When Beyonce first broadcasted her pregnancy to the world last month during the Video Music Awards, I was unable to muster up the usual excitement I have when a woman near or far celebrity or otherwise is pregnant. In fact, my response to the ”good news” was not G-rated. My strong reaction could be a direct result of the touching, harrowing and hilarious non-celebrity stories I had read during Labor Pains week here at Mommyish, or perhaps a personal reaction to what is now being commonly referred to as Mommyjacking the fine art of moms stealing another mom’s thunder at coincidentally opportunistic times.
I’m generally a demonstrative, overly-sensitive, touchy-feely, watery type. As such, when news breaks of a pregnancy or when I see a baby bump, a tear will suddenly appear from the ducts of my eyes; on instinct, I will be sheathed in a skin of gooseflesh while simultaneously experiencing a full-body chill. And before I seek permission to lay hands on the intended’s gorgeous belly, an impossibly wide grin will erupt all over my face. Clearly, I’m a little enthusiastic. Perhaps a tad over the top, you might say? Thing is, this is how much I literally enjoy celebrating other women’s birth announcements. Except when it comes to the pregnancy announcement buzz kill known as Celebrity Bump Watch.
Now lest you think I’m a hater, I’m not. I love Beyonce. I do, I do! She and I are like this. I would have invited her to my wedding if she wasn’t running the world in six-inch stilettos or shakin’ that ass. Le sigh.
All kidding aside, I’m just finding it very difficult to support the Hollywood pregnancy romance that perpetrates the idea that somehow the birth narrative created in the media is ”real.” Worse is that notion that certain celebrity women, some of whom I believe now procreate for media marketing purposes, deserve to be placed on a pedestal and worshipped for procreating; the idea being that somehow the progeny of these beautiful geniuses are the second coming. (Sorry, Shiloh Jolie Pitt, you are not the second coming.)
You may have been too busy fawning and preening over Beyonce fawning and preening over herself to notice that the VMA belly rubs were kind of extra, dontchathink?. But pregnancy amongst the late 20- and early 30-something hollyweird set is the new PR opportunity for a career that is lagging hello Jessica Alba or one that is riding an incredible wave of popularity (good day to you, Kate Hudson!). Now, knowing that these marketing media embellishments are designed to aggravate your inner insecurity, I will say this: ”some” of what we see is based in ”genuine” reality. Which isn’t quite the oxymoron it sounds. But the part where the groundswell of music closes off the film version is exactly where the real live narrative goes south.
The media, however, is relentless in perpetrating these myths. Recall the frenzied stories surrounding Sharon Stone and others who were having babies at 40-something. What the media neglected to tell us at the time was that Sharon et al weren’t actually having the babies themselves ”” the children were born via surrogate or adoption. The back story, of course, is that women who procreate at 35 or older run a higher risk of having babies with disabilities, not to mention pre and post-labour complications for the mother. Most women are aware of this. And the ”rule” generally applies to all, except, of course, Hollywood women with their blessed, golden female parts.
So why exactly is it that these urban legends continue to hold sway in our female hearts and brains? Supposedly the socio-pathology of our interest in celebrity pregnancies is based on the notion that we, the public, have an insatiable deep-seated desire to be like the genetically-blessed. That because we are wont to lust after their lavish lifestyles and lavishly displayed bodies, it means that we are somehow dissatisfied with our own personal lives and seek solace by living vicariously through them. When it comes to Hollyweird Women giving birth, we are willing to forego our lived realities to suspend belief and accept as gospel whatever they feed us. Which means that we should stop holding our collective breath waiting for this trend to end and brace ourselves for the onslaught of endless bump watches to continue.
Fortunately for the professionally-pretty, the media is convinced that we non-celebrity mothers and mothers-in-progress secretly covet the birth experience that they’ve designed for celebrities, and that we are willing and loyal consumers and participants in this tiresome parade. To this I call bullshit.
Recently I read an article where the author of a popular African American online magazine, who I presume is a Single Lady””and cue music!””proclaimed: ”One thing is clear, however: If anyone can balance the demands of a newborn and rocking a sold-out crowd, it’s Beyonce.”
To say that I almost hurled my coffee into my screen might imply that I have an anger-management problem. I do not. Or it might suggest that I have some ”other” more sinister reason to dislike the earth-angel known as Bey. Which is the other narrative the media has no trouble selling: Jealousy amongst women. This is not the case, either.
My problem with the ”Beyonce is Pregnant Narrative” is that the aforementioned author, and others, have willingly ignored, conflated and suppressed stat after precious stat that poke holes in the mythology of Supermomhood. Have women journalists not been reading the recent report on SAHM and the link to depression? Have they not read the report about the sacrifices Working Moms make in order to achieve that elusive thing called balance? Are they unaware of the ”wars” that call into question what we view as women’s work, not to mention the aggressive attacks launched at moms from the childless, and on.
What’s different, of course, is that because we are talking celebrities ”” Sarah Jessica Parker notwithstanding because, as you know, she’s starring in a movie about not being able to balance home/career ”” the narrative conveniently changes.
The previously un-pregnant Beyonce has been dubbed the so-called role model that young career women, ”policymakers” and African American single women are being encouraged to follow. Really. (Read Huffington Post contributor Kelli Goff’s piece here). The convenient, albeit dangerous assumption, of course, is that married, celebrity pregnant women and moms have Magical Vaginas and are more empowered and successful than you are. Especially if/when they’re pregnant. No one ever talks about the money and entourage and special treatment actors receive when it pertains to their privilege because we might come off as bitter. Thus, we must be clear that the argument is far more nuanced than that.
I don’t know about you but I’ve suddenly got a bad case of Hollyweird Pregnancy Fatique. I’ve reached a point where I’m supremely disinterested and disinclined to watch the carefully orchestrated Celebrity Bump Marketing Plan that involves picture-perfect visuals of a newly demurred and humbled celeb self-consciously rubbing her expanding belly. So, too, am I bored with the obligatory head-tilt pose showcasing a side-parted hair shot with requisite wide-mouthed smile showing off a perfect set of recently polished veneers. And, please, don’t get me started on the Hollywood Stylist’s version of a colourful flowing Moo-Moo, which is really a sophisticated ball gown for the rest of us. No thank you! Miseducation and the Hollywood Birth Narrative, indeed.