Over the past few years, the media has had a consistently awful relationship with pregnant celebrities. A lot of the stories focus on stars who aren’t even pregnant. Any time a female celebrity is seen without washboard abs, gossip magazines and even some reputable news outlets launch a “bump watch.” Kate Middleton can’t seem to touch her own stomach without setting off a flurry of rumors and stories about pregnancy. This past year, she’s been pregnant with twins several times, a boy to carry on the legacy, and a daughter she plans to name Diana to piss off the queen.
Pregnancy Watch: Every Move You Make
Once a celebrity is pregnant, the coverage never never stops. Every move a pregnant celebrity makes is scrutinized: Is she eating right? Walking too close to people who are smoking? Drinking while she’s pregnant? The articles just seem to get worse and worse every year.
Beyoncé’s pregnancy coverage was even more horrifying. Beyoncé had one of the most covered pregnancy and faced some of the worst rumors. All eyes were on her “bump,” and many accused her of faking the pregnancy based on the time between her announcement and when she gave birth. It seemed as though people forgot or simply didn’t care that these awful rumors were about an actual mother experiencing an actual pregnancy rather than a fictional character with no feelings. The outlandish accusations have died down, but every so often an article comes out in an attempt to re-ignite the rumors.
The Baby Weight Obsession
Weight loss is likely the most discussed part of a female celebrity’s pregnancy. There are countless articles discussing celebrity mothers’ weight loss after giving birth. Some, like Jessica Simpson, choose to make endorsement deals with companies such as Weight Watchers while they’re still pregnant. They make this weight loss part of their business. But it doesn’t really matter whether or not a woman is comfortable discussing her post-pregnancy weight loss with the media. Tabloids are infamous for publishing photographs of stars with newborn babies for no reason other than to ridicule the mother’s figure. Again, there’s simply know acknowledgment from tabloid editors or readers that these are real women here.
The sheer nastiness of this obsession hit a new low when Jessica Valenti, the founder of Feministing and author of The Purity Myth and He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know went public with her media treatment as a pregnant woman. She recently gave birth and published a new book called Why Have Kids? Valenti has been pitching pieces about issues discussed in her book to various news outlets, but most of those pieces have gotten little interest or traction. One particular publication, which Valenti declined to name, was not interested in her pitch, but instead suggested that she write about her weight loss:
Would Jessica be interested in writing something about weight loss after having a baby? We’re doing a lot of coverage around Jessica Simpson’s efforts to lose the baby pounds, and we’d love to hear from Jessica Valenti about what it was like for her to shed the weight. She can get as personal as she’d like—our readers love personal stories. Along with the actual process of losing weight (what she ate, when she exercised, etc), it would be interesting if she could focus on setting realistic expectations for yourself as a new mom. I feel like a lot of conversation among our audience has turned to the fact that new mothers aren’t prepared for the onslaught of all the worrying that comes with having a baby, including her looks.
Valenti was offended, and rightfully so. There are so many important issues about parenting that need to be addressed and discussed – weight loss is not one of them. Not only is it just ludicrous that the publication asked Valenti, a successful author who has tackled complex topics, to talk about weight loss because of her background but also because her “weight loss secret” was giving birth prematurely.
This nonstop coverage is affecting the way pregnant women as a whole are viewed. All of these photo spreads and stories about female celebrities who drop their pregnancy weight in two weeks are unrealistic; nevertheless, it’s beginning to become the anticipated path for every mother. These are impossible expectations to live up to – even the tabloid writers know that.
Former Us Weekly editor Janice Min realized just how deeply ingrained her magazine’s stories about pregnant celebrities and weight loss are when her manicurist asked when her baby was due four months after she gave birth. Min notes that “this 1 percent of lucky mothers with the time, money and good genes to be skinny in their skinny jeans have informed our judgment of the other 99 in a sort of trickle-down mean-girls effect” and admits that she wishes she could “undo” this physically perfect mother image just a bit. Of course, she backtracks a bit, saying that we can learn a lot from these celebrity mothers and that “letting yourself go” after pregnancy isn’t acceptable. It’s also noteworthy that Min is set to publish a book about motherhood and weight loss – and pioneered the “pregnant celebrity weight loss” focus during her time at Us Weekly.
It’s depressing that a woman partly responsible for creating this culture cannot criticize it fully, even when she sees the negative affect it has on all women. Pregnancy is a personal and intimate experience. It is different for every woman, including celebrities. Why can’t we just accept that instead of focusing on trivial details like weight loss?