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pregnant women’s bodies aren’t public property

Women face a lot of pressure, from themselves, from friends, from family, even from outside sources. And none seems more harsh and critical than when a woman is pregnant. Recently, a friend who just became pregnant went to her in-laws with her husband and the first thing the mother-in-law said to her?

“Wow, you’re fat!”

My friend was upset, obviously. She didn’t know what to say at this statement, nor to the obvious glee with which it was delivered.

Another friend is also pregnant and a little further along than the previous friend. The amount of unsolicited comments she gets, ranging from questions about her body to her birthing plans is astounding. It smacks of the whole notion of women being public property, tenfold. A thousand fold. The pregnant body attracts attention, therefore the woman must want that attention?

I have found that no one is a worse judge of a woman than another woman. Why do we do this? Why have we been taught to do this?

“She’s gotten so fat”
“She’s so thin”
“What does she eat?”
“What doesn’t she eat?”

I recently read an article in New York magazine that took some comments from model Natalia Vodianova on weight gain and loss.

Natalia had previously been praised for losing weight extremely quickly after the birth of her son, then derided for gaining back some weight. It prompted her to speak at the Council of Fashion Designers of America panel on eating disorders, during the great size zero debate and the focus on the fashion industry and models.

The comments by Vodianova quoted in the New York magazine article may have been misconstrued or mistranslated, but they’re not exactly complimentary when it comes to fat people. She states that it is better to be skinny than to be fat, that if she eats like a pig, she feels like a pig, and she was able to go to an event three days after giving birth to her son in Givenchy couture. You know, at the weight she’d previously mentioned that wasn’t healthy for her.

I wanted to be surprised that someone who had been scrutinised so heavily for her weight before and after the birth of her son could be so callous, but I wasn’t.

We’re all in competition with each other, it appears. Women’s bodies are public property, fair game. To ourselves, to our friends, to our families, and most of all, to strangers. I’ve spoken many times about the pressure we put on ourselves, but we must also recognise that outside pressure. The insidious nature of competition, whether conscious or subconscious, is always there.

The first friend was already asked how long she thought it would take her to get her “normal” body back. Another friend joked she is probably expected to start doing squats the second after the birth.

We’re influenced by celebrities and models, who live a life that is almost hyper-real and we have become so used to emulating them that we don’t even realise we’re doing it any more.

These people probably mean well. They probably don’t even realise they’re saying anything offensive because it’s been taught that weight discussion and baby discussion is a female domain and how females bond together.

Well, I don’t want to bond this way. I know I can’t escape this influence 100%, but I want to at least recognise it for what it is and challenge it when it happens. I would hope that others do too.

(Image Credit)

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