A few months ago, I wrote a column about Kate Middleton’s pregnancy and the ensuing media circus. I made a prediction. I wrote, “The press will fawn over her glowing pregnancy skin and even shiner hair — that is until she gets papped pushing a pram in yoga pants. WITH GREASY HAIR. Record scratch.”
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Well, I might as well quit my day job and get me a crystal ball because, lo and behold, our fair Duchess was photographed after giving birth and, holy shit, SHE STILL HAD A TUMMY. Twas the Post-Baby Belly seen ’round the world. Kate’s postpartum body caused as much of a stir as the actual birth of royal spawn Prince George. And for every, ‘EWWWWW!’ reaction, there was an equal and opposite “she’s so brave — what an inspiration” reaction.
Yup. We live in a society in which being photographed in public after giving birth is the ultimate act of bravery.
We’re obsessed, people. We’re obsessed with pregnant celebs. It’s official. We’re absolutely obsessed. And it’s a problem.
In popular culture, pregnant celebs start out being fetishized. Mags and rags of all kinds put them on “bump watch” — a phrase that makes me homicidal, BTW — and run so many fluffy cover stories that it starts to feel like celebrities have a gestational period roughly that of an elephant. (Jessica Simpson was pregnant for my whole life the first go around.)
Of course, in order to be worshipped as a pregnant goddess on a lily pad, celebs need to be the right kind of pregnant (i.e. no fat chicks). They need to wear cute outfits and not have cankles and look radiant. AT ALL TIMES. But not TOO radiant, because then there must be a surrogate. (See: Beyoncé, although those conspiracy theorists make a decent case.)
It’s ideal, of course, if the father is also famous. Then, our pregnant celeb goddess can just be the adorable vessel in which the already-beloved child incubates, smiling coyly out from a cover that reads “SHE’S HAVING HIS BABY!” (See: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.)
Still, regardless of whether it’s done ‘right,’ the fawning is fleeting. As soon as that precious bundle is out of that lauded baby cave, the obsession turns ugly. We hungrily wait for celeb mama to unveil her post-baby body for the first time so we can mock/praise accordingly.
THAT’S SO GROSS, YOU GUYS.
The fetishization of pregnancy coupled with the obsession with beauty is a real boob punch. It all just reinforces the notion that a woman’s worth is based on her fertility and beauty. Not her talent or her intelligence, but her ability to bear children and lose the weight effortlessly. (“I’m just on my feet all the time running around after the baby!” LOL, K.)
And when the weight doesn’t come off, people are incredibly cruel. Remember the time that TMZ made fat jokes about Bryce Dallas Howard? ON MOTHER’S DAY? The comments were, predictably, awful. “Newborns sleep all the time so stop the laziness and junk food. Four months is plenty of time to loose the baby weight” and “one word=LAXATIVES!!! STAT!!!” were among the dregs of a steaming vat of unsolicited advice. Addressed to a woman who has publicly (because does she have a choice?) struggled with postpartum depression.
Yeeesh. Maybe showing your post-baby body in public really is an act of bravery. But it shouldn’t be that way.
Jen Zoratti blogs about feminism and pop culture at SCREAMINGINALLCAPS.com. Follow her on Twitter @JenZoratti.