Why Fake Pregnancy Jokes Are Not Actually Funny

Last year, one of those ‘breast cancer awareness’ memes went around Facebook. One of those ones where you post a cryptic status based on something like your birthday, then pass it on, making sure ‘the men’ don’t find out. These are stupid on a whole lot of levels (like doing nothing to promote breast cancer awareness). This one was particularly cruel, though, encouraging people to post a status that they were ‘x week and craving y’. Pretending they were pregnant.

So, what, you might think. It’s just a joke, it doesn’t mean anything.

Except, maybe someone on your friend’s list is going through infertility. Every month is a struggle for them, and it’s hard work to be happy for the people around you who just seem to fall pregnant automatically. When you’re going through infertility, you see pregnancies everywhere – it’s like magic. So, suddenly you see friends announcing pregnancies, with cryptic messages, not even bothering to give you a call to tell you first. And then, after everyone’s congratulated them, they say – no I’m not pregnant. It’s just a joke. Now you’re upset, and you feel foolish. And nothing’s been done to raise awareness of breast cancer (which, by the way, can cause infertility).

It’s just a joke, though. It doesn’t mean anything. Your feelings don’t mean anything.

Another blogger put together an elaborate version of a fake pregnancy joke. They used cryptic messages and images to get people all involved in the story. Then they posted a status on Facebook that they were expecting. Except it wasn’t a baby they were expecting, it was Santa.

I don’t think the blogger meant to upset anyone. I think she’s a genuinely nice person, who maybe hadn’t thought of the joke from this point of view. But when I pointed out that it might be funny to some people, but it might be hurtful to others (especially if friends or family are following and feel bad they weren’t told) I was immediately told that it was just a joke, it doesn’t mean anything, it was all just in good fun.

Your feelings don’t mean anything.

Humour is not an excuse to make people feel bad. Jokes about race, disabilities, rape – they’re not funny, and they aren’t clever. They’re a tool people use to put other people down. Yet, constantly these jokes are defended because it’s just meant to be funny. It doesn’t mean anything.

And when someone speaks out, when someone says that a joke can be hurtful, they’re put down, their feelings disregarded. And less people speak out. Less people say anything. The ‘humour’ goes on, unquestioned.

Infertility is silent enough as it is. People don’t talk about it. People don’t want to hear about it. So when someone talk about it, points out that people going through infertility are people with real feelings, don’t silence them. Acknowledge that there might something you may not have thought of, resolve not to cause that kind of hurt again. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, just that you may not have thought of something from a certain perspective.

Because everyone’s feelings mean something.


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33 comments

  1. Brilliant! The Santa one comes up every year, and even though I am lucky enough to not be infertile, I think both “copy and paste” style statuses are strange. Why? Why would people want to make everyone else think they are pregnant, if only for a few seconds?

  2. I know this isn’t your point, but I have to say, I HATE those things – let’s do something to make us feel good about doing something for breast cancer, when really we’re doing nothing except making us feel good. I don’t believe there is anyone on the planet over the age of 10 that is not aware of breast cancer, so who are we making aware? You want to be ‘seen’ to be doing good? Go out and collect money for the research,, volunteer at the clinics – actually DO something. Posting endless crap on FB does nothing, ever – except make people think you’re an idiot. And after this post, insensitive. Give them some money if you want to support breast cancer research without the public kudos.

  3. So sorry to hear you are having difficulties falling pregnant. Jokes aside, I used to hate it when people would ask me “when” I was going to have children. Like I could choose. I know they meant well, but I always thought it very presumptuous.

  4. I hate those status updates so much and totally get where you are coming from. Slightly different but I still felt that hurt all the same, a very good friend of mine who is not on facebook fell pregnant and was trying to keep it under wraps until the twelve week mark. Her lovely & well-meaning SIL decided to post on her facebook page how excited she was that she was going to be an Aunty. My friend hadn’t actually had a chance to tell me before that status update went up and I must admit, my first reaction was to feel a bit hurt that she hadn’t told me before it was posted on facebook. But once I saw her, only a few days afterwards, she told me how annoyed she was that it had been posted about when she hadn’t had a chance to tell myself and a few of her other close friends and family.

    While it’s not technically the same it does raise the whole question of facebook etiquette. I can’t stand it when people post photos of other people’s weddings before he bride or groom themselves have had a chance to. And even after the bride or groom has, I always ask their permission first and generally upload them to a private album for the couple to look at and then decide if they want to make them public (to our friends at least). I also hate it when people post congratulations messages when someone has a baby before the person has had a chance to announce it themself. That is the height of rudeness, and just showing off if you ask me. It says “Look at me, I’m so important that I found out before all of you people on facebook and I have to make sure everyone knows it” and has nothing to do with their actual joy at the arrival. My family had strict instructions that they weren’t to post anything on facebook about my pregnancy or eventual arrival of my daughter until after I had said something first and thankfully everyone abided by that.

    Geez, apologies for the long comment and stealing your high horse, this kind of thing just really pisses me off.

