Bodies in space

Liberation from seasonal stresses

There was a day in my first pregnancy when I woke up and *finally* looked pregnant. It’s a weird phase, that long retching stretch between pee stick and visual proof, and sporting even a tiny bump felt like supreme validation after weeks of looking just a bit fluffy.

That morning, I posted my (barely) popping belly on Instagram and sashayed down the street on yet another potato chip mission.

There was a gaggle of men hovering outside the convenience store. It was the kind of group that radiated catcall energy. I knew instinctively what it would mean to walk by that group as female.

That knowing, of what to expect and what was expected of me, caused a hitch in my step.

What would they do with me, a pregnant person? How would I show up—could I show up? What kind of release would that anticipatory energy take if not in catcalls?

Could I exist in public space as something other than a landing place for that assertion of dominance?

I hesitated. It was a mere hiccup before I pressed on for potato chips (a mama will do anything to keep her baby fed, amiright?), but I almost turned around.

Those men ignored me. There was another, unexpecting woman passing by just begging to be accosted.

I may have slipped through the throng without incident, but I have never forgotten the self-betrayal of instinctually questioning my right to show up in a public space.

How dare I let a group of strangers set the terms for my presence?

Scholars have proven what women have known all along: that men do not catcall to attract actual women, but to build solidarity with each other and to assert dominance over their targets. My purpose, as culture had so carefully and ceaselessly taught me, was to be a prop in that theater of male bonding, and my (SUPER SLIGHT! TINY BABY BUMP!) deviance from that expectation almost prevented me from getting my potato chips.

For shame.

Years later, in the unending final weeks of my second pregnancy, I had a daily date with myself at the public pool. Not to swim laps—though I may have failed to correct my midwife when she made that assumption—but to give the middle finger to gravity and summer heat.

As it turned out, the relief extended to other seasonal stresses. For the first time on the long journey from the pool deck to the ladder, I did not attempt to suck in my stomach (hahaha, sucking in a 41 week bump!), mince my steps to reduce thigh jiggle, or strategically hold a towel across ‘problem’ areas.

No matter who was there, what crowds or what energy hovered in the heatwaves of that Texas June, I strutted across the crackling concrete with an extra forty pounds and the kind of zero fucks given attitude I thought I had achieved years before.

That attitude hasn’t replaced the internalized cultural mandate to be petite and polite, but at least I now know what it feels like to show up in public without apologizing for the space I take up.

Thanks, pregnancy.

Act of solidarity

A new feature. I’ve been looking for immediate, direct ways to support people hurting due to the pandemic. In each email, I’ll feature a mutual aid opportunity. If you feel so moved: please share it, or throw some coins at it. If you have a project to recommend, please reply to this email to share. Or just keep scrolling for some links & vocab.✌️

ATX Free Fridge Project

Aimed at providing free nutritious food and supplies to those who need it, @atxfreefridge coordinator Kyandra Noble hopes to create a larger network of the fridges throughout Austin, focusing first on the most food-insecure areas.

“Right now we’re seeing the ways that the government isn’t really taking care of people in the way that needs to happen,” Noble says. “It’s been really interesting to see this start up and see people be so willing to help one another. That’s the main part of the idea behind the fridges: it’s that people will be able to share together.”

The fridges are stocked and funded by community members and available to anyone, with no requirement to prove need. Read more about the local initiative (and how you can get involved) here.

Media that confirmed what I already knew

Slivers of hope

Media I’m glad I consumed

Listen to this!

  • Our latest episode of the podcast is about the parallels between the mental load of mothering and entrepreneurship.

Sign up for this!

  • A workshop about bodies & taking up space. If you’ve ever had a stray thought about your body or someone else’s, this is a conversation you won’t want to miss.

A+ on the vocab quiz

This is more concept than vocab. Clicking through helps.

Qualia: In philosophy and certain models of psychology, qualia are defined as individual instances of subjectiveconscious experience