OPINION: Gaan jy eet, olifant? I was fat shamed for being pregnant
It had been a couple of months since my partner and I had seen any relatives besides our parents.
We'd been nesting, preparing for the arrival of our little one and just trying to iron out some of our stuff before taking on a human.
On Sunday, we went to his nephew's 7th birthday celebrations and because I've grown a bit in the last few months (I am six month's pregnant), everyone was surprised to see me & commented on how I looked.
There were a few gasps and many 'oohs' and 'aahs', which were expected.
But then a cousin, one who's never been particularly nice, launched what felt like a full scale attack on my person.
"Is dit jy, olifant?" (Is that you, elephant?) she asked me, hovering in my personal space and laughing openly, clearly chuffed with her joke.
I didn't respond. No one responded. There was a murmur around the room, but that's about it.
I sat down a few seconds later (because swollen feet and hands and heaviness all around), while she was offering to serve everyone in the room something to eat.
She walked over to me again…
"Gaan jy eet, olifant?" (Are you going to eat, elephant?) she asked me. I said nothing, but cringed.
I eventually managed a brave, sheepish smile and went to find my partner.
I was nearly in tears by the time I found him fidgeting with the kiddies jumping castle.
"I am sure she didn't mean anything by it. You know how she is," he said.
Because of course he is not pregnant and doesn't get it. Because unless you're pregnant and growing at a rapid pace, you won't get it. And because even when people try to understand what it feels like to be pregnant, if you've never been pregnant or don't care much about it, you will say the kind of things that said cousin said, without giving it a second thought.
It's not so much that my self-esteem fell to the ground and I was all of a sudden turned into mush because someone called me fat. It's that I am not fat. I look good pregnant and she only said that to hurt me.
I wanted to punch her in the face and go home. But I didn't. I declined her offer for food and spent the rest of the afternoon avoiding her like the plague.
When I started showing, a colleague, albeit affectionately, started calling me 'Fatty'. I asked her to stop and now she avoids me.
A friend of mine also said "I can't believe how big you are" one, and when I responded by saying "I'm pregnant, what did you expect?" she kept on about how she's never known anyone to be so big while pregnant and she can't believe it and… "You're so big, Tam!"
Words hurt. Fat shaming anyone is not okay.
But it takes a special kind of evil to knock a fellow woman down, especially when she isn't feeling particularly good about herself. Especially when she's pregnant.
We are in 2016, right? As in, not in 1950?
Why, in this day and age, are people complaining about pregnant women being fat? It is one of the most natural states for a woman to be in.
And people who assume that pregnant women won't be offended by their thoughtless criticisms are wrong.
Criticising someone for the weight they've gained while being pregnant is just as wrong as picking on them for their weight in general, or their gender, or their race, or their beliefs.
There's no excuse for it.
It disappoints me greatly that the world hasn't moved on from this type of harassment and shaming.
Tamsin Wort is a member of the Eyewitness News online team in Johannesburg. Follow her on Twitter: @TamsinShawn.
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