What’s really driving our interest in celebrity pregnancies?

Kate Middleton is pregnant

I all but ignored the recent confirmation and (social)media frenzy over Kate Middleton’s pregnancy. For one, I’ve never really been into princesses; and for two, she is only one of 208 million women that will become pregnant this year alone. She’s not exactly trendsetting.

But I thought about it a little more when I came across this witty article in HuffPo, detailing the 9 most scrutinized uteri in recent history. They do a great job of highlighting the fat shaming and gender policing that the public inflicts on celebrities surrounding their fertility. We have historically used motherhood as a way to measure and define the worth of women. And only in pregnancy do we allow women to slightly deviate from body standards (emphasis on slightly). But as someone who literally screamed for joy when she found out Beyonce was pregnant, I had to ask myself: what is our real investment in celebrity fertility?

I think that perhaps it is the normalcy of pregnancy that makes it such an interesting condition when taken up by famous/powerful women. Nevertheless, this interest is married to our ideas about them as women. Sure, I was happy that Beyonce and hubby were going to experience the joys of parenthood. But I was more eager to see how Beyonce was going to make pregnancy, like everything else she touches, fabulous. Part of me wanted to believe that King B was going to swoop down in her stilettos and change the motherhood game for good. I wasn’t sure how, but I wanted to believe she could. These ideas about her super mother powers were birthed from my assumptions about her gender performance. She looks great; she sings great; she’s a great businesswoman; her performances are great; she is a great woman. She has to be a great mom, even if she spends most of her days away from home, has an alter ego, and wears leotards in front of millions of people. 

Our rhetoric about motherhood is scripted. We are constantly contextualizing and evaluating the circumstances under which women are conceiving and choosing to have children, whether it relates to their appearance, their relationships, their health, their personalities, etc. This is intensified when we are talking about women whose lives we somehow feel entitled to via public viewing. But at its heart, these ideas are no different than the stares we give to poor mothers, the finger wagging we do to young mothers, and the shame we shoot at single mothers. Focusing on celebrity fertility is more than just another way in which we keep tabs on the popular people we love (and hate). It also allows us to weigh in on the very real reproductive decisions of women without being accountable for how our ideas might be infringing on their own identities and lives.

I’m not saying that we are bad people for wanting to see our favorite celebrities transform while they go through the trimesters of pregnancy or how cute they dress their babies. I entered “beyonce baby bump in my Google search bar several times a month until baby Blue Ivy was born. But it is important that we remain honest and reflective of the narratives we come up with as we engage.

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One Comment

  1. Posted December 5, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    What irritates me most about this is the way in which the media is covering Kate Middleton’s announcement. The royal family were “forced” to announce the pregnancy due to her hospitalization for HG. This is a life-threatening condition, that isn’ even uncommon, and it really disturbs me that the media keeps reporting it as just “bad morning sickness.”

    I was particularly upset when I saw some of the ABC news coverage, when they took the effort to have an actual OB/GYN share her thoughts on the fact of Kate being hospitalized, and then completely downplayed when the doctor would mention how dangerous HG is.

    It’s very upsetting that people seem to be more concerned with celebrating the “royal pregnancy” instead of being concerned for the fact that this pregnancy could kill Kate. Fortunately, she is being attended to, but especially in light of the recent news from Ireland, I can only hope that the royal family will not let it come to the point where the pregnancy becomes fatal if it reaches her needing to chose an abortion in order to survive.

    This is such a clear opportunity for media to shine a realistic light on pregnancy – that it is not always wonderful, happy thing. That it is something that can be, when all happens to go well, but in reality is often dangerous, even deadly. Instead, they are whitewashing this in order to drive business through celebrity voyeurism. It’s absolutely disgraceful.

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