Continuing the series
With this week’s topic “Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant”.
I saw this topic on my list and said to myself: “Self, this is going to be a very short post”. Why, you ask? Well, it seems to me that the idea of not asking a woman if she’s pregnant is just common sense! Apparently, I was wrong since a simple Google Search for that phrase, which I assumed would return meager if any results, returned 283 MILLION hits. For those of you paying attention, that’s a lot.
Not so common.
Way back in 1996 when my youngest son Alex was just eight years old, he asked me “Dad, why do they call it COMMON sense?”. Yeah, he was a pretty smart kid back then although that may be when he peaked, but those are stories for another day. I told him it was satire. Not really, but it was a fun conversation and I’m happy to be reminded of it.
He asked a pretty good question after all. Because apparently common sense is not really very common at all. I could probably write an entire blog just about common sense, but I’ll have to save it for later because this post is not about common sense, it’s about WHY you should never ask a woman if she’s pregnant.
The first thing that struck me as I researched this topic, and while it may not seem like it, I DO research my topics, was the number of those Google hits that were written by bloggers writing about how often this has happened to them and how it made them feel. The second thing that struck me about this was their descriptions of how it made them feel! The third thing, go figure, is that in the vast majority of these stories it was a man who asked the question.
I identify as a man (he/him) so I can almost understand why men are the biggest offenders. To be fair, we can’t ever be pregnant so we can’t possibly know how it feels to nurture a human being in our bodies for nine months, nor the emotions attached to that. On top of that we do not live in a word that tries to tell us what our “ideal body” should be. Sure, there are SOME body expectations for men, but not only are they also imposed by other men they are not NEARLY as pervasive or have the same perceived importance in society.
We’ve all heard the saying that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. While it’s true, when the “beholder” is the owner of the body often times we feel as though we don’t “measure up” to some pre-prescribed notion of beauty. Studies show that most often our perception is that we are not thin enough. This is true for both men AND women BTW, but it is far more common for a woman to believe that her ideal body shape is thinner than her perceived actual body shape. Just so we are clear here: Women – you are beautiful. Tall, short, fat thin…all of you are marvelous and beautiful.
In other words
It’s a lot more common for a woman to look at herself in the mirror, and no matter what body type she has, think “I’m fat”, than it is for a man to think that. This is thanks in large part to the way the media portrays women. Runway models are mostly too thin to be healthy. Movies and TV shows depict mostly thin girls/women. Let’s face it, media is trying to sell us on the idea that THEIR product is going to give us the body we want, which infers we now have the body we (and ostensibly everyone else) don’t want.
The majority of research into the topic of body self-image has been conducted on women until relatively recently. Recent studies indicate that women are more likely than men to have a negative self-image of their bodies. Studies show that most of a woman’s dissatisfaction with her body centers around their weight. Bear in mind this is on average, or a generalization. All you have to do is look around a bit to see this is true. Most weight loss programs highlight women who have lost weight, most not all. Notice that most beauty products are also targeted at women.
Why is this so? Well, guys, do you think your wife/GF/SO gets all dolled up for you? Think again. Studies ALSO show that the primary, if unconscious, reason women work hard to look younger and slimmer is to compete with other women! You see, men are visual creatures and women are more focused on things other than looks, such as confidence, humor, success etc. The perception is that if a woman is “attractive” then she will find it easier to attract a mate. It’s evolution on display.
All that to say…
There are some pretty good, even if not emotionally healthy, reasons why you should never ask a woman if she’s pregnant. Think about it. A pregnant woman is carrying around an 8-10 pound human in their midsection. Generally speaking, this young human makes their belly bulge noticeably, at least in the last trimester of the pregnancy. When you ask a woman if she’s pregnant, you are saying “I see a large bulge in your belly”. If she’s not actually pregnant you are essentially saying “You look fat”.
Bad things can happen
There are several negative consequences to asking this question. Perhaps she was pregnant and recently lost a child. This is traumatic in and of itself, and then to be randomly reminded of it just rips the scab off the wound…if it has even scabbed over yet. It can trash someone’s self-esteem, lower their confidence and could lead to depression or even fuel eating disorders and other mental health issues.
Low self esteem can affect many areas of someone’s life. It reduces confidence and may keep them from doing things they truly love, or prevent them from trying something new that could change their life. Everything I’ve read indicates that a woman is already far more likely to have a low self-image and probably reduced confidence all on their own. Inadvertently calling someone fat by asking if they’re pregnant only makes this worse.
To be honest…
These sort of negative consequences happen in men as well, although less frequently, but no one is going to ask a man if he’s pregnant so we focused on the repercussions for women here. But guys, how would you feel if someone walked up to you and said “Hey, you look fat”? Probably not great.
It’s probably none of your business anyway. If a woman IS pregnant, and she wants you to know, she’ll tell you.
How does this relate to voice over or acting?
Well, it doesn’t really…not directly anyway. But self-esteem and confidence in this industry are really quite important. The industry is already rife with rejection, and the last thing we need is for anyone to add to the stress of it by randomly critiquing what we do or how we look.
You may think actors are confident…
And some may be. After all, what we do is out there in front of the whole world to see. But many performers struggle with imposter syndrome, constantly critique our performances and believe we could do better. We are our own worst critics. We don’t do this work because we think we are awesome, we do it because we love it and HOPE other people think we’re awesome.
At the end of the day…
None of us (well, MOST of us anyway) want to crush someone’s self-esteem or make them feel bad about themselves. We want to build one another up, not tear each other down…even with an “innocent” question. Asking someone if they’re pregnant MAY not be so innocent, so: Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant.
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Great Topic Gary… As my wife and I try to focus on the positive there have been a few times when we saw someone we have not seen in some time and we would look at each other and think, “wow, she has put on some weight, or maybe she is pregnant.”
Keep my mouth shut…You can never go wrong with “Wow, you look good” even if she does not…
I enjoyed this reading.. Thanks
Gary Mason says
Thanks Jeff. As my mom used to say “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything”. I think that fits this topic! So, yeah…”You look good” or…”HI! It’s been a long time” will do it! 🙂