CAN WE PLEASE STOP BODY-SHAMING WOMEN?

I’d like to know when, if ever, it became socially acceptable to (a) comment on another’s size, be it to point out how thin or fat they are, and/or (b) openly compare another’s size to your own? I should hope the answer to both questions, is never. However, I’m finding myself increasingly inclined to believe we have made no such progress on the body-shaming front, and that if anything, it is more commonplace than ever to insult women with our body-fascism. Oh, and please don’t worry about this becoming a man-bashing, feminist (although I do openly identify as a SIW) rant, because perhaps unsurprisingly, it is women who are the most guilty of parties in this crime. Shame on you, you terrible anti-girl-power femmes! You make it impossible to castigate men for supposedly abhorrent sexist-driven objectification, when you insist on dishing out such cruelty to the women you seek to defend against such behaviours!

My particular aggrievance lies with individuals wanting to comment on the pregnant body. Mainly because this is my current state, and after insane levels of comments, I feel I’m pretty much an expert in this body-bashing field. As someone who has a very nondescript body-type (you’d consider me neither ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ if you were to even consider my body shape at all), pregnancy has been a body-shaming eye-opener for me. And yes, I know I’m in danger of sounding like a broken record, but I’m too pregnant (read angry) to care. You see, these size comments really are the stuff of progesterone-fuelled nightmares, and have an untold impact on the emotional wellbeing of us hormonally charged, and often paranoid child bearers. Therefore, I will continue to repeat this same ‘stop commenting on a pregnant woman’s bump’ message if it means even one pregnant woman is saved from the upset that such body-related comments have.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this type of body-bashing behaviour, is that most perpetrators would normally be the first to defend an individual’s right not to be aesthetically judged. Yet this freedom from insult, seems to evaporate upon their victim housing another human being. I’m assuming these individuals rationalise their behaviour on the basis they are commenting not on the individual’s size, but on that of someone else: the baby. Well here’s the thing. A woman’s bump gives no indication of the baby’s size. And what if it did? Well they’re essentially saying ‘gosh your baby is small/big for its gestational age’, which as we all know, can carry with it a myriad of potential health issues.

The other day I found myself having to defend my size to an acquaintance who already has two children, and quite frankly should have been more sensitive. Upon receiving her negative commentary that ‘you’re so small, much smaller than I was at your stage’, coupled with her disgusted expression, I (attempting to hold back my upset, and humour the lady!) suggested the height difference, my long body, or the fact I’ve never carried weight around my stomach but instead develop dumpy legs when I’ve been a bit greedy (yes I even put myself down), to somehow explain away her confusion. By the end I felt exasperated, and was beyond disheartened to learn I was not done for the day.  I was next informed by a man that my face was looking thinner and I needed to eat more (I mean what the hell?!), before later being informed by a lady that she has a bigger stomach than mine post-pizza. It’s almost laughable that my stomach should be considered the size of an unpregnant person’s even after pizza, and I say this despite having digestive issues which mean even the whiff of a gluten base causes me to balloon to King Kong proportions. Furthermore, it’s just not true…I now have to aggressively contort my face, and even back in the vicinity of a camera, so as to avoid a double chin and/or back fat (all depends on the angle…).

I would consider retaliating to these size comments by firing a devastatingly personal, and equally pointed comment in the direction of the offender, but that’s so against the matriarchy (is that even a thing?), and you know girl power…So instead I’ve settled on a far more pacifistic approach. Now, whenever I meet up with people I haven’t seen in a while, I commence our interaction by commenting on the size of my bump. I suppose I naively believe if I get there first, their inevitable bump judgement will sting less (it doesn’t)…but seriously how sad is that?!

I do wonder why these people (although let’s be honest, it’s mainly women) feel compelled to make such personal comments. What are they fuelled by? I’ve narrowed (was easy considering my tiny bump…) the driving force behind their cruelty down to all/one of the following: (a) a deep-seated insecurity which means they need to tear someone down who is openly joyous and happy at expecting a baby, (b) jealousy at the fact the pregnant individual may for once feel immune from the vanity that expectations of a ‘perfect’ body tend to bring, and so they want to remind them they’re still under the body police’s control, (c) a bizarre competitiveness? Think a ‘size off’ kind of contest (weird but no weirder than someone commenting on your bump size…), (d) insensitivity, and/or (e) I’m overthinking everything as usual. Some (including my mum) claim that people comment on my size (and others’) in a complimentary manner. This would be believable if it weren’t for the disgusted/horrified face they pull, and the disparaging manner in which they deliver their one-liner.

If you find yourself reading this and recalling the time you commented on a pregnant woman’s size, and thinking ‘I didn’t mean it like that’, well I ask you, what indeed did you mean by it? Because after extensive consulting of both current and past preggos, I can confidently and passionately declare that we didn’t like it, we don’t like it, and we’re left dumbfounded by your insensitivity every time (since you insist on repeating the bump comments EVERY single time we meet). So please do enlighten us on why you glare, stare, and insist on telling us we’re so ‘huge’ or ‘tiny’. We’re not dolls for goodness sake.

Individuals who comment on other people’s size, pregnant or not, are no better than the keyboard warriors who frequent the Daily Mail, and are potentially even worse since they seek to weakly disguise their mal-intent behind their otherwise whiter than white, and social etiquette-abiding demeanour. So if you’re one of these delightful individuals, I’d like to say that I’m sorry I’m tall, and that I’m not showing as much as I potentially would if I was shorter. I’m also sorry that another lady is ‘so big’. But you should also be sorry. Sorry for shaming her, shaming me, and for making us feel terrible about ourselves during a particularly vulnerable, and often terrifying time in a woman’s life. Shame on you.

