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Feb 28 2007

I love the smell of a glamour-don’t in the morning

A propos of the recent discussion on self-policing female tools of the patriarchy: behold NPR’s “Morning Edition” commentator Dawn Turner Trice as she condemns the practice, which has apparently proliferated wildly out of control among pregnant women in her office, of wearing spandex that accentuates their enceinteship. She finds “unsettling” the frankness with which her colleagues unapologetically saunter around their cubicles with fabric “stretched across huge bellies.”

“I’m thrilled that pregnancy is no longer an automatic ticket to the mommy track,” Trice says, revealing that NPR is now recruiting contributors from the Bellevue Department at Delusionville U, “but maybe we need a rule. If you want to get ahead, spandex has no place in the office.”

How pleasant for the preggos in her office that they have patriarchy mouthpiece/femininity rule book author Dawn Turner Trice expressing her revulsion for them on National Public Radio, and how useful of National Public Radio to broadcast this important caution against wearing such a meretricious fabric within tent-pitching distance of important men while gestating young innocents.

136 comments

  1. jenevieve

    Oh, man. My body is no place for Spandex, but if I worked with her, I think I’d wear it just to spite her.

  2. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    I used to work in a division with a born-again knob at the helm where it was made painfully apparent that the only way for a female to advance professionally was to be 1) actively, visibly breeding, or 2) doing something food-related.

    This is the opposite, I suppose. If I ruled the world, I’d sentence Dawn Turner Trice to 5 years of the 8.5-month stage of gestation. What next, pregnancy purdah?

  3. Valkyrie

    Yeah, I heard that this morning and went WTF? Then I scan the headlines in the NYT and find a review of the “meat” at the Penthouse Executive Club. Sheesh!

  4. cycles

    Call me tacky, but a little bit of spandex, blended with other fibers, makes the difference between a stiff uncomfortable pair of pants, and insanely stretchy yet business-casual-looking pants you really could play basketball in (if we go by the Naturalizer ads of a few years ago). When I’m holed up in my cube producing value-added property for The Man, I like to be able to shift positions and ball up on my chair once in a while. It’s empowerful, in that it makes me more comfortable in my capitalist bondage.

    And, of course, its stretchiness is ideal for the changing body shape during pregnancy, meaning you don’t have to buy a new wardrobe every couple of months. Which is bad for the economy. Which means you’re letting the terrorists win.

    But I’m also part of the bicycle community, so I’m aware of the spandex-aversion from the other angle: if you’re wearing it, you subject yourself to derision from motorists and fellow cyclists who are too cool to appear in functional clothing of any type. Never mind that its main purpose is to keep you from chafing on long rides. You deserve to get yelled at if you’re so obviously flouting the conventions of fashion, defined by and courtesy of the pat.

  5. Victoria Marinelli

    Really, Twisty… enceinteship? Now you’re just showing off. I’m a bona fide breeder and I had to look up that word. (And also meretricious, which one would think I’d have known already, considering much of what I write about.)

    But yes, the serious point. Stretchy fabrics may be all one can reasonably be expected to wear while in that difficult condition, as cycles deftly notes. (Loved also the bits about “producing value-added property for The Man” and “letting the terrorists win.”)

    Foo-foo on NPR.

  6. teffie-phd

    More of that women-hating women thing…

    What is she advocating: confinement ala Victorian times where women stayed home without visitors once they started to show because the visibleness of pregnancy was offensive?

  7. gayle

    I heard her this morning!

    I was going to write my local affiliate an angry e-mail but then recalled how I just wrote an angry e-mail a few days back (in response to Jonah Goldberg’s commentary on the “lack of evidence” supporting global warming). How many times can you write in a row before you lose all credibility?

  8. Twisty

    I’d say, gayle, that you can write maybe 2-3 times a year without becoming “that angry schizophrenic.”

    I heard that global warming piece, too, and if the radio I was listening with hadn’t been rather an expensive one I would’ve thrown it across the room.

  9. Celeste

    I don’t think skin-tight clothing looks good on anyone, male or female. I don’t think spandex works for anybody in any conservative office. I’m sure it’s okay in some kinds of offices, though. Usually the places that care about it write a dress code, and overly-tight is often one of the criteria for unacceptable clothing. If that’s the policy and you want to work there, you should be prepared to abide by it.

  10. Twisty

    “I don’t think skin-tight clothing looks good on anyone, male or female. I don’t think spandex works for anybody in any conservative office.”

    Why?

  11. FemiMom

    What I heard Trice expressing was discomfort with peers who emulate Hollywood maternity fashions…styles so tight as to reveal one’s ‘outie’. I think that an outfit tight enough to reveal a navel (or nipples) has a certain pornalicious quality. Face it Blaimers: If Trice was complaining about hot little office cuties in tight-tight outfits, we wouldn’t have any ire for her. We would ALL blaim the patriarchy.

  12. hedonistic

    When observing men at the beach wearing Speedos I used to bitch “Spandex is a privilege, not a right!” However, since manufacturers started putting spandex in regular clothing I’ve changed my tune: I love my spandex work clothes. They’re like jammies! Everyone should be allowed to come to work in the sartorial equivalent of pajamas, pregnant women especially. Does Dawn Trice think the average pregnant women can afford a whole wardrobe of classically tailored pregnancy suits to wear for a whole, what, four months? Puhleeze.

    I’m not pregnant, but to Ms. Trice: Bite my poochy belly.

  13. Mollie

    I’ve always had a belly. When I was pregnant, it was very freeing to flaunt what I normally tried to suck in. I wore tight shirts that I never would have worn non-preggo. It’s funny, most people think a big pregnant belly is gorgeous, but a spare tire is unsightly. Oh well, you know who I blame.

  14. dr_igloo

    Funny. I was just downstairs admiring how damn amazing the very pregnant belly of my colleague looked in a very tight T shirt.

    Maybe instead of wasting time and oxygen flapping her gums about what pregnant women wear, perhaps Trice and her sympathizers might invest that energy in talking about something that actually matters, like the ridiculously inadequate provisions for maternity and parental leave in the US.

  15. anon one

    excuse me, but the behind-scenes offices of a radio station are not all that public. if the workplace can accomodate jeans and t-shirts with slogans, it can adjust to pregnancy-friendly clothes. this woman is clueless. and mean, besides.

    i believe in comfort, especially in pregnancy. my pregnancies were 2 and almost 2 decades back, and i had to be looking professional in public most days of the week. that meant tents under jackets. i sewed my own tents, because there was no way i was going to wear yellow nylon crap with lace and bitty green flowers, which was the on-rack selection. my also-pregnant co-worker actually received lectures from her mother about putting a bandaid over her belly button, so it wouldn’t look like it was popping out. which it was, along with the rest of her [and me], because that’s what pregnancy does.

    seems an improvement that women currently pregnant can wear fairly regular clothes, because the bump is not really a big deal anymore. i woulda thought NPR got the memo.

  16. Starfoxy

    I think this all boils down to fat-shaming. From Twisty’s description it sounds like Trice is appalled not at the pregnant state of her coworkers, but by their large bellies and audacity to not hide them from view. As if the large belly of pregnancy is just too similar to the large belly of obesity for her to find it anything but revolting. I mean, how dare these women assume that they can get away with looking overweight in public without being shamed. And they don’t even try to hide it!

    Quite possibly the main attraction in wearing ‘spandex’ (What she means by that is unclear to me. Is it a spandex-blend shirt and pants or Olivia Newton-John style leotards?) for pregnant women lies in the comfort and close fit. Comfort is desireable for obvious reasons, the close fit, especially around the abdomen, is desireable to make it clear that one is pregnant and not just (horror of horrors) fat.

  17. jbeeky

    My question is why this evokes anything in her? Is she unable to concentrate? Are important stories being dropped as yet ANOTHER preggo waltzes by her cubicle, swollen parts blinged for maximum exposure? I don’t care whether she likes certaing fabrics or not, what is it about pregnancy attire that offends her more than, say dry clean only attire? Pany hose? Spiked heels and skirts that reduce the ability to run from said engorged employees? I could see getting all worked up over clothese that ruin the environment or clothes that were created to underline the heirarchy in the office via pin stripes? Just wondering, is all.

  18. inspiredbycoffee

    I have absolutely no problem with spandex, the material. I just really hate the word. Spandex. Spandex. I think it reminds of spam, but somehow manages to be worse. Spandex. Ugh. (not strictly relevant to another very interesting piece Twisty, I realise, but there you have it!)

  19. legallyblondeez

    The idea that one should not wear what appears to be exercise-based attire in the office seemed innocuous to me when I read this post. However, on reviewing the comments, I realize that I’m not sure what she meant by Spandex–I own a few pair of very nice slacks made with stretchy bits–or what kind of office environment she works in. My office requires something on the high-priced (looking) end of business casual for men and women. Overly tight or revealing clothing is dicouraged regardless of gender or gestational stage. But if the man 3 cubicles down is wearing jeans and I’m uncomfortably pregnant, you bet the pants with a big spandex panel and the comfy, stretchy shirts are coming out.

  20. Frumious B

    My work place is thinking about instituting a dress code. IMHO, professionals should be above judging other people’s clothing.

  21. smmo

    Why is it that so often the word “professional” is used to defend the indefensible? So Dawn Turner Trite doesn’t like looking at pregnant bellies not because she’s a prude but because it is unprofessional. As Frumious points out, ragging on other employees’ clothes is not very professional.

