So, I like posting pictures of my baby bump as it grows on Instagram. I just like it. Reason enough, right? I like documenting my pregnancy in photos, I like being able to see the change between weeks, I like taking pictures of myself in a state I will never be in again any other time, I really, really like connecting with other mamas due the same time as me, I like the positive attention and the likes when I am feeling rather blah.
What I don’t love?
Being followed by people selling weight-loss products. Wraps. Things you can buy to help you “get your body back” after baby. People targeting me to “wrap myself skinny!” after baby. People who found me from my pregnancy pictures only. Not from a selfie from the neck up. Not because they just like my witty captions on pictures of flowers or my thoughtful captions on pictures of the sky. From pictures of my body. Pregnant.
I don’t love being immediately followed and messaged and asked to be featured by pregnancy fetish pages. Pages that sexualize pregnant bodies.
And I know. These actions are basically harmless. They aren’t huge deals. Innocent, really. I should make my profile private. I should not take pictures of myself and post them if I don’t want this attention. I’m basically just asking for this, right? I have no business complaining. I literally scolded myself with these exact sentiments, they have been so engrained in me.
Well, fuck that. Fuck that I need to hide myself, or censor myself, or stop doing something I enjoy because someone wants to target me. I am not the problem. My body is not the fucking problem.
But this is what we do, isn’t it? Women are the problem. I am an attention seeking whore. Did you think while reading my complaint “well, solution time! Stop posting the damn pictures then!” Because underneath that thought is another: that I deserve any harassment, any unwanted attention. I should know better. I should be more careful. I should not have the gall to exist and document it in photos and share them with anyone other than myself.
Women’s bodies are the problem. The bodies need to be fixed, perfected. If your going to share with the world, it better be a perfect body. And I know, I get it. The business opportunities for following pregnant women are gold. I just wish there was no market for the sort of company that bases its sales off hoping you hate the way you look and want to “fix” it. Can’t get behind that one.
Women need to hide these bodies too, because men can’t help but sexualize them. They can’t help it. That’s why we have special dress codes for women. That’s why all the advice about rape focuses on how women can protect themselves, not how men can fucking STOP RAPING.
A few weeks ago I was in line at the grocery store, in my yoga pants and a long coat and Uggs. The men behind me were staring at me and finally one said “Sorry.” I looked up at him from unloading my items onto the conveyor belt and asked “For what?” “You are just the hottest fucking pregnant woman I have ever seen,” he smirked. I mumbled a “thank you”. A THANK YOU. Because I didn’t know what else to do. So conditioned it is in me to respond in a pleasing matter to males. He continued commenting and staring and at one point the other male asked if they could help me to my car. I felt more and more uncomfortable and thankfully my husband was only feet away in another part of the store. When I told him about it once we were in the car, I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was that made the interaction so unpleasant for me. It made me feel genuinely icky. It made my skin crawl. But still I said “thank you” and smiled. Even when I started to get a little nervous, even when I started to feel “off”, I still smiled.
I guess I was being an attention seeking whore there too, shopping for groceries on a Sunday afternoon.
My point is, the internet is a mirror of the real world. Yes, people feel safer and braver on the world wide web – but the ideas are the same. If you are a woman who doesn’t hide herself, who puts herself out there, there can be consequences. Things you are just “asking for”. Whether your crime is just existing in public while woman or posting pregnant selfies.
And that’s just bullshit.
Yes, being followed by people selling weight-loss products and pregnancy fetishists is not the end of the world. There are bigger issues. I don’t expect that my rant is going to change anything – that suddenly the internet will be a “safe space” for women. That the “wrap yourself skinny” companies will suddenly disappear, that all the people who sexualize pregnant bodies that are not asking to be sexualized will suddenly stop.
But I want to think about the way we respond to these lesser retaliations for being a woman in a public space, virtual or otherwise. I want to uncover what the underlying message is that we are sending women, sending ourselves.
I think I’ll pass on the wraps today, thank you.