On January 2, 2011, the internet -Twitter in particular- went wild over the news allegation that Michelle Obama was pregnant. For many people, this was an opportunity for them to show their jubilee at the prospect of a baby being born in the White House, but for me and many others it signaled yet another violation of a woman’s space and bodily autonomy.
There’s something about pregnancy rumors that has always rubbed me the wrong way, and this latest rumor about Michelle Obama was no different. I thought to myself, what takes place in Michelle Obamas’ uterus is her business, and if it does become public knowledge I would much prefer that it be disclosed by her and her family, and not some random unaffiliated website.
In a patriarchal society we are conditioned to see women’s bodies as public space. The bodies of women aren’t simply there own, but somehow are everyones to invade and occupy. Instead of respecting the sovereign spaces of women, we view women and their bodies as land that is ours for the taking, even if it’s in a celebratory manner. In the case of Michelle Obama, some collectively said, “gold has been found out west,” but few stopped to ask whether or not the gold was there, and more importantly in whose territory did the gold reside, and whether or not we had access to it.
I think one of the reasons we so readily speculate on female fertility is because patriarchy conditions us to believe that women’s bodies are ours for the taking. And when it came to Michelle Obama that is exactly what we did without her consent. One by one we invaded her uterus, speculating on whether or not it contained a fetus. “She’s pregnant.” “I heard she’s pregnant.” But of course we could invade her body. Speculate on her fertility. She is afterall a woman, and as such her body is ours for the taking. We could even make tasteless jokes about how her husband must be “hitting it right,” how me must be “tapping that.” Our sordid fantasies. Collectively setting up camp in her body, we declared it ours for the taking, if only for a day. Her privacy meant nothing to us.
I am not suggesting that pregnancy is something unworthy of being celebrated, it is, but rather that first and foremost we must respect the bodily autonomy of women. Our excitement can not trump the right a woman has to her own body, and what is or isn’t taking place in her body. If there is news to be known about Michelle Obama being pregnant I think we should all wait for that news to be revealed from Michelle Obama herself, and not some random internet site.