I was watching The Handmaid's Tale the other night and was struck by how seamless the transition from modern American society to an all-out dystopia was. And one of the first signs society was in decline was the way people talked to women, or worse, about women to men. It actually made me shudder a little, because you would not believe the creepy things people said to my husband, like, right in front of me. It’s almost as if a portion of the population is stuck in the past — believing that I answer to my husband — or worse, that our culture is looking more and more like the one in The Handmaid's Tale every single day.
There are moments when I call people on their crap, but plenty of moments when I don't, too. Honestly, I'm too tired and busy to be the one teaching common courtesy lessons to grown-ass adults. Instead, we should be considering how we, as a culture, arrived at a place where people think it’s OK to address your male partner when they should be talking to you. I mean, in what world is it appropriate to talk to my husband about my labor and delivery experience, my outfit, or how I choose to feed my baby? Sadly, the answer to that question is this world.
As Margaret Atwood wrote in the The Handmaid's Tale, "Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub you'd be boiled to death before you knew it." While the following comments might seem innocent, I think it's time that we get out of the tub, or at least say something in response.
It was so gross when people congratulated my husband for getting me pregnant. I mean, I was the one growing a human inside my body. His involvement in the entire ordeal was extremely limited, if you ask me. Where was my high five or "good job?"
"You've Been Busy"
We actually hear this all the damn time. Whenever my husband and I take our big family out in public, it seems like someone will comment about our reproductive choices. When you make a joke about my husband getting busy, you are talking about our sex life. It’s so not cool, and more than a little creepy.
"I Can’t Believe You Let Her Wear That"
Believe it or not, my husband does not get a say in what I wear. Sometimes I ask him for his opinion, sure, but he doesn't own my body or get to decide what I do with that body. Plus, he respects me and my bodily autonomy, so he would never try to tell me what to wear or what not to wear. That is not how our relationship works.
"I Can't Believe You Let Her Breastfeed In Public"
Me breastfeeding our baby in public literally had nothing to do with my husband. Nothing. He doesn’t own me, or my boobs, or has the ability to tell me what I do or do not do with my boobs. He certainly doesn't get to decide when, where, or how I feed our baby. It was more than a little creepy when people assumed he had a say in the matter.
"Your Quiver Is Full"
Recently, a male contractor came to bid on a house project at our home. When I told him how many kids we had, he turned to my husband and said, "Your quiver is full.” For the uninitiated, this is a biblical reference about being fruitful and multiplying.
I wanted to say, "His quiver has never been full of anything, it's my uterus that's carried babies.” Instead, my husband changed the subject. Awkward.
"You’re A Lucky Man"
Most of the time, people say this as if they are complimenting me or our family... but I don't really take it that way. He is lucky, sure, but so am I. It's completely creepy for someone to say this to him without even acknowledging I exist.
"Don’t You Want Her To Breastfeed Your Baby?"
I've been shamed for both breastfeeding and formula feeding, proving once again that moms can't win no matter what they do or how they do it.
Make on mistake, breastfeeding was something I chose to do... and then something I chose to stop doing. It was my body, after all. My husband did not get a vote. I mean, I guess he could have pumped and taken medications to lactate if he felt strongly about it, but he didn’t.
"Do You Want Me To Give Her The Daddy Stitch?"
This was, I hope, a joke from my midwife to my then-husband after the birth of our second child. Regardless of her intentions, my mouth dropped open and all I could bring myself to say was, "Seriously?"
No, please do not give me an unnecessary stitch on my perineum, without my permission, for the sake of my partner's so-called sexual pleasure. It was so creepy, gross, and inappropriate, and not funny at all.
"Do You Actually Like Her Hair Like That?"
People ask me if my husband likes my partially shaved head and brightly colored hair at least once a week. Actually, he does, but even if he didn’t it’s not up to him how I wear my hair. It's so demeaning and insulting for people to ask, as if my sole purpose is to present myself in a way that pleases him.
"Is She Your Second Or Third Wife?"
When our neighbor asked this very question, I had to walk away I was so angry. For the record, I’m his second wife, but it wasn't any of his business how many times my husband has been married. Creepy.