We've all come across online stories speculating whether a celebrity is pregnant or not based on her clothing choices, or how she is holding her bag, but have you ever wondered why we as a society are so obsessed with fertility and "baby bumps"?
In this episode, we’re diving into the online comments and analysing the reactions to all things ‘bump’. From Rihanna’s recent Super Bowl pregnancy reveal, to Paris Hilton’s surrogacy announcement, and Beyonce’s fake pregnancy conspiracy, we’re examining whether society defines a woman’s value based on her maternal status. And asking how do we view women who choose childlessness?
Follow us on Instagram for news and behind-the-scenes @s2tcpodcast
If you like the show, please rate or review it and don't forget to share it.
This series is produced by Emily Crosby Media.
Click here for the full transcript
Last week, Lindsay Lohan got over 1.8 million likes on Instagram when she announced she's having a baby. More than any of her previous posts.
The highest paid celebrity baby photos were $14 million for Angelina and Brad's twin babies in 2008.
Then Naomi Campbell shocked the world when she announced she's having a baby via surrogate at age 50.
But why are we so obsessed with pregnancies and babies? From fake bump accusations, to Royal Bump watch, and shocking pregnancy reveals such as Rihanna's Super Bowl performance, it seems that we have an unending fascination for celebrity fertility.
So where does this fascination come from and what message is it sending to everyday women? First things first, we are now recording episode six, I believe Sarah, of our podcast.
We are. Can you believe it?
I know we have been really going for it, and we just wanted to say thank you to everyone who's listening and following us and has supported us.
Yeah, we’re just a small team. It's just Sarah and I, and Emily obviously producing it, but we put a lot of work into it, into reviewing the comments and putting it together, and it means the world to us that you've rated and reviewed and shared the podcast, but we have to do the obligatory marketing message, don't we, Sarah?
My least favourite thing. But yes.
We do, and I think the focus we've said we probably do more on Instagram because we feel that site we can create a little bit of a community there, and our handle is
So we do a little bit of activity there.
I'm a bit rubbish at Twitter. I used to be good at it 10 years ago, but we're doing a little bit there. So basically follow us there, like and share our podcast and please, yeah, we really appreciate it. Okay, so let's get into our episode today. So you kick it off for us, Sarah.
So one of the biggest stories of 2023 so far was Rihanna revealing her pregnancy at the Super Bowl halftime show, and I'm pretty sure you saw that, right, Lisa?
I sort of think I woke up really early that day to watch it, just the clips, just to see Rihanna and there was some brilliant comedy around it, wasn't it? Like, who interrupted Rihanna performing with a Super Bowl. That was great to read, but yeah, I did. So yeah, I saw her. She had the red boiler suit on, but I did think, well, why she's so covered up and I mean, I'm not saying she shouldn't be. I was a bit shocked when I found out that she's only just had a baby and now she is pregnant again. And that was the big reveal.
Yeah, I mean I was surprised myself because there weren't any hints or speculations as there often are about big name pregnancies considering how famous she is. I dunno how she managed to keep it secret for so long. And even, I read that her backing dancers didn't even know in rehearsals, they only found out on the day as well because she was deliberately wearing very baggy clothes. So she really kept that under lock and key, so it had the maximum impact when they did reveal it.
You're absolutely right, and I know it turned everyone into a frenzy. And then there's this tweet “Rihanna's Super Bowl performance while pregnant is a powerful example of how women can be brave. By showcasing her talent and strength on one of the biggest stages in the world, she has demonstrated that pregnancy is not a barrier to success or the pursuit of one's dreams. And it actually even broke Twitter minutes after the end of her set, there was a huge spike in reported outages in Twitter. Probably Elon Musk was then plugging everything away in the background. That's a funny image, but it was just to show the volume of posts that were going out. Someone said on Twitter, “did Rihanna's perfect performance overwhelm Twitter? All I'm seeing are ‘tweets are not loading right now’ eror messages. And then another lady said, “I genuinely think Rihanna crashed Twitter.”
Well, I mean, this isn't the first time a pregnancy reveal has caused such a Twitter sensation. I read that when Beyonce announced, when she announced her pregnancy at the M T V. in 2011, it actually prompted a frenzy of 8,868 tweets per second, which was a new Twitter record at the time, and it was huge at the time. I sort of remember it.
Yeah, I do, I do.
