I wasn’t going to touch this one with a forty foot pole, really I wasn’t, but today my feed is filled with indignant women. Many of whom make points that I absolutely agree with. But something about this whole issue has gotten itself firmly under my skin and I’m about to go all ranty pants on it.
In case the title didn’t tip you off Chrissie Swan got caught out smoking while pregnant. To be fair I’m not going to make a judgement call on Chrissie or her addiction, it’s her body and her baby and if she wants to take a risk like that it’s her choice right or wrong smoking is not illegal.
What has gotten to me in this whole discussion is twofold. The seemingly arbitrary line as to which addictions are acceptable and the fact that society believes they can (loudly and obnoxiously) tell women what to do with their bodies and their babies.
Would this same argument be happening if Chrissie had been caught drinking while pregnant? Equally legal and also potentially addictive, we know that like smoking drinking has the potential to cause harm to fetuses.
Better Health have a fact sheet on the issue of smoking while pregnant, which can be found here. I’m not going to go in to the risks because I don’t want them to be taken as judgement of Chrissie. I don’t approve of smoking full stop, but it’s not my body or baby and as long as she doesn’t smoke near me or my children I have no business telling her what to do.
Drinking alcohol has a similarly long list of risks. Would people be so understanding of how addiction works if Chrissie had been caught out at the pub?
Or what if she had been caught fulfilling some illegal addiction? I’m not keen to compare smoking to illicit drugs even though it’s often quoted that smoking is as addictive as heroin. All the same I feel like the understanding and sympathy that Chrissie’s addiction garners would be thrown out the window if she was using. Why is that if an addict truly can’t help themselves? Why instead of providing support and access to professional support is an arbitrary line drawn dependent on where your addiction falls?
My personal experience is that society judges drinking much more harshly than smoking. Five days before Eve was born we attended a trivia night held unsurprisingly in a pub, the nasty comments I got leaving at the end of the night were pretty harsh considering I’d only been drinking soft drink. Which leads me to my next point, women particularly pregnant ones are still somehow deemed public property.
I assume that the public property attitude, which is only intensified in Chrissie’s case working in the public domain, stems from old herd instincts. That may be naive of me but I assume that deep down this urge to police behaviour stems from trying to protect the greater good of the gene pool. That doesn’t make it okay. Humans have spent centuries sloughing off outdated ways of thinking but when it comes to how women should and shouldn’t behave we haven’t. If anything the policing of behaviour right down to how we look has increased with the media playing proxy for an absence of societal elders.
Is the judgement of Chrissie that much more gleeful because she is part
of that same media that lays down the societal law in a less than subtle
manner? I can’t say that I’m surprised at just how hard she has been hammered considering that she is not only part of the media but part of programs that build their round up on telling us what to wear and how to think. It’s no excuse but I think some of the anger directed at Chrissie is a perceived chance to push back at media dictating who we should aspire to be. It doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t mean that women in or out of the spotlight are treated as public property.
I think to some degree we have all experienced being behaviourally policed but I have found that as a woman it has been more intense surrounding pregnancy and parenting. I’ve been criticised for working up until the week Eve was born (at a desk job no less – not exactly out there jack hammering), and of course been told that I shouldn’t be eating from a platter of cold meats at a work function – ironically by a coworker who was also pregnant at the time and smoked.
How do you feel about this? IS it our business to police others? Should people be made to remember ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’?
If you do want help quitting smoking Quit have a wealth of resources for you.
If you have a few minutes to spare I’d really appreciate your vote in Apartment Therapy’s Homies – Best Family and Kids Blog.
Voting for the first round ends on the 8th.