  22. Courtney

    I’m usually 100 % behind you, but (a.) I think this is just sort of funny and (b.) I do think there is such a thing as appropriate office attire, and that includes no spandex and no bare feet. However, the whole piece is probably pretty irrelevent and the fact it got air time over other subjects is frustrating.

  23. figleaf

    “…this important caution against wearing such a meretricious fabric within tent-pitching distance of important men while gestating young innocents.”

    Hmm. I missed the broadcast and therefore missed the part where Trice made it clear that it’s the *men* in the office who will deny advancement to spandex-clad mothers to be. Oh, wait, I went to their website and listened to the segment and there wasn’t anything in there about men at all. The closest she gets is one vague reference to hypothetical dress-code-policing “supervisors.”

    Nope. It sounds to me as *she* doesn’t want to see it. And I’m pretty sure if anyone in her office got sidetracked career-wise, the order would come straight from her and not men higher up in management.

    And not to put too fine a point on it, Twisty, but you turning her piece into something about men relieved her of all responsibility for her snotty attitude, her veiled threats about career advancement, and her deliberate advancement of the patriarchy. What she did wasn’t collabortion, it was active, enthusiastic crocodile-tears *participation.* Which is about how it goes about half the time.

    figleaf

  24. overlyblameful

    While i like all types of bodies (including deliciously round ones), and have little patience for the sartorial strictures of “appropriate office wear,” i admit that i roll my eyes these days when i see those hip young mamas in look-at-me-i’m-pregnant clothes. Doesn’t matter what the fabric is called.

    My problem is not a fashion issue, so much as i think that that pregnancy is NOTHING to be proud of. The world needs fewer humans, not more: especially fewer North Americans. And motherhood is pretty much a trap, tying up the energy of capable women. So why fetishize the side effect? Seems like “making motherhood attractive” just plays into the hands of the patriarchy. Busy breeding = less time spent blaming.

    I am aware of the cool feminist moms out there, but Bee Lavender notwithstanding, being a breeder is not a badge of honor.

  25. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Lurker, first time poster, novice blamer. My 2 cents: Maybe these women are offended by ‘celebrated’ or undisguised pregnancy for the same reason there’s such a big noise about public breast-feeding? I can’t quite put it together, but it’s something like, the guys are already butt-chapped enough that they have to even give lip service (?) to our so-called ‘equality’, but for god’s sake, can we give it a rest already with all the messy stuff? I remember when I still worked with a bunch of men and I’d take a day off for cramps. I never once let them off the hook with the idea that I was ‘sick’ – no, I just said, I had cramps, or I had my period. Tough whether they ‘get’ it or not. It’s my reality, and the reality of every goddamn woman they ever meet, why should we have to protect their delicate little sensibilities, or whatever the hell it is we’re supposed to be protecting? (Sorry, getting maybe a little off-topic there.)

    And so women who’ve ‘male-identified’ in order to survive male-dominated workplaces get similarly huffy, maybe because they’ve bent over – I mean bent over backwards – I mean – well, anyway. They’ve hidden significant portions of their unsightly, unseemly womanness for so long that they resent any woman who’s escaped internalizing that oppression, who’s out there openly flaunting all those bits the ‘conformer’ has worked so hard to hide. Did that make sense? Maybe somebody here can see what I’m trying to say and say it better.

  26. Pinko Punko

    I think even worse than the ol pregnant belly-phobia is the boob police that kind of freaks out whenever a mom might, you know, start breast feeding, possibly in a Burger King, and how it is treated as an atrocity by the same cabal we are discussing.

  27. Shannon

    I have a difficult time believing she’s talking about Olivia Newton John-esque leotards, which would be inappropriate in just about any office situation. Unless, of course, you work in a health club, and even then, why not just plain old non-shiny Lycra-blend? (Not to mention that frequent pregnancy-peeing renders leotards impractical at best).

    Were I wobbling around with 80 extra pounds hanging off my abdomen, you’d better believe I’d be wearing something stretchy and comfy to cover it, particularly in the snowy months. I hate exposing my wrists and ankles when it’s this cold, I can only imagine exposing bare stomach.

    This reminds me of the time I got called into the branch manager’s office when I was a stockbroker. After shattering my elbow on my way to a work-related event, I was in a massive armpit-to-wrist cast. The manager yelled at me for wearing sleeveless tops. (Pardon me, but what else is going to fit over this honking 30-pound piece of plaster?!) Meanwhile, Mr. Broker across the hall from me broke his leg skiing, wore sweatpants for a month and no one said a word.

  28. S-kat

    jbeeky said, “I could see getting all worked up over clothese that ruin the environment”

    I feel the need to inform that, actually, spandex and lycra are terrible for the environment. They’re being added to all kinds of textiles because they add comfort and durability. Unfortunately, that durability is because the materials simply don’t break down readily. So whereas your old pair of 100% cotton blue jeans would decompose in a few years after you discard them, your new, improved lycra enhanced jeans will be floating around in the environment for the next millenium or so.

    I hardly think that was her complaint though.

  29. norbizness

    It only works if the greatest ballads of Diamond David Lee Roth are pumped in through the office intercom.

  30. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    This woman’s objections strike me as odd. If those big bellies bother her, just wait until these women start squirting milk.

  31. kathy a

    courtney — this isn’t funny or irrelevant to the pregnant women involved.

    expansion fabric is necessary for pregnancy. even the loosest office dress code might frown on bicycle shorts, especially worn with the icky bike shirts and loud clumpy bike shoes — but that doesn’t mean the office should prohibit shows of pregnancy. this is a RADIO office, and supposedly a progressive one. the issue raised by ms. trice is that seeing pregnancy offends her. i think that is a “tough shit, live with it” kind of issue.

  32. Laurel

    Overlyblameful–yeah, because being born and raised in North America makes us all the same, doesn’t it? Some women want babies, some don’t. Grow up.

  33. redhead

    jbeeky said “My question is why this evokes anything in her”

    My question is why NPR put a story about this on the air!

  34. Sylvanite

    Gee, and to think several of us were sniggering over the mysterious restriction in our office against sneakers. That rule gets flouted constantly, since we are out of sight of the public, for the most part. As long as we dress slightly nicer for public meetings than for day-to-day, what does it matter? Plus, most of us went into the natural sciences because we wanted to be able to wear comfy clothes, so lay off already. Sheesh!

    I have no idea what the office code for pregnancy-wear is.

  35. Twisty

    My point, to those who defend anti-spandexery because the fabric is “inappropriate” for the office, is that fashion and dress codes are a big honkin aspect of the tyranny of our system of dominance and submission. A dress code ain’t nothin but an enforcement of conformity to an authority obliging everyone to make their class status identifiable at a glance, thereby facilitating the otherwise difficult but absolutely essential process of figuring out whether X is higher on the pole than Y. You have to know who you can boss around, and who is the boss of you, or the system breaks down. This is the basis for the sartorial reinforcement of binary sex roles (girls in dresses, boys in pants).

    Trice’s discomfort originates with spandex’s low-class associations. Her contention, essentially, is that it is too slutty. Sluttiness both trespasses on the “professional” ideal and offends the Virgin Mary, which Virgin all mothers should emulate. Sluts can’t get ahead in business, no way no how.

    Trice also mentions that she doesn’t care for showing “too much cleavage” at work. This is because men’s boners are always the responsibility of women.

    In other words, it is asinine to give a fuck what anyone wears, ever.

  36. Twisty

    By the way, I don’t know that Trice actually works at NPR. A lot of their commentary comes from civilians.

  37. arlene

    “Wah wah I don’t like therefore you can’t do it.” Zounds, how rampant that line of thought is. Bugger off Ladytrice, I’ve been pregnant, something that doesn’t pinch or restrict is a godsend, and if you’re squeamish at the vision of premother that’s your problem.

  38. Veselka

    Comfort is excellent and can sometimes even be “stylish.” Pregnant women in skin tight clothing are very trendy and stylish. About 3 out of 4 men have told me how “hot” and “sexy” pregnant women are when they wear those second-skins to outline their fecund bellies. We can never get away from those porny perceptions.

  39. fay

    My 82-year old Baptist grandmother had something similar to say about me showing my pregnant belly. “Do all of the maternity clothes you can buy these fit tight over your belly like that?” she said with the TONE that I am sure Dawn Trice used too (can’t get the audio to work).

    Give me an effing break. Maybe it makes her uncomfortable because pregnancy is undeniable proof of having had sex, and sex is totally unprofessional. Thus wearing clothes that don’t hide your pregnancy is equivalent to wearing clothes that advertise your sexuality (to Trice). Maybe this is why my OTHER grandmother was fired from her teaching job when she became pregnant in the 1940′s, even though she was married and her husband was in the Navy at the time. God forbid high schoolers be faced with the reality of a sexually active teacher, married or no.

  40. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    CuriouserAndCuriouser, I understand what you’re saying, and it’s a good point. You’ll be an expert blamer in no time.

  41. Twisty

    “They’ve hidden significant portions of their unsightly, unseemly womanness for so long that they resent any woman who’s escaped internalizing that oppression, who’s out there openly flaunting all those bits the ‘conformer’ has worked so hard to hide.”

    CurisouserAndCuriouser, nice blaming.

