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Trunk Tweets a Miscarriage

September 29, 2009

Last week, career blogger Penelope Trunk caused a bit of a stir when she used Twitter to declare:

I’m in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there’s a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.

Now, I’m not a big fan of Trunk personally, after hearing (most of) her talk at BarCamp Nashville 2007. I felt like this was a person who gives career advice I tend to disagree with or even find somewhat offensive, who is primarily interested in promoting herself however possible (which is fine, but I’m just not interested). This is all to make a disclaimer that I’m biased toward assigning attention-getting motives to just about anything Trunk does. Tweeting a miscarriage and gladness for it is certainly one way to continue to draw attention to oneself.

But you know what? Her tweet, and her motives for publishing it, are not the issue – the responses she reports receiving are. The comments telling Trunk how she *should* feel about a miscarriage are a problem. The idea that miscarriage is something personal that *should* be kept secret whether a woman wants to keep it secret or not, when so so many women have them, is a problem. The idea that people’s bodies should effectively be hidden from the work environment where we spend so much of our time is problematic in its own ways. The waiting period in Wisconsin obviously presented its own problem to Trunk, and likely does for many other women, including women without the work flexibility to accommodate waiting periods – I’ve written before that I find these waiting periods paternalistic and insulting. The idea that women should always be overjoyed and grateful to be pregnant is a problem – as any woman who has ever prayed to get her period will tell you. Yes, many women lose wanted pregnancies and are upset, even devastated. But people have a whole range of reactions to events in their lives, and that is okay.

Amanda Marcotte (who I also don’t always agree with) also responds at Double X , where she writes:

“If the public at large had to face up to the fact that not every miscarriage is met with a vale of tears, that could have a dramatic impact on how we regard pregnancy, abortion, and women’s diverse experiences with our reproductive functions.”

And, as Trunk concludes, “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…If work is going to support our lives, then we need to talk about how our lives interact with work.”

[You’ll have to go to about page 9 of Twitter search for @penelopetrunk right now to see some of the negative responses, along with the comments on her blog post on the matter.]

13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2009 7:21 am

    The most ridiculous comment to her blog post were the ones telling her she should have been sad over her miscarriage because every miscarriage was sad, no matter what. Wanting people to feel thing just because you do? It’s like logic only without all that pesky reasoning.

  2. Coble permalink
    September 29, 2009 10:52 am

    I’ve had several miscarriages; more if you count the loss of chemical pregnancies. Many times I was sad. The last time was not that long ago. Maybe eighteen months. For years we wanted kids then I got ill with a chronic condition. I had also gotten a bit older and seen a lot of my friends’ cute babies turn into free range insufferability. So that last time I was relieved. Immensely. While I would never make the choice to have an abortion I can fully understand the sheer relief at not having an unwanted pregnancy continue.

    BUT unlike Trunk–for whom I have little tolerance to begin with–I get that pregnancy is a huge issue with almost every woman. I like to consider others’ feelings before I tweet and I hope that makes me a little less glib. I don’t think a lot of the demand for a certain emotion in the wake of pregnancy loss is very pro humanity. But I’m betting many commentors are coming at this from a wholly emotional place.

    • September 29, 2009 11:06 am

      I can definitely see that the tweet may have seemed glib to some folks, especially those with strong personal feelings about abortion or miscarriage. I hope I was able to separate some of that above, her approach vs. people’s expectations of how a given woman ought to feel/speak/behave in that situation. [And thank you for commenting on this post-I was thinking of you as I drafted it.]

  3. Coble permalink
    September 29, 2009 1:21 pm

    I hate typing comments on my iPhone. I can’t llok back at the post and forget to make half the points I wanted to.

    Yes, we don’t talk about women’s troubles and issues as much as we should. The fact that a male politician in Tennessee thinks that ‘vagina’ is an expletive is proff of that.

    But Trunk can’t have it both ways. One of the reasons that fem issues aren’t discussed openly is because they’re loaded. They’re sensitive topics on several levels. I’m not even talking about the abortion hot potato.

    I guess I’m falling dangerously close to the ‘she should feel sad’ camp in casting aspersions on her tweet. But my problem isn’t that she shouldn’t have said what she did. My problem is that once again Trunk is being selfish an self-aggrandising and then complaining that the world doesn’t get how teh awesome!1! she is. In the world of communicating you can’t just say something with no regard for context and then complain when you’re not hailed as brilliant across the board. I should know.

    Look, I know we’re more or less coming at the abortion issue from opposite sides. But from where I sit–and I do wish women were more open about this–Trunk is doing the pro-choice side no favours. She’s an inherently self-centered person making a statement that sounds exactly like Randall Terry’s wettest of dreams.

    But that’s how she rolls. Shorter Trunk:
    1. Crave attention.
    2. Do something rude and/or hurtful.
    3. Get lots of negative attention
    4. Dismiss negative attention as the fruit of provincialism and ignorance.
    5. Rinse and repeat.

    I do think it’s cute, tho, how she’s forever playing both ends against the middle.

    • September 29, 2009 2:33 pm

      Well, and that’s part of why I felt the need to disclaim about Trunk in the post – I couldn’t let it sit there w/ just the Tweet commentary and be read as some kind of endorsement or whatever and not acknowledge that I’ve been (and will prob. continue to be, publicly or privately) critical of her for some of the same things you list. I also think you raise an excellent point that some people *will* read it as enforcing their stereotypes about women who choose abortion (whether I think that *should* happen or not).

      I appreciate this discussion.

  4. Coble permalink
    September 29, 2009 1:24 pm

    Oops. When I said ‘i wish women were more open about this’
    I was referring to the talking about their experienced with abortion–both spontaneous and medical. All the 0-+ I know are plenty open about disliking Trunk.

  5. October 1, 2009 6:49 am

    I know a lot of women who have had miscarriages will take this to offense and people who don’t approve of abortions. I am both of those people, but I also have an open mind and feel that people should be able to say what they want and do what they want.

    She was going to have the abortion anyway, so maybe it was better that she had a miscarriage.

    If she didn’t want the baby in the first place, why would she be sad?

    I don’t know who she is, but in her tweet she sounds like a hateful, mean person.
    I just feel sorry for her.

  6. October 1, 2009 8:10 pm

    Just a reminder that I don’t allow hateful namecalling in the comments. I’ll allow “hateful” above to stay, but will unapprove worse, at my discretion. Make an argument without calling names, and your comment will stand.

  7. Matt permalink
    October 4, 2009 2:28 pm

    Hahaha That’s hilarious!

  8. Donna Locke permalink
    October 7, 2009 11:24 pm

    I’m glad Trunk got the outcome she wanted. I’ve never miscarried (that I know of; women, we know we may have had early miscarriages we never recognized as such), and I’ve never had an abortion, but I can relate to this woman’s relief and the desire to express it.

    Nature aborts far more fetuses than humans abort intentionally. Generally, I feel that other women’s (women’s, not underage girls’) pregnancies are none of my business.

    Exceptions to that indifference would be when I am forced to support their children and the mothers, etc., because the women are irresponsibly having children they cannot afford or take care of and/or are using the children as anchors for illegal migration and access to U.S. welfare programs. I’ve seen other questionable reasons for having children, of course. And we can’t ignore that most of us of a certain age are here because our parents’ birth control methods failed. It’s a dicey world.

    I’m always concerned about unwanted children, because that is the number one predictor for child abuse.


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