Arj Barker kicking out breastfeeding woman outraged many mums - but what's the solution?

Most mums would have had a strong reaction to the comedian throwing the mother out of his show, but there's a way to avoid this humiliation, Miriam Sawan writes.

As a mother of two, I’ve endured my fair share of glares and eye rolls when my children are being children in public places.

I have two vivid memories of particularly challenging days where as a mum, I mustered up all of my strength to get myself and my kids dressed and ready to leave the house for the opportunity to enjoy a meal I didn’t have to cook in a setting I didn’t have to stress about, only to have that experience destroyed by judgmental stares, usually from people who should know better.

So I could immediately relate to the Melbourne mum, Trish Faranda, who was publicly humiliated by being ejected from Arj Barker’s show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival with her baby Clara recently. I would not take that experience lightly if it happened to me.

Two young children sit at a table in high chairs.
Miriam, her two cheeky kids and her husband were sitting down to a sushi lunch when they were met with disapproving glares. Source: Supplied

I recall one particular instance where a young woman staring my children down at a sushi restaurant prompted me to approach her to ask if she’d like to sit with us because she seemed far more interested in staring at my children than enjoying the company she was in.


It was us and two other couples dining at this establishment. We chose a time of day to be the least troublesome so that we could ensure that other people around us could have a good time while we attempted to do the same.

A 12pm lunch seemed like a good time to socialise our children. It was daytime. We had a good parent-to-child ratio and like most parents, we were doing our best.

When my kids are dysregulated and not behaving in a way that works for the setting we’re in, I always use discernment and make a call on whether or not to stay.

It is stressful every time a child cries in private and public, and parents so desperately long for normality and an opportunity to have our children experience more than the four walls we live in.

Mums divided after Arj Barker makes headlines

Arj Barker made headlines this week for asking Faranda to leave his show after her baby began making noises which distracted him from his performance, polarising mothers across the globe on their rights to take their babies out to comedy festivals and beyond.

People at the comedy festival were outraged by the request to remove this mother and as a result, several people left in solidarity.

Arj Barker's Instagram has been flooded with comments from people who are angry about Saturday's incident. Credit: Getty Images
Arj Barker's Instagram has been flooded with comments from people who are angry about Saturday's incident. Credit: Getty Images

Like many mums, my first instinct is to react with outrage at Arj Barker for forcing this poor woman and her baby out. Upon reading the news, I thought to myself: "he’s a professional comedian who would be used to a heckling crowd, which would be much more distracting and aggressive than a crying baby".

Furthermore, this woman paid to see him probably at a compromise to her own comfort. She did this to support someone she admires and to attempt to add some laughter to a chapter of her life in which she is often the last priority.

Could mums and bubs comedy sessions be the solution?

Cinemas have struck the right balance for parents like Faranda. They have been a saving grace for many parents with mums and bubs sessions offering a great compromise for parents longing for a lounge and a laugh outside of their homes.

Perhaps the solution for the Melbourne Comedy Festival is to consider parent-only sessions at events like this one. Lord knows, amidst the tantrums, tears and nappy changes, mums and dads need a good belly laugh to get them out of the trenches they feel they’re in sometimes. How positive would it also be for the kids of these parents to see their parents laughing alongside them?

Miriam holds her baby (left) and walks with a pram and holding her toddlers hand (right).
Miriam says that most mums crave the opportunity to move through the world freely with their kids without judgement. Source: Supplied

Arj has since defended his actions stating that he had a duty to entertain the 700 other people there who had paid to see the gig. He says he felt bad and also offered her a refund.

The refund was a small remedy but the humiliation is a harder thing to quantify or compensate for.

As a working mum, I understand both sides of this story.

Anyone who has worked from home with children understands how distracting kids can be. Covid taught many of us this lesson and parents celebrated when kids could, at long last, return to school or childcare so we could again focus on our jobs.

There was a better way to manage the situation

Entertainers will tell you that stand-up is particularly gruelling because the success of a show rests squarely on the shoulders of the performer. The performance is weighted with responsibility because the incomes of the ensemble carrying this performer through his show, rely on his success.

Trish Faranda holds baby Clara in still from an interview on The Project.
Trish Faranda appeared on The Project to tell her side of the story with baby Clara. Credit: X/theproject

Sound engineers, ushers, and venues all make money on account of the comedian drawing in a crowd. This is how the organisers of the event justified Arj’s request.


While this may be true, tickets were already sold and workers would have already been paid. The defence of his professional integrity might be correct but destroying a mother’s integrity through public shaming is not. There was a nicer way to manage this situation and no directions should have come through an open-mic.

Imagine the market that comedians could tap into if they made light of the effort mums go to see them, with their babies in tow, instead of humiliating them and imagine how parents would adore them for it. Imagine if we could all just have a laugh together instead of tearing each other apart!

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