29 September 2007

Pregnant pictures

I just came across the work of a Chicago photographer who is documenting pregnancy with more than just images. Claude-Aline Nazaire, founder of Essential Blueprints, photographs women over their entire pregnancy in order to capture the shape of motherhood. According to a recent article about the company in the Chicago Sun-Times:

"A photo journal from her company, Essential Blueprints, costs $1,500 to $3,000, but mothers-to-be get the full treatment from Nazaire. She sets up photo sessions, both at her sun-filled studio in the Fine Arts Building and at clients’ homes, to trace the woman’s changing body; she conducts interviews for a DVD; she requests periodic journal entries; she photographs the family once the baby is born, and she incorporates it all — even ultrasounds — into a scrapbook, bound in Italy".

Nazaire started the company as a result of the death of her sister's 2 week old daughter realising that her sister was without very many memories of the baby's short life.

Nazaire thinks it’s important that women slow down to be “present” in pregnancy. “You’re transforming from a woman to a mother,” she says. “This is your time.”

I'm extremely interested in this business because it so closely models what I do in my work; asking women to reflect on their changing bodies at a time when most women do not have the opportunity to really speak candidly about being pregnant. As opposed to just having a few images to document maternity, this is an opportunity for women to create a sort of 'living' journal...

Sources: www.essentialblueprints.com

Nicole Ritchie's bump show

Us magazine has a created a slideshow documenting the 'evolution' of Nicole Ritchie's baby bump. Considering how thin she was, Ritchie's bodily transformation is pretty unbelievable.

Have a look: http://www.usmagazine.com/nicole_richie_baby_on_board_092807

27 September 2007

Birth: censored

I found this ad for a Sony Handycam in the Herald Sun Sunday magazine and I've been meaning to analyse it here because of the way it blatantly sanitises birth, presenting an experience of birth that is so stereotypical and traditional, it hurts my eyes to look at it.
I apologise if the image is difficult to see but in sum, Sony's selling point for this new video camera is that 'it captures everything'. At the bottom of the ad, it says:
'...you'll never miss any of life's precious moments'
and of course birth is supposed to be one of those moments. Anyway, this is what bothers me about this ad. The birthing woman is obviously Anglo and blonde, a stock-standard image of a 'normal' middle-class woman who is giving birth in a hospital. Her ostensibly male partner is filming the birth with his trusty Sony handycam. She is on her back in a hospital bed which is so far removed from a typical contemporary birthing experience. I don't know what you think, but most women I know and that I have interviewed definitely did not give birth lying on their back in a hospital gown covered with a sheet to hide her body.
Straight away, the ad conveys a message that birth is something that should be hidden and women's reproductive bodies are chaotic and in need of medical management. You might think I'm being pedantic but what really annoys me is the middle frame which says 'CENSORED": the frame which is supposed to show the birth of this women's child. The frame before the black one shows her 'pushing' and the one after is a blood-free perfect baby. Yet, the moment the baby emerges from her body is CENSORED because birth is clearly too offensive for the innocent eyes of the consumer. The baby is perfectly clean, there is no umbilical cord and no placenta. Everything particularly 'grotesque' about birth is sanitised for popular visual consumption.
This ad reminds me of those ridiculous tampon and pad advertisements which demonstrate the absorbency of a particular product with some bizarre blue liquid. GOD FORBID advertisers use a red liquid because menstrual blood is..well..red. I find it really offensive that women's reproductive bodies are used in both of these cases to sell products but made 'clean' by advertising in order to be sellable. Women's bodies are commodified for the gain of a huge corporation.

25 September 2007

Nicole v. Britney: baring their lady lumps

Due to popular demand (okay, 1 reader), I am going to talk about Nicole Ritchie and her bump. I've been avoiding it for a very long time now (as you might have noticed) but I thought this would be a good opportunity to say a few things about baby bumps and bikinis. Up until recently, being pregnant and wearing a bikini was simply not on. Sure, you're probably thinking...ever since Demi Moore pregnancy is sexy! Women can be out and proud with their bumps...