But what's interesting is that some people were still criticising Rihanna's performance for not being active enough. For example, in the Daily Mail, someone put “lazy was the perfect word for it. She couldn't even be bothered to put her mic up to her mouth to lip sync properly. Her bizarre dancers gave more energy in this lacklustre performance”. And someone else chimed in with “who cares if she's pregnant or not. Why should that change your opinion of the performance? If she was that pregnant and couldn't completely perform, she should have passed on the show.” But obviously there were a lot of people who came to her defence. For example, there was a tweet by the writer Luvvie Ajayi Jones, and what she said was “what I don't want to hear, and definitely not from any man, was that Rihanna didn't do enough during her Super Bowl performance. Y'all get a cold and you'll think the bubonic plague got you. This woman is pregnant, performed and danced for 13 minutes while suspended in the air.” Wow.
She has a very, very valid point. And I also read another tweet that said “while I was pregnant with my second, I lay on the sofa and binge watch Jane the Virgin. Rihanna's performed at the Super Bowl and the Oscars within the same month.” I mean, get it.
Yeah. I mean, something we could only ever dream of. I mean, I don't think I can think of another performer who performed on Top of Pops pregnant or any of those shows when we were growing up. It sort of started to come in the late, in the nineties I think.
So, yeah, I can't really remember ever seeing people pregnant on television, especially not performing in pop shows. Maybe Victoria Beckham when she was first pregnant. Yeah, It's funny when I think about it because I remember just sort of watching period dramas growing up, and you'd always have those awful scenes where a woman's giving birth and dying from childbirth. It scared me to bits and it was all a bit mysterious to me, and I still think in some way that children come from a stork.
Yeah, I remember the stork. I don't think that's a thing anymore. I remember seeing a lot of images of that on congratulations cards, but I think, I can't remember the last time I talked about the stork.
Yeah, the stork has gone out of fashion. Well, you need to go back into the card shops and see.
As both Rihanna and Beyonce have shown, pregnancy reveals are really big news and in fact big money, which is an important point. And there's a quote from Star Magazine's chief editorial director, Bonnie Fuller, and what she said was “I feel like the big turning point was the growth of the Celebrity News Weekly. It brought celebrity pregnancies into the mainstream and we also celebrated them and we quickly learned that women clearly wanted to see them because our sales went up”.
Yeah. Well, it's interesting because when we looked into this, we saw that it was actually quite a relatively new phenomenon, and there's a quote from the author Imogen Edward Jones, and she said “it never used to be something that was glamourised or fetishized. In the 1960s, everyone covered up. I'm not suggesting for one second we hark back to that, but what used to be a family matter has now become a publicity matter. In their constant desire to sell records and clothing lines and perfumes, celebrities need to keep finding ways to keep themselves in the limelight. Babies and pregnancies are a good way of doing that. Wombs, it seems, are the new handbags”. And just because I'm just going to pick on one TV show in particular that I was watching, and I always felt like I was not their age group, which was Made in Chelsea around 2011. And then over the years I saw them on Instagram occasionally and they'd pop up and there's these huge pregnancy announcements and it was just like an enormous amount of product selling and what I would call influencing. And I'm, because I've not had children, I couldn't quite relate to it, but I can see that that's a huge thing for them to announce a pregnancy or to get married. These are what it looks like to me, big money making opportunities
And some celebrities have definitely been accused of maybe deliberately going the pregnancy route or doing the staged pap walk with their babies and kids in order to get attention. And obviously we can't know this for sure, but it does seem to sometimes bring people back into the news whether it was deliberate or not. But interestingly, in an article for the independent Lena Corner said “is Demi Moore to blame for all this? She started the trend when she posed nude on the cover of Vanity Fair in 1991 while just about to drop her second daughter. Pop stars quickly followed suit.” Do you remember that Demi Moore cover? I mean, it was quite iconic.
Yeah, I really can because I mean, she was absolutely a huge star. I think she was the biggest paid female star in Hollywood at that point in her career. Well, I'm not sure if it was a little bit later in the mid nineties, but yes, I remember that cover and it was beautiful and gorgeous. And I, yeah, can I say it sort of looks sexy in a way.
Definitely. And I think that was such a big shift in the way that pregnancy was portrayed because what's so weird is that pregnant women are often really desexualised, when it's sex that actually got them into that position in the first place.
