Monday, January 24, 2011

On Treating Pregnant Women Like the Infants They'll Soon Give Birth To

So, I've often thought that the "expectant mother's" parking at places like Kroger is somewhat foolish. This is, I realize, a strange position for a feminist to hold. When Jezebel reported about "a new bill would allow women experiencing a difficult pregnancy to park anywhere in NYC for free- even No Parking zones," it gave me a perfect reason to blog about this topic.

As Morning Gloria of Jezebel notes, typical objections to this parking bill consist of anti-woman thoughts like "sluts should've kept their legs closed!" or those "who say that since men can't get pregnant, this is reverse-sexism or bizarro-sexism or some other made up -ism."

However, my objection to this type of parking is totally different. My general complaint is that this mindset fits in with our societal trend to treat pregnant women like helpless, pathetic beings. I am someone who advocates for women to be seen as full, capable people, regardless of their current reproductive state. And I don't think that we should be infantilizing those who are pregnant.

In fact, I think there's something quite strong and remarkable about being able to bring another human being into this world.

Now, I'm not saying that pregnancy isn't difficult and we shouldn't take steps to ensure that pregnant women have a comfortable gestational experience. I understand when one is pregnant you face physical barriers that would not otherwise be present. I think, as a society, we should make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women. For example, I feel, very strongly, that maternity leave is far too short in this country. But to put undue attention on to parking spaces seems, to me, to be a cop out accommodation which coddles pregnant women instead of a more substantial law which could actually make a meaningful difference.

Like I said above, the parking spaces are just one part of what I see as a societal trend to treat pregnant women like helpless, pathetic beings. Being the age I am, I have been surrounded by many pregnant women lately, and so often the response to others around them is to quite literally use the voice they would use for babies and have the women immediately sit down. And in each case, the pregnant woman has insisted on continuing doing what she's doing, saying something to the effect of, "No, it's ok, I'm fine! I'm pregnant, not sick."

And in each case I cringe because it's just so annoying to me. As someone who has pregnancy planned as a part of her future, I dread having my adult card revoked just because I'm gestating another human being. In related reading, Jessica Valenti and Natalia Antonova share their feminist experiences of pregnancy, which include other ways we violate women's personal autonomy during pregnancy including:
  • Your stomach is now public domain for everyone to touch...duh, didn't you know?
  • You can no longer make your own decisions about where you go (like bars!) because think of the baby!
  • Make sure your clothing is modest and appropriate! You're someone's mom now!
So let's are no longer in charge of your own body, free time activities, or clothing. Sounds pretty much like a trip back to infant-hood, if you ask me.

I guess my point is simple: Afford pregnant women common courtesies, like giving up your seat on the subway, but don't treat them like children. Just because they are bringing an infant into the world doesn't mean they are one!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. Well put. I am six months pregnant (first at 40) and about to cancel a trip to visit my parents because they are treating me like a child. I meant to spend a long weekend camping with my husband, but made the decision to visit my parents instead. Normally, when I visit, I sleep in a tent in the back yard. This affords me some peace and quiet (the apartment is not only small, but shared with my adult brother (who never offers me his room) who lives with them and five cats. It is very noisy. I sleep like an angel in a tent. The fresh air does me good and I am able to control the temperature. I am a big outdoors person (wilderness camping and such, even while pregnant). But now, they will not allow me to do this and insist I sleep on the couch. I begged them to let me use the tent, but they refuse and make me feel guilty. Apparently I will die in the tent just because I am pregnant. So I gave up a weekend camping to visit them, spend 100s of dollars to travel that I would rather not spend right now, only to be made to spend three nights on a couch unable to sleep properly or undisturbed. I am cancelling my trip tomorrow, but it really hurts to do this. I miss them.


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