disabilities. I would tape an “occupied” sign on the door, but there would always be someone who didn’t look and would start to open the door. Met with complete embarrassment when they heard a voice shout “I’m in here!”, the door would immediately close before the person even got his or her head in the door. I would be met with an apology later, even though the person knew I was pumping and probably not all that exposed.
After a while, the three coworkers in my office (2 males, 1 female) suggested that I just put a privacy screen up in front of my cubicle and pump here instead of in the bathroom. I was elated to know that they wouldn’t be uncomfortable hearing the “whish-whoosh” of the pump and spray of the milk! Since that time, I’ve been pumping in my cubicle with no problem. Until today, that is.
Prior to today, people have just spoken to me through the screen or handed papers over it if they need to give me something while I’m busy. Today, though, I actually just had a woman enter my cubicle while I was pumping. She said my name when she came into the office, and I thought we’d have a conversation between the screen as usual. Then I notice that she’s moving the screen while talking. I immediately say “I’m pumping in here,” just in case she didn’t understand the concept of a privacy screen (she already knows that I pump at work and that’s what I’m doing when I have the screen up, but I thought I’d remind her in case she really was just naive). She continued to enter while I frantically tried to cover my completely exposed top, replying “oh, I’m not going to let the screen fall down. I just thought if you had the list of names that I need then you could give it to me.” Dumbfounded and concerned that my coworkers could now see in too (I don’t think they could, though), I replied that I wasn’t sure where it was and wasn’t going to look for it right now, so I would print it for her. Then she stayed in my cubicle while I brought up the document on my computer and hit print! (All the while trying to hold my jacket closed, balance an open bottle of milk, and prevent myself from leaking everywhere with my other hand). After leaving, she placed the screen back but managed to leave a gap that would have allowed someone to see in without even trying should he or she be standing in the right location.
Come on, isn’t it obvious that a privacy screen is there for a reason, like that you want to be private? Should I be any less outraged at this than if it had been a man? I don’t mind breastfeeding in public, but pumping is a completely different thing to me. Where does the line cross from cluelessness about social norms and appropriateness to sexual harassment? I’m a big advocate that nursing breasts should not be considered sexual, but what about in the environment of pumping at work?
Oh, what to do. *sigh*