I see this time and again. A story runs about attacks on access to abortion care and the picture is of someone who is clearly about to give birth any day. To make matters worse, she usually doesn’t even have a head. This happened today in what was a great piece in Mother Jones pushing back on the federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks. This is a complicated issue that elicits a lot of emotion and confusion.
An image like this does not help to get people to understand the issue or to connect to the real women being hurt by laws like this one.
I was happy to see that there was a conversation happening on Twitter about the use of the disembodied, 9 or 10 month pregnant woman as the representation of someone who is 20 weeks pregnant.
The thing that didn’t sit quite right with me is that there was also a statement saying, “here are 20 week pregnant people”:
Now, I am 16 months postpartum – yes, that means that my child is 16 months old. And you know what, I am not that small now and am definitely not fitting into those jeans.
This made me think about pregnancy models. When I was pregnant, I bought the magazines to read about the fun baby gear and try to find maternity clothes that were not horrendous. I ended up feeling like yet again there was this beauty image that I had to uphold. Beauty norms are something a lot of people struggle with, including during pregnancy. This is especially true for women like me who have struggled with eating disorders.
So, here I was with the magazines full of pregnancy models who were all teeny tiny with the little, round, basketball tummies. Let’s not even get into the endless discussions about baby weight and “getting back into your old jeans”. Sure, I can currently wear two of my old pairs of jeans – the ones I used to think of as being my baggy, comfy jeans that I can now button and zip.
I applaud efforts to urge the media to use images that better represent abortion and pregnancy and that don’t confuse or sensationalize the issue. But in doing so, let’s not just revert to another set of images that enforces what are for many of us impossible beauty standards.
Let’s make sure that when we work to do better, we actually do better. Let’s make sure the images show a broader range of races, ages and body types.
Oh, in case you were wondering, this is me at 20 weeks:
This is my beautiful wife, Rae at 20 weeks when she was having our first child: