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Yesterday, the New York Times ran a mostly great story on A Taste of Heaven, one of our favorite local joints, and their anti-screamin'-kid policy. Hooray for them, I say! Fearing that the shop would be getting hate mail after the article, I called the owner yesterday to say that this longtime customer totally supports the policy, but he said the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far. So, yay!

Unfortunately, the article's aftermath won't be so friendly for another of our favorite local joints, Women and Children First Bookstore. That's because the article was written by the execrable Jodi Wilgoren, who as usual managed to slip in some complete bullshit, and, of course, no one stopped her.

The bullshit in question is this paragraph:

Many of the Andersonville mothers who are boycotting Mr. McCauley's bakery also skip story time at Women and Children First, a feminist bookstore, because of the rules: children can be kicked out for standing, talking or sipping drinks. When a retail clerk at the bookstore asked a woman to stop breast-feeding last spring, "the neighborhood set him straight real fast," said Mary Ann Smith, the area's alderwoman.

A beloved feminist bookstore with "Children First" in the fucking title actually stopped a woman from breastfeeding? Does that seem even remotely possible to you? Fortunately, Cinnamon did the basic fact-checking that no one at the Times was presumably capable of. She simply called the bookstore and asked. Here is their response:

The owners and staff of Women & Children First bookstore are quite distressed about an article that appeared in today's (11/9/05) New York Times, which contains totally false claims about the store. The article, "At Center of a Clash, Rowdy Children in Coffee Shops," by the Times's Chicago Bureau Chief Jodi Wilgoren, portrays the store as an environment that is not welcoming to women with young children.

The errors in this story are not only egregious in "the newspaper of record," they are extremely damaging to us. We have spent 26 years carefully cultivating an atmosphere that supports women in all their life-choices; and the choice of our store's name was specifically intended to indicate that wherever women go, children are likely to be with them, and that we meant ALL of them to feel welcome and well-nurtured in our store.

For the record, we would like to address the following factual errors in the story:

Ms. Wilgoren states as a fact that "When a retail clerk at the bookstore asked a woman to stop breast-feeding last spring, 'the neighborhood set him straight real fast,' said Mary Ann Smith, the area's alderwoman." The factual errors in that one sentence alone are:

There was no male on staff who could have been the "him" in question.

No woman has ever been asked not to breast-feed here. We have chairs in which women are welcome to sit while breast-feeding. We carry many books on how to breast-feed. We often sell them at conferences that promote breast-feeding. We are as pro-breast-feeding as a business can get.

Our alderman, Mary Ann Smith, whom we spoke to this morning, did not set this imaginary "him" straight after this imaginary incident. She told us that, in fact, the main tone and content of her conversation with Ms. Wilgoren focused on how child-friendly she thinks our neighborhood is. When we read her the actual quote from the story, her response was, "Didn't happen, didn't happen, didn't happen."

Ms. Wilgoren also states as a fact that "many" Andersonville mothers are "skipping" our weekly Storytime, because of the rules: "children can be kicked out for standing, talking or sipping drinks." The factual errors in this statement are that:

Children are never "kicked out" of our Storytime. Our Storytime has several simple rules, which the children all recite at the beginning, and which we feel are the minimum necessary for avoiding chaos in a group that usually numbers 30-40 kids from 0-5. These rules are "We stay sitting on our bottoms; No eating; Use our ears to listen." Parents are requested to turn off cellphones. When a baby is fussy or a child cannot sit still for the entire half-hour, it is suggested that the parent/nanny take them away from the Storytime area until the child has calmed down again, so as not to disrupt the experience for everyone else. We have been conducting Storytime with an enthusiastic, overflow crowd for almost 20 years according to these rules.

Since our store is always packed at Storytime, we have no way of knowing how many mothers may be skipping Storytime because they feel our rules are too restrictive, but we wonder whether Ms. Wilgoren does, either.

Ms. Wilgoren unfortunately never contacted us for comment on her claims, so we had no chance to refute them before the story appeared. But we did welcome local news crews from CBS and NBC today, and of course wrote the New York Times requesting that they retract their comments.

We'd like to thank all our loyal customers and supporters who've called or written today to show support. Feel free to forward our statement to anyone who might be interested, and to contact the Times if you'd like to help correct their erroneous impression of the store.

With all best wishes,
The Staff at Women & Children First


Don't let the Times and Wilgoren damage this great store's reputation -- spread the word, write letters, demand a retraction, and keep shopping at Women and Children First!

Replies: 2 Confessions

There hasn't been a retraction?

Even the Trib corrected that fact (or maybe it was just Eric Zorn), and it wasn't even their story.

Other Amy @ 11/12/2005 12:55 PM CST

I thought that sounded absolutely ridiculous too. You can't get any more pro-feminist than that bookstore. They're awesome, and I'm feeling so sorry for them that they got that stupid bad press.

Anna @ 11/14/2005 01:36 PM CST

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