Interview With League of Maternal Justice’s Kristen Chase

December 17, 2007

Carrie: Kristen your website that we’re going to talk about today is http://www.leagueofmaternaljustice.com. I have been seeing these little buttons all over the internet especially on some of the blogs that I visit. I checked it out and thought how fun and interesting!

You were on Mom’s Morning Show talking with Kelly McCausey the other morning. I’m on that pretty regularly and I helped her co-host it yesterday. I thought oh, I really need to have her on the show because we obviously have a lot of pet topics in common. So tell us what LoMJ is and how it came about.

Kristen: It’s basically a mom activist group. If you go to the website you’ll see our two superhero figures. We’ve got a mom holding a breast pump, she’s dressed up with a mask on and we’ve got a pregnant mom holding a chicken drumstick, just to give people an idea that what we’re trying to do is take mom activism and make it a little more accessible. And put some fun into it! And I think…not to make light of the issues that we’re trying to highlight, but as a way to get people more involved.

And so my friend Catherine who blogs at herbadmother.com and I decided to start something the whole Facebook debacle; when they had banned the breastfeeding pictures. We just thought it was ridiculous and we wanted to say something about it. So we put this together, it’s just another way to use the powerful online mom community, to spread the word and hopefully make some change.

C: That’s so interesting to me. I haven’t gotten really involved in the controversy about the YouTube and Facebook issues, but I’ve certainly been keeping up with what other people are saying about it. I’ve talked about this before on the show, how ridiculous it is to me that a mother feeding her infant is somehow pornographic, but you can’t drive down the road without seeing huge billboards with adult entertainment with women coming out of their bikini tops…

K: …when you go to the grocery store with the magazines. The whole thing is so ironic. I think that’s why so many people are outraged. We’re not, Catherine and I, we don’t consider ourselves to be anti boobs in terms of them not being used for advertising. We see women in a bikini, it doesn’t offend us. What it comes down to, these sites… you flip through, you see not only pictures of women in bikinis in sexual positions, but you’ve got these pro anorexic sites and groups, and you’ve also got women and men who engage in self mutilation and that kind of stuff. You can find those in two seconds. The whole thing with YouTube is… I clicked breast and you wouldn’t believe what came up! And yet here is this breastfeeding video, totally harmless, you can barely see anything because the pictures are fuzzy, and it’s banned. It makes absolutely no sense.

C: You really have to wonder about the agenda of these decision makers. What is their deal? I mean really!

K: The problem is, they have the community, at least on YouTube, community policing the site. I think that is a huge mistake. Because you get some hothead…Our video, as opposed to the other breastfeeding videos on there, we had tagged “news and politics”. We also tagged it under “Bill Maher”. And what happened was, we had a lot of those types of folks meaning not breastfeeding moms, searching for it. We had a lot of political folks. If you had seen the video, it had over 90,000 views, but our comments were crazy. People were comparing breastfeeding to urination, comparing it like Bill Maher did to public masturbation. What’s happening is, it annoyed someone so much that they probably flagged it. And what YouTube did, they said “inappropriate content” and they banned it.

There’s no grey area. It’s black or white. “Oops! There’s boobs. I see nipple, I’m banning it”. That’s what’s so frustrating to us. Lets stop with this whole “breastfeeding equals sexual explicitness” thing that is being perpetuated.

C: It really doesn’t make sense because I had a similar experience looking at a breastfeeding video or maybe a home birth video with breastfeeding in it. On the related videos link, I clicked on it and it took me to several. One of them was some kind of training video for the cosmetic surgery industry. It had this woman standing there, you couldn’t see her head, just her from the throat to the waist. Completely nude, with this guy drawing marks all over her where they’re going to cut, where they’re going to do this or that. It’s just so interesting how that is somehow ok.

So how does a mom get involved … an ordinary bogging mom or a mom with a website, how does she get involved?

K: Well she just has to get annoyed, a little bit annoyed! The other thing too is we focus so strongly on the breastfeeding but there are moms out there that perhaps it’s something they’re done with… or it’s not a huge issue in their mind. The other thing we’re focusing on is the toy recalls too, if people have that on the forefront of their minds. People can go to the website and snag one of our buttons and put that up on your blog. We also have a Cafemom group, where we try to keep the discussion going and that’s great for moms who don’t blog. I know there are moms out there. I don’t know too many… but there are moms that don’t have a blog.

C: How can they do that? How can they survive motherhood without blogging?!

K: Yes I know! So they can go to Cafemom and join us and we try to update the blog LoMJ at least two or three times a week. I know there’s some really exciting things going on now with the toy recalls, also with the whole plastics. The BPA leaching into the bottles… that’s a huge issue for moms right now, even breastfeeding moms who have to pump or exclusively pump. It’s still something that is important to them. So we’ve got a couple exciting things like that. So really it’s just sticking us into your feed reader, if you use Google or Bloglines. Also visiting the site and commenting. And writing posts yourself. We’re not petition signers, momsrising.org is great for that aspect of the activism. What we’re about is allowing moms to use their voice by putting the button up on their blog.

C: So Kristen tell us about your other website, cool mom picks.

