Archive | February, 2012

Fifteen weeks: A brief observation on the difficulties of language

29 Feb

(I know this post is super short, but I don’t really have any meaty observations for today. So this is what you get.)

One of the irritating things that I’ve run into in trying to talk about the baby is the fact that the English language just isn’t equipped to deal with persons of unknown gender in a way that isn’t incredibly awkward. Most of the time we don’t really think about it, until we’re confronted with a situation in which gendering isn’t an option. But as its still (sadly) too early to find out the sex of the baby, it’s a problem I’m confronted with on a regular basis. I’ve made a point of avoiding gendered pronouns, even if it does increase the awkardness; calling the baby “he” just falls into the patterns of dogs and smurfs. Especially since a few times in conversations about the baby I’ve noticed that other people have defaulted to the male pronoun. (And thankfully didn’t complain when I pointed out that the baby could just as well be female.) And while I could opt for a White Wolf-style solution and use female pronouns as the assumed default, that feels weird too. I don’t want to get too used to the idea of the baby being one or the other and then find out that I was wrong.

So for now the baby will have to remain “the baby” or “the kid” or even “the octopus” (long story). But I can’t help but wish that English was better at coping with persons of indeterminate gender. That would make all of this a little easier.

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Fourteen weeks: On being at war for my own body

24 Feb

It’s been a tough week to be a geeky feminist, folks. Jennifer Hepler, a writer at BioWare, had a harassment campaign launched against her for the crime of having an opinion while being female. There’s also been some privileged entitlement spilling out of some geek communities that I’ve mostly severed ties with, precisely because of said privileged entitlement. In non-geek feminist circles, the internets are abuzz about Rihanna and Chris Brown and the problematic narrative surrounding Whitney Houston’s death. So that’s getting me down.

But more than anything, I am horrified and appalled by the fact that American politicians and elites have straight up declared war on women’s rights. The abominable Virginia ultrasound law, Rick Santorum as a serious candidate for President, the Catholic Bishops’ insistence that their right to deny basic medical care to women is more important than the right of women to make their own damned decisions about their health and their religion… How have we gotten to the point where we are having to fight for something that has been a fundamental fact of life for the last fifty years? How have we gotten to the point where those in power can openly declare that women do not have worth as human beings, that their only worth is as a support system for their uterus, which should be making babies right now, dammit. How have we gotten to the point where the decision of whether or not to have a child becomes a decision made by the state and not by the woman?

I am a person whose life has been shaped by access to contraception. Though she got married relatively young, my mother put off having children while she pursued a graduate education and got her career off to a solid start. After having my brother and I, she chose not to have additional children – a decision that I benefited from as it meant that my parents economic resources were not stretched. As a result my parents were able to save enough money to pay for my university education (with help from a lot of scholarships), something that wouldn’t have been possible without my parents being able to choose to limit the size of our family.

As for myself, my path to being in a position where I could economically support having a family of my own has been a hard one, and has taken a lot longer than I ever thought I would. I got married at 20; with three years of school left to finish I certainly was in no position to be able to support a child. We couldn’t even support ourselves. At 23 I graduated into a Rust Belt economy that already boasted double-digit unemployment before the economic crash of 2008, which was a huge factor in my decision to move to Canada. Establishing oneself in a new country, even one that shares a common language, is tough, though, and there were several false starts. I quit a terrible job that was making me sick at the start of 2009, got laid off early from a mat-leave contract, and was unexpectedly laid off from the job after that that I thought was stable enough to finally allow us to start a family.

As much as I joked about enjoying being a DINK (dual income no kids), the fact of the matter is that it wasn’t until recently that I was in a position to be able to support a child. And the thing that gives me pause is that what I had taken for granted all this time, the thing that is now under assault by the men in power, is the fact that I was able to choose not to get pregnant. Access to reliable contraception is something that I never thought to question, something I never thought would actually become part of the national conversation. The ability to say ‘no, I am a person and I deserve to make the determination of when I am able to support a child’, to not have that decision taken out of my hands is something so obvious, so simple that I never thought about it. It was simply part of The Way Things Were.

But wundergeek, you might say. Why get so worked up about this? After all, didn’t you move to Canada? Canada covers pre-natal care and price-control legislation means that contraceptive medication is cheaper and more accessible than in the United States. So what do you have to worry about?

What I have to worry about is the prevailing attitude that while pregnant, your body is not your own. No matter what decisions you make regarding your pregnancy, someone will judge you for them. As progressive as Canada might be otherwise, we do one share one thing with the Americans – the commonly held idea that other people will know better than you what decisions about pregnancy and motherhood you should make. And lest we get too carried away in touting our superiority to our benighted American cousins, let’s not forget that a Federal MP from Southwestern Ontario, a region that likes to think of itself as generally more enlightened, wants to re-examine the legal definition of when life begins. That’s not to say that I think we’re going to have to worry about personhood laws up here – thankfully the government has said that that is a conversation they’re just not interested in having. But the fact that someone with such regressive views of women’s rights could be elected to federal office is troubling none the less.