In reality, however, the exposure of the bump is still a bit taboo outside of Hollywood even though maternity fashion is tighter, a bit more low-rise and definitely low-cut. Wearing a bikini during pregnancy especially challenges conventional boundaries between the feminine body and the external world where the male gaze dictates the norms for feminine beauty, body shape and comportment. This is what led me to my thought about Nicole Ritchie. I am really surprised not to find crazy rants about how 'obscene' it is that a pregnant woman is wearing a string bikini when only a few years ago people went nuts over pictures of Britney Spears sporting the same duds (or lack thereof...) in the picture above in 2005 and again in 2006. Her body was described as grotesque: words such as 'fat' and 'gross' were used with reckless abandon along with suggestions that at almost 9 months pregnant no one wanted to see Britney's big 'fat' stomach.

Fast forward to Nicole Ritchie and her beach attire this week. According to all the newspaper articles from the past few days, Ritchie looks 'amazing', 'sexy' and everyone seems to be pleased that she is happily 'flaunting' her baby belly. There has been no mention of 'fat' or 'gross'.

So how can we explain these seemingly contradictory positions regarding the exposure of the bump?
One one hand, I'd like to think that the world is getting a little less conservative when it comes to the representation of pregnancy. However, I think that is giving a bit too much credit to progressive thinking. My feeling is that the way that these bikini-clad pregnant bodies are depicted in the media all comes down to celebrity status. As everyone knows, Britney Spears is public enemy #1 when it comes to motherhood. No matter what she does, Britney will eternally be known as the world's worst mother in the media. Nicole Ritchie, on the other hand, has garnered an inordinate amount of sympathy because of her 1) alleged eating disorder 2) her run-in with the law 3) her jail time.

Ritchie's pregnancy has completely changed her celebrity status. Since falling pregnant she has vowed that her life has totally changed; she wants to be a good mother, she is planning to get married and she has changed all of her previously 'bad' lifestyle habits to protect her baby. Therefore, her position as a 'good' mother in pregnancy is reflected in the comments about her body. Pregnancy is seemingly more beautiful and glorious and celebrated when the pregnant woman is seen to be a 'good' mother. Britney's body, on the other hand, is represented as 'unfit' and 'fat' because she is a 'bad' mother. Moreover, Spears’ image as a ‘sexy mother’ (unlike Nicole) suggests the ‘anti-mother’, in her physical subversion of cultural mores that make women sexless ‘good mothers’ who are completely focused on the well-being of the fetus. Britney is never depicted as actually caring about her children: she is irresponsible when she is pregnant and when she is not pregnant. Nicole's body can be 'sexy' because her behaviour marks her as a 'good' mother and this is tied to her willingness to set aside her desire to be thin and instead she has embraced a maternal, more feminine body.

24 September 2007

More Milla: peanut butter and bagels

Milla J is still doing press for the latest installment of Resident Evil. She talks to the Chicago Sun-Times about her pregnancy:

On exercise:
Honey, my bones seem soft now and my feet are killing me. All the physical training I've had to be a model and to do action films like 'Resident Evil' really helps. So I strongly encourage women who are even thinking about getting pregnant to really hit the gym before trying to conceive. It will still hurt to walk. No one tells you that part! But I can tell you that prior to conceiving get in your optimum shape. You will be glad.

On eating:
Hide the peanut butter! "I'm happy to tell all the pregnant ladies out there that I've gone from 130 pounds to 193 pounds. It's a lot of weight to put on quickly and I only have myself to blame," says Jovovich. "I could eat peanut butter sandwiches and bagels all day. I see no problem with it," she laughs. "Of course my doctor does see a problem with it. So I've gone cold turkey on the bread. I"m doing chicken and veggies and trying to be the healthiest mother.
"But if I could continue with the peanut butter, I'd be the happiest mom in the world!"

On weight gain:
I don't mind, but my mom keeps bragging, 'I didn't gain this much weight with YOU! I was skin and bones and just had a little bump.' Yeah, thanks Mom! How helpful! I'm trying to deal with that and how gorgeous she was and how -- get this -- she even wore heels when she was pregnant with me. Now, my feet have grown three sizes. They don't tell you that part, either. I can barely wear flip-flops. And now I have a whole new appreciation for my old body. Right now I can't get out of my stretch empire T-shirt dresses.

