Internet Meme Demolition Derby: Health Starts In The Womb
Hey there Derby Fans! I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season. My holidays started early with a November road trip to Skepticon 8 where I had an incredible time meeting awesome folks from across the atheist/skeptic/humanist movement and drinking their whiskey. I’ll have a write up on that soon but computer issues prevented me from downloading my snapshots until very recently. I also cooked up yet another fantastic Thanksgiving dinner for The Girl, The Hellions, and The Mom’n’Them, featuring one of my best executions of the Alton Brown Brined Turkey and Greta Christina’s Amazing Chocolate Pie and lots of other yummies.
Speaking of food, let us dig into a heaping helping of today’s meme, an awful image that has popped up in a few places on Facebook, especially those dedicated to aggressively promoting the organic industry’s powerful propaganda campaign against the science of genetic modification of foodstuffs. What? You’ve never heard of such a thing? You mean you haven’t been reading the work of Grounded Parent, published author, and Forbes Magazine contributor Kavin Senapathy? For shame! But not as much shame as this meme is trying to pile onto expectant mothers!
The image (to the right folks…), which appears to have been originally cropped from some larger piece, perhaps a magazine scan, features two obviously pregnant people, Left Mom and Right Mom. We can tell that they are pregnant because we have x-ray scans of what appear to be fully formed 6-12 month old babies in their bulging stomachs! Seriously… these are Soap Opera Babies. The subject on the right, attired in red with lovely well coiffed blonde hair is carrying a perfectly formed blue eyed member of the Master Race in her immaculately manicured womb. The blessed infant eagerly awaits delivery of the various foodstuffs the Mom has carefully procured for her precious cargo, like fresh fruit (helpfully labeled organic), a selection of nuts, and beets and eggplants to represent a healthy variety of vegetables. On the plate we have some broccoli (maybe?) a raw carrot, and what appears to be about five gold pieces, which I can only assume she will be using to buy free range organic unicorn meat. She’s looking ravenously at a piece of green food that of unknown type, perhaps a Granny Smith apple, or an entire green bell pepper. There’s also a glass of what I assume is imported sparkling water and pills that are either vitamins or herbal “supplements”, you make the call. She looks happy, healthy, glowing… glowing white… almost BLINDINGLY white.
Joining The Virgin Den Mother on the left is, shall we say a duskier person? Someone with a much fuller tan at least. They certainly aren’t being depicted as “glowing” at all. Left Mother is obviously heavier, rounder, and less ideally fit than her neighbor. Just in case you haven’t gotten the hint, her nose is turned up to resemble a pigs as she shovels a slice of pizza into her gaping maw. Her plate is festooned with junk food, french fries from a famous clown’s franchise, fried chicken, cake, a massive hamburger with a helpful “GMO” label. Seriously, I think you get a free T-shirt if you eat the whole thing. In her tummy her also oddly flabby infant appears to writhe in pain as it is attacked by little lightning bolts of unhappiness. Surrounding the mom are thought bubbles containing all the various sins of gluttony to which humankind is sadly prone. Ice cream, donuts and what appears to be some sort of pie, wine and cigarettes, soda pop and a syringe full of (I kid you not, look closely) Prozac.
Let’s get this out of the way, proper prenatal nutrition is an important factor in the development of your future little bundle of joy and poop. A simple Google search will land you at the blandly mainstream and boringly credible Mayo Clinic website where they will tell you to eat a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plenty of protein. Avoid swordfish and other big predator fish because we filled the seas with mercury, but otherwise some salmon or cod provide yummy Omega-3 fatty acids to help your baby grow. On the negative side, cigarettes are bad for you and your baby, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains that ” no amount of alcohol consumption can be considered safe during pregnancy.” Also, don’t mainline Prozac. I have no scholarly evidence for that proscription, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that probably isn’t good for Johnny Fetus. On the other hand, please consult your physician before making any changes to your psychiatric medications, because whilst there is little evidence that Prozac is harmful to developing kids in utero, fucking with your meds has a shitty record of harming the Mom ex utero.
