Image credit: @yellowhouseca
One night at work I was staring off into the distance, minding my own damn business, when I was suddenly startled by the unfamiliar fondling of an acquaintance’s hand upon my tummy. The hand cradled my food-baby bulge; the soft, small mound of fat that is my recent weight gain.
Before I could swallow my shock, a head appeared over my shoulder to accompany the unsolicited hand and shamelessly ask, “Are you pregnant?” And I thought to myself, “Bitch, I’m as pregnant as you seem to be emotionally intelligent.”
There are too many women that would be triggered by a stranger making pregnancy-related “jokes” in lieu of their weight gain.
I then asked her as politely as possible to remove her hand from my body and her existence from my immediate vicinity, knowing all too well the fury rattling my veins at that very heated moment would not have helped me to convey myself in ways kind nor constructive enough.
Because as much as my irritated ego wanted to deflect her hurtful ignorance with harsheties that would harm, deep down I knew that I too was pretty problematic once. And more importantly, I wanted to make sure she would never violate someone’s physical and mental space like the way she did mine again.
Because while I have gained weight on purpose in favour of being strong not skinny, sated not starved, and at peace with my body’s fluctuating forms, there are too many people – women especially – that have not chosen their bodily fate.
You might not think there is anything wrong with enquiring about the occupancy of someone’s womb. But there is.
There are too many people that would be triggered by a stranger making pregnancy-related “jokes” in lieu of their weight gain. There are too many people who are experiencing/have experienced body shaming, disordered eating, miscarriages, fertility issues, and bodily insecurities for this kind of unconscious behaviour to be left unchecked.
So, after my shift, I sent her a less-eloquent version of the following message via Instagram DM:
Dear Unsolicited Body Commenter,
You might not think there is anything wrong with invading someone’s personal space, touching their body, and then enquiring about the occupancy of their womb. But there is. Even if you meant it as a joke.
Since the dawn of the vaginal canal, the patriarchy has forced women to feel as if we are as worthy as our loins are fruitful. We’re constantly questioned about our “lack” of children. Aren’t you worried about your eggs running out? You’re not getting any younger. You don’t want kids? But you’re going to be so lonely when you’re old!
And as if having the autonomy over our own bodies challenged by every aunt, uncle, and stranger we come across isn’t bad enough, we’re also made to feel ashamed of having miscarriages. As if we have any part in such a fate. Segway: not only those who identify as women have miscarriages.
And since 1 in every four known pregnancies ends in miscarriage, you’d think that it wouldn’t be so taboo for people to speak about having one. NEWSFLASH: That whole “Don’t tell anyone that you’re pregnant until after 12 weeks in case it dies, because then you’ll have to tell people and that’ll be, like, so awkward” is misogyny in plain sight.
Whatever is or isn’t happening inside of a someone’s uterus has nothing to do with anybody but that woman.
Pregnancy can be a very sensitive topic for people in this whaddaya-mean-you-don’t-want-kids, spare-us-the-news-of-your-miscarriage patriarchal shit storm. Some people battle to fall pregnant and struggle to differentiate their own identity from their role as a parent who may never bear a child. Some people have abortions on purpose and feel totally fine about it. Some people don’t feel fine about it at all.
My point is: whatever is or isn’t happening inside of a someone’s uterus has nothing to do with anybody but that person. Learn to consider pregnancy, or lack thereof, as a deeply personal thing that you have no right to ask about unless someone has specifically confided in you and expressed interest in hearing your opinion.
Our society boasts a despicable history of fat shaming, one that has sent young people, again especially women, into life threatening bouts of disordered eating, body dysmorphia, depression, and more. I will never deny what privilege I possess as a slim person, but I will note that it’s my very slimness that seems to be an invitation for people to comment on my body more freely than they would on the body of someone who’s fat.
Think about it. Would you, in your right mind, have asked a fat person if they were pregnant while rubbing their belly? Oh. You were just joking? Who exactly in the history of laughing has ever laughed when someone asked them if they were pregnant when they clearly weren’t? No. Fucking. Body. That’s who.
Just because someone is fat doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy or unfit, and just because someone isn’t fat, doesn’t mean that unsolicited body commentary won’t bother them.
Body commentary is fucking useless at best and extremely harmful at worst. You have no idea what kind of relationship that person has with their body or what bodily insecurities they’re navigating. Therefore, you have no idea how your “harmless joke” could impact them.
I’m sick and fucking tired of people telling me how they think my body should look.
“You’re too thin.”
“Are you pregnant? Lol, joke.”
“You need to lose some weight around you mid-section.”
“You’ve lost so much weight, you look sick.”
Stop. Commenting. On. People’s. Bodies. Period.
Ya’ll can fuck right off. I’m done equating my worth with how people see my body. My body is banging. My body is strong. My body is for the most part healthy. My body is being learned more and more by my brain. I accept my body in every shape it comes. And none of that has anything to do with you.
I hope you know that you can do better when you know better.
I am gaining weight because my affinity with strength training goes far beyond my affinity with thinness. I ~know~ ya’ll love my body when I’m dieting and hungry most of the time. I get it. You’re obsessed with washboard abs – even though most of you don’t have any and probably never will. I was obsessed with that shit too once. But not anymore.
I am no longer a slave to my aesthetics, nor to your opinion. And if you want to let your head hit the pillow at night knowing you’re making people feel shit about themselves with your shit jokes and unsolicited body commentary, then fine. Be shit.
But if you don’t to be shit, then I hope you can learn right now that what you say to people about their bodies matters. I hope that you may become awakened to the viciously oppressive rhetoric propagated within our ableist, fat-shaming, white supremacist, patriarchal society.
I hope that you can unlearn the ways in which you’ve internalised that very rhetoric, and how it effects the ways in which you show up in the world and treat people. I hope you know that you ~can~ do better when you know better. And now you know better. So go do better. ♥