Picture this: You’re a new mom being hassled while you’re trying to breast-feed in public. You pull out your cell phone and text a distress call, and within moments a mobile nursing station comes rushing to your aid. Sound like a fantasy? In Pittsburgh, it’s been a reality for over a year thanks to conceptual artist Jill Miller. When the crew of Miller’s Milk Truck–a refurbished ice-cream truck tricked out with a giant fiberglass breast on top, complete with a flashing pink light for a nipple–hears about a mother in need, they speed to the rescue clad in milkmaid uniforms and unroll a red carpet leading to cushy chairs under a shady canopy. Inside, the truck boasts a cozy lounge with nursing/pumping supplies hung from milk pails. To Miller, a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, this unique combination of public service and performance art is the ideal way to address the boobs who bother nursing women.
Miller created the truck as part of the 2011 Pittsburgh Biennial in conjunction with the Andy Warhol Museum. Now that her idea is up and running, she spends time between distress calls making scheduled Milk Truck stops to offer a private, comfortable (non-restroom) place for mothers to pump breast milk during the workday. She’s constantly surprised by the dozens of angry emails she gets about the “indecency” of public breast-feeding. “We think nobody cares,” she says, “but some people–predominantly women–are for some reason fully enraged by the thought of a woman feeding her baby in public.”
Despite the negative backlash, the Milk Truck soldiers on. The project raised $15,577 in start-up funds via Kickstarter, and Miller says women and women-owned businesses contributed the bulk of the funding. Mothers around the world pledged $10 each to get a bumper sticker, saying they really wanted the project to exist somewhere, even if they couldn’t reap the benefits themselves.
Next up for the Milk Truck? Miller is taking the show on the road, calling out haters in other cities while giving nursing moms a break. Check out The Milk Truck website for details.