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Public Pumping: The Nursing Mom\'s Support Program at Virginia Tech
Porter, Jennifer Lynn
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The Lactation Support Program at Virginia Tech, renamed the Nursing Mom\'s Support Program, was established in 1999 when a group of women through the Women\'s Center and Work/Life Resources publicized a private concern about expressing milk. While the basic goal was to create a universal opportunity for women seeking to express milk during the workday, university administrators also saw the program as a way to advance the progressive goals of the university and increase the recruitment of competitive faculty and students. Lack of awareness about the program and struggles of women today reflect the original abandonment of an education component that would have maintained a collective conversation about the needs of working women, mothers, and caregivers in general. Even though many of the women in this study did not use the spaces, or were unaware of their existence, most participants felt that the program represented a significant success for the university and stated that they felt supported because of the mere existence of these spaces. Viewed in this manner, it is possible to see how the production of space and its symbolic value masks over any residual injustices and replaces concerns about milk expression on the individual. Yet, the permeable nature of lactation (scheduling, cleaning pump parts, storing milk, etc.) means that the women expressing milk will always be visible. This visibility creates an opportunity to continue to address milk expression as a public concern and shift social expectations of what it means to be a worker.
- Masters Theses