The Body Shaming Question We Need to Stop Asking Women, Now!

NO, I’m not pregnant…

Earlier this summer, (and yes it’s still summer for like, one more week!), I was coming home on a hot bright evening from work, rushing to get to the gym.  We all know that the New York City Subway is tons of fun all year round, but especially so in the summer months during rush hour. Imagine my surprise when a man offered me his seat. I said thank you and his loud public response was “Of course, and congratulations.”   Wait…what?     He then repeated what he said plus a cherry on top, “Congratulations, is this your first?”  I promptly stood up and replied “I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat.” Needless to say I got up and walked away to the next car in a huff, and to add insult to injury that next car did not have working air conditioning.   

This was humiliating on multiple levels.  

First, let’s state the obvious; assuming a woman is pregnant simply because her stomach isn’t Britney-Spears-At- The-VMA’s-In-2001-FLAT, is completely ridiculous. Women have curves!!!  I have curves!!! Human Beings carry weight in different ways, and more often than not both men and women have some fat on their stomachs., the only exception being 2001 Britney.  

Secondly, this insensitive assumption speaks to the fact that if a woman gains weight around her abdominal area that the only possible explanation is that she is carrying a child.  So essentially you are saying that I look so fat that I have a person inside of me. This feeds into the myopic and misogynistic view of the female body as being only one of two things, either a vessel for someone else’s pleasure or a reproductive vehicle.  And now we are firmly planted within parameters that only allow a woman to gain weight if it is due to pregnancy. Are you picking up what I’m putting down? The female body, my body, your body, whoever is reading this has a body and it is an absolutely beautiful body.

 

Third point to take into consideration is that pregnancy is a sensitive subject.  You may think you are making polite or cheerful conversation but what if the woman you are speaking to is struggling with infertility,  has had a miscarriage, or recently had a baby but is trying to reclaim her body and “bounce back”, or what if you are speaking to a woman that happens to not fall into any of the aforementioned categories,  but is dealing with bloating? Yes, that’s a thing too!  Too often I see magazines with articles about female celebrities and rumors of pregnancy when in reality maybe she was just wearing a baggy shirt to the gym just because she was wearing a baggy shirt to the gym.

I would like to share some very simple advice. Never assume a woman is pregnant unless of course it’s very very obvious.    If you want to give up your seat on the train or the bus, but aren’t sure if she’s pregnant, just give to her to anyway to be kind, because pregnant or not women still deserves kindness.

Another key piece of advice, let’s stop equating “weight” with “pregnancy”.  A woman’s body can exist, thrive, and give and receive so much pleasure beyond being in a state of motherhood.  Maybe, it was just Taco Tuesday, hence the “bump”.

 

XOXO

Lily Sage.

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