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That “male lactation” court ruling feminists whine about isn’t actually about male lactation

February 13, 2015

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:


Why bother to read the case decision when you can complain on the Internet?

It’s supposed to be the misogynist legal decision of this year so far: a judge’s supposed ruling that a breastfeeding mother who claimed she was forced out of her job couldn’t sue her employer under federal laws banning sex discrimination—because some men can lactate, too. And then the U.S. Supreme Court denied the woman’s petition for a reversal!

At least, that is how the American Civil Liberties Union’s Galen Sherwin described the case on the ACLU website, according to Raw Story:

“The court’s reasoning in this case echoes old Supreme Court pronouncements that discriminating against pregnant women at work isn’t sex discrimination because both men and women can be non-pregnant,” Sherwin wrote. “Congress long ago rejected this ridiculous reasoning when it passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. It’s disheartening to see it resurface again.”

And of course Amanda Marcotte got into the act:

“Of course, whether men can squeeze breast milk out under some circumstances really should be irrelevant. Breast-feeding is clearly and almost exclusively associated with women in our culture—really, all cultures. The fact that the original court latched onto such a silly argument suggests an unwillingness to take Ames’ case seriously from the get-go, which casts a pall over the entire ruling. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has, by declining to take up the case, made it easier for employers to fire women for having babies, whether they put it that way or not.”

Um, turns out that the case wasn’t about male lactation at all. Snopes.com took the trouble of actually reading both the opinion of Des Moines, Iowa U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt (a Bill Clinton appointee, by the way), and that of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld Pratt’s ruling. Here’s what Snopes says:

“Although the original District Court ruling in October 2012 that dismissed the lawsuit did include reference to lactating men, that was not the primary basis for the court’s decision, nor was it a factor mentioned at all in the March 2014 ruling of the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the District Court’s dismissal.”

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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