It’s crazy-making and more than a little frightening, this determined assault on the thing that has made so many of my life choices possible. I would have thought we had progressed beyond the point where “I am more than my ability to bear children” would be a controversial statement, but apparently not.

Fourteen weeks: On the mystery of where brown babies come from

22 Feb

A clarification on my previous post, and how it led to an observation

After reading my previous post, my husband remarked that he thought it was a good post, but he didn’t see how it was particularly feminist.

I responded that it was totally feminist! Being a mother is supposed to be hugely aspirational. Reproducing is What Women Are For, after all. Having babies is number one on the list of Shit Women Are Supposed to Do, and we are supposed to be HAPPY ABOUT IT, DAMMIT. We are not supposed to be insecure, or admit to not enjoying being pregnant, or heaven forbid admit that the thought of a newborn in the house doesn’t fill us with warm tingles of anticipation 100% of the time. The dominant cultural narrative is that women who get pregnant are expected to be THRILLED TO BITS about it, and that’s really cracked. Because sure, some women might enjoy pregnancy. But there’s a lot of stuff that goes along with pregnancy that’s pretty inherently un-fun. Like puking! I’d argue that anyone who is SUPER THRILLED OMG about a medical condition that makes them puke all the time is maybe a little strange.

He then nodded and said that made sense, only he hadn’t gotten any of that from my previous post.

So I started thinking about drilling into that a bit more by looking at pictures of pregnant women. Before I gave up on pregnancy books, it was not lost on me that every single photo in all of these books showed women in various states of bliss. Not one of the photos was of a woman looking tired or overheated or miserable. Nope! All of the photos showed women who looked cracked out of their brains with TEH PREGNANCY HAPPY. Even the women who were incredibly, hugely pregnant! Even them!

It got more than a little surreal, especially when some of the books would have these photos inserted into chapters talking about unpleasant birth complications and the like. The text would be about this TOTAL DOWNER SUBJECT and then on the next page there would be BLISSED OUT PREGNANT LADY. Clearly this needed to be blogged about. …which is how I wound up getting sidetracked into writing about the mystery of where brown babies come from.

Pretty, pretty pictures

Since I was feeling too lazy to scan photos from the books I currently have checked out, I did a Google image search instead and came up with an abundance of search results. Only when I had all these photos together, I noticed something really odd. Apparently, only white women ever get pregnant. Well, okay, except for that one Asian. Seriously, check this out:

ZOMG PREGNANCY IS AWSUM!!!1!11!!eleventyone!

For fairness’ sake, I labeled the two that I thought might not be white (the small size made it hard to tell), although I’m pretty sure that it’s just shenanigans with the over-use of levels in Photoshop. But you can’t deny that’s a whole lot of white women. A whole lot of happy, happy white women. And when I flipped through the pregnancy books I had out from the library, it was pretty much the same thing. A lot of pregnant white women with the very occasional pregnant Asian woman.

[Side note: Even better is the bonus photo that I circled! After bitching about how all these women looked so incredibly happy, it really stood out to me. Look at that woman! She’s totally unhappy! Until I took a closer look and realized that she’s not happy because she’s NOT PREGNANT. She’s in the same photo as a blissed out pregnant lady who is WEARING WHITE because pregnancy is good and virtuous and good. And Not Pregnant Lady is WEARING BLACK and LOOKING UNHAPPY because she’s not pregnant and that makes her bad and defective and bad. (Yes I realize this paragraph has a lot of capitols. It’s just so messed up that I CAN’T HELP MYSELF.)]

When you Google pictures of babies, the results are pretty much the same, with an amusing difference…

Look! Down at the bottom! A brown baby! If only white women (and that one Asian woman) get pregnant, where the hell did that one brown baby come from? Is this is a thing that just randomly happens to white women? That occasionally they pop out a brown baby? “I’m sorry, ma’am. We’re not really sure why that happened. Sometimes brown babies just happen. We haven’t really figured that one out yet.”

…so that cultural narrative of pregnancy I was talking about? Look like it’s messed up in more ways than I’d originally thought.

Thirteen Weeks: On being a heartless robot

16 Feb

I’ve been putting this off because I didn’t really want to write this post, even though I said that I did. It’s not an easy thing to talk about, and it’s especially hard to do so in a way that doesn’t seem like I’m trying to attack the people who are trying to be supportive of me and my pregnancy. Overall I’ve been very gratified by the response I’ve gotten to announcing that I’m pregnant; my friends and family have been very excited and have been open in expressing that excitement.