  42. cycles

    I got the feeling she was sort of Kleenex-ing Spandex: using a specific brand name to refer to an entire category of stretchy textiles. Nylon knits, cotton knits, whatever. Poor word choice equals confusion.

    I once worked with someone who used to own his own company. He mentioned that his dress code forced women to wear skirts, and they couldn’t wear boots. I asked him why, and he got defensive, saying it was perfectly legal, and gender-based dress codes had been backed up in court many times, and blah blah blah. He never really answered the main question, which was, why do you care whether a woman wears pants, unless you’re a sexist prick?

  43. goblinbee

    Laurel, I took overlyblameful’s comment to mean that North American babies impact the planet more than other babies because of our materialistic, comfort-loving lifestyle. Every person born is a person that uses the earth’s resources, but North Americans use the most.

  44. PullTaffy

    CuriouserandCuriouser, I think you did a fine job of explaining your point, and I think that may be a big part in it ( ie “women who’ve ‘male-identified’ in order to survive male-dominated workplaces get similarly huffy” because they *have* internalized the patriarchy so thoroughly and resent those who have not.)

    For me, this “male-identified women” thing is both frightening and intensely frustrating. How can we change the system when the system poaches us and turns us against each other with stupid BS like this?

    As an aside, and not strictly related to *this* topic: tonight on campus there is a beauty pageant to crown some unfortunate chick who most adeptly conforms to the porntacular ideals of the penis-bearing judges. Obviously, I’m not attending, but I did happen to walk by the building where the competition is taking place, and I was un-disheartened (re-heartened?) to see at least 20 people (men and women) protesting. I have a little more faith in my school now.

  45. cycles

    And. I can sympathize a little bit with dress codes when you have to put on a show for the public. I’d hate to have one of those jobs, but I understand the concerns of management in wanting to present a specific class-based image to whatever suit-wearing judgmental asshole/investor/client steps into your office. It’s part of the game, which I’ll be the first to admit is idiotic. But behind the public area, where people sit in cubes and don’t interact with the public on behalf of the company, I’ll never understand why anyone cares what anybody else wears, as long as they’re getting the work done for Papa CEO.

    And don’t tell me that the concern is that these people are not “dressing for success.” If you want to advance in the ranks, and clothing plays into that, then that’s your decision to make. If you’re perfectly happy to wear flipflips and be a kickass contributor throughout your career, and you don’t want to play the old boys’ club game with its pressed-suit facade and golf games, then more power to ya. I actually respect the weirdos in the management more than the perfectly dressed GQ templates, because in some respects they didn’t buy into all that.

  46. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma, thanks for the encouraging words!

  47. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    And thanks Twisty (blushes) – (gotta remember to hit the refresh button before posting, to see what’s transpired meantime) – you are a fabulous, inspiring blamester spinster (oops, feel a Dr. Seuss moment coming, I’ll stop now). And that should be blamestrous, maybe? Might take a while to get the hang of this.

  48. legallyblondeez

    I need to do more thinking before commenting, methinks. Twisty, your point about dress reinforcing class and therefore patriarchy is absolutely right. This is borne out by the fact that the dress code is only enforced upon the young “professionals” in my office: the paraprofessionals are allowed more latitude because they’re not expected to play the game, and if the partner wants to work in his running shorts that’s his prerogative.

    A a young, no-status (but presumably status-seeking) professional I try to get as close to the outer limit of acceptable office-wear without actually getting sent home to change. I’m wildly ambivalent about the whole deal since I do have some professional ambitions.

  49. kcb

    Dawn Trice would’ve loved me when I was pregnant: actual spandex (i.e., hotter than hell) support hose under large maternity jeans or skirts whose belly panels had torn under the strain of my enormous girth. I held the waistband gaps together with the largest safety pins I could find. If anyone had criticized my cheap, shiny, sweaty, bloated “look” (the hose part of which was medically necessary and the rest of which was dictated by thrift-store roulette and the weather) I would have sat on her.

    My point, to those who defend anti-spandexery because the fabric is “inappropriate” for the office, is that fashion and dress codes are a big honkin aspect of the tyranny of our system of dominance and submission.

    Preach it, Twisty. A friend of mine worked for a very conservative firm a couple of years ago. It’s infamous for its nutty wardrobe rules, perhaps because it was founded by a nutty person (who happened to run for president a while back). She told me she was stopped more than once in the halls by the ‘monitor’ — a woman — who wanted to make sure that she was wearing panty hose or knee-highs with her slacks. Seriously — your feet could not be naked inside your shoes at this place. She left as quickly as she could find another job.

  50. Shiloruh

    Long time and loving lurker here, warming up for the Firestone Fiesta.
    I was fired from Sears back in the early 80′s because I wouldn’t wear panty hose. I often wear skirts because they are comfortable. The skirts I chose then, and now, are natural fabric below the knee with elastic waists and lots of room. I always wore socks or knee highs and professional shoes. But my boss ( a woman) noticed one day and decided it wasn’t “appropriate” and that I needed to wear waist high nylons. I refused and they let me go saying I dressed unprofessionally. I worked in phone warranty sales and never saw a customer or any one else besides my cubicle mates. I blamed the patriarchy.
    In general I think its cool that its ok to show a belly while one is breeding these days, far better than going into seclusion. I teach in a school for teen mothers and believe me they let it all hang out, bellies, boobies and all. Most don’t buy maternity clothes at all, instead going for sweat pants, or pajama bottoms even and tight shirts. Its not a look I would choose but I only get to make my own choices.
    One rule for Ms. Trice: if you don’t like how it looks don’t look at it.

  51. rainie

    I work in the life sciences at a university. The office staff has a business casual level dress code, while the scientists have none. I wear jeans, t-shirts, fleece and sneakers and wear my nearly waist length grey hair down and loose most days. I don’t know if I could function nearly as well in my job if I could not dress comfortably. I’m always taken aback when I go into some retail establishment and get blown off while the folks in office type gear are waited on attentively. Socioeconomic coding through clothing is so strange.

  52. M The Pedagogue

    I agree with goblinbee and overlyblameful. From an ecological – not individualistic – standpoint, it’s really, really hard to justify breeding more consumers into North American economies (or, increasingly, any global economy) unless you’re in an off-the-grid, self-sustaining, zero-waste community that doesn’t rely on the ubiquitous disposable products found in every grocery’s or drugstore’s baby care aisle.

    Which is why I find all the “yay me! I’m pregnant!” clothes distasteful. I find it real ugly that a woman or couple can have more choice in childbearing than nearly any in the world and the resources to turn pregnancy into fashion, and still neglect to acknowledge any responsibility for what may well be that couple’s biggest contribution to the devastation of the planet. Nope. Not sexy, spandex or no.

    (I’m not condemning all parents everywhere. I’m just saying: you do the math. Breeding don’t make you evil, but it sure don’t make you a hero either, so let’s pause a second before we worship at the round belly just because it feels so good to be nice to women for once.)

  53. vera

    [...] obliging everyone to make their class status identifiable at a glance, thereby facilitating the otherwise difficult but absolutely essential process of figuring out whether X is higher on the pole than Y.

    You know what they use at the Hoover Institution? Sofas! That’s right: if you have a sofa in your office, you all a Fellow and you can boss people around and act superior. If you don’t have a sofa, you are staff.

    I know this because I once worked at the Hoover. (I was a research assistant for the house Democrat and it was thirty years ago, so don’t give me shit about it, okay?) I was moving from one apartment to another, and had to keep my small-ish sofa in my office for a week or so. Lo and behold, fellows stopped by and introduced themselves, rather than ignoring me! I couldn’t figure out what was going on, till I realized that there was an unwritten sofa rule. They just saw the sofa, and failed to notice that I was an unpresentable, scruffy graduate student.

  54. roamaround

    I’ve been suffering Dawn Turner Trice for years now since she’s a local columnist for the Chicago Tribune. She recently wrote about how young black males who dress like thugs shouldn’t be typecasted, even though it may be one’s (her) first reaction. Fair enough, but why not make the same effort for preggers in spandex?

  55. rainie

    Holy Cow Vera! You had an office big enough for a sofa as a grad student?! Drool. I’m having a moment of office envy. In my realm, even tenure track scientists’ offices are only large enough to almost squeeze in a love seat. Non-tenure track folks are stuffed three at a time into the same size office space. There’s barely room to back a chair up. And if you were to mention grad student and office in the same sentence, there would be gales of laughter. Also, tenure track folks and upper administrators get windows, while no one else does. Should I blame the patriarchitect? (Sorry, I can hear the groans before I even press the blame button.)

  56. kathy a

    vera, that’s a great story!

  57. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    Actually, rainie, blaming the patriarchitect isn’t far off the mark. I used to work as an architect, and us wimmin archi-folks allus did our level best to deal with the ‘potty parity’ thing – you know, you’re at a concert, and intermission comes, and there’s a line of 50 women outside the women’s loo, and the men just breeze cheerily past to do their biz. The other one that comes to mind, that’s more a building-management issue than architect-driven, but similar category: Some yay-hoo knobheaded janitorguy in some public building decided the tampon vending machines Weren’t Making Enough Money. Feh. (Have to study up on how to put things in italics in a post.)

  58. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    When I went to the University of Minnesota in the mid-80′s the Engineering building didn’t have any ladies’ rooms at all! Female engineering students had to go to another building to pee. I TOTALLY blame the patriarchitect.