Source: http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/pearlman/569866,SHO-Sunday-5qs23.article

22 September 2007

Sex and the City pregnancy spoiler

If you are a diehard SATC fan like myself, you will be pleased to know that a certain someone is pregnant in the new movie currently being filmed in New York and slated for release in May 2008.
More than 100 bystanders watched as Charlotte (Kristin Davis) and Mr. Big (Chris Noth) filmed a scene outside of a Manhattan Italian restaurant, only to end with a trip to the hospital in Big's limousine as Charlotte's water breaks and she goes into labour.

Milla J tips the scales but feels like a 'real woman'

Milla Jovovich is still two months away from giving birth to her first child but says pregnancy makes her feel like a 'real woman':

“I think it’s so incredible to feel my baby moving. Just the whole feeling of being pregnant. I’ve discovered what it is to be a real woman, that’s for sure.”

She even writes about her weight gain on her official website:

"i am so huge you guys! i've gained almost 70 pounds in the last 4 months! It's unbelievable how quickly it all happened, all i did was eat three bagels every morning with butter, peanut butter and jelly all over them, a few boxes of crispy cream donuts for lunch and boom! i'm tipping the scale at 195! man, that came out of nowhere! lol! well maybe not completely out of nowhere! so now i'm completely going in the opposite extreme and eating nothing but chicken, fish and veggies with the closest thing to bread taking the form of oatmeal in the morning with just the teensiest bit of maple sugar to make it bearable... sigh! all i want is another box of donuts! well, only 8 more weeks to go and then hopefully i'll start to get back to normal".

According to Ok! magazine Mila isn't worried about dropping her baby weight:

"Milla isn't too concerned about dropping her baby weight after she gives birth, but is “pretty confident” that she’ll “be ready to go and make movies” by the spring.“I’m definitely not going to take it too quickly," she says. "I don’t want to do anything that’s dangerous for me or my baby."

Sources: http://www.millaj.com/new/index.shtml

20 September 2007

Over the moon? I'm over it.

Have you noticed that whenever a celebrity is pregnant, she or her publicist inevitably says that she is 'over the moon'? Isn't there a better phrase? And what if the celebrity in question actually isn't thrilled to be pregnant? Wouldn't it be nice if famous women could say what they really think without fear of being labelled a 'bad' mother?

Here is the evidence:

Halle Berry:
This is her first kiddiewink, and she and model boyfriend, Gabriel Aubry seem to be over the moon.

Jennifer Lopez:
"Becoming a mother is Jennifer's dream," a friend told In Touch. “She’s over the moon,” the friend added.

DJ Sara Cox:
"Me and my lovely other half, Ben, are completely over the moon and feel incredibly blessed."

Jodie Marsh:
“I’m just desperate. If I’m pregnant now by accident I would keep it and be over the moon.”

Sophie Wessex:
"She is feeling absolutely great and is completely over the moon about the baby."

Are you 'laser hot'?

According to Newsweek, the latest trend for American post-baby mums is surgery (which doesn't seem like a new trend at all). However, the term being used to describe the women who choose to erase the 'aftermath' of birth is laser hot mamas...a reference to the laser treatment used to by dermatologists to remove stretch marks.

Wow. According to an April 2007 survey by KRC Research (on behalf of Suave), out of more than 3,000 mothers, 67 percent said they would rather regain their pre-baby body than their prebaby sex life.

This does not necessarily surprise me but I think this poll is definitely misleading. Articles in the media about post-baby cosmetic surgery paint a picture that all mothers, regardless of race, class or sexuality, are running off to have their floppy bits removed. This is definitely not true. Clearly, this issue of plastic surgery is inextricably linked with being middle-upper class; we are talking about women who can afford to have surgery. Most women do not have the luxury (if you could even call it that) of having their stomach reshaped and their stretch marks removed. The 'yummy mummy' is wealthy, overwhelmingly Anglo and far removed from the life of the average mother.

