6.14.2008

Pregnancy stereotypes

I often accuse Biffle of having oppositional defiant disorder--he sometimes seems to oppose things just for the sake of being able to argue--but I am recognizing my own tendencies in this direction when it comes to the stereotypes surrounding pregnancy. I am defiantly opposed to them--a kind of knee-jerk reaction--regardless of their validity or innocuousness. This is probably pathological. See what you think.

I've enjoyed the extra edge pregnancy seems to have given me, the willingness to be angry or irritable, but I have assiduously resisted any other emotional reactions to being pregnant. On the occasions when I've found myself getting teary (watching a Humane Society commercial, for instance, or the film The Business of Being Born), I clamp it down. I am not going to be the weepy pregnant woman.

Another example: I got a great haircut this week, but every time Biffle suggested that it was a Mom haircut, I was deeply offended. Let's be clear:

This is a mom haircut:

This is not:

Ian suggested nesting as a pregnancy stereotype that our shopping expedition to Ikea would seem to uphold. Yes, we did buy some baby stuff, but I don't think I adhere to any of the other nesting qualities--I am a complete slob who doesn't clean, organize, or improve the house. That is all Biffle. Case in point: He's outside right now sweeping grass clippings off the sidewalk he built out of bricks with his own hands. What am I doing? Blogging.

Even the need for extra rest--which isn't probably a stereotype so much as it is a biological imperative--I resist.

Let's be honest here: there's really nothing wrong with someone being emotional, getting a practical haircut, cleaning house, or resting--whether that person is pregnant or not. Clearly I have got a problem.

Here's one more example that should prove this. My therapist yesterday told me a story about Pat Summitt, head coach of the award-winning Lady Vols basketball team. When she was near the end of her pregnancy with one of her children, she was on a recruiting trip. She was at the home of a potential Lady Vol when she went into labor. She excused herself and called her doctor, who told her to hop on her private plane and come back home. She didn't; instead, she continued with the recruiting visit, checking in periodically with her doctor, until she'd finished with her professional obligations. Only then did she fly back home to the hospital.

My therapist told me this as a kind of warning story--don't be like Pat Summitt! My response, however, was, Right on. Nobody can use her as an example of why women shouldn't be Presidents, or CEOs.

It occurs to me that one stereotype I maybe haven't fully deconstructed in my own mind is the Superwoman.

13 comments:

Biffle said...

alison is, in fact, so oppositional that she doesn't yet know what i mean when i say, not "mom haircut," but "new mama haircut."

what she displays here, obviously, is not a new mama haircut.

Cate Bush said...

Well, I really like your haircut and I don't know that I have anything "mommish" to say about it except that it looks nice.

Plus, I think so many of us want to be seen as who we are - and for some reason when I think pregnancy I think "less able" - and that's not who you (or any other pregnant women) are on the inside. These thoughts probably come up because in many ways a pregnant person isn't necessary able to do as much as they could normally (because that dern belly's in the way). All that to say I can see how being pregnant would bring about a lot of resistance, especially for someone who likes to be seen as themselves no matter if there's a baby hanging out inside them or not.

I think an interesting question here is why do I/we think of pregnant women as less able in other ways besides physicality - emtionally, etc. Does crying at a commercial make you less then? If we (and here I mean society) only accepted a wider range of behaviors from men and women at all stages of their lives, I wonder if this would feel like such a battle.

love,
C

grace said...

Awesome Haircut!

Anonymous said...

I'll avoid likening your resistance of stereotypes to the story Jay tells of Ellen Clayton playing a round of tennis the day before giving birth, in the two week period between finishing law school and starting medical school.

Perhaps examining the superwoman stereotype is in order ;-) Not that I myself identify with it at all...
-djl

The Mom said...

I like your haircut, too, Alison. But I don't think I look like the "momish" haircut! :-( (Even though I don't have a photo to prove it...and probably wouldn't like it - the photo, that is - if I did.)

Happy Monkey said...

Well, I for one can talk about the issue of crying on a whim. Like last night when I cried upon learning that the new owners of my once summer home took down my favorite, old, loud ceiling fan and left it out in the front yard! The tears just burst forth unannounced, in a public setting, and there was not a darn thing I could do to stop them. And the explanation? Nah, I did not even go there.

What I know is that I am living more deeply in my heart than ever before in my short 47 3/4 year life. (No, I am not pregnant)When I live in my heart, all of my emotions have a big ole party and invite the world to come see them dance around me. And you know what? I would not have it any other way.

I think being pregnant throws us into our hearts as well - even when we are not totally aware of diving in there. I mean, geez, there is a little life growing inside our bodies - living in tune with our song. How much more cool can you get.

Deborah

PS I LOVE your NEW MOM haircut. I am in an OLD MOM growing out phase myself

Syd said...

I don't like stereotyping anything. I do have this thing though about pregnant women--- I'm in awe of them. I've known quite a few at work who I thought were nonplussed about the whole thing and seemed to be taking pregnancy right in stride. And some of these women looked as if they might deliver at any moment, yet they had a couple of weeks or a month to go. I liked their laid back approach. It was accepting and courageous at the same time, like it was no big deal for them. Maybe scientists just view things like pregnancy as biology at its best.

Christine McKaskle said...

Wouldn't it actually serve feminism more if you were to wholeheartedly embrace all of the emotions and not just the "tough/angry" ones?

Sounds like some "don't be such a girl" stuff going on. Well, why not be such a girl?

I agree that internalized cultural self-hatred is pathological. But take heart; given said culture, it is very understandable.

Being a mom is giving you an opportunity to deepen your already very deep feminism in all sorts of unexpected ways. Fun to watch!

Christine McKaskle said...

Syd's comment reminds me that my favorite aspect of being pregnant both times was the freedom I felt from compulsive productivity. There's no other time I've felt that freedom for such long stretches (I'm speaking in terms of hours at a time, by the way, not days - talk about pathological!)

I could feel productive enough even at rest. "Don't bother me - I'm making a person!"

Anonymous said...

You have an Alison haircut. A haircut that is on Alison . . . it doesn't have to be quantified. Just you!

Conseula said...

Christine--My constant refrain while pregnant was "I'm growing a person." And being pregnant was the only the time I didn't feel guilty about not being an overachiever.

Bob Rehak said...

Alison: I like the haircut -- and the edge.

Hazel Ketchum said...

I think people notice your new hair cut to avoid saying "wow look at that giant belly you have!!!!" I know a harp player who unloaded her concert harp with a dolly from her car before driving herself to the hospital.