January 22, 2008

Celebrity Baby Mania

By LynnS
Regular Contributor
Ireland, U.K.

. . .and What it Means for Childfree Women

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.

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.
Then again, if you're a Purple Woman, you already know that.

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chicanaskies said...

I love reading this blog. It is nice to see a community (albeit an online community) of like-minded people.

l.m. said...

Hurray for the truth. I keep wondering: Will these celeb mom's continue to coo after the photoshoot's over, and go on to raise the children well for a lifetime, especially when the baby's behavior isn't as fun and cute? First they had tiny designer dogs, now they're making children into designer objects. Heaven help the child when they tire of it, or it falls out of fashion. Thought provoking article.

Kathy said...

Amen. Right now the media is treating this celebrity baby boom as the latest hip accessory, like an iPod or a Blackberry.

Miss Q said...

Not only is this annoying, but it's dangerous. very, very dangerous. Think about it: if being constantly exposed to photos of skinny models can cause teenage girls to develop an eating disorder, just think what the pregnancy hype could do!

Britgirl said...

Celebrities are like magnets - and that is when they are not courting the media attention.

What they do and what they say makes $$millions for certain sections of our society who are insatiable for for any action/s on the part of celebrity breeders.

Example or not, people (who probably want kids anyway regardless of whether they are parenting material and want any reason) want to read about the celebrity kiddies et al. goodness knows why, it's utterly boring to me. But I'm not their demographic.

Halle Berry is latest front page celeb complete with bulging tummy, looking radiant of course ( for the record she announced a while back that all she wanted was to have a baby with her latest beau). I'm just waiting for her to pose nakedly pregnant like the last celebrity fluff. That pic will be worth dizzying millions. Sad.

But then, I have only one word. BritneySpears. Oh, pardon, that's two words.

LauraS said...

Great post Lynn. I was in line at the supermarket reading the hilarious tabloid headlines when I spotted a celebrity magazine which had devoted their entire front page to a montage of celebrity moms-to-be.

I too wonder what the long-term impact of this mommy worship will be? I'm a committed childfree woman, but what if I was a infertile woman, or a single wannabee mom, or a sexually active thirteen-year-old girl?

Anonymous said...

It's like the media's trying hard to market a "product" -- certainly the celebs are "product" as their doings make so much money for the media, but more and more, I see a relentless pushing of the Joys of Motherhood (tm) as a Product Every Woman Should Want. And why should this be? It wouldn't be to help create more and more Little Consumers for our materialistic society, would it? Hmmmmmm...

When hubby and I got groceries yesterday, just about every woman's magazine and tabloid I saw on the stands had a pregnant woman on it, caressing her bulging belly -- or a picture of a celeb with a bulging headline declaring her determination to become pregnant.

I find the trend frightening, too. It's gotten ridiculous, IMO. The illusion of it, the slick marketing of Motherhood as a Product -- it speaks to me of regression and of devaluation of women as individuals, each with her own proclivities, dignity, and self-determination.

In a word: YUCK.

Stepher said...

I am sick to death of those breeding celebubrats. Yuck.

I also associate the breeding trend w/eating disorders:

Look how thin so-n-so is; I should skip dinner.

Oh, so-n-so just had a baybee; maybe I should have a baybee???

Dena Celeste said...

*shudders* It seems the kidlets are being popped out right and left on Planet Celebrity. It's kinda worrisome to me. Not just considering the trend of divorce and custody battles that those poor 'lets will have to go through, but the constant barrage of media exposure. Do we really want a whole horde of Britneys and Parises? i pity them, honestly.

LOL, and to anyone who wants to see how ill-equipped most parents are to raise kids...catch an episode of Supernanny or even the reality spouse-swapping shows. It's fascinating. Yep, those are reeeaal mature folk there. Popping out three kids more when they don't even know how to raise one.

G-d help us. Still, i remain steadfast. i have enough responsibilities. i don't want more. Now that's maturity, to me.

Thanks for a fascinating blog post!


unwelcome child said...

Unwelcome Child

Great article. Another example of greed, as in I want it all, no matter what the consequence. The acting profession is an inherently narcissistic endeavor; it really is a cut-throat business and those stars didn't get to where they are today by being selfless and putting aside their ego. A child, especially when it becomes older, needs to feel they're primary in a parent's life, and I just don't see how that can happen given how difficult it is to remain at the top of such a self-involved profession. Of course, some have done it: Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep, Jessica Lang. But you'll also notice those women no longer have much of an 'on-screen' career anymore. In my opinion, they have done the right thing by putting the primary focus on raising their children. Of course, it could also be due to the fact that the entertainment industry wants nothing to do with women over 35!

I love you Purple Women!

Miss Kris Dove said...

Amen to that!

Another thing I think is worth mentioning, your average celebrity has it far easier than an ordinary woman in terms of finances etc- so they can afford to do many things which make motherhood a lot easier, for instance finding childcare at the drop of a hat, and they can afford to have cosmetic surgery done, or hire a dietician and personal trainer to get their pre-pregnancy figure back extremely fast. Most new mothers don't have those luxuries.

Anonymous said...

Lynn, the article was interesting, but I think you are clutching at some straws here. Yes I completely agree with the media obbession breeding celebs. It is truely disgusting, it does feel like some agenda pushing. inclined to womens global decline in fertility. i don't see. It is false, any representation of parenthood in magazine newspapers are nearly always misrepresentated. What concerns me the most, is these rag mags are filling young impressionable girls heads, all their self esteem comes from producing a baby. I read a womens mag. Were young women 19-25 years old, slept with lots of men without contraception for the purpose of a baby on a one night stand. I was really shocked, not by the women conduct, but the mag produced this article. For some young women, finding who they are, takes a long time, and lets face it, this is a society for instant gratification. The baby is seen as a instant gratification. Oh I feel bad about myself, I know I will have a baby. Its sad, very sad. What are young women being taught these days. Self esteem is not one of them. However there are wonderful role models. To name one Beth Ditto. A feminist, sassy self loving, large sized talented pretty woman, front woman for rock band Gossip. Am so glad there are some role models that young girls can look up to. And older women can approve of.

Lynn said...

Anonymous, I make no mention of a global decline in infertility. I was referring to reproductive rights such as BC, sterilization, etc.

Lynn said...

Whoops, I meant to say "fertility". My bad.

Anonymous said...
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Lynn said...
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Anonymous said...

My thanks to Lynn for "defending the patch", but I don't want anyone to feel the need to be on the defensive in this space.

Lynn's topic of celebrity "bump watch" has triggered some strong feelings. Good. That's the way to spur a good debate, however, the Golden Rule on this blog is "keep it clean, not mean". I deleted the comment below Lynn's final word because the tone was wrong, not respectful.

I deleted Lynn's final comment as it would have looked a bit odd hanging out there all on its own.

Then I deleted my comment because, well, because I can. I get the last word this time!

I think we have successfully explored this topic. Comments are now closed.

Thank you LynnS for this stirring post.