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Stop expecting pregnant women to respond to your rude, stupid questions and comments about pregnancy
When I got into my third trimester of my first pregnancy, I figured out why a lot of women finish up (paid) work earlier than others. It’s not the exhaustion, headaches, sciatica, heartburn, indigestion, nausea, meralgia paresthetiica or anything to do with the physical discomfort of pregnancy. Nope, I don’t think it is any of that. We are women after all, and therefore tough.
It is ultimately, the QUESTIONS AND THE COMMENTS.
This moment of clarity hit when I was at work, busy, and a GP that I barely know swaggered up exuding the usual superior attitude, interrupted me when I was clearly working, to blurt out –
‘How much longer to go now?’
Even though it is of course none of his business and I had zero desire to discuss it with him, I told him I was two and a half months away. Then, to my disgust but unfortunately, not dismay, he guffawed and remarked
‘Wow, REALLY? Gee, you look ready to POP!”
Then he started laughing, as though he had said something hilarious. This was in the middle of the Reception area of my workplace, where other people were in direct earshot of his smug, authoritarian tone.
I felt like shrinking into a ball. Then I felt angry, and I realised that the anger had been building up for a while, as a result of constant, unwelcome comments about my body and pregnancy that I had been subjected to almost every day for months.
Comments like these are demeaning and trivialise what women go through when they birth a human being. For starters, ‘About to pop’ is the most condescending expression and is completely dismissive of the inevitable pain that I will likely endure for hours on end. Labour is not a matter of simply going ‘pop’ and out comes the baby. Like most first time mothers to be, I am quite anxious about the pain of labour, in fact I have lost sleep over it. I don’t have to have given birth yet to know that labour is absolutely not a matter of simply ‘popping’ and out comes the baby.
Secondly, I barely know this man. I am certainly not his patient, and yet he clearly felt entitled to information about my pregnancy. He clearly felt that it was his place to comment on my ‘condition’.
The extent to which men in the medical profession feel that it is their prerogative, their ‘right’ to push their ideals, their perceived authority, their male privilege, onto us women is staggering and indicative of a society that is hell bent on controlling and demeaning women in pregnancy. (It is for precisely this reason that I tried to book into a birth centre where myself and the midwives would have been in charge and control of my body, rather than have my baby at a hospital where doctors are likely to insist on unnecessary intervention that wold inevitably lead to problems for both me and my baby, but I was unable to book into one in my area due to funding cuts. The government and the men who make the majority of these decisions, don’t want women being empowered and having their babies in a natural environment. They want our babies to be born in a clinical, sterile environment with medical intervention. They want to treat us like we are sick)
Do I care what dickheads like this think of me? Well, no, not really. But I am nonetheless fed up with being expected to simply put up with it, to ‘just ignore it’ to ‘lighten up’, and ‘get over it’ to ‘just be thankful I’m pregnant’
Why should I accommodate the rudeness of the general public, bite my tongue and ignore it, to spare their feelings, because ‘they mean well’ when they are the ones being inappropriate? I am exhausted by my pregnancy and preparations for the baby as it is, without having to put up with the additional stress and pressure of having members of the general public push their sexist, idiotic, unsolicited comments onto me.
The judgements, the scrutiny, the way in which the general public feel entitled to constantly leer at, stare at, remark, judge, touch and comment on your body, appearance and attitude, is exhausting. Everything from what you eat to how you exercise, from what you wear to what you do in your spare time, is up for public scrutiny and discussion.
Being pregnant makes society feel even more entitled to offer unsolicited opinions and/or comment on your appearance than usual. As a woman, I am used to this, but one thing is for sure – I am sick to death of being expected to put up with it. Why should I accept that because I am a woman, people are therefore entitled to comment, remark, and judge me, on my appearance? Why is it not ok to go up to men and say things like ‘gee, you’re a bit of fattie, how long have you been eating like a pig for?’ but it is perfectly acceptable to go up to a pregnant woman you don’t even know, and say idiotic and hurtful things like ‘wow, you are HUGE! Are you having twins?’
Some other examples:
‘Shouldn’t you be resting?’