  59. Metal Prophet

    “Which is why I find all the “yay me! I’m pregnant!” clothes distasteful. I find it real ugly that a woman or couple can have more choice in childbearing than nearly any in the world and the resources to turn pregnancy into fashion, and still neglect to acknowledge any responsibility for what may well be that couple’s biggest contribution to the devastation of the planet. Nope. Not sexy, spandex or no.”

    I think this misses the point, though. It’s like, no matter what women do, they take shit for it. Over thirty and no kids, get breeding! Pregnant and working, better cover up! Too frumpy, too sexy, what have you. Over at Heart’s blog, she was talking about how Britney Spears is getting hell for shaving her head. And really, if women have long hair over a certain age, that’s supposed to be a faux pas. And if they cut their hair short or, god forbid, shave it off, that’s very bad. As I see things, pregnancy is neither good nor bad, and the patriarchy and their assistants need to just get over it.

  60. edith

    Spandex is comfortable. No one wants women to be comfortable. No one.

    Love,
    At Size 14, Leggings Are All I Wear

  61. M The Pedagogue

    Well, yeah – that’s why I made the distinction between looking at it ecologically and individualistically. Yes, in any individual case, a woman is in a double bind when it comes to childbearing. It is neither feminist nor antifeminist to create more humans. There is, however, a huge pile of evidence (firstly in the form of diapers) why more consumers are bad for everyone. If we care about children, we don’t want to give them more to clean up, more toxins in the environment, and more disease in their lives, right? Best way to do that? Reduce the number of humans making the messes. To say this isn’t to criticize women, but to recognize that childbearing is not a harmless decision. Part of patriarchy’s endorsement and maintenance of woman-as-breeding-machine has always been that the powerful use the bodies of the powerless, as slaves, soldiers, workers, or consumers. In this inescapable context, shaming women for pregnancy is patently ridiculous, and congratulating women is just sort of… like congratulating a cow on giving birth to a veal calf. Sexay-fying pregnant women is a seriously creepy mindfuck.

    I know that may sound outrageous, even by radfem standards, unless you also realize how outrageous it is that humans have actually altered the earth’s rotation on its axis in SPACE by damming so many rivers. And melted the huge, giant polar ice caps enough to begin to raise the sea level. And deforested…. you get where I’m going. It’s just a matter of how you look at it.

    We can’t look at patriarchy in narrowly defined terms.

  62. Alarming Female

    Once the fuckers fired Bob Edwards I kissed Morning Edition goodbye.

    Sing it, Metal Prophet.

  63. chris

    Two points and then I’ll shut up (mostly):

    most people who wear spandex shouldn’t.

    As attractive as pregnant women are, walking around in bike shorts so everybody can see the cntours of your bellybutton is just gross. I wouldn’t subject others to me in spandex (because I don’t look like Drad Pitt), I expect the same courtesy in return.

    that is all.

  64. chris

    [Comment left undeleted (despite several capitalization, punctuation, usage, and male privilege fouls) to illustrate the Principle of Compulsive Advice, which states that misogynist male commenters in a feminist forum cannot refrain from condescending to offer Dude Nation's guidance to the simple women, suggesting that they be more like men, the default humans. -- Twisty]

    Okay, guess I can’t keep my mouth shut:

    > When I went to the University of Minnesota in the mid-80’s the Engineering building didn’t have any ladies’ rooms at all! Female engineering students had to go to another building to pee. I TOTALLY blame the patriarchitect.

    My engineering school had buildings from before women went to college. As a result, they staggered mens and womens rooms on alternate floors. Might I suggest this engineering solution? Use the mens room and stare down anyone who complains.

    related to the women/women problem, maybe we should encourage girls to get into fistfights more. The women that play catty games and stomp on their female cohorts seem to lack the confidence that comes from beating the crap out of the person that just won’t leave you in peace. Some analogue to ‘he who is not wise cannot be well advised’

  65. Urban

    “When I went to the University of Minnesota in the mid-80’s the Engineering building didn’t have any ladies’ rooms at all! Female engineering students had to go to another building to pee.”

    Yikes.

    And the concert toilet problem? Waltz into the men’s with your head held high (that is, if you can stand the smell, which is a close-run thing sometimes). I’ve saved hours using that simple tactic. In my experience, the men don’t care: it’s women who will express shock.

    My mother in law is arch-hater by royal appointment. I could go on for hours with examples, but I’ll just bring up the time she saw fit to inform my sister in law that breastfeeding in public was “inappropriate” (FYI breastfeeding in public in the UK is much less of a big deal than it appears to be in the USA – usually no-one will look twice – and also FYI I recently discovered that employers here in NZ must allow women breaks to either breastfeed or express milk, which I think is pretty fabulous).

    What the mother in law really meant was that she found it offensive (and in homage to CurioserandCurioser’s point above, I’m convinced it’s because of the oblique sex association). I’ll also add that my sister in law was being as discreet as possible: she was hardly flinging her baps around and yelling for attention. Yet my mother in law got in so much of a noddle about it that she wouldn’t even be in the same cafeteria as my sister in law while breastfeeding was taking place. And she wonders why people don’t come and visit more often.

  66. Alarming Female

    >walking around in bike shorts so everybody can see the contours of your bellybutton is just gross

    To quote Twisty, “Why?”

    Why such emphasis on how people look? And when did bike shorts enter the picture? And what of herniated bellybuttons? Never mind.

    But seriously, chris–encouraging girls to get into more fistfights? Even tongue-in-cheek, this is hardly good advice. Weren’t we hoping to subvert the dominant paradigm, as they say?

    Though your suggestion to use the men’s room is a great one; I’ve done it many times and it just blows their minds.

  67. CuriouserAndCuriouser

    I’ve used men’s rooms too, but only if it’s a single-holer (and yes, it’s priceless to see the look on a guy’s face when you come out). Don’t know that I’d have the nerve to walk past a row of men using urinals to a stall in a bigger men’s room, if that’s what you mean, Alarming.

  68. Laurel

    yes, yes, good to differentiate between ecological and individual standpoints but WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS.

  69. Laurel

    “and congratulating women is just sort of… like congratulating a cow on giving birth to a veal calf.”

    THIS IS ALSO WRONG.

  70. No Sharp Edges

    most people who wear spandex shouldn’t.

    Most people who have opinions about the size and/or shape of other people’s bodies and how they clothe them should keep them to themselves.

  71. Sylvanite

    Pointing out the class distinctions and “go-getter” ethic coding embedded in dress codes just points out how ludicrous the very idea of a dress code in my office is. We’re state workers – nobody’s go-getting. If they are, they tend to leave for private industry, or they get promotions regardless of how they dress in the day-to-day. Everyone knows everyone else’s pay grades, but we’re strongly discouraged from playing the “I’m better than you” game. We have to go out in the field, where we are required to wear steel-toe work boots. Beyond looking tidy, I really find the whole idea pointless. I guess what’s operating here is something like that that knob cycles worked with, who required a strict, gender-based dress code, but couldn’t justify why he required it, other than that it wasn’t illegal.

    Everyone here will continue to flout the dress code, I’m sure, since most of us see that it’s arbitrary and impossible to justify.

  72. Sylvanite

    Plus, there’s nothing they can do to us. Ha!

  73. goblinbee

    “Plus, there’s nothing they can do to us. Ha!”

    I love this sentiment! I teach fifth grade. If I’m not planning to follow protocol, I say, “What are they gonna do? Make me be a fifth grade teacher?”

  74. Silence

    As a self-employed artist, I’m entitled to wear cotton and spandex clothes every day and no one can say shit about it. In addition, practically every shirt and every pair of pants I own is spattered with paint or glue or finish. And I haven’t had a proper haircut in two months — I’ve been trimming it myself instead — and my fingernails have been trimmed to little nubs so they don’t get in the way of my sculpting. No doubt I’d be a walking horror show to folks like Ms. Trice. But I’m extremely comfortable and I don’t have to answer to anyone.

    The only downside, naturally, is I don’t make enough stinkin’ money. But if it comes down to a choice between smootching the Big P’s butt and submitting to an office dress code or being poor and struggling to get by, I’d rather struggle, thank you. And be glad that I am able to still find ways to get by and, you know, survive.

    On a more serious note, I understand completely what M the Pedagogue and others are saying. Yes, women receive far too much criticism whether they decide to breed or not. Have a child, remain childless; it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And yet, I’m a North American and I so often see women with three or more children under the age of five these days. I’m not exaggerating. It comes to a point where these vast amounts of offspring seem more like an expression of self-love than love of children. As in: ‘My genes are so special I have to spread them across the entire country!’ But the truth is, every child has an impact on the woman’s resources, on the time, money and attention she has to spend on each. That’s putting aside the impact every child has on the world.

    No, it’s not my decision to make. But I would rather see parents stop at one child, or better yet, consider adoption. Don’t get me started on people who refuse to adopt, who can’t love a child unless it’s their own flesh and blood. Those people, in my opinion, come straight from Satan’s bunghole. And I’m not going to apologize for that one.

  75. Orange

    Background: Dawn Turner Trice is a Chicago Tribune columnist who’s got a weekly column, and apparently she’s also written a book or books. Whether there’s a day job outside of writing and commentary, or whether the pregnant officemates are Trib colleagues, I have no idea.

