Monday, September 17, 2012

Being Viewed as Pre-Pregnant

Apparently, pregnancy testing in bars is a discussion that is being had. Personally--I find that whole thing to be a whole lot of "Huh? What?" But reading the commentary over at Feministe did get my wheels turning about something that I interact with on an almost daily basis.

You see, there's a law here in Texas that requires "establishments selling alcohol for onpremise consumption, such as restaurants and bars, to post signs on men’s and women’s bathroom doors that remind the public of the health risks posed to unborn children when pregnant women drink alcohol." Here's the sign I'm talking about:

When I moved here I was really confused because there is no such law in Indiana. I suppose if I had always grown up around these postings, I wouldn't even bat an eye. But seeing them for the first time as an adult (and a feminist one at that) they rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, I understand the idea behind it. As the linked law above explains, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is trying to make sure that the public understands the risks of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Great.

But the more that I think about it, the effect of the law has insulting implications...

1) It coveys the idea that all women are pregnant or pre-pregnant. When I was reading through some of the commentary on the piece at Feministe about pregnancy testing in bars, I realized that these signs are similar. For example, as commenter SubjectVerb said, "Such thinking reduces a woman to her uterus and biological ability to have children. Women shouldn’t be assumed to be always in the state of potential pregnancy." Past my expiration date added, "Pregnancy tests, in a bar, in a society where the general cultural belief is ANY ALCOHOL DURING PREGNANCY BAD BAD BAD, gives me the message that all women are either pregnant or pre-pregnant."

Yep. That's what is really bothering me here. It's the implication that women are their reproductive capabilities, so OF COURSE all women need to be warned. All the time. At every bar and restaurant. I mean, this sign isn't being posted in a state where we have unencumbered access to abortion and reproductive services. Nope. It's occurring in a state where every possible obstacle to choice has been put in place. So of course, I can't just read this sign and think, "How nice of them to tell me." Nope, I read it and think "GET OUT OF MY UTERUS, ASSHOLES."

2) It conflates fetus and baby. I'm sorry--but I just get annoyed by the "your baby's" wording. That is all.

3) It doesn't trust women. You know, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the public is fairly adequately informed about the affect of alcohol on a the extent that I think most people overestimate the amount of damage that alcohol can do. For example, you can drink a glass of wine and be just fine, but if a pregnant woman does that, she better do it behind closed doors, or she'll get tons of judgmental side eyes (and that's just if she's lucky...) But beyond not trusting women with light alcohol consumption during pregnancy, it also doesn't trust us to make our own decisions about our bodies or to even know if we are pregnant or not. I mean--I know that it's possible to be unaware of your pregnancy, but if you are unaware, then wouldn't you just think the sign doesn't apply to you anyway?

I guess I'm not sure that it's actually creating enough positive awareness to justify its existence. I'm not going to go on a campaign to have these signs removed, and I think that my indignation could probably be better spent on any number of other things. But I do think that this type of sign comes out of a culture which continually reduces women to their uteruses and seeks to monitor said uterus' state....which is as oppressive to cis women as it is exclusive of transpeople.


  1. Another thing that bothers me about it is that it's just factually wrong.

    "The safest choice is not to drink at all."

    At least two long-term studies published within the last year have concluded that low to moderate drinking has little or no effect on fetuses even after they're born.

  2. My doctor encouraged me to have a glass of wine each night for a couple days after my amnio. I don't remember why, I just remember a huge deal being made of it because my grandmother (I was underage at the time, so it had to be bought for me) didn't really believe he'd told me until she heard it from him.

    So apparently alcohol has some benefits.

    But, you're in Texas. They don't exactly care about the truth, or being decent...They just want to wipe out abortion.


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