Get Your Story Straight
I love my body. I really do. Except. You know. My stomach. It’s really big. And my thighs. They’re really wide. And my ass. It’s strangely shaped. But I love my body. Except. You know. I’m short.
Okay, class, what is wrong with all of these comments? Anyone? Anyone? I’m talking shit about my body…well, yes, that’s true. But the reason why I’m talking shit about my body is actually the larger issue. Because every statement above is a comparative term. Big–how can you know what is big unless you know what is small? Wide–how can you know what is wide unless you know what is narrow? Strangely shaped? Who is to say what is normal vs. strange? And where is the cut-off that makes someone tall vs. someone short?
If this were a commercial, I would be half-spitting/half-crying while I confronted a gaggle of supermodels–I learned it from watching you!
Which isn’t entirely true. The supermodel may be the face of the campaign, but the general media created the campaign. And it does a lot of damage because it is human nature to absorb and incorporate what we see or hear into our own vision of the world. Stick a child in a violent home and they will absorb violence. Tell a girl she is beautiful and she will believe it until the day that she starts absorbing these societal ideals of beauty (studies usually put the age as six). Run several news stories sensationalizing infertility and you wonder why the general public thinks we’re a bunch a raving lunatics.
This is the only way I can compare it. My rational me knows that I’m falling into the media’s trap when I judge my body. My rational me knows that I shouldn’t care if my stomach isn’t flat because flat does not mean perfect. Flat simply means flat. And some stomachs are flat and others are nicely rounded. And it means nothing. And the ideals of beauty are defined by the culture–not the general world population. Therefore, my round stomach is beautiful elsewhere. And the rational me knows this. But. I can’t help but feel like crap about my body, feel self-conscious about my body, drap my arm awkwardly across my stomach to hide the bump. Because it’s so ingrained. You’re bombarded with information to make you feel ashamed about your unique body. So you over-ride your rational side and feel self-conscious.
Which is the same thing that happens to people who love us. They hear about infertility and they see us struggling and they see the devastation. But they get a message from the media that we’re bleeding lunatics and baby-crazy. They take the concept of “medical” out of this medical condition and make it something controllable. A personality quirk. And that’s where I think many of the rude statements come from. The “just relax” and the “take a vacation” and the “have more sex” and the “you can always adopt.” Because the non-infertile’s rational side can see that you’re grieving and anxious and frustrated and (in some cases) in physical pain. But the non-infertile’s media-enriched side is remembering this image of “infertile as crazy.”
Hence these two media stories this week:
If you haven’t yet seen this, click here to watch a video on MSN News about infertilty and the under-30 crowd (thank you, Carolyn and my dad for sending it along). The first problem is that whoever wrote this can’t seem to stick to their own angle. They want to reveal those petulant, pouty twenty-somethings who are jumping into IVF just because they can’t wait to have a baby. Oh…and we hope you miss this fact and we’re sticking it at the end of the broadcast…but this woman actually does have a problem. That needs attention. If she’s not ovulating, how does the reporter think she is going to have a child without help?
I am all for not jumping into hysterics (what am I talking about? I’m all for everyone-who-isn’t-me not jumping into hysterics) and giving it a bit of time–if all seems fine. But why would you wait something out if you know there is a problem? Just to see? If it clears up on its own? And while I would believe it if they said that there are frantic twenty-somethings who are demanding Clomid and getting it (because I know this problem exists), I highly doubt that swarms of twenty-somethings are enduring IVF for no reason. And that they can find REs to perform IVF (and seriously, as Carolyn says, if this is true, why isn’t the RE accountable for not turning down this patient?).
Which is to say that it is possible to be under 30 and have trouble conceiving–a fact that this broadcast wishes to sweep under the rug. And these shows make women feel guilty or second-guess themselves. Why should they have respect for their own bodies if the media is essentially mocking them? Because there are women with actual problems (that they know are problems) who are going to watch that program and not get the help they need because they think they need to stick to the guideline of one-year-of-trying. And the people who are supposed to be there supporting them now have an image of an infertile person as crazy. As baby obsessed. As impatient.
And (AGAIN) I am all for the one-year rule if you have no known issues. But what do you do when you notice things are wrong by month four? Just ignore it for the next eight months? And some of this just smacks of sexism to me. Hysterical women with their floating uteruses (what do you think is the etymology of the word “hysterical”?). Call me a bleeding heart Gloria Steinem, but if men ask for a semen analysis before a year, are they labeled as hysterical and baby-crazy? Or just medically savvy? Or just being a self-advocate?
The other story is the one about the abducted baby who was returned to her mother today. Shannon Beck, grieving woman who lost her child late in her pregnancy, abducted a week-old child and tried to pass it off as her own. And my heart goes out to that mother–it truly does. I think we can all recognizing that holding another woman at knifepoint and taking her child is wrong. But it’s the way Shannon Beck is portrayed in the media that is damaging. Each article refers to the police profile they created while searching for the culprit (and how often do you read about the police profile in a news story AFTER they have captured the perpetrator? Truly–think about this fact for a moment. I’m not saying while they’re still searching for the perpetrator and enlisting the help of the general public. This report came out AFTER Shannon Beck was arrested).
“The abductor had been profiled as someone whose child had died recently, or as someone who could not have children, but had told people she was pregnant and needed to steal a child so her lie would not be found out” (The Washington Post, September 20, 2006).
Again, infertile woman as crazy. As a liar. As someone desperate. And if the perpetrator had turned out to be a serial killer who was a mother of three–would we have ever known the profile the police had created? Probably not. But because they were correct, they needed to let us know that they were correct in their assessment. And because it takes any sympathy away from Shannon Beck. She steals. She lies. Therefore, the public can conclude that she deserves to be punished for her crime.
And I’m not saying that she didn’t commit a crime. There should be consequences for her crime. But where are the nets in society that catch a woman who is grieving this deeply? And why do we have to throw more judgement at her? Why can’t she be tried off the pages of the newspaper. In a court. Without the judgemental language creating an image of infertile woman as insane. As baby-obsessed. As fucking desperate.