Misogyny: Pregnancy Edition

We’ve all heard about the birth of the new “Royal baby.” Naturally, social media is abuzz with talk about the gender of the child, his name, and of course Kate (haven’t heard much about William, although he is the father). The excitement over the baby is all good and well, but I take issue with the fact that only mere days after the birth, Kate is already being pressured to lose her baby weight. She goes through the entire process of pregnancy and childbirth, and the first thing people do is judge her appearance. Expectations for her to always look perfect are heightened by the fact that she’s a duchess, but can we talk about the incessant body-shaming of pregnant women and new mothers?

First of all, it is completely ridiculous that days after a mother gives birth we expect her to already be thinking about losing weight. That’s none of our business to begin with, and even as someone in the spotlight, Kate deserves her privacy. We need to let mothers care for their own emotional needs and the needs of their child rather than pressuring them to lose weight. The idea that a mother needs to lose weight in order to “get her body back” is incredibly demeaning and implies that her thinner, pre-pregnancy body is somehow superior and more beautiful. And there’s also the fact that you can’t “get your body back” because your body is always yours. Why does a pregnant women “lose” her body just because she is carrying a child? I’m calling bullshit.

Can we also talk about the fact that bodies that endure childbirth are beautiful? I don’t know who decided they weren’t, but all bodies are unique and beautiful, whether they’ve been pregnant or not. Bodies that have been through childbirth have their own kind of beauty, in that they bear marks of bringing new life into the world. There is nothing shameful or ugly about that. The sheer strength it takes to carry a child to term is something that deserves recognition. Vaginas are strong, no matter how many times you use “pussy” as an insult.

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The body-shaming of mothers begins long before childbirth, as we’ve seen with Kim Kardashian. Kim has always been a curvy woman, which was apparently attractive before she was pregnant but not while she is. Now the tabloids are saying she’s too fat and can’t stop eating and weighs 200 pounds AHHHH! Literally, people are freaking out. As if it isn’t bad enough to have the media all up in her business about her pregnancy, she’s having to deal with obscene amounts of fat-shaming as well. Of course this isn’t a singular case – many female celebrities deal with the same scrutiny, as do women out of the spotlight. And that’s the problem.

The recent national debate about abortion and the anti-abortion measures that have been cropping up around the country have made me realize that women really can’t win. We live in a culture that demands that women carry their pregnancies to term, only to bombard them with judgment and criticism once they give birth. Going through childbirth is supposedly the noble thing to do, but pregnant women and mothers are more often seen as fat and unattractive than noble. All of this revolves around the idea that as women, our bodies are not our own. We are denied agency over our own health-care decisions as politicians work to ban abortions, and we are denied ownership of our pregnant bodies as they become objects of public scrutiny.

Women go through enough body-shaming on the regular, but the judgment of pregnant women and mothers takes it up another notch. Childbirth is at once both miraculous and appalling, it seems. Reproduction is necessary and beautiful, but pregnant women (like menstruating women) are often viewed with a mixture of disgust and pity. We need to examine why that is and what it says about the way we view women.

Let pregnant women take care of their health, emotional and physical, instead of worrying about their weight. Let new mothers focus on their child rather than urging them to get back on a treadmill. Let them control their own bodies and take care of them in their own way. Appreciate the diversity of women’s bodies, and above all, remember that our beauty isn’t what’s most important about us.

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