‘You should try to stay as active as possible’
‘Should you be lifting that in your condition?’
‘You shouldn’t be pushing that trolley in your condition’
‘Wow you’re brave, getting in a bathing suit at your stage!’
‘You shouldn’t be drinking coffee you know’
‘Gee, you look big, but if it’s a big baby you just have a caesar’
(Really? ‘just’ have a caesar?)
All of this advice is unsolicited, much of it is outdated and ALL of it is insulting and completely unhelpful.
And the worst part is that replies like ‘it’s de-caf, fuckwit’ and ‘I’m not consenting to being induced or an unnecessary caesarean because childbirth isn’t a medical procedure, it’s a natural part of life’ are generally frowned upon.
The unsolicited advice about motherhood and pregnancy is of course inappropriate and completely irritating, but not as insulting as the way in which people you don’t even know, feel 100% entitled to information about your pregnancy, and the way they feel entitled to comment on your body.
The thing that makes it even worse is the way they fail to comprehend why you might not want to talk about it with them.
It’s the way people assume that it’s all you want to and/or are capable of talking about.
It’s the way people, men in particular, find pregnancy to be one big hilarious joke for them to poke fun at, trivialise, control, and in some cases, shame.
For example, I was at the bakery the other day carrying bags of shopping, tired/flustered, ordering a loaf of bread. I dropped a five note on the ground without realising. A man behind me pointed out that I had dropped it, and I said ‘would you mind please picking it up for me, I’m pregnant’ which he seemed to find hilarious. He laughed out loud unabashedly and said ‘óh yeah I know what that feels like, hahaha!’
As if this wasn’t bad enough, everyone else in the queue laughed along with him! What is it about pregnancy that people find so funny? The general public, but men in particular, regard it as is something to poke fun at, to ridicule, to demean, to trivialise.
“Óh (giggles) wow Lucy you are looking very pregnant haha!!’ As though I don’t know that.
“Öh wow, starting to get fat now, haha!’’ As if I hadn’t noticed that I am expanding because I am growing a human life inside my womb.
“Are these hallways getting a little long for you now Lucy? Hahah!”
‘Oh my god! Look at your boobs!’
“Ís that desk getting a bit too far away now Lucy?” (whilst chuckling)
“Gee, you are really getting the pregnancy waddle now!’
Comments from women are particularly exasperating because they are mostly coming from those who have been subjected to this kind of idiocy throughout their own pregnancy, reinforcing the cycle of ‘well I had to put up with so so should you’.
Comments from men are particularly offensive because they reinstate male entitlement to women’s lives and bodies, something that is compounded in the context of pregnancy, despite the fact that it is an experience that men could not possibly have any real insight into, for the same reason I don’t have much insight into sperm counts.
‘OH! You’re pregnant, congratulations, I guess you will have to be careful of what you eat from now on.’
Really? That’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear I’m pregnant?
‘Gee you’re getting bigger every week!’
Well yes, that is what generally happens; babies do grow inside the womb.
That’s why they stay in there for nine months.
‘Are you having twins?!’ Urgh.
Aside from the obvious lack of insight into how a human life is grown that these inane comments indicate, it is how tiring they are that is the hardest bit. It is near impossible to go down the street or walk down a hallway without some halfwit making an offensive, nosy comment and/or completely unfunny joke.
Example – I drop something which exasperates me. A man walking past laughs out loud, finding the prospect of me bending down the right way in order to not squash my baby’s head to be hilarious, and then acting as though I should ‘lighten up’ for
not finding it funny.
Another example – ‘How much longer to go’? – asked by a complete stranger. I ignore them. Assuming that I didn’t hear, they then ask the same question, but LOUDER this time.
‘Eight weeks’ I reply.
“Did you say eight weeks? (laughing) OH MY GOD, hahaha!”
These are just some examples from dozens of infuriating encounters that happen on a daily basis.
Why are we still conditioning men to believe that it is ok to regard pregnancy and pregnant women being in physical discomfort, so bloody hilarious?
The comments, the judgements, the scrutiny, the looks, the way people try to touch you…. It is all just one big reminder of how women are subjugated to ornamental status and objectified, judged and scrutinised even more than usual, during what can be one of the most vulnerable times of their life.
