Pregnant Women Are Public Property

If you don't know PostSecret, here's the quick version: an art project begun several years ago, in which people were asked to anonymously write a secret of theirs on a postcard and mail it in, blossomed and grew into a huge thing.  There's the website, where a selection of a dozen or so postcards are posted every Sunday.  There are, I think, four books now of collected secret postcards.  There's the exhibit, which travels from gallery to gallery around the country, displaying secrets of all kinds, all anonymous.  There are events, at which PostSecret founder Frank Warren talks about the beginning of PS, what it's done, what he's learned from it, and people have an opportunity to share their secrets.  It's all about finding our common humanity in the things we would never admit out loud.  I find it fascinating.

I also follow the @PostSecret Twitter account.  Frank tweets random stuff, and also sometimes tweets secrets from postcards that don't make it into the weekly post.  Then yesterday, this tweet was posted:
Today's Secret: "I work at Starbucks. I judge pregnant mothers and decaffeinate their drinks, even though they ask for caffeinated."
I'm sorry, what??? Now, I've seen secrets like this pop up before. A few months ago, there was one about a civil servant who always marked down servicemembers as blood/tissue donors in case of death, whether they had said they wanted to or not, which a lot of people were angry about, myself included. There are a half-dozen secrets I can think of that involve someone in some kind of service-based position admitting to the ways in which they judge, help, or sneakily undermine customers, from a grocery store checker who "forgets" to scan every tenth item for people paying with food stamps or using WIC coupons, to a call center rep admitting zie puts angry customers on hold to let them cool down instead of dealing with them. As a retail shift manager who does, in fact, decide whether or not we'll take your return based on how argumentative or pissy you are with me about it, I can relate.

But this one about the decaf for pregnant women goes beyond that. It's not just "customer service employee is judging you", it's "a person feels that they are entitled to decide how a pregnant woman's body should be treated better than the pregnant woman in question." And it ties into a long, ugly history of the public feeling like pregnant women's bodies are fair game for denial of bodily sovereignty. It's a way of playing "good mother, bad mother" with a total stranger who is just trying to have a damn cup of coffee. It's a person saying, "Because you are pregnant, I am going to make decisions for you instead of letting you decide for yourself." It's sexist, it's fucked up, and I have the sneaking suspicion that the person whose secret this was fully expects to have public opinion on hir side. Because after all, the person whose decisions zie's overriding so cavalierly? It's only a pregnant woman.

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