Monthly Archives: September 2012

Pointless paternalist policing of the potentially pregnant

Meet Jody Allen Crowe. He’s on a mission to save the world one baby at a time. As the owner of a bar in Mankato, Minnesota, he happened upon a harrowing discovery: sometimes pregnant women drink! Jody’s done his research. Once he found out that pregnant women drink, he went on a mission to find out exactly how many pregnant women drink, how much they drink, and which women are doing the most drinking. Armed with this important information, he founded Healthy Brains for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of a singular method of keeping pregnant women from drinking: putting pregnancy tests in bar bathrooms.

From the website:

Because the zygote is self-contained, any alcohol in the bloodstream of the mother will not impact the embryo before the placenta is formed and delivering nutrients to the embryo… By placing pregnancy test dispensers in the women’s bathrooms in bars, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, fitness centers, etc., women will have a constant reminder to think before they take a drink of alcohol. They will be able to take a pregnancy test in the privacy of the restroom without having to purchase a pregnancy test over the counter at the drugstore or local big box stores. In a small community, purchasing a pregnancy test can be an embarrassing event and expose the woman to the gossip of the town. The advertisement on the dispenser reminds women to test each time they decide to have a drink of alcohol to ensure their child will be born with an alcohol-free fetal development.

The New York Times article about Crowe points out that pregnancy tests are among the most shoplifted products, citing a 16 and Pregnant star recently arrested for the same as an example. Of course, a 16-year-old girl with no job and a lot to lose is probably not whipping out her AmEx to buy a pregnancy test from a vending machine before dropping another benjamin or two on a night out at a wine bar, but I digress. Hilariously, the site further contends that a woman who has recently purchased a pregnancy test at a drug store must then “rush to find a bathroom.”

I’ve been pregnant a few times. I used to lead weekly discussions in a group of women on the topics of breastfeeding and fertility. We all purchased pregnancy tests at some point or another, and on precisely zero of these occasions that I was aware of did we then rush to find a public bathroom to test ourselves so that we could get on with the business of eating sushi and getting shitfaced. Before you get started on me, yes, I am aware that my personal observations do not constitute a scientific study, but there are reasons we didn’t rush to public bathrooms. There are a lot of reasons. And there are even more reasons the business-savvy pregnancy test marketing brains haven’t ever done this before.

A woman who uses this vending machine is necessarily:

1. unaware of her pregnant or non-pregnant state

2. either at the bar already before she considers testing or too embarrassed to go to a drug store and buy one

3. in a room with a lot of other women

4. concerned deeply with the health of her Schroedinger’s fetus

5. not in a relationship wherein a pregnancy would be publicly acceptable

6. not planning a pregnancy

7. not concerned enough time in advance to buy one on the internet

Jody Allen Crowe has demonstrated a profound inability to understand women, not to mention child development. As this study found, moderate alcohol consumption in the first twelve weeks is not associated with negative outcomes, and there’s a reason for that. For all of Healthy Brains for Children’s balking at alcohol going through the placenta to the fetus, a placenta isn’t developed enough to begin transmitting much of anything at all to the fetus until it is nine weeks along, and not in portions enough to harm it until it is fully developed at the end of the first trimester.

In pregnancy speak, the weeks start counting from the first day of the last period, which is usually about two weeks before the fetus is conceived. Two weeks after conception is the expected period. That’s when you can have a positive pregnancy test. Eight weeks after that is three missed periods. Even if you’ve missed the morning sickness, cravings, and absent periods, by then you’re starting to show, and you’re probably even starting to feel the little bugger kick. That’s plenty of time for our pregnant mother to go on a handful of benders before her fetus is at all damaged.

So, what baby is Jody really saving? Jody is saving the baby that has been mistakenly conceived by a woman who does not want an abortion. She is mortified to go into a drug store but she is totally okay buying a test in a public bathroom full of strange women. She is twelve weeks pregnant or more and has not noticed. She wants to drink a whole lot tonight but wants to make sure that these two missed periods for which she’s been too humiliated to test don’t mean that she’s pregnant before she does so, and if she is, she’ll go home and start knitting booties instead. She wants to learn her fate in a bar bathroom stall and cry over a positive test there, with only the comfort of sharpie graffiti on the walls naming men at the bar who have sores on their dicks, and maybe the girl fighting with her boyfriend on her iPhone in the next stall. She would rather die than face the humiliation of going to a drug store and buying one, then testing at home, but she’s brave enough to face the world with her unwanted baby belly. Maybe she’ll throw a baby shower.