But honestly, sometimes that excitement is just hard to deal with, because I don’t feel all that excited myself. Nor did I feel really excited about any of the major milestones we’ve already crossed. The early pregnancy ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy was neat, but I didn’t feel any excitement or sense of attachment to the baby. It was confirming a thing I knew – I’m pregnant. Did I have any feelings about that one way or the other? Not really, no, other than pregnancy really isn’t a whole lot of fun.

It was the same with our first midwife appointment recently when we heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. I found myself trying to fake a sense of excitement I didn’t feel. It was nice having confirmation that the baby seems healthy and that the heartbeat was within normal parameters. But again, I didn’t have any particular feelings of anticipation or excitement.

Which is where the feeling like a heartless robot comes in. I know how this is supposed to go. With my first trimester over (or just about over, depending on who you ask), I’m supposed to be glowy and radiant. I’m supposed to be bonding with my baby. Most of all, I’m supposed to be happy and excited about having a baby. The cultural narrative of how I’m supposed to feel is incredibly hard to ignore when the books and websites that I’m reading are full of pictures of blissful mothers with beatific expressions who look as if they’re about to float away from pure joy. I am supposed to be HAPPY ABOUT BEING PREGNANT, DAMMIT. It’s hard not to feel defective and soulless because I just don’t feel that.

I mean, despite being a deviant feminist, I’ve managed to do everything a Good Girl Is Supposed To Do. I got married. We bought a house. We have pets, and now we’re starting a family. I should be thrilled, right? Yet another box checked off on that list of Crap Women Are Expected To Do!

…here’s where I have problems, though. My husband is really awesome, and I think a child of ours will be super smart and nerdy and weird in all kinds of neat and unpredictable ways. I want to meet that kid and teach them about science and feminism and geek lit. I want to teach them that the knight says ‘ni’ and that the tentacle beast says ‘gwar’ (long story) and that Captain Picard is and always will be better than Captain Kirk (it’s been proven by science). That’s what I’m excited about. That stuff will be fucking awesome.

But being trapped in the house with a small cranky organism that exists to eat, poop, and cry? That doesn’t sound so fun. I get that it’s a thing that you have to get through in order to get to those other fun bits. In order to get to the talk-y, reason-y bits, you kind of have to go through the non-talky, non-reasony bits. (Yes they’re words. Shut up.) But am I excited about sacrificing my social life and sleep to a pint-sized tyrant? Not so much, no. And yes it helps that I have a husband who is an introvert and will be willing to let me escape once in a while to socialize with adult-type people. Still, I can’t take advantage of that to just dump all the parenting on him because that would make me a major dickbag.

So here’s the part where friends and family chime in and say that it’s different when it’s yours! When the baby is born I’ll have that moment where I fall in love and it will all be worth it! And who knows, they might be right. For obvious reasons it’s not something I can prove or disprove until I actually have the baby. Maybe they’re right and when I have the baby I’ll suddenly think that OMG NOT SLEEPING IS TOTALLY WORTH IT BECAUSE THIS BABY IS THE BEST. And I get that they’re trying to help me feel better about this whole thing. I get it! But from the outside, as someone who hasn’t had that experience yet, sometimes it feels a little like DRINK THE KOOL-AID WE HAVE COOKIES.

All of which makes me feel like a soulless monster and a heartless robot all in one. It’s like, if all these other pregnant women are happy about their pregnancies, why aren’t I? Why can’t I just be happy and excited like I’m supposed to be?

Thirteen weeks: On rude questions and observations on weight

13 Feb

So the last week or so I’ve finally been telling people outside immediate family about my pregnancy. It means that I’ve had the same conversation about fifty different times over a very short period of time, which starts to get kind of surreal after about repetition number ten, honestly. Most of the questions that people ask are pretty innocuous. When are you due? How are you feeling? Do you plan to find out the sex of the baby? (Okay, that one strikes me as weird because of my feminism, but I’ll come back to that one later.) The one question that has come up a handful of times that I absolutely don’t know how to deal with is this:

Was the baby planned or unplanned?

Um. Isn’t that kind of personal? If I haven’t been the sort of person thus far who favors you with those sorts of details about my sex life, what is it about telling you that I’m pregnant that makes you think it’s okay to ask now? The people who have asked so far have been people I haven’t known very well, otherwise I might well have been tempted to answer with something like, “well you know how it is. Sometimes we just have to tear each other’s clothes off and hump like rabbits, and when that happens who has time for birth control?”.

I also have trouble not seeing the question as a little insulting. Asking implies that you somehow think that I am ‘not the sort of person’ to want to have a baby, which makes me question why. Is it because I’m a feminist? A martial artist? Not overly feminine? And sure, maybe at this point I’m over-thinking. But maybe I’m not.

