A UK woman recently started a petition to ban taking photos while breastfeeding in public. She claims that a “creepy” man took photos of her while she was breastfeeding in public and refused to delete them. And now, she wants to make this “disturbing, intrusive act” illegal.
Julia Cooper tells her story in the petition she published on change.org. Coming home from a meetup with friends, she took a break on a public bench to feed her nine-month-old baby. “As I was breastfeeding, I noticed a man on another bench staring,” Cooper writes. “I stared back to let him know I’d clocked him, and that I wasn’t okay with his gaze.”
However, the man apparently couldn’t read minds. Cooper further claims that he attached a telephoto lens to his camera and began photographing her. “I quickly turned round so my back was facing him and finished feeding my baby,” she says. “But I couldn’t relax, all I could feel were his eyes and camera lens on me.”
After she was done feeding the baby, Cooper confronted the photographer and asked if he’d photographed her. He confirmed it, and she claims that he refused to delete the photos. “He calmly told me it was his right to photograph me as I breastfed because we were in public.”
The situation escalated as Cooper took it to the park warden, and later to Greater Manchester Police. However, they confirmed that the photographer complied with the law – so now she wants to change the law.
“We now need to show the Government that this issue is important, and has the public backing to turn into legislation,” Cooper writes. “I refuse to concede to the man that went home with photos of me and my baby, and I hope you will join me in my campaign to update the law and protect breastfeeding women.”
Cooper wants supporters to sign the petition and let their MP know they want them to back the amendment that would make it a crime to take photos of breastfeeding without consent. She even left you a template email to your MP to make it easier, and you can find it within the petition.
Now, I think this is a very slippery slope. First of all, I’d like to hear the photographer’s side of the story. But based on what I know, let me try and be objective here.
First of all, you can’t expect to have privacy in a public place. That’s why it’s called “public,” and that’s why it’s not illegal for anyone to take photos. Also, with all those CCTV cameras and people with phones, you’ll be in at least one photo or video every time you go outside. So, I think a single photographer is the least of your problem, and he really didn’t do anything illegal.
However, the law is one thing and empathy is another. I read all sorts of comments on this story, and some people were judging Cooper for breastfeeding in public. For starters, I’d like to tell them that it’s not always possible to be at home at the usual time of feeding. And here’s a fun fact: you can’t tell a baby “Wait till we get home, then I’ll feed you.” So, women sometimes need to sit down wherever and feed their little ones, and that’s perfectly normal and natural.
Now that we got that out of the way, the next thing I want to say is that, no matter how natural breastfeeding is, many women feel uncomfortable doing it in public since they’re often judged. So, no matter how much I get the law – I can totally understand how Julia Cooper felt when the man photographed her during this delicate moment.
Therefore, when she approached him and asked him to delete the photos, I understand where it came from. Even though he did nothing illegal, I think that he should have deleted them. In fact, I think that you should delete any person’s photo if they explicitly ask you to do it, regardless of the law. At least that’s what I’d do, but I understand we’re not all the same.
All in all, I understand the photographer as a fellow photographer, but I understand Cooper as a woman. I don’t want to pick sides since I don’t know both sides of the story, but I’d like to hear what you think based on what we know. What would you do if you were in the photographer’s place? Or if you were in the mom’s place?