Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Going Into Labour in Public

It seems that comedian Chris Rock was out doing some shopping, when a pregnant woman's water broke in front of him.
Many fellas might have been grossed out, but Rock — a father of two — rushed to help. He started cracking jokes, amusing the mom-to-be (who had to have been mortified; isn't this every pregnant woman's worst nightmare?) and the throng of rubbernecking shoppers until paramedics arrived. (emphasis mine)


"He was making the crowd and the woman in labor laugh," an eyewitness told Us. "She recognized who he was immediately and he stayed there until the paramedics took her away." (source)
I saw this little snippet and it irked me.  At first I wasn't sure what it was, I just knew that I didn't like it at all. Why is your water breaking in a clearly public place deemed a nightmare - something that women should be ashamed of?  It seems that no matter what the female biological function is, shame is always attached it.  We are shamed for having periods, told repeatedly that our vagina's smell, directed to control our bowel movements with yogurt and all manner of products, and yet rarely to never do I see this kind of detailed attention dedicated to male bodies. 


The breaking of water is a sign that one has entered labour and I fail to see why anyone should be embarrassed about it.  The writer of the piece in question, is almost relating it to urine by suggesting shame. If one's body is constantly under the purview of others, how can we claim that we live in a world where women's activism is no longer needed? I am further disgusted with the idea that Rock should be praised for not expressing disgust and remaining calm enough to tell a joke.  What was happening was a life changing event for the woman in question and had no baring on Rock.  I am tired of men being praised for being decent human beings, while women's everyday lives are considered perfunctory.


The embarrassment over the breaking of water is just a continuation of the discipline that women receive from the moment a pregnancy becomes public.  It is interesting that so many push for women to conceive and give birth and yet we attack pregnant women.  We harass them over what they consume, what they wear, even their thought processes are something society attempts to control by creating a narrative about the glowing bubbling happy pregnant woman.  I will tell you first hand, I was the meanest pregnant woman you will ever meet.  I once slapped a woman who touched my stomach without asking. 


I am well aware that I am arguing against a single sentence in a piece that was merely a few paragraphs long, but it is because the shaming of pregnant women was nonchalantly thrown in that caught my attention.  If we can just discipline someone casually, it means that such action has been normalized and therefore, is not seen as the least bit problematic. Much of the shaming and sexist patriarchal attacks on women happen in just this manner.  There is never an incident too small to call attention to, because we need to think how bodies are truly understood to effectively challenge patriarchy.