Am I saying that we should tip toe around pregnant women and treat them as though they are sick/weak/vulnerable? Absolutely not, because that can be just as insulting. But we absolutely must stop treating them as though they are public property to be poked at, objectified and mocked.
As a pregnant woman, I know I’m expected to just ‘get over it’ and/or ‘be grateful’ I’m pregnant, to not ’cause a fuss’ and to basically shut up and put up with people’s rubbish, but I am not doing that anymore because I shouldn’t have to cater to the needs of people who are making unwelcome comments about my pregnancy and my body. I do not accept that my body and my affairs are subject to public scrutiny and judgement.
So…. Stop assuming that women want to hear your dim-witted opinions about their pregnancy! It is none of your business, pure and simple and we don’t care what you think anyway, so please…. Understand that you are NOT entitled to information about a woman’s pregnancy. You are not entitled to touch her, and she does NOT owe you anything, not her time, her smile, her ‘sense of humour about pregnancy’ or anything at all. If a woman wants to discuss her body and her pregnancy experience with you, she will broach the subject.
Pregnancy is a tough gig for many, so please just be a respectful human being and treat women with the respect and dignity they deserve when they are carrying a human life.
This is the story of the first time I was sexually harassed at the age of 9, maybe 10. It was school holidays and as a kid of working parents, I was hanging out with a female friend from down the road. She was a year younger than me, and it was January, because I was holding a stuffed monkey that my grandparents had given me for Christmas.
We were waking around, wearing knee length skirts and teeshirts because it was hot. Three older boys from another school in the area approached us on a deserted street and ordered us to ‘lift up our skirts or they would bash us.’ My younger friend burst into tears and started to comply, but for some reason I just went nuts, and started hitting them in the face with my stuffed monkey (I’d like to think that the glass eyes hurt them). They ran for it but I followed shouting that I would tell their mother.
For some reason at that young age I realised that that was wrong and that retaliating was my way of deflecting it.
Alas my monkey is long gone, but if I had it as an adult for the so many times (I’ve forgotten many of them) I’ve been harassed since then, I would have gleefully smacked my harassers in the face again because only terrible human being harass girls and women in the street, and only terrible human beings make excuses for them.
This incident happened around 5pm on 1st September 2015. It occurred outside building 51 opposite to Dracula’s.
I was just exiting RMIT Building 51 after finishing up some coursework , and was heading to the parking lot below building 51 to get my bicycle when I witnessed a man yelling at a cab driver. Thinking it was over a fare dispute (He was making a commotion about money, punching the car window on the driver’s passenger side), I ignored the affair until the said man stopped yelling and followed me into the carpark, attempting to proposition me for sex, saying he “Would give me money”. Alarm bells went off in my head, so I did the best Death Metal yell I could muster to stall him as he already showed that he could get physical, and it worked, thanks to the acoustics of the building.
Taken aback, he begun to avoid me, but decided to showcase his machismo by trying to confront and follow me again, this time raising his voice and shouting.
Frustrated, as I thought he would leave me alone like other creeps I experienced in the past, I turned around to have a good look at him while formulating an exit plan, and reached into my pocket for my student i.d that would unlock the bicycle cage. I intended to lock myself in the bike cage until he left, and considered using my bike lock (A U-lock) as a weapon if needed.
Fortunately, after having a good look at him and memorising his physical traits, he avoided me and took to an unlit corner of the parking lot and stayed there, allowing me to get safely into the bike cage without being locked in with him.
A short while later, two other cyclists showed up and I notified them of the man and what he did. The man left quickly.
Sadly, I do not have a picture of the man as I thought it was unsafe to retrieve my phone, due the constant state of vigilance I needed to exercise in the situation.
Many thanks for reading this, and I hope it will help you stay safe.
My friend and I were walking in town to find something to eat, we were about 15 and as we crossed a main road a blue truck came past yelling things at us. I don’t fully remember what they said now but I remember feeling upset and as we walked away they came back, and we ran to the subway across the road feeling very scared. We watched as they circled back and drove past the front doors until eventually leaving. I was afraid to leave the subway for a while.
This happened quite a few years ago but haven’t forgotten it.
Happened in Noosa Sunshine Coast QLD, and since I have just come across this site I though I might share.
I had joined a performance team at my high school and we were asked to sell old clothes at to raise money for our performance team traveling to compete.
I was standing in the primary school with my teacher and teammates ( there was a area where lots of people where selling second hand goods and handmade items) and this old man (grey haired probably 60 or older) came up to me and said “how much are you”?. I was 13 a the time and was to confused to say anything back, I just smiled politely not fully understanding what had happened as he laughed and walked off. My teacher told me that I had handled the situation very well and as I got older and understood the creepiness of what he said I wish I had off told him “20 – life”. Im mostly disappointed in my airhead teacher who just listened and congratulated me for saying nothing back. She should have said something.
To add to this story two years later I was working in a shop and another old man asked me how much I cost.
My friend and I were walking down a busy street and we were simply chatting about some new clothes we had bought earlier, and my friend exclaimed that her jeans “were a tight squeeze” to which a male passerby approximately mid 20’s thought it was necessary to interject sleazily “I love a tight squeeze”.
We were, and still to this day appalled, felt invaded, and simply disgusted by this act of street harassment. I don’t think I have ever forgotten that moment, and I want to make sure that my daughter, best friend, sister and any woman or man has to go through that invasion of personal privacy ever.
Walking on a footpath when 4WD came speeding down suburban street. I mouthed slowdown but he was going so fast it wasn’t really to him. I was just shocked at his speed. He sped on, then stopped, opened his window and called out: “you fucking slut!” Was a metallic 4WD. I should have got a photo of the car but I was so shocked at what happened. It was so unexpected.
A few years ago, I was walking to my partners work to meet him before he finished and a group of guys outside the venue yelled out for me to show them my ‘privates’ (although they used much more colourful language). I could not believe what I was hearing and felt instantly disgusted and uncomfortable.
The ‘funny’ thing was, when my partner walked out with me in the end (after I told him what happened) not one of the jerks said anything. Low life scum bags. Apparently I’m only safe when accompanied by a man.
I wish this was the only encounter I had had with this breed of despicable human, but unfortunately, this has happened countless times.
It needs to stop. It’s not acceptable.
This week we’re dedicating Week In Our Shoes to International Anti- Street Harassment Week! Here at Hollaback! HQ we have been busy planning and prepping for our International Anti-Street Harassment Rally. We’ve been coordinating speakers, creating posters and working with our cosponsors to get the word out. If you’re looking to fight street harassment this week, come fight it with us tomorrow, April 16th, at 2:00 in Tompkins Square Park.
And at Hollaback! Sites around the world:
Hollaback! Bahamas partnered with College of the Bahamas Ambassadors and Pro Society for a chalking event along the campus’ ‘Survivors Walk’, a main walkway on campus.
Hollaback! Baltimore partnered with FORCE to speak at the Monument Quilt Display, held a coffee chat at the Bun Shop, ran a self-care event at the MICA wellness center, held a virtual write in for #EndSH week, joined a twitter chat with CASS and held a wheatpasting event. Saturday April 16th they will be holding a public rally in Baltimore.
Hollaback! Vegas tabled at The Extreme Thing and held various chalking events at high schools throughout Southern Nevada.
Hollaback! Peterborough will be hosting a chalk walk on Saturday April 16th.
Hollaback! Vancouver held a wheatpasting event and two therapeutic body mapping workshops. They will also be hosting a party with Good Night Out to celebrate consent and create harassment-free spaces.
That’s everything for this week! Stay tuned for more next week!
Holla and out!
I recently moved to New York from my native country and was trying to figure my way back to my apartment it was about 9 pm. Suddenly a man started walking beside me saying “hey beautiful wanna go somewhere. ” I tried to ignore him thinking that if I did he would get fed up and go away. But he didn’t. He continued saying “what you don’t like black? ” “too big for you? ” I thought it was enough and said leave me alone but he caught up on my accent saying that if “I can’t face NYC then I should have just stayed in Asia ” and walked away cursing me. I don’t know of I feel the same about NYC anymore .