Is Tweeting Your Miscarriage TMI?
Just how much should you share on your Twitter feed? CarnalNation sends out our headlines via Twitter of course, but says little (if anything) about the staff's love affairs, orgasms, or bowel movements, which makes it a fairly staid example of the Twitter-verse. At the other end of the spectrum is Penelope Trunk, the founder of Brazen Careerist, a social networking site aimed at people from Gen Y trying to build their careers. Last week, Trunk sent the following tweet: "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."
That one tweet caused 70 of her followers to immediately drop her Twitter feed, something which Trunk said that she found surprising. It also caused a mini media furor around the issues of what's appropriate to share on the Internet and societal attitudes towards childbirth. Many of the reactions to Trunk's blunt tweet can be summed up by Rick Sanchez's very first question to her when he interviewed her on CNN (full video below): "I'm going to ask you a tough question young lady," he asked. "Do you have no shame?"
Sanchez's paternalistic tone underlies a lot of the response to Trunk's tweet: she should be ashamed of being so public, both about having a miscarriage and her desire to end the pregnancy in the first place. Less shaming has been directed at the state of Wisconsin for making her jump through the bureaucratic hoops that made a miscarriage a relief. Trunk had decided to sidestep the legal burdens in Wisconsin by crossing state lines to Illinois. Her appointment was three days away when she miscarried. ""I thought a lot of people would be responding about having to cross state lines to get an abortion, but a lot of it has also been [about] whether you should be sad about miscarriage," Trunk told ABC News. "I think the issue surrounding the three-week wait is controversial, but not the relief." Trunk has two children already, and has miscarried once before. "The first time I had a miscarriage I was sad about it, and it was a very typical experience," she said. "But I think it's limiting that it's only okay to talk about miscarriages if you're sad about it."
Although the initial tweet can easily seem bizarre, Trunk has addressed the issues in very practical and intelligent terms. On her blog, she defends herself from people who think it was gross, who think that she was bad for getting pregnant at 43 in the first place, and those who think she's being cold for being relieved at the end of her pregnancy:
To all of you who said I should not be happy about having a miscarriage: You are the ones short on empathy. Any woman who is pregnant but wishes she weren’t would of course be grateful when she has a miscarriage. Yes, there are many women who want the baby and have a miscarriage. I was one of them. I cried for days. I get it.
But if you have ever had an abortion, which I have, you would know that a miscarriage is preferable to an abortion. Even the Pope would agree with that.
Lindsay Robertson on Jezebel initially had a different perspective, implying that Trunk couldn't have been of more aid to the anti-abortion crowd if she'd tried:
[T]he context and way in which Trunk framed this confirms the worst and most fantastical ideas of the anti-choice movement: that women (especially career women!) who have abortions all do so casually and callously on their lunch breaks, the way one might get a manicure.
However, Robertson revised her opinion after the Sanchez interview, even though she still thought the initial tweet was inappropriate for a business setting:
Aside from the entertainment aspect of watching Rick Sanchez basically throw up his hands in defeat here, Trunk's matter-of-fact way of talking about abortion is so unheard of that it's jarring even to the ears of a die-hard pro-choicer. I've heard women talk about abortions this way with their friends, of course, but never on national television. And honestly, it's refreshing.
While the initial tweet still seems kind of odd—especially in a business context—it's been a catalyst for a lot of very interesting conversation, and it was certainly less inappropriate than Sanchez's attempt at public shaming. One thing that has to be pointed out is that while people are condeming Trunk for being so public about her miscarriage, her pregnancy certainly wasn't considered to be a private matter by the lawmakers in Wisconsin.