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Ariel Levy (Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New Yorker)


Columnist criticizes culture of shame around miscarriage

March 29, 2017

In her weekly column “Ask Hadley,” Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman responded to a question from a male reader who asked, “Why are women so mean to each other.” Admitting initially that she would usually ignore such an email and lambaste “David” for perpetuating negative stereotypes about female relationships, on this occasion Freeman said she felt compelled to respond.

It was an article she read recently in the American left-wing magazine The New Republic that Freeman said had prompted her response. In it, journalist Charlotte Shane had cast a disparaging eye over New Yorker writer Ariel Levy’s recent memoir, in which Levy describes the pain of going through a miscarriage. Alone in a hotel room at five months’ pregnant, she had held her baby son as he died in her arms. Soon after, her marriage broke down and she eventually lost her home.

Shane was unmoved and declared the book exemplified “privilege and entitlement.” She continued that “while surely [Levy] suffered, nothing about the vehicles of that suffering is rare or unexpected. Millions of Americans have divorced; millions more than once. As many as 10 million Americans lost their homes in the recession alone, and it’s estimated that up to a quarter of all pregnancies result in miscarriage.”

For Freeman it was not just Shane’s wholly unsympathetic response to Levy’s miscarriage. Instead it was the “one-in-four women suffer miscarriages” quote that she took issue with. Pregnant women are, she points out, advised by their doctors not to tell anyone they are pregnant until after the 12-week-scan, since the risk of miscarriage is higher in the first trimester. This, Freeman argues, discourages women who do miscarry from talking about their experience, around which a culture of shame and secrecy is subsequently created. “Sure,” she says, “one woman losing her baby might not matter in the scheme of things. But on a personal level it is devastating … miscarriage may be relatively common, but no woman should apologize for feeling uniquely sad about it.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.