But there you immediately, it's like, oh, you're a mother now. You should cover up. We're going to put you in a giant tent, and we can't even imagine that you've had sex. And then it's like, well, I mean there's kind of evidence you have.
That's such a good point. Yeah.
Lena Corner described the celebrity pregnancy obsession really well, and she said “we've long made it our business to know everything we can about celebrities. First it was their homes and their weddings, then it was their love lives and addictions. Now we've taken it one step further, call it fertility fetishism uterus watching or whatever you want, nowadays, we want to know what's going on on the inside.”
Uterus watching is so creepy. You're making me think of this futuristic thing where someone going to have a camera and rather than doing the baby scans, you can just literally have a camera on the celebrity's womb at all times. I mean, that's just,
Yeah, like the Big Brother house.
It's a bit creepy.
I mean, it's weird because I always see a lot of people talking about Bump watch, which apparently was a term brought in by a blogger in about 2007. And it actually makes me think of Birdwatcher’s hiding in the bushes, trying to spot pregnant celebrities out in the wild. It's just such a weird if, when you really think about it, it's so weird. And it's almost, it separates the woman from the bump. Oh, we're only interested in your bump. We don't care that you're a person beyond that.
And that's the thing, isn't it? Actual pregnancy reveals are huge news. There's also a lot of interest in stories that just speculate whether someone's pregnant or not. And in the classic magazine covers of celebrities either with a hint of a bump or is it just a big lunch or a photo where they're holding a bag in front of their stomach or just momentarily placing a hand on their stomach. And instantly everyone's asking, is she or isn't she? And I mean, you can see this a little, it's played out a bit, obviously in some paparazzi shots now.
It's the best kind of speculative story, because they, they've got a story without a story. All they need is a sort of appropriately angled photo and they can do a whole article on essentially nothing. And it's really weird because in everyday life, the general rule of thumb, as far as I know, is unless you know for sure that someone's pregnant, don't guess, don't accuse them of being pregnant. Don't speculate.
I mean, it's a bit of a taboo, isn't it? It's a bit of a taboo.
Exactly. But it's with celebrities, we do the exact opposite. That's what we focus on. And it's really interesting because I don't have any children and I've never been pregnant, but I have struggled with my weight. I mean, we talked about that in the fat shaming episode. But there was an episode, there was an experience on a tube I was on once and I was just standing there and a woman was trying to get up and offer me her seat and she was like, oh, take my seat, take my seat. And I was like, no, that's okay. I can stand. And she was like, but you are pregnant. You should have my seat. And I was just like, um, I’m actually not
No, I just went to Nandos
I didn't even need to go to Nandos. This is just what I look like. But I think she was quite mortified. I found that quite amusing.
But then part of me is I think it's amazing someone offered you a seat in the tube. I think the civility there, I'm hats off to you, even if it means offending you at the same time. It's such a delicate issue, isn't it? Like guessing even with close friends, are you having a baby? Are you pregnant?
Well, it's really dangerous, isn't it? Because I mean, there are so many different things. There's people with body image issues because if you're calling someone pregnant and they're not, you're essentially calling them fat. There's also so many reasons why it could be bloated. I mean, it could be food. I have a friend who has polycystic ovary syndrome and she is not overweight, but she often gets this bloated stomach and she also has body image issues. And people have on several occasions asked her if she's pregnant, and it really upsets her. I mean, I'm at a place now where if someone asked me if I was pregnant, I would just laugh and say, no, this is just fat. But for a lot of people that could be quite upsetting. And then even if they're pregnant, they might not be ready to tell or they might have had infertility issues and they're going through IVF and that's making them bloated. So I mean, there are so many reasons why you shouldn't do it.
Yeah, and I was brought up, really, it was a taboo to really ask people unless they tell you, that was the rule of thumb. And like I said, it's such a delicate issue, you really don't know what's going on. And for celebrities just like us regular people, there are many reasons why you might not want to talk about it. It reminds me of this quote by Kate Smurthwaite, who's a comedian, writer and activist. And she says “there are many reasons why women might want to keep a pregnancy a secret such as medical complications that might lead to miscarriage or termination. And on the other hand, if these women are not pregnant and have merely put on a few pounds or decided life's too short for controlled knickers, the speculation is downright rude. Whether it's complimentary or critical, the message is clear. Women's bodies are public property.”