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Something else I’m discovering is that once you’re pregnant, everyone comments on your weight, and wow is that weird. As a woman, I’m used to the never-ending barrage of media aimed at me telling me that I need to be thinner. (Protip: however thin you are, thinner is better.) But there’s a difference between that and suddenly being faced with real, honest-to-god people commenting on your weight to your face all the time.

And here’s the thing that’s messed up – being complimented on not gaining weight can make you just as crazy as being called a fat cow if you hear it often enough. Because you’re pregnant and you’re supposed to gain weight, so if you don’t does that mean you’re doing it wrong?

“You don’t even look pregnant!”

“I never would have guessed you’re pregnant, you’re so petite!”

“Oh my god, you haven’t gained any weight at all!”

It got to the point where I started to get paranoid. What if I was doing this all wrong? Do I need to eat more? Had I been trying to avoid the “eating for two” trap so hard that I was harming the baby? I only gained 2 pounds the first trimester instead of the expected 4, does that make me a terrible person? When I expressed these doubts to my husband, he kindly refrained from calling me crazy and reminded me that during the first trimester I had been in two different musicals with dance-heavy parts, and don’t I usually lose weight when I do musicals?

Oh. Yeah.

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This isn’t really related to feminism, but pregnancy books are really irritating because they have a habit of contradicting each other. Do Kegels! Don’t do Kegels! Anything but natural homebirth is evil! Anything but hospital birth is evil! Homeopathy, acupuncture, and anti-medicinal woo! Science-based medicine only ftw! Seriously, it would be really helpful if the authors of these books had to state up front what their ideological bias was so that I could decide which chapters in a book to read and which chapters to skip.

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That’s it for now. Stay tuned for next time when I’ll talk about why I am a heartless robot. (Okay not really.) (Except for how I am.)

Introduction: I didn’t want to write this blog

11 Feb

See, I’ve done the feminist blogging this before. Been there, done that, bought the incredibly disturbing t-shirt. (Or made. Whatever.) Ultimately I got burned out on blogging, converted the blog to a reference site, and hung up my blogging hat. I’ve been enjoying these last few months of not blogging, too. So what changed my mind? What made me hop back on the blogging bicycle? (Yes I’m mixing my metaphors. Shut up.)

Well, as the name of the blog might imply, I got pregnant. I’m a first time mom, so this is a pretty new experience for me. But as soon as I started telling people, I couldn’t help but feel weird about some of the things that started happening. My feminism senses were tingling again and I started getting the itch to write about it. Maybe online in some kind of irregularly published format… Like… a blog…

But no! That way lay madness! So I repressed the urge. I wasn’t going to blog about feminism again. I wasn’t! …obviously that didn’t last. So what happened? Well, two things.

1) Last week I finally announced to all my friends that I was pregnant at a large party. A male friend congratulated me, then observed that I’d now get to deal with people judging me about every decision I make through the rest of my pregnancy and beyond.

And it was true! So true! Within about twenty minutes of telling my co-workers (previous to the party), one of them scolded me quite harshly when I confessed that I’m not sure I want to be pregnant again after this pregnancy, since it’s been a rough first trimester. “DON’T YOU DARE,” she told me, and then proceeded to lecture me about how awful it is to be an only child. Even at the party, people made comments casually assuming what decisions I would be making regarding the baby like “but you’ll be breast-feeding by then” or “you’ll still be home with the baby at that point”.

What is it about being pregnant that strips away your autonomy to make decisions about your baby’s future? Seriously, people. I almost wanted to start a blog right there and then so I could write about how messed up that is. (Though let’s be clear. I know that my friends were very well-intentioned and didn’t intend any offense.)

2) Reflecting on some of this stuff, I posted on facebook that I was thinking about starting a blog and oh god someone talk me out of it nooooowwww. The response I got was… well… not exactly what I was looking for:

…and on in that vein. So here I am, giving in to the inevitable. To the male friend who made the incredibly accurate observation at the party (you know who you are) and to the friends who didn’t talk me out of this: this is all your fault.

So what can I expect?

For those of you coming from Go Make Me A Sandwich, I’m going to moderate comments extremely heavily. This is a much more personal blog about a personal experience that happens to be written from a feminist perspective. My tolerance for trolling, or even snark, will be very low. Also, don’t expect huge, well-researched posts. For the most part you’ll get feminist rambling with a side of sarcasm. My intention is absolutely not to make this yet another ‘oh god pregnancy is hard whinypants’ blog. The internet has enough of those, thanks.

I’m not sure how often I’ll post, but I imagine I have more to say on the subject that I think I do. (That’s how it happened last time.) I also may or may not continue the blog after the baby is born. We’ll see. I’m pretty much playing this by ear.

Wundergeek out. (For now)