Birth-Shaming is the New Slut Shaming

If you don’t know a woman well enough to know how she feels about what’s happening with her vagina, then you don’t know her well enough to advise her on it.

Feb 23, 2012 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

Whether it’s frequent visitors into the hoohah, or the details of someone coming out of it, we are all about micromanaging each other’s crotches. Why can’t we get out of each other’s lady-business. Seriously.
 
Right after reading this piece on xoJane, which brought to mind this video, I shimmied on over to one of my favorite online discussion boards for mamas. There, in the "Natural Living" forum, a woman had written that she was in  distress over a very pregnant coworker's decision to have labor medically induced at the hospital. This was followed by a lot of tongue-clucking from other members about what a foolish thing that is to do, and how hard it is not to say anything when a woman is obviously so ill-informed.
 
Yeah.
 
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On the heels of all that reading about slut-shaming, it struck me that there's a parallel between talking shit about the girl who stays out all night and talking shit about the woman who births differently than you do. (Ironically, this "Natural Living" forum began because women who want to birth at home/without meds/whatever were being called stupid, crazy or selfish in the open forums. Now that they're private, they bond by discussing the foolishness of women who do it the other way.)
 
I get where they’re coming from, to a point. There’s a reason I belong to that forum, after all. When I was pregnant, I watched “The Business of Being Born.” I read Misconceptions. I hired a doula, made a birth plan and said no to induction. I couldn’t figure out why every smart chick wasn’t doing it that way.
 
I don’t know when it finally occurred to me, but I know now that there’s more than one right way to bring a child into the world. Even if American C-sections are through the roof by World Health Organization standards, the fact is that some of them are life-saving. Inductions might raise the risk of a C-section that could have been avoided, but they also enable a woman to determine, with her doctor, when her child will be born. 
 
Now, why would she do something so very selfish?
 
She might be incredibly uncomfortable at this late stage, or relying on the help of family members who are headed out of town, or hoping to introduce the baby to a relative who is at death's door. She may, for reasons related to her employment, need her paltry maternity leave to start now instead of two weeks from now.
 
Or she may have risk factors that require induction, and she’s chosen not to bring them up at staff meetings. How could she know that a chat board full of strangers would be discussing it with her co-worker later?
 
Back to the slut shaming.
 
In both cases (bangin' and birthin') there are risks and pitfalls to avoid. If it's a woman I don't know well, I begin with the assumption that she knows what she’s doing. If it's a close friend, I might drop a question or comment of concern just to be sure she's not headed for later regrets. If I know for sure she could benefit from my wisdom, I share it. She can take it or leave it.
 
Whether it’s about what’s going in the vagina, or who’s coming out of it, we need to get out of the business of tsk-tsking about each other's choices. You can have one partner for life, or dozens of notches in your headboard. You can agree with your doctor, or defy her. 
 
Your cooter, your call.  
 
Our intentions are usually good: None of us wants to see a friend run headlong into a situation she will later regret, whether it’s sexual or medical. But here’s a good rule of thumb: If you don’t know a woman well enough to know how she feels about what’s happening with her vagina, then you don’t know her well enough to advise her on it. 
 
And if you haven’t advised her on it, then for God’s sake don’t talk about it with everyone else.