I’d like to end by thanking my brother, who (I like to think) in an act of sibling solidarity, or because he remembers that unpregnant Georgia doesn’t waddle, comments ‘you’re so pregnant’, each time he sees me. I like his intonation, and the surprised tone he adopts each time he repeats this phrase. But I especially like the fact he doesn’t use the words ‘tiny’ or ‘big’. After all, I am so (in a strictly biological categorisation sense) pregnant.


N.B. In the vein of substance over form, and so my words rather than image are the focus of this post, I have resisted including photos of my ‘tiny’ 33 week-old bump.

 

30 WEEKS PREGNANT: UPDATE

Disclaimer: The week was too action-packed, and stressful (in less than equal proportions) for me to provide an accompanying photographic narrative. I hope it still counts.

At 31 weeks + 2 days pregnant, it is the perfect time for me to reflect on week 30, especially when I consider the last 24hrs of agonising leg cramps/pain/whatever one can class these horrors as, which allow me to look back on the preceding week with rose-tinted glasses.

At the dawn of the third week of the third trimester, both the baby and I began to grow exponentially. As if to confirm my ever-expanding form, the other morning when Rich and I were racing (why am I seemingly incapable of building pregnancy slack into my original routine?! N.B. letting myself go has somewhat mitigated this issue) out of the door to our first antenatal class, my coat popper burst free in the midst of the battle between my swollen calves and unsuitably knee high boots. Fortunately, my fantastically supportive husband, provides me with the confidence boosts I need during such challenging times. Take our walk to the antenatal class for an example of such wife-affirmation.

Me (grabbing my hamster cheeks, and unable to work out if I’m pleased or not…): “Look at my face. I have zero wrinkles thanks to how plump it is”.

Rich: “Yes but you’ve always had a cute button face”.

Me (because we all know a button is generally round…a perfect circle really): “You mean chubby”.

Rich: Laughs in my (button?) face.

It’s okay though, because when we arrived at the session and were asked on our best and least favourite part of pregnancy, Rich said “doing all of the washing-up all of the time”. So whilst I’m still struggling to pull my rotund self out from under the red London bus I was thrown beneath, I’m left wondering whether that’s Rich’s best or least favourite part? In his defence (or arguably anyone that doesn’t scour the literature for endless pregnancy tidbits), he may have been overwhelmed by concepts like ‘episiotomy’ which were being liberally thrown around by us bellies. Also, credit where credit is due. Rich does do all the washing up all of the time, and he appreciates my agency sufficiently so as not to make the mistake of proclaiming that ‘natural’ (meaning in this context without epidural…) is definitely the best way to have a baby whilst staring pointedly at his wife, like one of the other (insert: brave/foolish/insane) husbands*.

Nonetheless, if you still need convincing of a husband’s ability to make everything better, take mine and Rich’s Monday night exchange for the final example. I’d say final straw, but fortunately I’m not a camel (I pee way too often to store more than a thimble of liquid), and (un?)fortunately my back is now too wide to be broken.

What I said (underwear clad with back to Rich): “Look. When I have my back turned to you, you’d think I was just chunky, and not pregnant”.

What I was really saying (underwear clad with back to Rich): “Tell me that if it weren’t for my bump, which is now hidden, I look positively slim, and like my usual self”.

What he said (examining me, and delivering his carefully considered response): “Yes you’re right”.

What she said (since I refuse to be associated with the ogre that suddenly entered my body and declared war against husband): “What do you mean? I’m not chunky am I? You just said I was. That must mean I’m really chunky”.

Needless to say, as quickly as the hormone-fuelled witch entered me, and her embarrassingly unreasonable outburst took place, I simmered down. Because let’s face it, who cares?! So besides emotional outbursts, weight-gain, and the discomfort that comes with my growing baby, I’ve also faced some delightful comments on my apparently still ‘tiny’ bump (more insulting than ever when you consider my apparent weight-gain!). So to the wonderful human who thought it appropriate to inform me I look closer to 5 rather than 7 months pregnant, and to kindly question whether my baby’s growth was okay (“his growth is all on-track though, right?”), I’d like to say “no”.

Last week amidst the flurries of snow, and after half a day of changed strength (albeit not frequency) of foetal movement, Rich and I ended up in the maternity assessment centre with me on a monitor at 1.30am. This was followed by a growth scan which revealed our son not to be growing at the normal rate so as to be the average weight for his age of 2.9lbs. No. The two measurements that were taken provided us with an estimate (let’s remember there’s c.10% margin of error) of him being 3.12lbs and 3.13lbs respectively. So it transpires that my ‘tiny’ bump is safely housing our wonderful baby rhino.

So goodbye, and hello to another week of pregnancy excitement, hormones, wonder, bafflement, and strife. Please let there be no more bump commentary. My hormones will determine whether any metaphorical or actual bird flipping takes place on my part. I claim no responsibility from here on out.


*Kudos to the midwife, who on his fifth attempt at shaming his wife into going ‘natural’, pointed out to the husband that both a birth with, and without pain relief is considered natural. We’ll have to wait until next week to see if he’s convinced.