So that’s pretty unlikely, right? I mean if you’re going to start a business or start selling a product of some kind, you probably want a wider base of potential customers. And if you’re going to save the world, you’re probably going to want to start with a larger pool of save-able victims. Jody Allen Crowe’s crusade against fetal alcohol syndrome ultimately amounts to policing pregnant women. It is a crusade to make sure all women remember that, want it or not, they’re the bearers of the next generation and should not even think about selfishly enjoying themselves before they’ve done everything possible to protect the babies they might have some day. But not only that, he wants women to remember that they’re too stupid to do it on their own, because he can’t even imagine a single possible way to know whether you’re damaging a baby without constant reminders every time you have to take a piss that you might be pregnant. Jody didn’t bother to consider what women might already know or be capable of. In Jody’s mind, he’s pretty sure that he just saved the next generation of children from their stupid, bumbling moms. That’s some nice sexism, Jody.

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Harrod’s gender neutral toy store

Check out the pictures here.  They’re really something.

Have you looked?  Good.  Let’s discuss.

The designer had some inevitable challenges.  How does one approach the basic design of a gender neutral toy store?  Where colors like pink and purple are unambiguously coded feminine, colors like blue and green are considered neutral, regardless of the fact that masculine-coded toys are often in these colors.  While blue and green often show up in girls’ toys and fashion (in stark contrast to the conspicuous lack of pink/purple in boys’ clothes), a bluegreen store would be noticeably absent any sort of feminine influence.  It would represent the forced eviction of all things feminine.  A toy store designer would be hard pressed to design a store that was not coded feminine and also not coded feminine-exclusionary.  We’re left with red, orange, yellow, black, and brown.  Red, orange, and yellow are hard on the eyes and would make the place look like a McDonald’s.  Black and brown don’t present a lot of possibilities.  However, if you’ve seen the pictures, you already know where this went.  The geniuses at Harrod’s have done wonders, wonders I say, with brown.  And it was amazingly ineffective.  Apparently nobody informed the toy manufacturers.

But forget about colors.  How would a gender neutral toy store affect the parents and children within?  Wonderfully, I would hope.  It would provide an ethical place to shop for forward-thinking parents who want their daughters to grow up into a world where she can expect equal wages for equal work, where her potential rapists were persecuted when they committed their crimes without anyone asking her what she did to cause it, and maybe even where the small things in life, like chores and career were divided equally between her and her likely male potential partners.  It would be a haven for socially aware parents who desire to put their money behind bringing up sons who will grow not to see women as sexual objects and domestic servants, but equal people, for parents who don’t believe it’s necessary to raise boys to be antisocial to survive.  It’s too much to ask of a toy store, to be sure, but childhood is arguably where these messages begin.  A gender neutral toy store would be a great place to find toys like tea sets and doll houses that weren’t so heavily coded feminine as to dash any possibility of boys wanting to play with them.  It would be a wonderful place to find race cars and erector sets and building blocks that weren’t so heavily coded masculine as to leave the girls wondering what the other girls and boys might think if she were seen with them.  That would be a wonderful store.  This Harrod’s isn’t it.  The tea sets and dress-up garb are frilly and pink.  The hot wheels and legos are blue.  Apparently nobody informed the toy manufacturers.

Harrod’s toy store is not gender neutral.  Sorry, folks.  It tried.  It put the pink things next to the blue things and in some cases it mixed them all up.  Hopefully this will allow brave little girls the opportunity at least to browse toys she never would have had the chance to browse at her leisure and fondle. Perhaps she’ll pick a few up.  It might encourage some fresh-faced boys to try out this thing called playing house.  It might.  But most kids go to toy stores following the television shows and commercials that advertised the products.  And nobody informed the toy manufacturers.

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