If you type into Google the phrase, “am I pregnant,” the first autofill that comes up now is “am I pregnant video.” The video that this popular search refers is actually titled, “how is prangent formed.”
In case you haven’t seen or heard of this video, a quick explanation: Published on Youtube on October 20th, this video consists of several screenshots of the question “am I pregnant?” or variations of it from Yahoo Answers. This video went viral quickly after being published; every time I checked Facebook for a few weeks, people were sharing it on each other’s walls, and I’m still seeing it pop up occasionally. Now, it has more than 8 million views.
The first time I watched it, it was without sound and I thought it was a poverty porn type of video — something made to pull on heartstrings. I thought that if I turned up the volume, I would hear that song they play during the ASPCA ads, and there would be a somber voiceover talking about women who have no access to healthcare or education or birth control or something along those lines.
After I watched it with volume, I wished it had been that simple. The guy doing the voiceover reads every single question out loud in a “funny” voice. The humour is supposed to come from the fact that he pronounces everything phonetically, including people’s spelling mistakes, and doesn’t correct any grammar. He reads one in a in a stereotypical Southern accent (around the 47 second mark, in case you’re curious), presumably because of the use of the word ain’t: “Girlfriend aint had period since she got pregat?”
I get it, the narrator’s voice is funny, sure, whatever. But these questions aren’t funny at all, especially when you consider that anyone who is turning to Yahoo answers for something as serious as pregnancy must not have very many other options. Some of the most off-putting or concerning asks include: “How can a nine year old get prangnet,” “are these systoms of being pregarnt,” “Did most you women FEEL pgrenant before find out?” and “How long can u go being prognant to get an abortian?”
I don’t know anything about the women who typed these questions into Yahoo answers. But the sheer volume of them suggest that there are women out there who need answers, haven’t had access to education about how the reproductive system works, feel alienated from their bodies, maybe never went to high school, can’t speak English well and/or don’t have anywhere else to turn to for answers. Of course, we already knew that, but this is visual evidence. I’m still unclear as to how this is actually funny, when you think about the implications.
I’m not trying to shame anyone for liking a video where some guy speaks in a funny voice, nor am I a “feminist who can’t take a joke.” Hearing a guy read these questions out loud — a guy who has presumably never had to worry about the possibility or implications of becoming pregnant — was jarring enough. But seeing so many people on my social media feeds who I know care about women’s issues (and human rights in general) spread this video as if it were devoid of political implications was also unsettling. And for people who consider themselves vehemently pro-life and believe the government should ban abortions, it’s worth asking yourselves how you can want to deny women that option, and yet laugh at this video which shows some women clearly seeking alternatives and unable to find them.
I feel like I’ve seen an increase in coded messages revolving around pregnancy in the media recently, or maybe I’m just paying more attention. There was that X-ray of a pregnant snake that went viral after Hank Green tweeted it, as people starting tagging Taylor Swift and then making jokes about sending it to their ex-girlfriends. Then there was U.S. Rep. Steve King (R – Iowa) ’s comment that went viral, “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies,” in reference to immigration issues. While thinking about these happenings, I couldn’t help but recall the memoir “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” by Immaculée Ilibagiza. It’s a haunting narrative about genocide, human cruelty, sorrow, and unbelievably, forgiveness. I was too young when I read it, but there are a few lines seared into my memory, including a chant that people would use as inspiration for killing anyone, including pregnant women and children, they came across: “A baby snake is still a snake, let none escape.”
I’m not making a direct correlation between viral twitter comments, memes or videos and genocidal mindsets. But it’s worth thinking about how, in the media, what we sometimes mindlessly consume affects our engagement with the concept of pregnancy — and why we find certain things funny when they’re not attached to a real name or face.