Yeah, I mean, I think that's a good point. And in fact, you can almost say that the media likes to out celebrity women's pregnancies and take that control away. And this actually happened to Mariah Carey in 2008. She was on Ellen and Ellen kept trying to bring up her pregnancy and this resurfaced again a couple of years ago in light of the bullying allegations against Ellen. And someone tweeted “let's start with when she pressured Mariah Carey into admitting her alleged pregnancy. It was clear that Mariah didn't want to share this since in the past she'd struggled trying to get pregnant. However, Ellen forced her to admit she was pregnant by making her drink champagne”. And another tweet said, “Ellen forcing Mariah Carey to drink alcohol in order to prove she wasn't pregnant. A short while later, Mariah suffered a miscarriage and that had to be public because of her.” And Carey since then referenced this in an interview with Vulture where she said “I was extremely uncomfortable with that moment, is all I can say. And I really have had a hard time grappling with the aftermath”.
That is so incredibly sad. And like you said, sarah, I remember that clip being replayed recently, and I just was really, that is so strange. It wasn't that long ago. Where there are different approaches to announcing pregnancies and dealing with potential miscarriages. I know there's the old rule of waiting till after the first trimester to tell people, and you know between 10 to 25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. And roughly 80% of these miscarriages occur in the first trimester. And for some women having to tell people they've had a miscarriage and deal with that, and attention is just too painful.
And I can completely understand that approach. And then you have this completely other approach where there are women who prefer to be open from even earlier than the first trimester. I mean, I actually read an article advocating for announcing pregnancies during the first trimester for various reasons. For example, it was the physical effects of early pregnancy, including morning sickness can mean that it can be helpful for some people to know in order to provide additional support. And for some people, even if they should suffer a miscarriage, they don't want to suffer in silence. And people knowing allows them to get the emotional support that they wouldn't have. But ultimately, it's up to each woman and each couple to decide how and when they share the news. And unfortunately, that doesn't seem to apply to celebrities.
And that's just dealing with the effect it has on outing women who are actually pregnant. But there are so many fake pregnancy stories. I mean, some celebrities have been pregnant with 30 babies if you were to believe the stories. For example, the Kardashians, Britney Spears, Jennifer Aniston, they've been regularly the subject of pregnancy speculation stories. And some of these celebrities have hit back at this inaccurate speculation. In 2021, Natalie Portman took to Instagram stories to address a false tabloid story that she stepped out seemingly with a baby bump. She responded with, “Hey, so I'm totally not pregnant, but apparently it's still okay in 2021 for anyone to speculate and comment on a woman's body shape whenever they want. Do better.”
And I mean, Jennifer Aniston, we've talked about her before, but she's been talking about this for years because she's been forced to. And she's dealt with so much speculation first of about whether she was pregnant. Like we said, she was pregnant every other week according to some magazine. And then there was a whole narrative that she'd selfishly chosen to put her career over her kids. And that's why Brad left her because she wouldn't give him any kids. In 2016, she actually wrote a personal letter to HuffPost dealing with this because it'd been going on for years at this point. And she said, “this past month in particular has illuminated for me how much we define a woman's value based on her marital and maternal status. The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I'm pregnant for the bajillionth time, but who's counting, points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they're not married with children”. Since then she's also come out, I think it was last year, and she did quite a big interview where she said “I was trying to get pregnant. It was a challenging road for me, the baby making road. All the years and years and years of speculation. It was really hard. I was going through IVF, drinking Chinese teas, you name it, I was throwing everything at it. The narrative that I was just selfish, that I just cared about my career. And the reason my husband left me, why we broke up and ended our marriage was because I wouldn't give him a kid. It was absolute lies. I don't have anything to hide at this point”. And I think she hits on a really important point about women being defined by their maternal status. Both you and I don't have children, and I think we've been on the receiving end of that.
Yeah, we've talked about it a lot, haven’t we. Especially because we've been friends during these, we sort of like, we met nearly a decade ago and these are the key years maybe, like..
The peak baby making years
Peak baby years. Yes. And you know that I absolutely love being around children and their energy, but I think I knew from a young age, it wasn't my path. It was never something that I craved like other people like I saw with other friends and my family that really wanted to be mums and have children. I think if you're ambivalent about something, it shows you don't really want it. And you know I said to you that I dreamed much more about having a dog. And I used to say for years to people that I was ‘Droogy’.