    She writes a lot on African-American issues (she’s black), and had a recent column about her daughter turning 12.

    Dress codes are ridiculous. I mean, within reason, they’re OK. Gym shorts and T-shirts for a job with client exposure, no. Midriff-baring tops with micromini skirts, a little porntastic. A friend of mine was considering a promotion that would entail spending a lot of time in the Phoenix office, where year-round pantyhose are de rigueur, and what’s up with that? In hot Phoenix?

    And I rather like the trend of tight tops for pregnant women. (But only if the individual woman wants to wear them, of course.)

  76. Varnish Eater

    “Reduce the number of humans making the messes. To say this isn’t to criticize women, but to recognize that childbearing is not a harmless decision.”

    I agree with M. As an individual, I want to make choices which I feel are best for the environment (like turning off the light when I leave the apartment). Then again, I am coming from the point of view of a young woman who doesn’t want a baby. Maybe if I wanted children, I would feel differently. I don’t think so, however, because if I ever do decide to have kids, I plan to adopt because I feel that there are enough children in poverty and without homes and I don’t want to add to that.

    I think it’s important to think about why you want something, and think about how your decisions (again I am coming from the point of view of someone who can choose to have a baby or not) affect the world.

  77. Mar Iguana

    “My problem is not a fashion issue, so much as i think that that pregnancy is NOTHING to be proud of. The world needs fewer humans, not more: especially fewer North Americans. And motherhood is pretty much a trap, tying up the energy of capable women. So why fetishize the side effect? Seems like “making motherhood attractive” just plays into the hands of the patriarchy. Busy breeding = less time spent blaming.”

    THANK YOU, overlyblameful!

  78. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I read something, someplace (don’t you love it?) that about half of our pregnancies are “unplanned.” Whoops! As my grandmother used to say “The first one is always a surprise.”

    Every one of my (three) pregnancies was a surprise. It was sort of like my period, which arrives nearly every month so one might suggest I might expect it, but every time it sideswipes me (“Shit, how did THAT happen?”). My IQ, BTW, is exceedingly high so this has nothing to do with being stupid or smart. If it weren’t for this kind of amnesia the human race would probably die out.

    Thing is, no one ever wants to admit (especially in front of their kid) that their children were unplanned. Our pride in our “accomplishment” (i.e., surviving the ordeal) comes much later, at which point we strut around acting as though we invented the whole concept of breeding little imperfect replicas of ourselves. I suspect this is as true of folks with ten children as it is with folks with only one, so don’t harsh on the so-called “breeders.” They had their reasons for not choosing abortion, whatever they were at the time: Desire, availability, cost, or social factors.

    As to whether or not we “should” have dress codes, pregnant or not? Shoulds should always trigger suspicion. Why is there a “should” in the first place? To what end? I can agree with “Cover up your (protruding parts) because the sun is shining/it’s cold and we’d hate for them to burn/freeze off.” I cannot agree with “Cover up your protrusions because they offend me.” Offend? Why? Parts is parts, like that old chicken nuggets commercial, and Patriarchy tells us which of these parts are offensive. It’s bogus: No body parts are inherently offensive, least of all outie bellybuttons.

  79. smmo

    “Seems like “making motherhood attractive” just plays into the hands of the patriarchy. Busy breeding = less time spent blaming.”

    True true. Except, the “cute” maternity clothes are replacing the asexual, infantilizing ones, and “cute” has got to be an improvement over “you had sex, you dirty slut, so we’re going to put you in ribbons and bows and duckies.”

    Everyone who has a kid does so for selfish reasons. I did.

  80. saltyC

    Silence, did you adopt? I’m asking because I never hear that perspective from people who actually did adopt. Their position is usually don’t adopt unless you really want to.

  81. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Unfortunately they started inventing chic career-minded maternity-wear after I spawned. I was stuck with castoff dresses with big floppy bows on them: WTF? I developed a belly protrusion and all of a sudden a BIG FLOPPY BOW ON MY NECK was the look I had to sport? I would have had some fun with the clown car; howcome they didn’t give me one? Fuckers.

  82. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    I was most grateful for real maternity blue jeans with back pockets. They looked like real jeans with a maternity top over them. My older frields were glad to see that maternity jeans were available, since they only had the tent dresses, perhaps with big floppy bows as HP describes. My work dresses weren’t too bad. No bows!

  83. PullTaffy

    “Thing is, no one ever wants to admit (especially in front of their kid) that their children were unplanned.”

    My mother always said my (older) brother was an “Oops.” and I was an “Uh-oh!”

    Not that I’m bitter or anything…

  84. cycles

    I was going to clarify something way upthread, since it seems from other comments that I was espousing bike shorts in an office. What I meant was that some cyclists and car drivers make fun of spandex-wearing cyclists when they’re on a ride, or when they pop into a store in the middle of a ride without first changing into a tuxedo or whatever people define as appropriate gear for grocery shopping.

    But then I realized, again with the “why”? If you want to wear ugly bike clothes in an office, it’s none of my business. And when I say ugly, I mean it lovingly, as this commenter can often be found wearing a fluorescent reflective jacket, cargo pants chopped off mid-calf, and unfashionable black bike shoes when I’m pedaling along. This is because I like to be visible to cars, not chafing in my tender bits, and not getting my clothes tangled in the gears. Fashion doesn’t enter into the equation.

    If clothing is supposed to be an expression of your personality (shudder), then many people’s personality is expressed as “Fuck all your fashion crap.” I can understand why some people whose obsession is decoding and adhering to these ever-changing fashion edicts might find that personally offensive.

  85. L

    Dawn Turner Trice is a conventional-wisdom-spouting inane bint, the likes of which increasingly and disturbingly populate the NPR airwaves. Jeez, if preggers women appearing in overly tight clothing somehow offends the capitalist eye, why not ban all fat male coworkers who appear in overly tight pants with bellies spilling hither and yon? When I get knocked, I’ll damned well wear what pleases my eye and comforts my tum. If Suzy Cubicle can’t deal, she can avert her eyes from the whole gestational mess.

  86. Twisty

    Clothing doesn’t express personality. It expresses conformity. Take a good look at the clothes worn by Norte Americanos of any class, for nearly any occasion. The similarities between them are vastly more numerous than the differences. Any but the slightest of deviations turns any outfit into a Halloween costume, and (unless it really is Halloween) the wearer into a nutjob.

  87. Twisty

    “Suzy Cubicle”

    Haw!

  88. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    It’s complex, this thing we like to call “fashion”: Dressing to avoid any association with fashion is – oh dear! – a fashion statement in itself. As with patriarchy, as long as humans cover their bodies there will be no way to separate clothes from their Meaning.

    Anti-fashion is conformist. Wear the wrong punk hairdo/bodypiercing/ironic t-shirt in the antifashion group you want to be a part of and you’re a poseur. One can’t say “I just dress NORMAL” and “I dress to be INDIVIDUALISTIC!!!” unless one rocks the look juuuust right, and that includes goth/punk, WASP, crunchy, sporty, academic, back-country, name-that-profession, etc.

    By the way, high fashion crows about how arteeestic and individualistic it is. The players involved in the industry do not envision themselves as conformist at all. One might even effectively argue that a fashionista is more individualistic than a jeans-tshirt-workboots or a sweatpants person. Then again, one might be immediately shot down for such audacity.

  89. Celeste

    “Clothing doesn’t express personality. It expresses conformity. ”

    Let’s pity the preggo, finding her body expanding and in need of larger clothing. She goes off to Ye Olde Maternity Shoppe and all they sell these days is very snugly fitting elasticized clothing. She buys it and wears it to work.

    Is the preggo a tool of the patriarchy for conforming to what some clothing designer and store owner thinks a preggo should look like? It’s not like she sewed the stuff herself from an independent design.

  90. Twisty

    Celeste, I must have been unclear. My intent is not to cast aspersions on people who wear clothes, but on the crazy significance that attaches to clothing culturally.

  91. Celeste

    I have no issues with clothes-wearers, either. I do think the crazy cultural significance goes in both directions, though.

  92. saltyC

    I plan to adopt because I feel that there are enough children in poverty and without homes and I don’t want to add to that.

    Children are not like cats and dogs. The solution to children in poverty and homeless children is socialist revolution. If they are orphans, that’s one thing. But just the fact that they are in poverty or homeless does not mean their parents don’t want to raise them and they need rescue a-la Madonna.

  93. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    Cycles, you are to be commended for your ugly bike shorts. If I weren’t such a whimp, I would bike, too. I like the concept, but I’ll get sweaty, my clothing will get wrinkled in a back pack, I’ll get bikehelmet-head, etc. I don’t live in a very bike-friendly place. I regret that because I could use the exercise (and saving some $$$ on gas).

  94. Jess2

    overlyblameful, et al:

    From an ecological perspective, the best thing any human can do is off themselves. The disappearance of humankind from the planet would be nothing but a boon for the earth, environmentally speaking. Not having children is not enough to make a low-impact on the earth…thinking that is like thinking driving a hybrid car is doing something good for the earth, when in fact it’s just doing something marginally (very marginally) less bad. I’m sure there are single consumers who do more damage to the environment in a week than an Amish family of 15 does in a decade. We’re all fucking over the environment in various ways– I say, go live off the grid before you start picking on breeders.

