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Oscars breast pumping story highlights the plight of all mothers

The 88th Academy Awards was a big night for actors Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley, but instead of relaxing at the swanky ceremony, the couple spent much of the night in the vicinity of the ladies’ restroom. 

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Spotting Hardy pacing back and forth, the Los Angeles Times asked him whether he was nervous about his nomination — he was up for an award in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role in The Revenant, which he lost to Bridge of Spies actor Mark Rylance — and he responded “no.”

“I’m just waiting for my wife to finish breast-pumping in the bathroom,” Hardy explained. “She has to do it every hour.”

Waiting for his wife is obviously not the issue here; in fact, it’s commendable. The issue is that Riley was forced to use the bathroom at the Oscars to pump breast milk, because skipping a feeding from the breast while you are out can cause engorgement or mastitis. While we applaud Riley for making it work, would she not have been much more comfortable in a nursing room? Not to mention the sanitary issues that arise from pumping in a bathroom.

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The fact that there were no facilities available for Riley — and other new mums — is further proof of how Hollywood is once again failing women and mothers in particular. Breastfeeding provides logistical challenges for mums, and if Hollywood was in tune with the needs of women, it may have thought to set up a room where new mums like Riley could enjoy a quiet and comfortable space to attend to the necessary.

Miriam Posner’s blog has a thoughtful article on how to accommodate a breast-pumping mum at an event and shows that catering for breast-pumping is really not particularly hard to do (especially at an event as grand as the Academy Awards), as most women use electric pumps and would therefore simply need a private room with an electrical outlet and a place to wash up afterwards. Of course, a fridge or freezer to store the milk afterward would be a bonus.

This is not the first time that the Oscars have failed new mums. Adele previously spoke out about women breastfeeding in the Oscars bathroom (again highlighting the organisers’ lack of empathy) in 2013, during an interview with The Guardian.

“All these Hollywood superstars, lined up and breast-feeding in the ladies’,” she said.

Three years later, there seems to have been little progress.

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Hopefully this latest report will create a discussion and awareness for women’s needs. In fact, it’s not just the Oscars. Public breastfeeding and pumping is already a controversial topic, so the very least that public spaces and events could do is ensure an adequate space for women whose bodies require them to perform the most natural act of all.

Is Hollywood failing new mums? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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