A Blog Storm Heads Up

Last week, Penelope Trunk tweeted that she was relieved that she had a miscarriage, so she didn't have to get an abortion. I was surprised that someone whose online reputation was about being a business professional would tweet that. I did wonder for a while if that TMI was brave, stupid, or smart. But the message itself wasn't terribly surprising or shocking. That tweet caused quite a stir, and the feminist blogosphere is about to tackle it. Trunk explains everything.

I particularly liked her last paragraph:

I think what really upsets people is the topic. We are not used to
talking about the female experience, and especially not in the context
of work. But so what? We can start now. The female experience is part
of work. What we talk about when we talk about work defines how we
integrate work into our lives. If work is going to support our lives,
then we need to talk about how our lives interact with work. We need to
be honest about the interaction if we hope to be honest about our work.

12 thoughts on “A Blog Storm Heads Up

  1. I like her honesty. In particular, given the prevalance of both miscarriage and abortion in the united states, I value people talking about it in the same way you value people talking about autism, that it is a public service to talk publicly about your experience.
    But, I think the manner of the tweeting suggests a flippancy that I don’t particularly respect. Trunk has talked previously about her abortions, in terms that suggested that they were important, stressful, and perhaps even traumatic events in her own life (and, when I say this, I don’t mean that every woman who has an abortion believes that the experience was traumatic or stressful or even important). Trunk,however, has written about the experience. So, to be so casual about the ending of an unwanted pregnancy (and the expectation that she’d have an abortion to end it) doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of her story.
    Didn’t she even write about how a previous pregnancy (which ended in abortion) interacted with her work life (everyone advised her to abort, she’s not sure she had to).
    So, I tend to think she wanted to create a firestorm.

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  2. I’ve noticed that at certain hormonal junctures, some women get a bit crazy and experience major failures in judgment. And unfortunately, the more impaired you are, the less you realize that you are impaired. Everybody else does, it’s just they’re too scared to mention it. (Have you ever wondered why people are so nice to pregnant women?) I wouldn’t exactly suggest that all pregnant, nursing, or otherwise hormonal women need to have a guardian to sign off on major life decisions, but sometimes it seems like it wouldn’t be a bad idea. You add the internet, with its combination of spontaneity and permanence, and you have a recipe for possibly decades of future embarrassment.
    (There is a guy version of the phenomenon I described above. I need a new truck! I need a new girlfriend! I want to quit my job and spend a zillion dollars to have a shot at being a commercial pilot!)

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  3. Gosh, she seems crazy to me. “Oh look, it’s just like menstrual blood, and people get it all over the sheets when they have sex!” Um, yeah, thanks for explaining why it isn’t yucky.
    This particular miscarriage may not mean much to her, but plenty of people have experienced msicarriages as terrible losses and thus, it is a personal and delicate subject. Twittering about it so flippantly is pretty insensitive.

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  4. “Miscarriage is a workplace event”??? Uh, no.
    Didn’t I hear somewhere that Trunk is Aspergian? She certainly seems to be emotionally tone-deaf with this tweet.

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  5. I don’t follow her on Twitter but good for her for being so brave about this.
    I am bemused how people are so sure they can read the tone on a tweet and go rushing to judgment about someone’s life. If I posted that I lost my job on twitter, I’m pretty sure most people would be rushing to sympathize even if I did so in a flippant matter. But somehow, when one is matter-of-fact in speaking about their reproductive choices, they’re automatically callous. Sometimes the only way you can make it through the rough stuff is by being a bit flip.
    When my mother died and I went to work the next day (classes to teach and no substitutes for my specialty), a colleague saw the dark circles under my eyes and jokingly punched me on the shoulder, saying “Cheer up, you look like someone died.”
    I replied, “Why, yes, my mother, thank you very much.”
    Sure, it sounds cold, but it also kept me from breaking into tears or worse. When life is stressful or traumatic (and even a miscarriage that’s seen as a blessing in disguise is at least physically traumatic), you do what you have to in order to keep on going.

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  6. “Didn’t I hear somewhere that Trunk is Aspergian?”
    Honestly, if she was able to write about this publicly the way she did because she has Asperger’s, then I just finally understood the way that Asperger’s can be an advantage. Because she’s totally right: women work during their miscarriages, and that makes it a workplace issue whether or not people get the heebie-jeebies about basic facts of human biology. Good on her for being able to say it — however *she* needs to say it, not how other people need to (not) hear it. And doubly good on her for not giving a shit what everyone else thinks.

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  7. There are many advantages to Aspergers. At my blog, I just outlined a chapter of a book on gifted children that deals with Aspergers, and there’s a section of that chapter dealing with the positive aspects of AS. 🙂
    I’m with Janice–I find flippancy/morbid humor is an effective way for *me* to deal with trauma, and since it’s *my* trauma, I get to deal with it *my* way as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

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  8. I think the comment about “the female experience” is disingenuous; there wouldn’t be a firestorm if she were just talking about menstruation or breastfeeding. It’s the casual reference to the miscarriage that’s the issue.
    And it’s also the medium she’s using to communicate; I suspect that if she had sat down and written and article about the experience, even if she had used the same tone, people would see it differently.
    I have a colleague/friendly acquaintance who announced her month-old not-particularly-wanted pregnancy, and subsequent miscarriage, on FB, and that was really weird: it was as if she was telling (about 150) friends, but not exactly. It made me uncomfortable – was I supposed to post a note of sympathy, as some people did? should I say something when I saw her? – but that’s okay; I’m all for demystifying these experiences if women want them to be demystified. But I was more worried about the women I know who did have a miscarriage and saw it as a very big deal, and would not want to have it pop up casually in their feed on Facebook. If she had written an article about the experience, that would somehow be different.

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  9. Sorry, but if someone from my office were talking about menstruation (because, you know, women are menstruating at work all the time and it is thus a workplace issue!) it would still be way, way too much information.
    My personal response to this is not so much “she’s being callous about her references to reproduction” as much as I just don’t want to know this much about anyone who’s not a close friend. Also BTW if our goal is to demystify miscarriage and abortion (a worthy goal IMHO) I don’t think this is the way to do it.

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  10. Tasha,
    Really?
    I once followed a personal finance blogger until I realized that I didn’t really trust the guy. His crises seemed to come timed precisely for dramatic effect. The blog has since disappeared.

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  11. How fascinating you guys have such different reactions to this incident. It shows there is no one universal way that women react to a miscarriage; it can either be a tragedy or a relief.
    It shows the inadequacy of Twitter for dealing with sensitive issues; subtlety can’t be displayed in less than 140 characters.
    There’s also no agreement about how much personal information should be discussed in a business context.

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