Belly Touching Is Illegal, Thank Goodness
About freaking time!
One of the things about pregnancy that no one can adequately prepare you for is how your body becomes public property. You cannot walk out of the house without someone commenting, touching or staring at your stomach. Pregnant bellies are tractor beams for crazies. So file this story under, “About Freaking Time.”
Pennsylvania has made it illegal to touch a pregnant woman’s belly without her permission. The law was passed after a woman filed harassment charges against a man who kept touching her pregnant stomach. If I had known I could file charges, there would be a few old ladies from the Target checkout aisle behind bars right now. The worst offender was the random grandma in my grocery store, who gripped my stomach and declared that she “saw the future” and I was going to have a girl. Like my stomach was just some giant crystal ball. I felt like I should have charged her money. I went home and took a shower.
At no other time in anyone’s life is it ever appropriate to grab someone’s stomach and coo at it. I mean, I sometimes do that to myself after I have a lot of tacos. But that’s my own body. So why is it okay for strangers to touch a pregnant woman? The bottom line is that it isn’t.
Pregnancy is a lightning rod for our societal anxiety about the female body. We both worship it and judge it and discuss it in a way that we never discuss male bodies. There is a sense of communal ownership over the body of a woman. Why else would we feel compelled to tell Miley Cyrus what she can and cannot wear? Or discuss Kim Kardashian’s post-baby body like it belongs to us? That sense of ownership reaches its peak when a woman is pregnant. Because then, it’s not just about her but about her child. Or that’s how we justify storming a stranger’s belly like it’s Normandy.
The problem of touching pregnant women is a problem that touches the core of our societal assumptions and assertions about women. If Pennsylvania feels a law like this is necessary, then I am all for it. But nothing will change until we stop viewing women as communal property instead of individuals.
Until that day, I think pregnant women in the other 49 states (and Puerto Rico) need to rise up and fight back. If your belly gets groped by a stranger just tell the offender that you are really just fat and there is no baby in there. Or if you have the chutzpah, grab their paunch, and tell them how cute it looks. When is this little burrito due? In March? Adorable!
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