    Patriarchy has co-opted and distorted women’s fertility and ability to give birth and attempts to control it every which way from conception to birth and beyond. Pregnancy is one of the few things that men obviously can not do; as a result, one of the first things patriarchal religions did in crushing the matriarchal societies they conquered was to turn pregnancy into something shameful, gross, scary and requiring of all sorts of dudely blessings/strictures/interventions. (Paging Dr. Switchblade!) Taking away respect for women’s fertility is one of the fundamental ways the Dude-ocracy keeps women powerless. Of course, one way they take away the real respect and power associated with pregnancy/childbirth is to mandate it and/or fetishize it. Yet, I think there is a clear but subtle distinction between patriarchy inspired fetishizing of pregnancy and the wonder and pride a woman may feel in realizing her body can do something pretty fucking amazing that no man could ever do or fully understand. Hatin’ on pregnant women in the name of damning the Man-centric fetishizing of breeding may run perilously close to hatin’ on pregnant women because of an internalized patriarchal rejection of female power. Careful, careful I say.

  95. M the Pedagogue

    I agree with you, Jess2, in that choosing not to have children is not in itself a solution but a harm-reduction strategy, and that’s a desperately important distinction. But choosing not to add another lifetime (or two or more, plus their offspring, plus theirs, plus theirs) of American-level comsumption has MUCH wider, far reaching, long-lived consequences than those of driving a hybrid.

    But as someone who’s already tired of being pressured to reproduce (and I’m not even 30 yet), I’m straight-up creeped-out by how quick even the feminists I know are to give pregnant woman or women pushing strollers some kind of adoring reverence. I don’t think it’s out of ultra-womany solidarity – if that’s the case, where’s the wide smile of approval for all women, not just the child-laden? – I think it’s that we still have planted in the backs of our minds that a procreating woman is doing her duty to God & Country (and often, Whiteness – see lit on early 20th century “race suicide” handwringing by xenophobic male assholes).

    Creepier yet is the double-whammy from the wealthy white women with designer strollers and yoga pants: you ain’t seen entitlement till you’ve seen two yuppie moms in a gentrified neighborhood totally oblivious to whatever flow of foot traffic is going on around them while YupMom1 & YupMom2 are out-Jonesing each other, comparing some kind of branded baby good. (Of course, I never see corporate bigshots in a boardroom, so the street’s all I’ve got to go on here.) Hey girls, all ya did was fuck. I’m not about to, like, give you a badge of honor for it. Perhaps I should congratulate you on landing a husband who bankrolls your designer lifestyle?

    This polemic characterization, I hope, imparts what I’m taking issue with – those wealthy enough to make a lifestyle out of their procreation are the last to get feminist cred (from me anyway) since they reap the most benefit from the breeding mandate while paying the least of the costs, and then expecting everyone else (a la class power) to make (literal) way for their unbelievable consumption.

    I’ll fight all day long for women’s reproductive rights, particulalry when it comes to atrocities like the forced sterilization of af-am women & girls, or even the everyday injustices like lack of birthing & childcare options for low-income women. I’m not telling other people what choices to make, but I’m also not going to get all squishy for women who can afford to do anything and refuse to acknowledge the consequences of their choices.

    I think the feminist movement (or its remains) will finally step forward again when we quit being so nervous about the fact that none of us makes 100% feminist decisions all the time. But this goes back to Twisty’s “empowerful” pseudofeminisim critique: it’s not a feminist action just because a feminist is doing it. Better to acknowledge where our choices are constrained or where we choose the less-feminist path than to make “feminist” into a meaningless term so it’s broad enough to cover all that we do.

  96. Bitey

    Word, saltyC. Viva la revolucion!

    Regarding fashion choices, first, I try in general to dress comfortably and unobtrusively, mostly in natural fibers, mostly dark in color. I like to keep on the DL until I’ve got a bead on the situation, and then pounce. My screen name could just as well have been Spider.

    Second, there was some discussion some weeks back about how our very taste in clothes is thoroughly shaped by the patriarchy. Yeah. I was watching the Oscars the other night, and I had to admit my secret shame: I like pretty dresses. It was a disturbing experience. I almost cried. Really. On one hand, I was disgusted with the conspicuous consumerism, the vapid fame-mongering, the sexay, the whole pernicious spectacle; on the other hand, pretty dresses! Talk about your cognitive dissonance. But, hey! Guess who I blame?

  97. Bitey

    PS: I’m working on it. I really am. It’s hard, though. Big changes only stick if they’re slow.

  98. Silence

    To answer SaltyC:

    No, I have not adopted. Nor have I given birth. I am a single woman in my mid-thirties, and if I were a certain sort of woman, my biological clock would be screaming into overdrive. It isn’t, because I am completely happy with the idea of adoption if I ever decide I want a child. There are far too many children who need homes for me to feel it is necessary to populate the world with my own genes rather than give one or two of them a comfortable future.

    On the other hand, I know my best friend, who recently got married, is considering having a child. If it works out for her, great. I’m not going to criticize whatever choice she makes. I’ll be happy because I know it is a considered choice.

    And I do realize that most births come about because of an ‘oops, shit.’ Most of us have had close calls and some of us go through with them. I am still not happy with people who feel the need to create more then two or three children at most, and yes, I do believe it is usually a choice in North America where abortion is legal and it is possible to get birth control. There are always exceptions to the rule, but they are exceptions.

    When I was studying Native Americans for my MA, I came across this anecdote: In some tribes, the women were allowed a great deal of sexual freedom, even after marriage. One of the Englishmen, seeing a brave with his family, asked: “How do you know which children are yours?” To which the brave replied: “You English only love your own children, but we love all children.” And that sums up my position pretty nicely.

    You see, I think the whole needing to have your ‘own child’ is one of the most virulent aspects of the patriarchy. It views children as objects that you can own, and if they came out of your body, why then you have all the stronger claim to them.

    I’m afraid I’m hijacking the thread with the subject, so I’ll shut up now.

    And oh, yeah, no one’s going to tell me what I should wear. Except of course, that I’m not the one designing the clothes that I have to buy, so the patriarchy is still in control, dammit.

  99. ew_nc

    I’ve got a ton of lumps on my forehead from banging my head against my desk in utter frustration. Maybe a tight Spandex wrap will reduce the swelling.

  100. Hattie

    I wear jeans when I teach at the prison. So does my boss. No one would dare say anything to us about the way we dress. To steal a clever remark from the fifth grade teacher upthread: are they going to not let us teach basic skills to felons? They want to do it, they can go right ahead.
    Besides, jeans are the only pants robust enough for me to clip my two-way radio to.
    And…we are in deep shit about kids because we no longer agree that they need to be properly looked after so they can grow up to become responsible citizens. Instead we trash families. Serious social thinkers like Theda Skocpol have noticed this. It’s another piece of the way we do not care about the future.
    Europeans are way better at supporting families than we are, and their birthrate is much lower.
    I think a lot of women get into breeding in this country because they don’t have other options. If they did, they would have one or two kids and a career, the way so many in Europe do. But here it is just so difficult to work and be a mom too.

  101. chris

    > Is the preggo a tool of the patriarchy for conforming to what some clothing designer and store owner thinks a preggo should look like?

    Teehee, No. Anyone can design clothing and, if you’re well received, you will rake in the dollars.

    > Creepier yet is the double-whammy from the wealthy white women with designer strollers and yoga pants: you ain’t seen entitlement till you’ve seen two yuppie moms in a gentrified neighborhood totally oblivious to whatever flow of foot traffic is going on around them while YupMom1 & YupMom2 are out-Jonesing each other, comparing some kind of branded baby good.

    Where’s the entitlement? It’s not like they’re Katrina refugees demanding the govenment pay for their housing after a year and a half.

  102. Jess2

    “This polemic characterization, I hope, imparts what I’m taking issue with – those wealthy enough to make a lifestyle out of their procreation are the last to get feminist cred (from me anyway) since they reap the most benefit from the breeding mandate while paying the least of the costs, and then expecting everyone else (a la class power) to make (literal) way for their unbelievable consumption. ”

    Word. I live in a neighborhood dominated by the sidewalk stroller mafia. I am actually about to give birth (literally, I’ve been in pre-/early labor for a couple of days) but I hope someone shoots me if I adopt the “I have a child! Everyone step into the gutter so I can push my double-wide SUV-style stroller three abreast with my latte sipping pals!” attitude of the urban gentry.

    And I also agree about the “empowerful” characterization of pregnancy and birth, which seems all about getting women to enter bondage willingly; but I still won’t say that doesn’t mean pregnancy and birth can’t be a genuinely powerful experience. As we’re all swimming in the Sea o’ Patriarchy, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish which is which and it sometimes makes you wonder if it’s possible to even have a thought or feeling that’s not owned by the patriarchy (see Twisty’s Mission Statement Revitalization Programme, Part 2). Choice is a loaded word, especially when put in the same sentence with feminism– but I won’t digress into a discussion of free will. Suffice it to say, being pregnant has made me see shades of patriarchy I never even imagined existed.

  103. No Blood for Hubris

    Well, the true subtext of the Freudian construct “penis envy” is “totally repressed male envy of the those who are able to give birth,” is it not?

  104. Hattie

    Gosh. Can’t people just have kids and stuff without everything being such a big deal?
    People are so vain these days.

