Ask the grumpies: why does the patriarchy think it owns pregnant women?

Rented life asks:

Why is it every time I make a comment about how you shouldn’t comment/touch/etc pregnant women, some asshat needs to tell me that “like it or not” pregnant women are seen as public property? (I’d frankly argue ALL women are seen this way but I won’t fill up this comment with why). That these things are primal urges and I should just accept them? Hello slippery slope.

I know the short answer is patriarchy, but seriously, I am tired of having to work so hard against this.

Yeah, it’s the patriarchy.  You have our sympathy.

Sympathy and related complaints from the Grumpy peanut gallery?

31 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: why does the patriarchy think it owns pregnant women?”

  1. plantingourpennies Says:

    As a childless woman, I can say I NEVER want to touch a pregnant abdomen. A small part of me always remembers this scene from the movie alien (which I probably watched at a far too young and impressionable age) every time I see a pregnant abdomen:

    So maybe mandatory viewing of alien for young children is the answer? =D

  2. The frugal ecologist Says:

    I am confused – people have actually told you like it or not pregnant women are public property? Is this a figure of speech?

    I am currently obviously pregnant & have received only comments of the “oh are you expecting, when are you due” variety. These are all from women either strangers or acquaintances who are mothers themselves. I don’t think patriarchy has anything to do with it.

    I cannot imagine a stranger touching me on the abdomen…hasn’t happened yet but I have 8 weeks to go.

    Ps I have some ask the grumpies questions – where should I send them?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Not everybody gets treated that way, and not in every venue. I’m protected a lot by my professors are on pedestals in the South status and by not going out around people as much (not to say it hasn’t happened to me randomly on the street, on a plane, at Target, etc, but only a few times over 2 pregnancies). [I did get lots of cross-examination about the pregnancy and parenting and child-rearing with both kids, both before and after. One nice thing is that by being bizarre with extended bf and ec and no schedules and cosleeping and grade skipping etc., people who know me have stopped asking questions after a while with DC2] Our admin staff when pregnant say they get more of this kind of treatment than experienced. So, intersectionality. I imagine it’s probably also less prevalent in places in the country in which nobody touches anybody. However, I’ve heard enough complaints to believe it’s a real thing.

      You can send Ask the Grumpies questions to

    • rented life Says:

      Oh God, yes, multiple times I’ve been told how now that I’m pregnant I am public property, that the urge to be an ass, I mean make comments and touch me is because of “primal urges.” The comments I’ve gotten on my size, on my due date (as if I picked a holiday on purpose), on the sex of the child…I can’t even begin. Men and women alike.

  3. Liz Says:

    I think it’s about time we moved beyond “primal urges,” seeing as how we are no longer primal. Unless of course you’re getting this from Creationists, who don’t believe in evolution…

  4. Leah Says:

    Absolutely ridiculous. I don’t understand that urge. I have a pretty big reaction when people try to get too familiar with me, so I expect I’d probably shove away and tell off anyone who ever tried to touch my abdomen.

    I’ve had close friends who were pregnant, and I had a hard time touching their bellies even when encouraged.

  5. Leigh Says:

    Ugh, I’m fed up with the patriarchy. Work would be SO much better if it was equal male-women.

      • Leigh Says:

        Honestly, that’s the main reason that I may end up quitting when I have a good-sized stash. I can deal with the stress. I can deal with deadlines. I’m tired of working with men all day. Maybe I can eventually find a subfield or software company serving a particular industry that has more women/better men. That’s my goal.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Wandering Scientist is always recommending Etsy for a good work environment for computer programmers.

        My husband is a good guy. :) He says that the sign of a good work environment is the existence of women. Bad environments drive out women. Good environments attract and keep them. (So if there are women at a professional happy hour, that means it’s a good group.) And, of course, bad environments are going to have more discrimination in hiring.

      • GEW Says:

        It sounds like women in the work environment are like canaries in the cave. :)

  6. chacha1 Says:

    I’ve never been pregnant so I’ve never had to experience this, but based on the intrusive and presumptuous personal-life questions I used to get from total strangers (when I lived in the South … here in LA nobody cares), I can readily believe that it is A Thing.

    Some social retraining is in order. I think slapping someone’s hand away when they reach out to touch you is perfectly reasonable, especially if you don’t know them. Accompanied by a sharp “Hey!”

    I can’t understand the touch-the-belly impulse at all. To me it’s no different from grabbing someone’s ass or boob.

  7. oilandgarlic Says:

    I definitely wouldn’t want any one except my husband touching my pregnant belly. Only 1 woman did this but we were on semi-friendly terms. She had a baby not too long ago so my guess is that she missed having pregnant belly? I don’t really see a good reason to touch someone’s belly though.