And they're like, what the hell is droogy? And I said, I'm broody for a dog. I really dreamt of having one sat on my lap by the fire with my person reading a book. And that was my dream. But the difficult thing is, is that, if you choose childlessness, and it's because you chose it, not because of other reasons, sometimes you feel like you have to explain and justify yourself a little bit to people. Maybe there's something a bit missing in you. Am I a bit selfish? All these things. But I'm very happy.
I mean, I've heard this from a lot of women who choose not to have children for whatever reason. For myself, I mean, I'm about to turn 40, but because I'm single, people don't tend to ask me, oh, are you going to have a baby now? Because I think it's something that once you're in a relationship or a stable relationship, people do ask more. I also have that similar ambivalence, but as someone who has been through mental health struggles, which I'm not saying you shouldn't have children, but there's an element where, I mean, I've sat in a lot of group therapy sessions where I've heard all the damage that people are sort of dealing with now because of parents who weren't really ready to have children. So I think that did affect me. So for me, I was always like, I'm not going to have a child unless I'm a hundred percent sure that I will be a good parent. And like you, you've got a dog, I've got a cat. She is my baby. Absolutely. I'm one of those embarrassing cat mummies who talks to her in baby voice and calls myself, mummy. So I don't even care. I feel like I am a mum.
Me too. I think we all do this secretly at home.
Yeah. Well, what I find so interesting is this idea that there's a right way and a wrong way, and everyone has to do the same. So it seems to me sometimes that certain people, if they've made a certain choice, and maybe there are doubts underneath it subconsciously, I don't know. But if you choose something different, it’s somehow they take that as an insult to their choice. Lik you are making them justify their choice by choosing something different. And there's an assumption that there's definitely a norm. I just find it so interesting that we're still being forced to, we're still being forced to justify why we haven't chosen to have children that we're maybe not equipped, ready for, or want. Because there's not, I mean, my mom used to always say, every child should be a wanted child. And so if you're not sure you want one, then it makes sense not to. You know, we've talked about orchestrated pregnancy reveals and unfounded pregnancy speculations, but there are actually some celebrities who manage to hide the entire thing. And they even just suddenly turn up with a child that’s one years old and no one knew about it. And I almost think that's what I would do in that situation if I could get away with it. For example, I read yesterday that Alexander Skarsgård and his girlfriend already have a baby now. I think they had it last year. I mean, I had a huge crush on him in True Blood. Riley Keough also had a child with her husband, and it was sort of revealed later. And then Grimes and Elon Musk also had, their second child was welcomed quite secretly, so people didn't even know until after the birth. So I mean, that's quite impressive, I think.
Yeah, and that seems like a really big trend. Like when Cameron Diaz sort of came out and she had a baby, like I said, Naomi Campbell, just all these people that suddenly just pop out with babies, you didn't even know they were pregnant. Do you think that celebrities spend their whole pregnancies afraid of it being revealed?
I can imagine they do. And that must be a really stressful way to spend a pregnancy. And it can be on one of two ways. Either they're wanting to go the whole pregnancy with, you know, in privacy, or they're wanting to wait for the pregnancy reveal at a very specific time to monetize it for the most impact. And that could be annoying coming out earlier, but ultimately, I mean, what a way to live your life. Yeah, it's not something I'd want.
So let's talk about Paris Hilton. She's just announced that she's had a new baby by surrogate. And then also Rebel Wilson announced that she had a baby via surrogate not too long ago actually. And speaking on her, This is Paris podcast, she said, “not even my mom, my sister, my best friend knew until he was over a week old. It was really nice to have that with Carter, be on our own journey together. I just feel like my life has been so public, I've never really had anything just be mine. So when we were talking about it, I really just felt that we wanted this journey to be just for us.” And someone wrote this comment on the mail online. “I totally understand keeping the surrogacy and birth a secret from the public, but her whole family, that makes me raise an eyebrow. Honestly, I would feel a little sad if my daughter or sister didn't tell me about a baby until a week after he was born. It would make me question how close we really were.” And actually, I would feel very sad because you do think that these moments of joy should be shared with the people close to you, right?
