Before the moms were bad, before this story had a hint of irony, the moms from Florida were normal moms. Overworked, underexposed, in need of a girls night out.
They chose July 29 and started organizing on Facebook. The core moms started inviting side moms, and soon their group had swelled to 50.
It would be a lady soiree of Taylor Swift proportions.
And to cap the evening off, they’d bought dozens of presale tickets for a movie premiering that night, an anticipated summer comedy made for women just like them: “Bad Moms.”
The film stars Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn, three mothers juggling work and husbands and children, who, in the face of pressure from The Man (and also The Woman, a pushy PTA president), decide to stage a revolt — kids in tow.
Which is the fashion in which two women from the Florida mom group — Brooklynn Cahill and Juliana Valverde — showed up to the Fort Myers movie theater last Friday night, reported The News-Press. The women, both breastfeeding moms, didn’t want to leave their babies at home, they told the newspaper, because the infants don’t bottle feed. Valverde’s husband was out of town, she told the mom blog Babble.
Each consulted the group, Cahill wrote in a blog post recounting the evening, where they were told to bring the babies along. “We love babies,” Cahill said one woman wrote in response. “We are moms!”
The film was R-rated for language and nudity, but the moms figured their babies would sleep right through it.
But when they approached the entrance, tickets in hand, they were told they could enter “Bad Moms,” Cahill wrote, just not with their babies.
The Motion Picture Association of America allows those under the age of 17 to be admitted to an R-rated film if accompanied by an adult, but Regal Cinemas, which owns the Fort Myers theater the women were visiting, has a policy that bars children age 6 and under from attending R-rated movies.
The moms said they had no idea.
“No one had communicated that children under 6 were not allowed in R-rated movies,” said Amber Cebull, one of the women in the group.
Cahill and Valverde were directed to customer service and encouraged to exchange their “Bad Moms” tickets for a showing of the most recent iteration of “Ice Age,” a movie with no age restrictions.
“They made me feel like a terrible person for bringing my child,” Cahill told The News-Press.
But the moms were determined to see “Bad Moms,” so they slipped into the theater, they told the newspaper, babies sleeping. They took aisle seats, Valverde told The News-Press, ready to leave if the infants started fussing. The manager tracked them down, Cahill said, then asked the women to leave.
The disagreement spilled into the lobby, where the breastfeeding mothers and those in their group attempted to convince the manager that they would be responsible — and quiet — in the showing.
“Moms started coming out and speaking their mind, trying to let the staff know we all were moms and understand what to do when our baby needs attention,” Cahill wrote in her blog post. “Its common sense not to sit there with a screaming baby while people are trying to watch a movie.”
Valverde told babble that her daughter became fussy.
“I’ve always been pretty modest, and I don’t like to nurse in public, so I was holding off to see if she would calm down,” Valverde told the blog. When the baby wouldn’t settle, Valverde sat down in the lobby to nurse.
She told babble that the manager said to her: “You can’t go to the movie, you’re going to have cover up or you’re going to have to leave.”
Both mothers, according to the blogs, felt “humiliated and embarrassed.”
Valverde began to cry, she told babble.
Cebull, babyless but part of the mom group, decided to intervene.
“I said, OK then, we’re going to get our people out of the theater and leave, and you’re going to refund our tickets?,” Cebull told The News-Press. “And he said ‘OK’.”
Then the women started to leave, one by one. In all, more than 35 of the 50-person group walked out of the theater, Cebull told The News-Press.
“This event has taken a huge toll on our emotions,” Cahill wrote on her blog, “but its also made us stronger together.”
The women were refunded their tickets, but the movie theater did not respond to a request for comment from The News-Press.
The company explained its policy in a story by The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year.
“At Regal, it’s our job to provide the best moviegoing experience for our patrons, and we want to make sure there are minimal interruptions during R-rated movies,” Regal CEO Amy Miles told The Hollywood Reporter. “We best achieve this through controlling the number of children in these films.”
Legal action possible
The story of the Florida moms has taken off in certain online circles, especially those that advocate for a woman’s right to breastfeed openly in public without shame and ridicule from passersby. That’s part of the reason Valverde was so upset, so much so that she is having a lawyer look into why the mom was asked to leave.
“Somebody can’t stop the mom from breastfeeding,” attorney Daniel Garza told told TV station NBC 2. “Was this mother kicked out because of the policy or because she was breastfeeding? That’s what we need to determine.”
In Florida, state law allows women to breastfeed in any public or private location, but some women face criticism for nursing in public.
“There’s always people that are going to feel uncomfortable and they shouldn’t,” Valverde told TV station NBC 2. “I don’t need anyone’s approval to feed my baby.”