K: Sure, for bloggers we call it a blog, for non bloggers we call it a website. It’s a shopping blog and basically through the holidays we’re posting three times a day. We feature products and services with a kid focus. Of course, they’re for moms and the people that love them. Our focus is specifically hand made or artisan mom business small business, as well as a lot of items that are made or invented by moms themselves. We write cheeky editorials, so it’s fun to read as well as some of the products are very unique. It’s not stuff you’re gonna find at Target, which of course is great right now when you’re thinking about toys. We have a safer toy guide as well as a holiday guide. My partner is in Brooklyn, and she is my partner in crime, searching the web for really cool stuff.

C: Awesome. When you were talking about what individual moms can do to get involved with LoMJ, something popped into my head. I’m not sure if you’ve kept up with this or if you read her blog, but have you ever visited Jennifer Laycock aka the Lactivist’s blog?

K: Yes absolutely. She had been emailing us regarding the whole YouTube thing. There was a question as to whether… we had Christina Aguilera’s song Beautiful, and there was some question as to whether it was a copyright issue. But the email we got said “inappropriate nature and inappropriate content.” They have a flag specific to copyright. So we actually reloaded the video without the song in case that was the issue. 

C: I wasn’t even going to talk about that specifically but what I was going to bring up was the fact that she is getting negative comments from other breastfeeding moms because she is attempting to wean her 2 year old. And I had the thought… and I have a blog post on the natural moms talk radio blog about that, it’s entitled “I’m for Breastfeeding, Not Nitpicking”. I think that one thing that we can do is avoid… to suspend judgment of other mothers, and other breastfeeding mothers. Because if we can’t honor each other… in my book, 2 years of breastfeeding is a pretty darn good accomplishment!

K: That is a champion breastfeeder there…seriously.

C: It really bothers me that she has people out there criticizing her, they want to strip her of her Lactivist title…

K: Well the thing is, what is a Lactivist? When I started this site, I didn’t really consider myself to be a Lactivist. It’s become in a way related to feminism. It’s like a lot of women don’t consider themselves to be feminist. But there are feminists that burn their bras, and there are those that write posts and speak out, and there are feminists that don’t say anything but just live according to making choices.  I think it’s the same with breastfeeding. I think you have to do what is right for you. In some situations, breastfeeding for two years is almost impossible if you have to go back to work. There’s no way, if I had to work full time and pump – holy moly! I give a lot of people credit. I think you have to consider the person’s situation and know that and be supportive.

I think that is what it comes down to. You know the whole government PSAs that they ran, they did all those commercials and its like “Yea! Breastfeeding, you should breastfeed!” But ten they’re like, good luck to ya! Don’t post pictures on Facebook of you breastfeeding, cause they’ll get banned. But you should breastfeed.

So there’s no support and there’s none of this yea to you for doing it for two years. It’s not for me, maybe I only did it for six months. Or maybe I am going to do it until my id can spell breastfeeding. But people just need to be supportive.

C: Yeah they really do. We have to as a group, support each other so that this kind of stuff is less likely to happen. It really is silly.

K: Divisive, it’s what it comes down to.

C: You know we hear so much negative stuff about celebrities that say stuff. Like the whole Bill Maher thing, oh he made himself sound like a total idiot! But there are other celebrities who are doing something to encourage attachment parenting and breastfeeding, like Noah Wyle is very outspoken. But you hardly ever see anything about that. I remember one day I was trying to get more information about what he was doing, because I read something about him on a website somewhere about a video he did that was published on a Doctor’s website. I think it was Dr. Jay Gordon. Yeah, it was on his website. I watched it and I thought man, I’ve never even heard about all that he’s doing, him and his wife. I Googled it and there was like, nothing. I had the hardest time scraping together some information about what he was doing to promote attachment parenting. But, you know bad news sells. That’s just the way it goes. And, it gets around …

In terms of women doing what they can, I had a good friend who, a couple of years ago she told me her story about breastfeeding her daughters. She was unable to get either one of them to latch on to the breast after weeks and weeks of trying everything. It turns out they had an anatomical anomaly. They had a very misshapen palate, a very arched palate. She tried everything. She ended up pumping for a year for each of these girls. They had exclusive breast milk feeding for one year! As she was telling me this story I could just feel her pain and guilt. And I thought, oh I admire you! I don’t know many women who would have committed that much. And I had never had that much challenge, that much difficulty. So I’m not even sure how I would have reacted to that situation. But we really have to give ourselves some credit and give other moms some credit for where they’re at and what they’re able to do.

K: Absolutely. I agree with you 100%. That attitude, at least in the circle of blogs that I read. I know that a lot of moms that I read have a lot of guilt about either not being able to breastfeed, willingly trying it and doing the best they could, but were unable to do so and therefore for them to have the support of having other people saying: “It’s ok, it’s alright if you did it and weren’t able to, you’re still a good mother”. I think we need to have more of that support.

C: Thanks for joining us and telling us about LoMJ and http://www.coolmompicks.com

K: Absolutely. And we feature a lot of breastfeeding products and also through the holidays, toys are huge. I know people are searching for toys during the holiday season and we have a lot out there that are safe and still really cute. Always important! Thanks for having me. 

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