The rise of surrogacy means that there is a greater scope for hiding these pregnancies because you can't really, if you're pregnant, you can't, after about six months, you can't keep it a secret really. So it does seem to be something that's happening more and more now with this trend towards surrogacy, which seems to be quite a big thing in Hollywood. And it does happen in real life too. I mean, I don't actually know anyone in real life who's gone the surrogacy route, but there does seem to be a larger proportion of celebrities doing this. I mean, when you look at the comments, there are quite a lot of criticisms and an assumption that they're opting for this choice out of a desire to keep their perfect bodies because they don't want to put them through pregnancy or that they're approaching parenthood in as a process akin to shopping. You know, and they're just grabbing one off the rack. There's a daily mail comment that says “childbirth is a risky and unpredictable business at the best of times. I'm sick of the high percentage of celebrities exploiting less affluent women to have their babies for them. There are genuine cases who deserve a family through surrogacy. However, mega rich celebs need to start having their own babies.” And there was another comment on Reddit that follows on from this that said, “I think about this a lot too. As someone who can't have kids, I find it fascinating and multifaceted, but ultimately distasteful. Sadly, I think the industry puts too much pressure on celebs to maintain their money-making bodies. They have to earn enough money for an entire team of people. And I think over time, this madness has evolved to a point where secret or public surrogacy is easier than being sick for one to two years, or more if there are postpartum issues. And then there's another layer to the onion that some celebs and celebrity culture could be evolving to be more narcissistic, and perhaps they feel entitled to skirt the pains and toils of child rearing, outsource the pain, outsource the burdens, and call it progress. This is sort of what Grimes has done, in my opinion. None of them want to admit it, but it is the Handmaid's Tale in real life”.
You know what, I was really thinking of the Handmaid's Tale when you read that comment out. It's so chilling that that is the world we're going, and we are going to do this in a future episode about wellness and things being available just to the wealthy. It is a bit scary.
There also used to be a lot of criticism about the sort of elective c-sections, I think Posh Spice came under criticism, this idea that they're, oh, what was the phrase, too posh to push.
It's difficult because on one hand, you should be able to take control of your own body to make choices about your body, but there is an element where it's starting to feel like it's exploiting poorer women because you don't want that aspect. You don't want to deal with that aspect of upsetting your body. And not all as well, we don't know who's had fertility issues, who's had all these other issues. But there was definitely a spike, a large trend in in celebrity.
I don’t know if it's just my perception, but I mean, I was fitness mad in the nineties, but when you’ve got a hot body, you are young. But I think there is a huge deep-seated fear around wrecking your body when you have children. And I think as you sort of get older, you sort of like, well, maybe it's okay now because I'm not so bothered, you know.
Well, I think as well, we don't talk about the in, I was going to say the ins and outs, which is a really inappropriate phrase in this term, but the intricacies of pregnancy and how it affects women's bodies, because we just have these perfect sort of examples of - Oh, yes, and I popped out a baby and I was fine. But I remember this Graham Norton interview with Kate Winslet where she was talking about, she can't jump on a trampoline without peeing herself because she's had three babies, and that's just normal. And I was just thinking, that's really cool that she's talking about this on TV because people don't really talk about the less glamorous side quite so much. But it is a normal thing. Women have been going through this for millennia. Maybe if we normalised it and we weren't so obsessed with women having to be these perfect bodies, we wouldn't be so worried about avoiding what are potentially normal aspects of life.
Yeah, and there, well look, talking about The Handmaid's Tale, I mean, that comment that you just read touches on the idea of secret surrogacy. And there are definitely a lot of conspiracy stories out there when it comes to people being accused of faking their pregnancy. And I think the big one of our day was Beyonce. And you know, she was sort of like it completely hounded by the story that she'd not had her first baby. And there was all these sort of little YouTube clips replaying where she tried to sit down on a chair and you saw something quite slip under her dress. And I actually was genuinely shocked because I thought, well, why would she do that? She looks like to me that she had been, she was pregnant and she, why would she fake a whole nine month pregnancy? It just didn't seem to make sense to me. And it wasn't just the internet that went into overdrive, there was also Wendy Williams, she's the US chat show host, and she said, “what is that? Is that a baby bump? I don't know. I was on bedrest the whole time. I'm not exactly sure, but I can tell you when I would get out of bed and sit up at the kitchen table, I wouldn't be able to sit like that.” And at the time, it was really strange because everyone was almost like demanding that she prove her pregnancy, Beyonce, that she had sort of documentation that she’;d really been pregnant. I found that quite shocking.