  105. communicatrix

    yeah, only…oh, christ on a bike, I don’t want to see anything–hard, soft, or kickin’–in spandex.

    Didn’t those of us who lived through the ’80s suffer enough? What’s wrong w/ loose fabrics? Or good, old, hippie gauze? It gives, and lets live. And none of that sweaty, he-man-made mess that Polly Esther makes.

    My ultimate position on spandex is wear it if you must…then quickly, shower and change.

  106. Frumious B

    figleaf-
    Just b/c Trice doesn’t mention men explicitly does not mean there is no tentpitchular subtext to her comments.

  107. S-kat

    “When I went to the University of Minnesota in the mid-80’s the Engineering building didn’t have any ladies’ rooms at all! Female engineering students had to go to another building to pee.”

    Passing through the geology building at UT-Austin I noted two hand written signs on the bathrooms. One read “Men” the other read “Girls.” I snarked about it to my colleague, qualifying my comment with, “You’ll have to excuse me, deep down inside I’m just a raging feminist.” She replied, “All the way through to the surface, I’m a raging feminist!” I’ve never apologized for my feminism again.

  108. Niki

    I’m sorry, but there’s something about ‘every one of my three pregnancies was a surprise’ that gives me the twitches. Maybe because I’m 32, straight, and have suffered nary a preg scare. I’d like to believe one only truly makes the surprise baby once, and the rest of the babies that come are because of bad planning (you know what happens at that point when the penis meets the vag unprotected!) or individual trauma (i.e. rape, etc). Fool me once n all that shite.

  109. tinfoil hattie

    What Jess2 said. Some of these comments are striking a nerve in this mother of 2, both of whom were wanted and neither of whom was a surprise. Why did I have kids? For lots of irrational reasons.

    For that matter, I’ve always maintained that there are no rational reasons for having children, only rational reasons for not having them.

    My kids are great people, NOT a reflection of me, and I am really, really glad I helped create, then nurtured & delivered them. And no, I’m not some sort of Dawn Eden Xtian anti-abortionist. Just a woman who loves her kids and was, in fact, pretty amazed at what my body went through and did during pregnancy and childbirth. Feel free to be offended at my enjoyment of the experience, but as the saying goes, it wasn’t about you.

    It was actually about my reproductive freedom…or does reproductive freedom only count if you get an abortion?

  110. tinfoil hattie

    And by the way, if I’d not been able to conceive & carry kids, I definitely would have adopted. After the fact, it’s too hard for me to say, “I should have adopted instead of having these 2 kids.” I love them too much and I can’t imagine this earth without them. Selfish, and irrational.

    If I were 5-10 years younger, I’d adopt them a sister or two. But I’d like to have a little free time in my 60s, after they’re all grown up!

  111. M the Pedagogue

    There are tons of reasons to both want and have children. Plenty of people I know do and I totally get where they’re coming from. Those reasons aren’t ecological or necessarily feminist. Okay, if we agree on that, cool.

    (Jess2 – GOOD LUCK! Be well!)

    It’s stuff like Hattie’s comment, “Gosh. Can’t people just have kids and stuff without everything being such a big deal?” that reflects the problem. Bearing children is still so written into the cultural script of what it means to be a woman that for anyone who chooses to suffer the social consequences for not breeding is looked upon like an alien from outer space, and far worse than that, such a script obscures anyone’s ability to see what harm there might actually be in such an obvious, “common-sense” choice.

    In a culture where one’s biological fact of being female didn’t automatically mean all she exists for is to fuck men and make babies, many fewer women would choose to have babies. Think of the possibilities of owning female chromosomes, genitalia, or whathaveyou. We’d actually be people! We’d be workers or artists or farmers or whatever, kind of like how men aren’t just fathers or pre-fathers.

  112. smmo

    Go Jess2! Go Jess2′s uterus!

    “In a culture where one’s biological fact of being female didn’t automatically mean all she exists for is to fuck men and make babies, many fewer women would choose to have babies.”

    And fewer babies. And isn’t as if the pressure to have a bay-beee lets up after you do, it just changes into “when are you having another?” I get crap for having an only child on purpose.

    “I’m sorry, but there’s something about ‘every one of my three pregnancies was a surprise’ that gives me the twitches. Maybe because I’m 32, straight, and have suffered nary a preg scare.”

    I know what you mean Niki. I feel mean when I have those feelings, but I think women are a little too in love with the romance of the unplanned pregnancy. Because you just hear it so damn often. There can’t be that much failure of contraception going around. IBTP.

  113. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Let me explain a little, not because I feel the need to justify my behavior but because I think my story might be instructive to the younger, more idealistic set. Consider this a cautionary tale:

    For almost 2 decades (my early 20′s to late 30′s) I was on seizure medication that prevented me from taking the birth control pills I took while in college. I was also THOROUGHLY brainwashed about a supposedly “superior” form of birth control: Natural Family Planning.

    Am I Catholic? Fundamentalist Evangelical? Christian Scientist? Mormon? Mais NON! I am a WOMYN! A Dianic WITCH GENIUS who Knows Magic and Knows Her Body! The Goddess incarnate! Only the NATURAL way will DO for a goddess! Yeah, I was delusional. I was also married for 10 of those years, which meant no condoms.

    My husband and I were ambivalent about becoming parents and had a “whatever happens, happens” approach to pregnancy. Anyone out there feel like finishing this story? It practically writes itself! There’s a joke out there: What do you call people who practice natural family planning? Give up? PARENTS!

    In theory natural family planning works very well. At least it would work if it were not for that damn amnesia NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT: The fog that makes you count funny and convinces you that it’s “safe” when it’s really not. Why did I make the same “mistake” three times? STUBBORNESS. I also don’t really think they were really mistakes. Now that I’m a hag I think the brain fog was simply ambivalence disguised as amnesia. These days, now that I KNOW FOR SURE I’m done breeding I’m the Condom Nazi (You vill wear it and you VILL LIKE IT!!!). No condom means no sex, and if you don’t believe me ask the guy I spent last weekend with. He announced that he was physically unable to perform with a condom on, thinking it would get him off the hook. I said, “Oh that’s too bad.” Think he got laid? (Snort.)

    I hope this clears things up!

    (For the record, although I’ve been pregnant three times, my uterus is hostile territory and only one of the little buggers made it out alive.That pregnancy was very high risk: Bunny almost killed me but she’s been an angel and the joy of my life since the day AFTER she was born.)

  114. edith

    I just wanted to say that yeah, I think it’s great that pregnant women are able to wear tight or form-fitting tops. But why is it that non-pregnant women aren’t supposed to wear LOOSE tops? Don’t believe me? Then why is it that everyone I know is grumbling about the latest fashion which includes, paired with my beloved leggings, empire waist, tent, sack, or “flowy” dresses and/or tunics and/or t-shirts? Everyone is like, “THOSE SHIRTS/DRESSES/GARMENTS MAKE YOU LOOK PREGNANT!” Oh my god, what a sin! I better wear a big fat belt to cinch in my waist so no one dares think that I don’t have one!

    Blah.

  115. Lara

    “There can’t be that much failure of contraception going around.”

    This is such a common comment that I sat down and took a little look at it one day. The most common methods of contraception, the Pill and condoms, have a 2-10% failure rate (per woman-year) with relatively ideal use. I’m assuming all sorts of things, like unchanging fertility and spherical women, for simplicity’s sake.

    On an order of magnitude calculation, each informed, educated woman, using typical contraception, from menarche to menopause, in a fairly real-world but not particularly irresponsible way, might expect to find herself unexpectedly pregnant approximately 0.7-3.5 times.

    In other words, there is a whole lot of failure of contraception going on, and guess who gets blamed for it? Women.

  116. M The Pedagogue

    Lara,

    thank you for doing the math. That helps. I’ve been creeped out myself by the number of “but I was on the pill!” stories I’ve heard lately. I think the received knowledge tells us that condoms are more likely to fail, when the reality is that hormones do their own thang and it don’t take much to mess with the success of the pill.

    At this point I will also say:

    THANK *FUCKING* GOD FOR PLAN B! tell all the man-doing fertile sisters you know. Now available over the counter. As long as a bunch of fundamentalist crazies don’t run your town.

    Hell, I’m *this* close to setting up an underground railroad of shipping Plan B to the under-18 set/those who live in fundie-run towns with dickhead pharmacists, except that the crazies would have my ass in prison so fast my head would spin. I ran a BC/STD/safe sex info clearinghouse out of my locker in high school and that was scary enough. No one found out who shouldn’t have but it could have been ugly.

  117. smmo

    Thanks for posting those numbers Lara. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have said what I did. What I intended to convey (and did badly) is my dismay that so many women seem befuddled by their own fertility. It is pretty obvious who to blame, and it ain’t women.

    HPS: Brain fog is a good way to describe it. I’ve been there, but I was fortunate in that my stupidity didn’t bite me in the ass. I remember way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I went to Planned Parenthood for the birth control spiel they told the same joke, that natural family planning = parenthood. Good then and good now.

  118. niki

    Perhaps I am infertile then, in which case I am squealing with glee. Or perhaps I am just very, very lucky.

    I’m not trying to be mean either, and I definitely know the old ‘I can’t feel anything with a condom on’ routine. I’m just always surprised at the prospect of multiple accident babies.

