Where is the category for feminism? For gender-related stories? The Vine, as the university newspaper in this story of surprise and frustration, lacks a depth of awareness that is reprehensible.
Hello Professor Pine,
My name is Heather Mongilio. I am one of the news assistants on The Eagle. I hope you had an enjoyable first week of classes. It was brought to our attention that you breast fed your child during your “Sex, Gender and Culture” class. 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. I understand the delicacy of the matter and I do not want to make you feel uncomfortable, but for the story to have the most balanced angle it would be best to have your thoughts…
I was shocked and annoyed that this would be considered newsworthy, and at the anti-woman implications inherent in the email’s tone. “Delicate”? “Uncomfortable”? …. Trying to be polite yet as firm as possible, I responded:
I really wish this weren’t considered “newsworthy,” but I suppose that’s why a feminist anthropology course is necessary at AU. I had no intention of making a political statement or shocking students. I merely had a sick baby who I couldn’t leave at daycare on the first day of class. It was unfair to leave the job of teaching the first class to my teaching assistant, so I had two choices: cancel class, which would have been disruptive to students (and which could also negatively affect my student evaluations, putting my tenure at risk), or bring the baby to class. I chose to do the latter. As it turned out, the baby got hungry, so I had to feed it during lecture. End of story.
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, American University
But Heather pressed for an interview with Pine who had caught her own child’s cold:
I tried to explain to her what I meant by “I suppose that’s why a feminist anthropology course is necessary at AU.” And what I meant, of course, was that the Eagle targeting me as the unwilling subject of a “story” about something so banal was so outrageously sexist that it showed how anti-woman the newspaper was.
It’s not like this was new. The Eagle has long had a solidly anti-woman slant. A couple years ago the paper made news when one of its writers mocked the concept of date rape, helping to pave the way for the current nationwide atmosphere in which “legitimate rape” is a legitimate concept… [she realizes that the student reporter was rather clueless, as they in fact sometimes are so she] wrote Heather less than an hour after we parted.
I recognize that I already gave you an interview, but I want to register my strong desire that you not publish this story. I gave the interview because I felt put on the spot (having been in class went you sent your email). However, I feel that the focus on my protected actions in class singles me out unfairly in the workplace and as a woman. Especially if you are going to go the typical journalistic route of finding “both sides” of this “story” which I believe shouldn’t be one by seeking out students who felt uncomfortable by my actions, the result will be a hostile work environment for me not just now, but in the long term. You will put me in a very difficult and structurally vulnerable position by publishing this story. As I mentioned in my email (in which I was hoping that “end of story” would be understood as such), I had no intention of making a political statement or causing student discomfort by feeding a hungry baby. It was merely something I had to do in order to not cancel class.
Please do not publish this story.
Thank you, Adrienne Pine….
The ending was predictable for those of us who have had experiences with student reporters especially where a slant or bias is in the background. The story finishes:
I fed my sick baby during feminist anthropology class without disrupting the lecture so as to not have to cancel the first day of class. I doubt anyone saw my nipple, because I’m pretty good at covering it. But if they did, they now know that I too, a university professor, like them, have nipples. Or at least that I have one.
Now, AU Eagle, how about finding some real news to report?