It's almost like people are demanding that she have an exam live on TV or something to prove it. And I don't see why she could, why she should, I mean. There are so many reasons, there are optical illusions. Maybe she was, or maybe they were doing, I read another thing where they were saying maybe she was pregnant, but she was padding to throw the media off how far along she was, so that they could have a private, you know people weren't just on their doorstep when they thought it was due. It also brings up this idea that all pregnancies are alike. It's such a weird logic for me that someone goes, well, I couldn't do it, so therefore it has to be fake. But we were talking about how it must be awful wondering if the pregnancy is going to be revealed all the time. But imagine being pregnant with your first child and everyone's going, you're not pregnant. You're faking this. I mean, that's a lot to deal with. And it seems that we've almost reverted a couple of hundred years, to when, we were talking about this before, you and I, Queens of the past used to have to give birth in front of dozens of people, and specifically at the birth of the potential heir to the throne, witnesses were considered essential. The room would've been crowded with ladies and waiting midwives, servants, and doctors, and the male courtiers would've been hovering around in the background.
Oh, can you imagine?
Because they were afraid that unscrupulous monarchs would replace a dead baby with another newborn male concealed in a warming pan. So that's a little, I mean, that's going a bit far. But I suppose back in those days, you didn't have blood tests or anything like that. And in 1778, Mary Antoinette, she gave birth in front of an audience of up to 200 people. According to her chambermaid, ‘when the obstetrician said aloud, the queen is going to give birth, the persons who pulled into the chamber were so numerous, the rush nearly killed the Queen. Two chimney sweeps climbed upon the furniture for a better sight”. I've got to say, it's bad enough when you're having a smear test and a doctor asked if a trainee can watch, but to give birth in front of an audience,
Oh my gosh, I am just like that would be inviting my whole village to come and look at my, No, I mean, I mean…
Right? So especially if you don't have say over it. I mean, some people choose to have quite a lot of people there, maybe their mum and their partner and whatever, but that's a choice. I mean, she really didn't have any choice in that.
I really am probably going to go on a Reddit rabbit hole later googling this and sort of say, did she have a cloth to cover her little bits, or did everyone have to have a look? So anyway,
I mean, wasn't there a thing where they also used to almost have to consummate
Behind a screen, or everyone waited outside the door on the first night of marriage to make sure it was genuinely consummated, I mean,
Just the horrors. But it's strange, you know, that was hundreds of years ago, and we've almost returned to this. I mean, do you remember Kourtney Kardashian, she gave birth on her TV show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians. And there she was with the cameras in the delivery room.
Yeah, I saw that
Nearly every family member watching Kourtney give birth to her first child Mason, including khloe, Kim and her mum. They even filmed her pulling the baby out herself during the labour.
Yeah, I mean, it was quite, you are almost down the business end, as you want to say. It really was, I almost want to say invasive, but this was entirely at their choice. So it was a real inside scoop. It was an inside Scoop.
It was an inside scoop. Too many puns in this episode. But look, let's get into, I mean, because this is a picture, Mary Antoinette and then Kourtnety Kardashian. I'm trying to bring these two images together, like doing this. And let's talk about the psychology behind the pregnancy obsession. Look, I understand the motivation for historically being obsessed with royal births, but why are we so obsessed with sort of celebrity pregnancies?
Well, there's a lot of different elements and a lot of different theories. So Audrey Tan wrote on Lifestyle Collective, “when a celebrity announces they're pregnant, it can feel like a shared experience with someone we admire. Being in the baby club somehow makes the star more human and therefore more relatable. And since we've already invested in their lives, the pregnancy news can be exciting and heartwarming”. So it kind of humanises them. It makes them relatable. And it also taps into this idea of can we have it all? These are these super successful privileged people, are they also going to be able to have children? And if they can do it, maybe I can do it too. But the idea of have it all, I mean, it ultimately assumes that children are a necessary part of having it all, which somehow suggests that if you choose not to have them, you're missing out. It really reinforces this idea that women are expected to have children. And Phoebe Bronstein also writes, “the world still interprets a pregnant woman who goes out in public as an open invitation to remark on her appearance, offer unsolicited advice, and regulate her behaviour.” And I think the way that people approach celebrity pregnancies is in some ways just a more intensified version of how society often oversteps boundaries with pregnant women in general. I mean, there's often been that debate, and hopefully it's a lot less than it used to be. But when I was growing up, the idea that people would just come up and put their hand on your belly to feel a pregnant woman's belly, I mean a complete, I was going to say a complete fucking stranger. It seems so odd that we think we can touch a woman that we wouldn't normally, I mean, you wouldn't go up and normally just grab her. I mean, some people do, maybe.