  8. First Gen American Says:

    Thankfully no one ever touched my fat belly when I was pregnant. Maybe it’s a New England thing, but people aren’t that touchy feely here. If you’re balsy enough to be copping unsolicited feels then you should expect to get your face slapped or your butt kicked in.

  9. Chelsea Says:

    Fortunately I never had to deal with being touched when I was pregnant. What I HATE is having strangers (not talking about daycare providers, people we know, etc.) touch my son. Wave to him, smile at him, talk to him, whatever, but don’t touch his hands or face.

  10. Steph Says:

    I’ve never understood the idea that you can just walk up and touch a pregnant woman. Especially if you don’t know them! I remember touching my aunts’ bellies, but I was a kid and they invited me to do so. At kicking stage it’s a fun thing to feel (for those of us not having to carry the baby, obviously) but I even feel awkward asking pregnant women unless I know them very well.

  11. Donna Freedman Says:

    I’m told that if someone makes a move to pat your belly or actually succeeds, you should reach over and pat HIS.
    Then watch them jump/freak out.
    Or you could do the Miss Manners route: Leap back yourself with a startled “OH!” if someone reaches toward your abdomen.
    We are not owned by the public. Our bodies belong to us.

    • femmefrugality Says:

      Or just punch him in the face. Would he touch you like that if you weren’t pregnant? It’s not okay. Ever.

      What REALLY bothers me about the whole touching situation isn’t so much the belly (which it does,) but after the baby comes out. People for some reason think it’s perfectly fine to come up and touch a child…pinch their cheeks, kiss them, whatever. It is not okay. Get your germs away from the baby who has little to no autoimmunities, please. Plus how do I know you’re not a crazy that will try to rip them out of my arms? I will make a scene. It will ruin your day. Social norms be damned. (I’m with you, Chelsea.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Except you can go to jail for punching someone in the face. Of course, you won’t go to jail for shooting them in the face in some states. If you’re you know, standing your ground.

      • rented life Says:

        AHHH! No! Don’t tell me that’s next! I’m not one who wants to be touched, please don’t touch my kid too. I get SO disgusted at how many sick people have wanted to touch or hug me (or pass their sick kids to me for “experience”) Keep that shit to yourself. Actually as a result I spent a weekend in October in the hospital thanks to those assholes. (Also, don’t bring your sick self to a BABY SHOWER for the love of God. I will kill this person. I really will.)

        It’s not just men who’ve tried touching, women do too–women actually think they have more of a right, but it was a man who said that I’m public property, that in creating a child, the society becomes invested and interested. I wanted to rant on about how if that’s the case, make my health care affordable, my husband’s salary reasonable, give me better school systems, and access to day care. Give both of us leave so I don’t have to drain my savings to pay for what insurance won’t cover and having some time off. He has to use the one week of vacation he gets.

        Worse than the touching is the comments. “Hey Tubby!” “Look at how fat/big/other weight word you are.” “Are you sure it’s not twins? You’re really big for [x] months.” (Because, you know, somehow we would’ve missed that one by now.) “You’re so huge, it’s cute!” No it’s not cute. I’m 5 ft tall and massive and in pain and a grown-ass woman. Never ever call me cute. Ever. “Oh a Christmas baby! Name it holly, Rudolf, Noel or Noelle or Klaus.” WTH. No. Idiot. “Why won’t you tell me the name/sex of the baby? How can I buy you anything?” Because you’ll buy some ugly gender focused shit which we already got, which I’m already sending to goodwill. (The name/gender thing means some relatives won’t talk to me now–even at the baby shower they threw for me–because they are that offended to now know in advance.) “You better not have a boy, we have enough boys.” “You better have a C-section, because you can’t have that baby on Christmas.” (FIL. Twice. I was polite the first 2 times, I will ream him out if it comes up again) “That child will feel terrible that it has a Christmas birthday, couldn’t you have tried harder?” Thanks asshole. We tried for almost a year and a half.

        That’s just a small sampling. It’s also why I just can not DEAL with people anymore.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Huh, had not made that connection with Christmas names. Dc1 doesn’t seem to mind hir birthday… The inlaws are very careful to double hir presents. Somewhere we’ve got an unfinished post on the topic.

        If you can get an internal smile-nod-ignore thing going, it is better for your blood pressure. Or be like me and just matter of factly give them lectures on why what you’re doing is best–think of them as uneducated students. They’ll stop asking.

      • Leah Says:

        I have heard from some friends that baby carrying seems to help in not touching the baby, as people are not as likely to reach right next to your breasts. Though, rented life, given what you’ve dealt with, that’s not for certain.

  12. Historiann Says:

    I think anyone (pregnant or not) touched non-consensually by anyone should just blow out a big, fat, wet sneeze all over the toucher’s arms/face/hands/whatever. Serves ’em right for getting that close!

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