having a baby

Homebirth Dads In Drag Calendar Is Supposed To Be Funny, But Is Instead Insulting

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The 2014 Homebirth Dads Calendar is out and, well, it’s a little bit weird. Put together by Inner Birth Midwifery of Racine, Wisc., the calendar features men dressed as women who are having home births. Here’s some more details from Lulu.com, where you can buy the calendar for $29.99:

This 2014 Home Birth Dads Calendar is a must have! As a tribute to their wives/partners, these dads all graciously volunteered to take part in a photo project that recreated some of the experiences of their parters most memorable pregnancy and birth moments…We hope you enjoy this warm and comical calendar as much as we enjoyed creating it!

And here’s some of the photos that are featured in the calendar:

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I am of two minds about this. On one hand, I think it’s great that these guys want to honor the experiences of their wives and/or partners and are willing to have their own photographic images used to support home birth. These men are obviously participating in the calendar out of a sense of respect, awe and empathy, which I totally understand and appreciate. I also love it when men are vocal in support of home birth (or anything to do with birth, really), which is often ghettoized as a “women’s health” issue. And, ten percent of the proceeds from the calendar are going to support the Greater Racine Collaborative for Healthy Birth Outcomes, a collaborative dedicated to helping Racine, WI lower its infant mortality rate, so that’s also terrific.

But, something about men dressing in drag as a way to emulate women’s biological experience of pregnancy and childbirth really really rubs me the wrong way. From the Dutch talk show hosts who simulated labor earlier this year to Benjamin Percy and his ridiculous “pregnancy suit,” I just don’t find this kind of thing at all funny, clever, or creative. Seeing a man wear a fake pregnant belly and grimace in pretend pain doesn’t make me laugh. It makes me mad. No matter how pure and honorable the intentions, I feel like there’s a subtle mockery being made of real women’s real, lived experiences, a jokey undercurrent that somehow strips away at the physical, mental and emotional rawness of giving birth.

Let’s not forget that these men don’t actually have to deal with any of the actual physical things that come along with being pregnant or giving birth. Even if they were the most supportive partner in the world while their wife gave birth at home, that doesn’t lessen the fact that that not one of them experienced morning sickness, enlarged breasts, the constant urge to urinate, contractions, vaginal tearing, lochia, or any of the other not-so-pleasant things that come along with bringing a human into the world. I am all for empathy, but these guys have the luxury of taking the costume off and sending the photographer home—something you can’t do if you’re an actual pregnant person.

If my husband or boyfriend ever tried to dress up as me in order to recreate what I looked like or what I was doing when I was giving birth, I would be so mad I would spit tacks. Granted, that’s only me, but I imagine there are quite a few other women who would find it offensive rather than hilarious or complimentary.

In reality, there’s no way for biological cismales to ever experience what it’s like to carry a baby or give birth. That doesn’t mean they can’t support, empathize and be involved in whatever way makes sense for them and their family. But I balk at this costume-y, gimmick-y way of showing support. While I would totally love to see a calendar full of homebirth dads who are looking lovingly at newborn babies, doing the double hip squeeze on a laboring mom, or helping to fill a birth tub, I’ll pass on the calendar that features fake baby bumps.

Photos: Katie Hall Photography via Lulu.com