But this idea that once you've got a baby, your public property, it’s so, it's such an interesting thing that we have. And Renee Ann Kramer, she wrote a whole book about this, and it was called Pregnant with the Stars, watching and wanting the celebrity bump. And in it, she asked the reader and the cultural consumer, as she refers to them, to recognise that the seeing, judging, and discussion of the baby bump isn't merely frivolous celebrity gossip. It is an act of surveillance, commodification and control. So the danger with this obsession and the judgement of celebrity pregnant bodies, and their need to bounce back because it's the phrase we hear a lot. It puts such an unrealistic expectation on non-celebrity parents who usually don't have access to the same resources and the support systems. It reinforces this idea of what womanhood should be and how we should do it in a sort of idealised way.
Yeah, you just have to go on Instagram and you see that whole thing about women returning as soon as possible to their previous body and sort of being in their bikinis. And I remember Jessica Simpson getting so much abuse for her pregnancy body, a celebrity ob/gyn, Dr. Solomon told Slate, “no one should ever look like Jessica Simpson. She's an absolute porker, I cannot believe how heavy she is.” You know, come on, this is a doctor who hasn't actually treated Jessica is calling her out.
I mean, I don't think any doctor should ever be saying that should be shaming people. But to go publicly and talk about someone you haven't even treated. And as we've touched on before, no two pregnancies are the same. Yes, I haven't gone through it myself, but I've seen friends and they've all had very different experiences. We're shaming people at some, at perhaps the most sensitive time in their life. I just find that so so careless doing that.
And actually, when I was going onto Reddit, there was actually forums dedicated to childlessness, and a lot of people were saying that social media and pregnancy are a total mindfield to navigate because it impacts people so differently, you know negatively and positively. And then they're saying things like, “we wish that we could block topics such as baby announcements and infertility and miscarriage content.” And I personally think it's sad to censor life and some of the biggest joys in people's lives. But it also, it can bring the deepest sadness in people. And one of the messages I read was “I've had to hide some infertility in pregnancy announcements, all the influencers with their perfect lives and babies. It's just too much. I wish they would invent a way to mute certain topics to safeguard my mental health and my emotions, basically.”
I completely get that because I mean, I wish I could stop weight loss stuff coming up on my feed. And I think they're, they're talking about being able to do this maybe for social media under the age of 18, because it encourages eating disorders. We can't avoid emotions in life. We can't avoid sadness. But if you are in a particularly sensitive state, like you've just lost a child, the last thing you want to do is have it rubbed in your face. So it's a very difficult and very potentially painful topic.
Yeah, it truly is. So Sarah, what are your final thoughts on this topic?
When it comes to pregnancy, everyone has an opinion. From how much weight you put on, to how you choose to dress it, to when you announce it, or whether you hide it, and even to what you name your child. And yes, it is normal to have an opinion. In fact, a lot of people look to public examples to get a sense of how we should be approaching life. And the discussions around celebrity pregnancies, they can act as a way of working out the expectations our society has on women and how we fit into them ourselves. However, what we have to ask ourselves is, are we just having an opinion or have we crossed over into policing women's bodies and abusing those that don't fit into what our society deems the correct way of doing womanhood? I mean, I'm a curious person myself. I often find myself wondering about other people's lives out of a fascination for just knowing. But at a certain point, it can be easy to forget that each person, including celebrities, is a unique individual with thoughts, feelings, and their own pain. Issues around fertility and motherhood can be such incredibly personal and sensitive topics. And in our quest to consume celebrity gossip, we can forget the human underneath. Each woman, each person has the right to make their own life choices. And this applies to motherhood and pregnancy, including the choice to not be a mother and get a cat instead.
Or a dog. And I'm going to end it with this quote from Michelle Pfeifer, as she said, “like all parents, my husband and I just do the best we can and hold our breath and hope we set aside enough money to pay for our kids' therapy.” Thank you for listening.
Thank you to our lovely producer, Emily. If you enjoy today's episode, please don't forget to leave a review and subscribe. It really does help us in reaching more people.
Also, you can follow us on Instagram at Straight to the Comments podcast. Our handle is @s2tcpodcast. And join us next week where we'll be diving headfirst straight to the comments. See you there. This podcast has been produced by Emily Crosby Media