Thursday, February 05, 2009

Dear Miss S------

Dear Miss S-------,

I realize you probably meant no ill-will by your remark in the departmental mail room this morning. After all, you are a young graduate student without children, whom, I will presume, has never been pregnant. In this case, you might be considered guilty of mere insensitivity rather than outright ignorance and rudeness. However, I feel obligated to point out that it is generally considered, how shall I put this, really fucking stupid, to remark to a pregnant woman, "Gee, you seem to get bigger every day, every time I see you!" This is especially the case if the pregnant woman happens to be a colleague who works in the same field as you and could someday be reviewing your work. Comments like this tend to make a pregnant woman, or at least this pregnant woman, want to cause bodily harm to the clueless sap that had the audacity to make any comment about her weight.

I hope that you think back on your comment and quickly feel like an ass, as you should. For now, I will chalk up your remark as the result of someone who is quite possibly intelligent, but lacks any notion of common sense.

Perfectly-Proportioned, Pregnant, AcadeMama


M said...

Don't you hate this? At the end of my pregnancy with Wild Man, one of our grad school colleagues said something similar to me, and I was not having a good day to begin with. He made the comment as I was leaving the computer lab, and I abruptly turned around and informed him, not so politely, that telling me I looked like I was going to "pop" was not the kind of thing I needed to hear. I then added that it was a completely inappropriate comment to make to any woman who is pregnant. I'm being much nicer here than I was at the time. But really, why does it suddenly become acceptable to mention a person's size just because she is pregnant? these colleagues of our would never tell an obese person, "Wow, your butt is huge! How many burgers have you eaten this week?" But if a woman is pregnant, it is totally acceptable to comment on her size. I mean give me a break. Yes, I'm going to gain weight, but you know what? I'm growing another person inside of me, to borrow your own words, AM!

I'm sorry this person was so annoying.

Anonymous said...

I suspect people think they are sharing in the joy of the growing baby, and are just insensitive to how some pregnant moms feel about the growing belly. I do know some moms, esp. those who had fertility problems, who enjoy people commenting on their size... it can be seen as an affirmation of how healthy and normal the pregnancy is progressing. But this is such a huge risk to take, mentioning size to a pregnant woman, because I suspect many more of us are (while seriously happy about the baby) really freaked out about the size we attain making those babies.

I also think we get touchier in academia about this because we are in such an unfriendly environment, generally, and some people... I had one grad student, in fact... obsess about the impossibility of being a mom AND maintaining a career, a brain, etc. My one student could not help herself; every time she saw me, she had to ask about the kids. Had to talk about the kids as though she were incredulous that I could manage to have a job and have kids. It drove me absolutely nuts. I'd politely redirect the conversation to whatever I was currently publishing. She trashed me in evaluations that semester, too, in part (I believe) because she is a year older than I am, unmarried, no kids, and just felt that it was a huge come-down to be taught by someone who was a year younger AND a mother. Ugh. She'd better get over herself quick if she wants people to write decent letters for her.

I have an inverse story to tell you about pregnant women and size. I went to the gym yesterday. I had lost one pound, and was pretty happy when I got off the scale. Then I went to lunch with a VERY pregnant colleague -- due Valentine's Day -- who looks stunning and serene, absolutely gorgeous (which is what I told her instead of saying she looked huge, because she did look stunning and serene). She said, "OMG! I feel like a cow! I weigh more than my husband. I'm XXX pounds! I can't stand it."

The XXX pounds were the EXACT NUMBER I saw on the scale an hour earlier. I just about died on the spot, but said absolutely nothing to her. Part of me had to laugh, but part of me wanted to crawl under the table and not come out.

At least I can laugh about it now, because let's face it, it is kind of funny. I'm not even Oprah-sized, well, not quite, so I'm trying not to be overly sensitive about this. She's really very tiny, and her husband has no appreciable butt to keep up his pants, so I guess I'll just celebrate my curves and work on getting stronger and not necessarily stronger. It was a pretty strange coincidence, though.

supadiscomama said...

I must agree with LisaWV here--I'm sure that none of said offenders were noticing weight gain. They were noticing belly--which is not the same thing. I am not a petite flower in general, and I was a "well-rounded" pregnant woman. I had many people comment that I looked like I was about to pop when I still had 2 months to go. Not really nice--but nothing was intended by it either. I think it's true, though, that women who have been pregnant before are less likely to make such comments because they remember how irritating they were to hear.

But a lot of people love the growing pregnant belly, and there does come a point in the pregnancy when the belly grows quite rapidly. So, take a deep breath ladies, and ignore the ignorant :)

Lisa Dunick said...

hilarious-- people are so complete oblivious.

thursdaynext.21 said...

I was also taken aback when I heard that comment, and I had to admit that I was wondering how you would react, and applaud you for how you dealt with it. It was truly shocking.

I know every woman deals with body weight, with public opinion and perception of said weight-- at all stages of life. So I know that the Ignorant One in the mailroom probably has her own insecurities, but seriously?

Sadly, M, I have had people say many horrible things to me that they think aren't horrible--- Some women think that just because we all deal with body consciousness, that it's ok to complain about their ass to a fat girl. I can't tell you how many semi-strangers and coworkers think that body size is an ok topic with me, just because i'm heavy.

-- sorry to hijack the comment section.

AcadeMama said...

Thanks everyone!

TN21: I'm especially glad to hear from you since you overheard the remark. I was pretty sure I wasn't the only one in the room wondering WTF?

M said...

TN21: if it makes you feel any better, I have received many irritatingly rude and inappropriate comments b/c I'm a "skinny girl." I have been told, by women who are somewhat bigger than I am, that I make them sick, that I look anorexic, and that I don't need to parade my "skinny ass" around. These sorts of comments are, I would imagine, as hurtful as someone of my size telling someone of your size (and for what it is worth, I think every single part of you is beautiful, and I really don't mean that in a condescending way. You can rock looks I wouldn't even dream of trying on!) that she feels her butt is too big.

As you correctly point out, everyone has body issues, but in expressing our concerns about our individual body issues, we need to be aware that what we say can unintentionally hurt other people. Unfortunately, women are not taught to love their bodies as they are. Perhaps this is something we need to work on collectively.