Sunday, March 14, 2010

ControverSunday: Pre-Pregnancy Edition

So, I should be working on my thesis (still on page 1! Whoo hoo... Ahem) rather than on ControverSunday (Gah! How many more Sundays will I have to add that caveat?! Interweb friends! Keep me accountable! Make me work on my thesis!)But, well, since I'm not, I suppose I may as well write a little about this whole culture of pregnancy thing.

Actually, what I think is more interesting than that is the culture of PRE-pregnancy in this country. I mean, when you're pregnant, I think you kinda get sucked into the culture--yanno? Well, you're pregnant. It's not like you can really AVOID it... unless you go all crunchy-granola and live in a commune or something.

Part of the reason I find the whole pre-pregnancy culture so fascinating (which is all part of the Madonna-and-child pseudo-worship going on as well) is how little care the culture has when that baby-bump turns into an ACTUAL real-live BREATHING, Kicking, Screaming, Pooping, Boob-milk drinking, Daycare-needing baby. Before that it's all "Let us meddle in your business!" After the birth it's all, "You're on your own, suckers! You made a choice (nevermind that we try to eliminate your choices!), you better live with it!"

But I digress...

I think it's all part and parcel of the same disdain the culture in general has for women's autonomy. What do I mean? Well, how's this for a concrete example--

Young women are often discriminated against when seeking sterilization. Many doctors ask offensive questions ("What if you met a billionaire who wanted to have kids with you?"), state categorically that their patients are too young to consider the surgery, and generally act as though, as one woman who tried unsuccessfully to be sterilized at the age of 21 in the U.K. put it, "just because I was a woman, I'd reach a point where an urge to breed would overcome all rational thought." (Perhaps unsurprisingly, that woman's 25-year-old husband faced no such presumptions when he asked his doctor for a vasectomy. The procedure was quickly approved.)

(Or how aboutThis story?)

I had friends argue with me that women don't really know what they're doing when they opt for steralization, that they shouldn't be allowed to do it because it's permanent, they'll change their minds, they're too young... etc. To that I say... SO THE FUCK WHAT?

Maybe they will change their minds. Maybe they will regret it. Does that mean they shouldn't be allowed the option? We let people make stupid decisions all the time-- People get tattoos on their faces. People marry ax murderers who are in still in prison. People have 19 kids and counting. People have ONE kid and end up regretting it. But shouldn't they have the choice? But it seems to be only women who shouldn't have a choice where their reproductive options are concerned because...women don't know what they REALLY want or what's good for them. And women are fickle creatures who will change their minds anyway...

But society limiting women's choices is only one aspect of the whole "Pre-pregnancy" culture. Additionally are all the recommendations that women who plan or "MIGHT" become pregnant should avoid fish... should take folic acid... should eat organic vegetables... should avoid milk with artificial growth hormones...etc. Now, mind you, I think these are all good recommendations. The catch is, I think these are all good recommendations for EVERYONE-- but they are couched in terms of not what is best for the WOMAN, but what would be best for the fetus that she MIGHT someday carry. WTF? Why can't women be healthy for their own sake's as well?

There is also generally the assumption that ALL women will eventually have children. (And if they don't WTF is wrong with them?!) I don't care what laws or rules are in place-- if you don't think the thought is going through some employer's mind when s/he interviews a 25-35 childless woman that they're going to lose that woman to maternity leave at some point in the near future, and that that doesn't affect hiring decisions, I'd say you're crazy. Because, you know what? I've interviewed people, and it's gone through my mind. Yes, it's wrong, (but I can honestly say it didn't affect my decisions, since I hope to be going on maternity leave in the next 5 years or so myself...) but I have some friends who are ADAMANTLY "child-free" folks and they are my age. A potential employer would have no way of knowing which camp anyone falls in, but I'd be willing to bet they'd assume that hypothetical woman will be jumping on the mommy-train shortly.

So, this isn't a particularly well-thought out post, because it's midnight and I'm avoiding my thesis... I know are other examples of the pre-pregnancy culture that I'm not thinking of-- I'm sure y'all have some of your own. Feel free to post some in the comments!


Anonymous said...

I know that my friend CF is frustrated over just the things you mention--that the assumption all women want children is so strong that no one respects/understands women who JUST DON'T. I hope I didn't sound like an ass when I was talking about drives on my post, because I really didn't mean that I think the desire for kids is the definition of the norm. I felt it, and CF doesn't. We're both "normal."

As for keeping you accountable: if you feel comfortable that it won't "out" you, about about writing a brief description/outline/what-have-you about the thesis by the end of the week?

Megan said...

It's interesting because I sort of dabbled in the issue of doctors making decisions for us or trying to influence us in my post, but I was leaning the other way. But, I hadn't thought of things like sterilization, etc. I guess in any case, if a person elects to have any kind of procedure done, THEY are responsible for the consequences. If they regret it, too bad.

But, I suppose I still take issue with doctors exploiting the fears and societal pressures of their patients and performing unnecessary fertility procedures, which is what I am talking about in my post.

Anyway, I loved this. It really made me thing. And, I linked you up in my post. :)

Hypatia said...

Perpetua-- Npapaya is just like your CF friend too. No, you never sound like an ass! That's just it-- there are many different kinds of "normal" but the greater society doesn't really acknowledge that. I also think it must be really hard if you WANT kids, but can't have them to be constantly bombarded with both Pre-Pregnancy and Pregnancy culture, since they're both so pervasive.

Hmmm... For my thesis-- Thanks for the offer! I might take you up on that if I am totally unproductive this weekend again (Which I really CANNOT be!) My goal is to bang out a draft this weekend-- (or at least 80 pages or so...)

Does that sound crazy? Maybe it is, but I've done papers that length in that amount of time before (and gotten good grades). I think that's why I'm procrastinating so much-- because I know I CAN! BAD BAD BAD!

Megan- Thanks very much. I've been following your blog since the last ControverSunday, and I find it very interesting.