Why Aren’t Mothers Worth Anything to Venture Capitalists?


Every society has its own signals—the hanky code, the safety pin—and in this one, it’s the bag. About the size of a Birkin, if a Birkin came in an easy-wipe microfiber most closely associated with drugstore umbrellas, and only in black. The fellowship of the bag provides a tacit solidarity, even an intimacy, however fleeting. Members of its Manhattan and Brooklyn chapters lock amused eyes in elevators; they nod and smile ruefully as they pass each other in the street. One might spot another as she waits outside a workplace’s always-occupied “wellness room” and beckon her instead toward a secret storage closet, equipped with a comfy chair and—more crucially—a door that locks. On public transport, an emeritus member might give up her seat to a downtrodden carrier of the bag, given the likelihood that she was up unusually early that day, or will be up unusually late.

The bag is just one component of the product known as the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote. Inside the On the Go Tote can be found a small cooler that holds up to four bottles, along with the electric pump, an A.C. adapter, and a jumble of plastic parts and tubes that must be disassembled, washed, sterilized in a microwave, cooled and dried, and then reassembled after each use. It may be theoretically possible to pump in style, but breast-feeding does not readily lend itself to automation: where a baby’s mouth presses intelligently on the breast to release milk from the duct, the Medela employs a suction method abetted by a hard, ill-fitting breast shield with a bottle dangling from it. The suction pulls and stretches the breast like it’s taffy, except that taffy doesn’t have nerve endings. Some women manage to strap on the shields using a customized bra, a gently bovine parody of Madonna’s cone-bra ensemble that frees the user’s hands for some desktop multitasking. 

Read more at The New Yorker

Jessica Winter

Jessica Winter @ Adrian Kinloch

Jessica Winter is executive editor of newyorker.com and a former editor at Slate and Time. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Bookforum, The Believer, and many other publications. She lives with her family in Flatbush, Brooklyn.