All that being said, I can guarantee you that the average pregnant person in an industrialized nation is going to be supplementing their diet of fruits, nuts and magic berries with a few selections from the left side of this meme and that is absolutely nothing to be fucking ashamed of. Pizza is delicious and provides a good dollop of the fat that a pregnant person and their growing spawn need. Ice Cream is an excellent, if calorie laden, source of calcium. Fried chicken? Protein and fat bombshell. Giant GMO-Burger? There is no such thing as a GMO-burger, but Giant Burgers are also delicious and can be quite convenient when late night urges strike. Donuts? EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A DONUT ONCE IN AWHILE! People with Type-1 Diabetes can have a fucking donut every once in awhile. Any and all of these foods are fine in moderation. In fact I can testify from my own experience living with a pregnant person that the occasional indulgence can make getting through a tough stretch of baby carrying easier for everyone involved.
This meme is just a gigantic ball of shaming, woo, classism and outright racism. Crap like this is peddled in the same lily white upper class suburban circles as anti-vaxers, home birth fanatics and of course anti-GMO fearmongers. People who can blissfully pretend that they are the Mom on the right, aided by the economic clout to pay a premium for free range pegasus steaks and organic snozzberries to feed their future hedge fund managers or Fox news correspondents, as well as the free time to get proper exercise and regular prenatal checkups. They can be blissfully assured that they have made the proper choices for their pregnancy, all the while most certainly indulging in plenty of items from the left side of the meme, because they deserve a treat once in awhile.
The Mom on the left however deserves nothing but our scorn. They are obviously making terrible choices, starting with the horrible decision to not be born white, skinny, blonde and well off. Sure, they might be working two jobs still, with minimal sick leave to rest their tired back. Or they may even have been fired for being pregnant , an illegal but not unheard of fate. At which point they may be dependant, if she’s in the USA, on a poorly funded public health care infrastructure. Maybe they need to travel to Planned Parenthood in order to take advantage of the many facilities that organization provides for low income women and other persons who may become pregnant. Boy does the United States Senate have a surprise for them! Perhap Left Mom is really trying to do their best, but lives in one of the many “food deserts” in our nation and is thus dependant on cheap processed and fast food just to survive.
Women and other pregnant persons have enough crap to wade through on their nine month journey from their egg doing the Chromosome Tango with one lucky sperm out of millions, to the miracle that is childbirth, described by legendary comedian Carol Burnett as follows…
Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head…
There is absolutely no value in shaming them for things that very well may be completely out of their control. At the same time it is downright unfair to laud privileged persons for making choices that are ill informed at best and downright harmful at worst. There’s nothing magically wholesome about organic produce, there are no super-foods. Nor is there anything nefariously poisonous about genetically modified products or fast convenience food. Try your best to eat a balanced diet, don’t smoke or drink, and you’ve done almost all you can to weight the dice of fate in your little hellspawn’s favor. That is really all you can do. Pretending otherwise is fallacious. Worse than that, in my opinion reducing complex social issues like access to prenatal health care as a menu of good or bad choices elides all the barriers in place in our still dreadfully imperfect union for people who aren’t well off, white and cis/heterosexual. That’s classism in a nutshell and it makes change for the better more difficult because the people with the power, education and opportunity indulge in frivolous competition to be healthier than thou, whilst the people who most need change are denied the education they need, their time is spent struggling to make ends meet, and they are often disillusioned with political powers that are openly hostile to pregnant people who don’t fit the approved image.
So please dear readers, smack this meme down. Send folks here if you need me to do it for you.
I’m planning a big end of year Holiday Meme-a-palooza, so if you’ve found any particularly obnoxious holiday related memes polluting your social media, send them my way through the contact form, or on Twitter @GroundedParents, or through our Facebook page.
Featured image credit : Dan Buczynski on Flickr
Food Desert Map from the USDA
Well, we know there are real health issues if you’re pregnant. Like, if you smoke or drink or take thalidomide. (Note to those who want to deregulate the pharmaceutical industry, or who want a special class for woo drugs, the only reason we weren’t affected by thalidomide to the extent Europe was is because of the FDA.)
If you accept woo health problems as existing (and if you’re getting medical advice from Facebook chain letters, you probably do), it only follows that those woo health problems would cause woo health problems for your children.
Of course, the critical difference is, the health risks of smoking are very real, while the health risks of having one donut or one order of fries or one order of chicken wings or one can of soda or one slice of pizza every now and then aren’t. (Obviously eating those too often, but that even applies to something pop culture has given an aura of Good For YouTM, like a smoothie.)