Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) yesterday found himself in hot water over remarks he made on breastfeeding, drawing criticism from women’s groups.
On Thursday, when the legislative Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee meeting was reviewing a bill on breastfeeding in public, Twu, while expressing his support for the idea that women should have the right to breastfeed in public without feeling odd, said “there are a lot of women displaying their breasts and cleavage [on newspapers] everywhere, so why should [a breastfeeding mother] feel odd? I don’t understand. Is it because she thinks [her breasts] are too small to look good?”
The Taiwan Women’s Link condemned Twu in a statement released yesterday.
“We strongly condemn Twu’s discriminatory remarks against women at the legislature yesterday [Thursday], and demand he openly apologize for them,” the statement said. “Twu’s remarks show his ignorance about women’s feelings and disrespect to the female body. As a member of the legislature, Twu should have condemned a social culture that objectifies the female body and makes women uncomfortable. However, he chose to make fun of women who are unwilling to breastfeed in public, and this is highly inappropriate.”
A senior policy researcher at the Awakening Foundation, Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛), said she would not comment on the remarks of an individual lawmaker, adding that she condemns discriminatory behavior against women performed by all lawmakers.
“This is not the first time that a legislator has made an inappropriate comment [like this],” Tseng said. “There is a Disciplinary Committee in the legislature, and I hope it’s there for a purpose.”
“Yes, the Constitution waives responsibilities for lawmakers’ comments during legislative meetings, but that doesn’t mean they’re free to make discriminatory comments — do they really want us to file a petition with the Control Yuan?” she asked.
Female DPP lawmakers, including Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) and Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), said they understood that Twu made the remarks with good intentions, but added that the way he said it was wrong.
Twu defended himself by accusing the media of taking his remarks out of context.
“I think breastfeeding is very beautiful, and what I said during the meeting was just meant to condemn the way some people in society look at it,” he said.
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