. . .and What it Means for Childfree Women
Okay, Purple WomenTM . . .I have a challenge for you! Open any newspaper or magazine, browse any Internet gossip site. See if you can find any articles, interviews or pictures regarding celebrity moms and their pregnancies or babies.
That wasn't much of a challenge at all, was it?
We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture, no doubt about that. So is this fascination with celebrity babies a harmless offshoot? Or is there a more disturbing implication? And what does it mean for childfree women?
Articles about who's "infanticipating" and "yummy mummies" abound. We're bombarded by up-to-the-minute reports about every single detail of celebrity reproduction, no matter how trivial or boring or personal: weight gain, pregnancy cravings, who's trying for a baby, who may be pregnant, who was "too posh to push" and who wasn't.
My head will explode if I have to read another gushing article along the lines of "Motherhood is the best thing that's ever happened to me/it's the most unconditional love you'll ever feel/I loved being pregnant/I was wearing my size zero jeans three weeks later/I cycled home after the birth," etc. (Okay, so I exaggerated the last part but at the rate things are going, it wouldn't shock me).
So why does this obsession with celebrity pregnancies and babies bother me so much? Shouldn't I just dismiss it as superficial-yet-harmless fluff? Can't I tell myself it doesn't affect me and forget about it?
Except it isn't harmless. And it's a fantasy that's portrayed as reality - with insidious, far reaching consequences. I'm willing to bet that the average woman's experience of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood is a million miles away from the way it's portrayed in glossy magazines.How many times have you read an article speculating as to whether or not a female celebrity is pregnant? The speculation seems almost frenzied if the woman does not have children. It never seems to occur to anyone that maybe said celebrity is perfectly happy and likes her life just the way it is.
How many times have you read an article referring to a female celebrity, no matter how successful and significant in her field, as mother of (insert number of children here).
As if that is all she is. As if that is all that matters. As if woman automatically equals mother.
The underlying message seems to be: it doesn't matter how successful you've been. Life has no real meaning or value unless you reproduce. You'll never be truly happy or fulfilled until you do. Oscar-winning actress? Nobel Prize winner? Astronaut? CEO of a Fortune 500 company? That pales in comparison to what society considers your real worth, your greatest achievement: your ability and willingness to reproduce.
In 2008, is the most interesting, worthwhile, laudable thing about a woman her womb? And that is what I find so disturbing.
This has implications for childfree women, too. Most Purple WomenTM know what it's like to feel isolated from time to time. Chances are, we've all thought "Am I the only woman in the world who doesn't want children?" when yet another friend/relative/colleague announces their pregnancy. We've all probably found ourselves in work and social situations where we're the only women in the room who don't have or want children.
Most Purple WomenTM know what it's like to feel dismissed or belittled from time to time. The myth that a childfree woman is less mature and less responsible, less feminine even, than a childed woman persists. All this celebrity baby mania means that a childfree woman is isolated and dismissed even further.
I'm stating the obvious, I know, but Purple WomenTM are savvy enough to understand that motherhood has always been romanticized. The thing is, motherhood is practically a fetish now and that should concern us, because there's something frighteningly regressive about it.
It's very worrying that this celebrity baby mania/mother worship is happening now - at a time when women's reproductive rights are coming under increased attack on a global basis.
Coincidence? I think not.
So what can we do?
First, I think that we can take a step in the right direction simply by casting an objective eye over the portrayal of celebrity motherhood/celebrity baby obsession. Let's recognize it for what it is: idealized fantasy. We are not media dupes, after all.
The harsh reality of what pregnancy, birth and motherhood can do to a woman's mind and body is not what sells magazines. Most of the general public are not interested in that - they want and expect the Hallmark card, not the real thing.
So the next time you come across a "Kodak moment" article or picture tell yourself that it's exactly that.
- We can remind ourselves that giving birth does not mean you will become automatically whole and wise and instantly adjust to the role of mother.
- Happiness and satisfaction will not be achieved by caving to societal pressure.
- Happiness and satisfaction will be achieved by staying true to ourselves.
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