Don't Read The Comments

I should have known better.

Every time I see the picture and the article I get angry.  I usually just walk away (or whatever the internet equivalent of that is) but tonight was different.  It was on George Takei's Facebook page and for some reason that made it worse.  See, I love Uncle George. I think he's funny and smart and kind above all.  There have been things that he has posted that he has taken down and apologized for after thinking them through and hearing from fans.  And so I thought... maybe...

I was so wrong.

The picture is actually multiple 3D shots of babies in the womb, some supposedly in pain, with a headline about the 'horrors' of smoking while pregnant.  Now let's get some things straight before anyone gets the pitchforks out: I do not think that pregnant women should smoke.  BUT I also do not think that click bait like that should be used to shame women who do.  The study that the article references is not peer reviewed, the pictures are never linked to specific times when the mothers were smoking and the most that the article can say is that babies tend to touch their faces more if the mothers are smokers.

I was a smoker when I got pregnant.  I was able to quit pretty much immediately.  Not because I'm a better mother than you, or because I have tremendous reserves of willpower or because I love my baby more than you do.  It was because I was lucky.  The hold that cigarettes had on me was mostly mental - once I was able to prioritize my baby over that cigarette is was easy.  My physical addiction level was low.

I know women who weren't that lucky.  I know women who cried through each cigarette they smoked while pregnant, who went to hypnotherapists and regular therapists and support groups.  Who tried the gum  and replacing it with food and one who cut herself instead of smoking.  I don't love my child any more than any of them.  I'm not a better mother than any of them are because I was able to quit.

We don't recognize pregnant women as human beings.  We see them as walking incubators.  All of a sudden, the baby is the POINT, your reason for existing.  The thing is - that's not true.  Her past informs her present and the mother who is addicted to nicotine may not be able to quit.

Should she have to look at those pictures and imagine her baby screaming in pain inside her?  No. Should we be sharing pictures like that, linked to articles that in no way back them up?  I don't think so.  And that's what I said.

I'm really disappointed in you George. 

This is a small study with no real conclusions and the pictures do nothing but demonize addicted mothers. 

Pregnant women are human beings. We have a full range of feelings and foibles. 

While every pregnant woman wants what is best for her child not every one is physically or mentally able to quit. 

They shouldn't be shamed by you with bad science.

Then the comments started.  At last count there are 48.  At first I tried to respond to people.  I tried to explain to the people who called me idiotic and lazy and a bad mother that although I had been able to quit I did not think that gave me, or anyone, the right to judge women who couldn't.  But apparently the idea that I would want people to stop and think before they judge means that I would encourage women to smoke and that I would support child molesters. 

It was the child molester comment that drove me to tears.  Is that what this woman really thinks of me? Probably not. Does she know me? No. Should I care what she thinks of me?  No.  She was trying to be funny, or mean, or both.  Or maybe she was trying to make the point that she thought that smoking was as bad as molesting a child.  Did she ever stop to think that the person she was writing to was a survivor who would find the idea of being compared to a molester physically painful?  No. 

I'd like to ask you all a favor.  Before you comment on something you see online stop, take a breath. When you write it out stop, take a breath, and read what you just wrote.  Would you be comfortable saying that to someone's face?   

No one seemed to care that I was not supporting smoking for pregnant women.  I was asking for horrible pictures to not be shown to them to try and shame them and to us so we can judge them from the safety of our computer screens. 

I'm telling you all this story because this is so, SO unnecessary.  It isn't just how the internet is. We don't have to live by 'don't read the comments!'  We can actually read what people are saying, we can ask for clarification and we can reply and disagree without trying to destroy each other.  There is no winning the internet, so can we all just stop playing dirty? 

Graeme Seabrook