    I don’t blame women for birth control failure. It wouldn’t be so Orwellian to suggest that the routine unplanned impregnation of Earth women is a prime factor of the Patriarchy. I tell you what though, as much as I enjoy the company of men, I’d rather be celibate than pregnant any day.

  119. Delishka

    Jess2
    Mar 1st, 2007 at 3:37 pm
    overlyblameful, et al:

    From an ecological perspective, the best thing any human can do is off themselves. The disappearance of humankind from the planet would be nothing but a boon for the earth, environmentally speaking. Not having children is not enough to make a low-impact on the earth…thinking that is like thinking driving a hybrid car is doing something good for the earth, when in fact it’s just doing something marginally (very marginally) less bad. I’m sure there are single consumers who do more damage to the environment in a week than an Amish family of 15 does in a decade. We’re all fucking over the environment in various ways– I say, go live off the grid before you start picking on breeders.

    Thank you, Jess, I was going to say something similar in response to the ‘stop breeding North American Consumer Swine’ line.

    Intellectualize all you want, but until we all upload ourselves into unisex machine bodies with no biology whatsoever, people are going to continue to seek to breed. Some individuals may make the conscious choice to avoid furthering their own genome into the next generation, but as a species, the instinct to reproduce is not going to go away just because now society has concluded that sex is for entertainment and has no value, and so women should go out and give it to random men ’cause it’s fun and we can cut out the reproductive part of it…usually….oops…

    The hormones and chemical reactions that our bodies release in the presence of children are designed to further the continuance of the species. Women have a more potent coctail of reactions, but everyone has them. The patriarchy did not impose this impulse on us. Our evolution as a thinking species hinged on the the longstanding social relationship required of a mother to nurture a child to independence. The more time that you spend in the presence of children, the more time you want to spend. The more time you spend in the presence of a specific child, the more devoted you become to that child. It’s not intellectual, it’s biological. It is possible, if the connection is strong enough, and the stimulus is persistant enough, for men to begin producing milk, and breastfeed.

    As for preganant ladies wearing spandex, I’m just getting to third trimester belly out-there-ness. Maternity clothes are expensive, and wasteful unless you’re planning to hand them down or turn out a bunch of the little nippers. As soon as I come in the door I’m in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, but when I have to leave the house the delimma is how to cover my belly so I don’t freeze to death, while not squeezing baby into ouchiness, all the while keeping my pants from just falling down…and the answer to that is spandex and lycra.

  120. Twisty

    The more time that you spend in the presence of children, the more time you want to spend.

    I can’t say, even as the doting aunt to two excellent nieces, that this has quite been my experience.

    the instinct to reproduce is not going to go away

    Having made with the humorous opener, I will now dogpaddle out into deeper waters with the hypothesis that the instinct to which you allude does not exist. Certainly there is some hormonal assertiveness resulting in the urge to screw, but the celebrated reproductive instinct is a cultural construct.

  121. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Jeebus, the more time I spend around little children the more I want to OFF myself. Their adorable little chaotic selves drive me to drink. If my teenaged Bunny weren’t 5’8″ with size 11 feet I might have preferred that she’d sprouted out of my belly fully-formed, talking sense and self-maintaining. Seriously.

  122. smmo

    “The more time that you spend in the presence of children, the more time you want to spend.”

    Ha! Good one. Are you offering to babysit?

    My two year old is the light of my life, but uninterrupted time with him leads me to wonder how much he’d fetch on Ebay.

    My feelings for the little monster are the result of a set of circumstances. I could explain away not selling him on Ebay with hormones/biology/destiny/whatever but plenty of parents do awful things to their children. Maternal instinct is for those who can afford it.

  123. Delishka

    Check out Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy…it’s a book about motherhood and reproduction strategies from an anthropological and biological perspective, dealing not only with the human species.

    smmo, I’m willing to bet that if someone took your baby away, you would miss him and want him back. Even if that were not the case, you would be the anomaly, not the species baseline.

    I agree that some parents do awful things to their offspring… but this is also anamolous, and sometimes with an unknowing component of trying to gain advantage for possible future offspring, or for the children you already have. Or some people should have just culled themselves from the gene pool.

    I apologise, perhaps the phrasing I should have used was, ‘The more time you spend around children, the more comfortable you become with the idea of spending time with children. The closer your relationship is to a specific child, the stronger your attachment to that child grows.’

    Twisty, you would hold your baby neice, maybe change her diapers? Would you do so for a friend’s child, or a strangers? (Personally, I wouldn’t dream of touching a stranger’s child…the parents might bite me! And my ‘friend’ can change her own kid’s diaper, unless I’m babysitting.)

  124. Twisty

    Twisty, you would hold your baby neice, maybe change her diapers?

    Yes to #1. No fucking way to #2. I have wiped the occasional bum, but afterward lodged formal written protest, resulting in my sister owing me a margarita.

  125. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    I’ve been an aunt since I was 6 months old, so I have considerable experience with children. It has led me to a couple conclusions:
    1) I don’t want any of my own. Maybe my “instincts” are somehow tapped into the fact that there is more than enough of DNA like mine in this sad, sorry world. 2) I dearly love the ones in my family, but sometimes the happiest thing about an encounter with them is the sight of the back of their darling little heads as they’re heading home. The whole 24-7 thing frankly gives me a major wiggins. 3) I’ll be 48 this year, and thus far have seen nothing to make me regret the decision not to reproduce.

  126. smmo

    “smmo, I’m willing to bet that if someone took your baby away, you would miss him and want him back”

    Of course I would. I just don’t ascribe that to biology.

  127. Delishka

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that that would be strictly biological, just that there is a biological and chemical component to our attachment to others, children especially. As has been pointed out…kids are a lot of hassle, they take up time and energy and resources…the species would die out if it were a strictly intellectual excercise.

  128. Delishka

    I apologise again…I’m noticing little typo misspellings in my post :(

  129. hedonistic

    I don’t know. When I announced to my family that I was pregnant their response was not joy but dread (“Oh no, HPS is going to leave the baby on the bus!!!).

    I think the real reason I didn’t put my little bundle of screaming id out on the curb with the recycling was that I’d put so much effort (time, energy, vomit, needles, drugs, ER visits, hospital stays, bedrest etc.) into getting her out of me alive. It would have been such a waste, not to mention inhumane, to let anything befall my Bunny after all that pain and hard work. Add a mature sense of personal responsibility and Bunny was secure, which a relief to the rest of my family since otherwise I DO NOT HAVE A MATERNAL BONE IN MY BODY.

    Besides, when she wasn’t screaming and shitting she was pretty cute: A one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable human being who deserved to be brought up well, so I kept her and found competent, certified daycare to prevent/undo any damage I might do by attempting to raise her myself.

    I’d only call this “biology” in the sense that selfish interest is inherent to our species.

  130. saltyC

    I still see a lot of guilt over getting pregnant.

    I wish we could lighten up. So what you get pregnant, you have an abortion, BFD.

    I don’t see the same hand-wringing by women who get in vitro fertility treatment, even though it ends up creating way more embryos than can be used, and therefore most of them DIE.

    No, it’s only when we get preggers the normal way that it’s a shameful thing.

    Yeah my abortion was the result of unprotected sex. I finally decided not to be ashamed. For a lot of women, no birth control is ideal, sometimes abortion is the best method. Yes, abortion as a method of birth control, I see nothing wrong if we’re also killing embryos in labs.

    Maybe if we quit all this guilt we could be happier in our wonderful skins.

  131. saltyC

    Oops I forgot we were talking about HAVING babies.

  132. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Hey, Salty C, you’re preaching to the choir here. I’ll carry it a little further: godbags will insist that you must carry an accidental pregnancy to term because it’s the will of the deity. However, it’s not the same for folks who can’t get pregnant. I say godbags should not avail themselves of infertility technology because if you can’t have a child the “normal” way, clearly it’s the deity’s will that you have none.

  133. Frumious B

    In a culture where one’s biological fact of being female didn’t automatically mean all she exists for is to fuck men and make babies, many fewer women would choose to have babies.

    You think? I don’t know. People like babies, and they like kids. I think just as many women would choose to have babies, but they would be like men are now – parents and people. Maybe even more women would have babies, and more babies, since they would be human instead of incubators.

  134. Frumious B

    I say godbags should not avail themselves of infertility technology because if you can’t have a child the “normal” way, clearly it’s the deity’s will that you have none.

    Fun Catholic fact o’ the day: Catholics are not supposed to get infertility treatment.

  135. niki

    I dunno, mang. I think that ‘people like babies’ is a social construct, albeit so deeply rooted in human tradition that not even letting themselves be covered in viscous and vomitous on a 24-hour basis can deter some people from the course.

    Others are different. I won’t ever hold a baby no how, no way. They have those little porcelain heads and frail birdy necks. And I sure as (baby) shit won’t change a diaper, ever. Halleluja!

  136. katarina

    This post is more than a year old now but just have to say: I’m so happy to hear women discussing the knock-on effect of giving birth in a rich country. I never dare talk about this issue with friends or relatives any more, because everyone I know is either reproducing themselves or hoping to do so soon and would react pretty much as Laurel and Jess2 did.

    “Pregnancy is one of the few things that men obviously can not do,” says Jess2. The men I know are proud of impregnating women, whether or not they want to take responsibility for resulting offspring. It’s purblind to pretend that only women are responsible for increasing the population.

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