Friday, September 18, 2015

Stop Apologizing for Your Body

I've noticed something concerning: women are constantly apologizing for their bodies, and not because they are punching people or farting all the time.

From an online neighborhood forum:

"Sorry guys please ignore this one. Ladies, does anyone have an ob in the area who will do a VBAC?"

Why is she saying sorry? Is the mere allusion to her having a uterus too scandalous for men to read? Or maybe it was that her uterus currently contains a baby? OMHECK HOW DID IT GET THERE?

I acknowledge that women are probably the best source of info on great ob-gyns, but couldn't there be a great husband in the neighborhood who was involved enough with the process of the birth of his children that he could also recommend a doctor who took great care of his wife? Or would it be embarrassing for a man to admit that he remembered the lady-parts doctor's name? Whatever the case, men should not be ignoring the existence of healthcare needs for half the population.

Having a female body is normal. Needing a doctor is normal. You don't need to apologize.

From Facebook:



Displaying the face you were born with is not discourteous or offensive. The multi-billion dollar beauty industry would have you believe it is, though. Don't apologize for not having the money, time, or desire to hyper-pigment/contour/sexualize your face to meet arbitrary beauty standards. 

(Disclaimer: I wear makeup sometimes, and I am conflicted about it. I don't care if you wear makeup. I don't support the idea that a woman must wear makeup to be acceptable, formal, or successful.)

From an amalgam of several birth stories I've read: "Sorry if this is TMI! Guys, scroll to the end if you don't want to read the gross parts."

Yes, there are bodily fluids involved in birth. No, you should not apologize for acknowledging that it wasn't a stork who delivered your baby perfectly dry and smelling of Aveeno lotion, wrapped in an aide + anais swaddle. You created that baby and birthed it from your womb.

The details of birth are messy, but they are not offensive. Blood, uterus, vagina, amniotic fluid, cervix, contraction, perineum, tear, push, bleed, break, vernix, meconium, vomit, poop, sweat, tears. All of these may be part of a birth. They aren't swear words. Every human is born. It is not some gross, weird, or offensive medical phenomenon that you need to censor to appease the delicate or uninformed.

This also applies to menstruation, an amazing testament to the procreative power of women. Don't apologize for needing to buy tampons, acknowledging that you have cramps, or voicing that you feel more emotional at certain times in your cycle. This doesn't mean that you have a free pass to be rude when you're PMSing, but it does mean you shouldn't have to whisper when you say "period" while telling a friend that you'll be skipping PiYo to go for doughnuts instead.

Men seem to be okay with blood when it's coming out of a comic book hero; the thought of it coming out of your vagina shouldn't kill them. In fact, if boys are raised to know what menstruation is and that it is a normal process for women, they'll have a greater chance of growing up to be informed, empathetic, and a resource to the women in their lives. 

Ironman is alive and bleeds. TMI!!! 

Apologies are necessary when you do or say something offensive. If someone is offended by something that isn't offensive, that's their problem, not yours.

But what about social norms? What if someone gets uncomfortable?

Some social norms are based on moral laws and are good: don't kill people, say thank you, take turns. Other social norms are not based on moral laws, and should be questioned and opposed if they are harmful. The social norms that discourage women from acknowledging their femaleness or presenting their natural faces are harmful because they communicate that a woman's social participation should largely be determined by the preferences of men instead of the needs of women. 

What is the greater evil? Inflicting mild discomfort on someone interpreting your existence through warped lenses, or propagating harmful messages about how females are allowed to participate in society? Any discomfort that results is just part of societal growing pains as we leave our sexist cultural adolescence behind. Harmful social norms should be challenged. Comfort should never stand in the way of social progress.

I'm not saying that every woman has to share every detail of her life or body. Medical needs can be private. Your birth story might be too personal to share. Makeup can be fun. I am saying that it's harmful to shame people for talking about their female experiences, it's unnecessary to preface yourself with apologies where none are needed, an it's damaging to promote the idea that a woman must alter her appearance to receive regard and respect.

So unless you just stepped on my foot in your haste to snatch the last carton of Blue Bell from the ice cream case, you don't need to apologize for your body.
 
**The winner of my hat-finding challenge is "inkylou." Thank you for linking to an online hat shop that featured Indiana Jones hats on the homepage! Email your address to poodlewrites@gmail.com and I will send you three gummy hamburgers and another surprise. I know I promised ten, but the box was on top of my fridge, so I couldn't see how many I had eaten ... then I was shocked to see only three left. Oops. If you are dying for all ten, I'll order some more. Let me know. Thanks to everyone else who suggested hats, here and on Facebook. Amanda gets an honorable mention for exposing me to these gems, and Auntie Becca gets the "Best Personal Effort" prize (a good feeling) for her squid hat.**

6 comments:

  1. I love this, Kimber. Thank you!

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  2. I am conflicted about the makeup thing too. I go in cycles of not caring and caring a ton. I do think makeup helps my self esteem, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Josh never makes me feel weird or uncomfortable sharing anything, so I'm pretty grateful for that. Or maybe he's just used to it after living with a nurse. Thanks again for a thought-provoking read.

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    1. I'm the same! Makeup helps me feel pretty and confident ... but why does feeling pretty make me feel confident?? Why should my sense of social power depend on my appearance? Is using makeup different than doing my hair? Wearing nice clothes? So many issues at play. (Another thing I'm probably more conflicted about: shaving.)

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  3. I honestly think women just apologize too much in general. My New Years resolution was to not apologize for dumb things. Im not sorry my house is messy, im not sorry my kid is yelling inside Walmart (it's impossible to get him to stop, trust me). There is a skit by Amy Shumer about women apologizing, it's funny but be warned her stuff can be pg-13 or worse so be careful when looking her up. Anyways, I totally agree about all of this. women need to stop apologizing! - Natalie Sterling.

    For some reason I'm logged in as Trevor who made his blogger name blog #sorrynotsorry ha!

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    1. I watched the Amy Schumer skit--so funny and so true! I like your resolution, a lot. Have you noticed an impact in how you feel about your interactions?

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