    1. I wish more people had your consideration on Facebook.

      We actually asked people to spread our news when Squirm was born – neither Mr Pilot or I have smart phones and we were in hospital for a long time. We asked for no one to share any photos, though, except for one my sister took of Squirm’s escapee foot tag

      It is attention seeking behaviour, though.

  5. This sort of stuff kills me, studies show that 12 – 15% of couples worldwide experience infertility at some point (I’ve also read as high as 28%) and you know this number is actually higher because when they say worldwide they are really only counting the 1st world but for arguments sake lets say 1 in 10.

    Now look at your facebook friends list – how many do you have, 100, 200, more? In 100 friends at least 10 have experienced infertility, statistically more if you have both of the couple as a friend. Now tell me it’s just a joke. Seriously.

    Bloody hate it 😦

    1. Exactly! It really is a silent thing, no one talks about it so no one realises how wide spread it is. And telling people it’s just a joke is telling them to keep it silent, don’t speak about it, your experiences don’t matter

  6. Thank you for this. I have been seething every time this status has been posted the last week or so (also angry that they get the weeks til Xmas wrong!!!!) I hate these things on april fools day as well. People just don’t realise want some of us are going through 🙂

  7. Great Post. The defence of stupid unfunny ‘humour’ makes me nuts. “Screw you if you can’t take a joke!” Well, actually I totally appreciate humour that is FUNNY and is not demeaning, negative, insulting to someone or stupid. Twee little Facebook shit makes me nuts too. “Repost if you hate cancer” “Retweet if you love breathing” How bout actually SAYING something original??

  8. I haven’t seen this status. I have seen ‘expecting rain’ I would not have thought this would hurt anyone’s feelings, but if someone told me I had, I would not be dissmissive.

  9. I guess it is also about who your audience is now. Whilst these jokes may never be funny, certainly humour is different for everyone and when it comes to the online world, you never know who is reading your updates. I usually just skip over that stuff, mainly though because its silly and I have better things to read!

    1. The problem with telling people just to skip over things is that these ‘jokes’ keep getting repeated and the people who feel hurt are silenced. There’s also the issue of where the line is when we talk about different humour appealing to different people. Do we allow rape jokes or racist jokes to be repeated because the humour might appeal to someone or do we say something? What about jokes that make fun of disabilities?

      I like clever humour. I don’t like jokes that exist to make people feel foolish

  10. I saw one of those and thought it was kind of in bad taste.
    When I fell pregnant with our last one, it was very easy, quick and instant. But I had two good friends who had been trying for months, so I didn’t say anything. Although I just need to look at boatman to get knocked up, I understood that it would be so hard if it wasn’t that easy. There just needs to be a general respect for others I think.
    Thankfully for me, both my friends fell pregnant quickly after and our babies are all within 2 months of each other.

    1. I like the word ‘consideration’ – I used to use it in my classroom a lot. I think it would work well in the blogging world

      I can honestly say that it’s a weird feeling when friends get pregnant easily and you’re having trouble. You’re absolutely thrilled for them, but terribly sad for yourself. I’m so glad that you all got to experience the babies together, though 🙂

  11. Couple of points.
    – I’ve been fairly open about my experiences with infertility. Prior to undergoing IVF (and succeeding – Yay) I would notice stuff about babies everywhere. All those darn magazine articles about Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie Pitt were like a slap in the face. But I had to accept the fact that celebrities were going to breed regardless of whether I could or not.
    2) Those stupid breast cancer awareness memes really irritate me and I refuse to participate. I think we are all aware of breast cancer by now. Lets do something substantial to raise funds and give support to the suffers.

    1. Those magazines! I remember when I was going through the infertility testing and there was a magazine in the waiting room with a whole ‘celebrity pregnancy’ special section!

      I never minded real pregnancies and babies so much though, because they were real. I minded people using pregnancy as a joke.

  12. Well said. I saw one of those Christmas status’ and thought it was a bit crass. It’s not funny and, even though I’ve not had trouble becoming pregnant I do have a little pang because I’ve lost babies and would love just one more.
    Speaking up about the fact that these thoughtless ‘jokes’ hurt people should not be ridiculed and it’s very disappointing.

  13. I appreciate your perspective on this – every year for a couple of years I have been fooled by those ‘pregnancy’ announcements that end up being the Santa announcement. You think I’d learn! I’m usually quite easily offended but took these as a joke and laughed along. I never paused to consider how it might make some people feel, but now I will.

  14. This is so true. After two miscarriages and difficulty getting pregnant, despite our efforts, it seemed every where I turned, I saw friends and family (and even complete strangers) popping up pregnant. There was no escaping them. It was always a hard-core effort to bring myself to congratulate them when all I wanted to to was crawl in a hole and stay there. I’ve always found these silly and stupid…even the ‘let’s support breast cancer and make the men wonder’ ones. Ummm…how does posting where “{location of purse} cause I like it there” supporting breast cancer? Still, after another miscarriage and 2 beautiful babies later, I still have a pang of sympathy when I post about my children for those friends who might be struggling with their own fertility issues.

  15. I wouldn’t post a pregnancy joke even if I wanted to. All my friends & family know I don’t want kids so they’d think someone hacked my account…or that I’ve gone nuts!

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