I find this particular portion of the Newsweek article the most offensive:

“Hormones alone can wreak havoc on a woman’s body during and after a pregnancy,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a dermatologist in Omaha, Neb., and president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery. “And many of the changes hit older moms harder. In my practice, we’ve seen a 50 percent increase in the number of women seeking postpartum treatments in the last five years. And my data show that the largest subset is women in their 30s, when pregnancy takes more of a toll.”

I am sick to death of hearing doctor's describe women's reproductive bodies as being chaotic, unruly and in need of medical management in order to be 'normal' (e.g. like a man). Hormone's do not 'wreak havoc': in fact, it is those same hormones that actually allow women to have children at all. And why the need to perpetuate the myth that somehow once women age past 35, suddenly their bodies start to break down? Does pregnancy after 30 really biologically 'take more of a toll' on women's bodies or is it just the cultural perception that 'older' women's bodies are not as valuable as nubile 20 year old ones?

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20765597/

18 September 2007

Christina A: you aren't fooling anyone

Unlike the rest of the world, I didn't bore myself senseless watching the 59th Annual Emmy Awards last night. However, I have indulged my shameless desire to judge red carpet fashion and happily found a few snaps of Christina Aguilera and her mysterious bump. Interesting. She is probably one of the most photographed women at the moment and still has not revealed that she is actually pregnant. I think it's hilarious. It's fairly apparent from all of the photos that she is but the media is waiting with bated breath for confirmation. My guess is that she has already sold her story to some women's magazine for an exclusive scoop and won't reveal until publication. Anyway, she sang 'Stepping out with my baby' with Tony Bennett during the show. Coincidence? I think not.

I enjoy her cunning (in a not so cunning kind of way) use of bows and flowy fabric to 'hide' the glaring obvious.

17 September 2007

Mummy's little helper no longer requires batteries

According to the Houston Chronicle, it's all about nip and tuck when it comes to 'bouncing back'. Called a 'mommy makeover' in the US, more women in their mid-30s are having plastic surgery to rebound from the aftermath of birth.

Women start saying, 'Hmmm, I don't have to live with this body I've inherited from these kids,' "says Paul Fortes, a Houston plastic surgeon. " 'I don't have to be like my mother.' "

So basically, $30,000 and an unsettlingly high level of risk will get you 'back in your jeans' more comfortably. The debate about plastic surgery is not new for feminists but one that is only exacerbated by popular culture. When did it become okay for women to willingly subject themselves to be sliced and diced with veritable instruments of torture while they are unconscious and naked on a surgical table? And then of course, there is the recovery....swollen, bruised and bloody for many, many weeks.

Is this what the post-baby body comes down to? Why do flat stomachs have to be our only source of self?

Source: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/life/5133475.html

Scary Spice: on 'bouncing back' and baby weight

Rumours abound that Victoria Beckham has told her fellow Spice Girls to shape up or else in preparation for their upcoming reunion tour. According to the Sunday Mirror, Mel B (Scary Spice) has lost more than 2.5 stone since the birth of her daughter in April. Apparently the paternity suit with Eddie Murphy hasn't interfered with her 6 days per week workouts and in fact, started her workouts only 5 days after the birth, determined to shed the weight.

According to her trainer she's done it with a strict diet and exercise regimen using the Brazilian combination of martial arts and dance called Capoeira, traditional martial arts, yoga, water exercises, and lunges.

Her trainer, Joey Kormier says:
"Plus the right food and nutrition are vitally important. Everything Mel eats is organic, and she has flax seed oil, and salmon at least three a week, which help burn stomach fat."

Mel was 11 stone in pregnancy and is now back to 9 stone just in time for American's Dancing With the Stars.

Source: http://www.sundaymirror.co.uk/news/sunday/2007/09/16/exclusive-secrets-behind-mel-b-s-fab-new-figure-98487-19797529/

15 September 2007

Naomi Watts 'gets rid' of her baby bump

Naomi Watts has been endlessly quoted this week about motherhood in conjunction with the publicity she has been doing for her new movie, Eastern Promises. Of course, journalists are asking all of the same questions about weight loss, how divine motherhood must be for her and of course, whether her acting is going to take a backseat (again, why would it?)

Anyway, Kent News writes:

"The new mother told how she had managed to get rid of her baby bump only six-weeks after giving birth, she said: “In fact, I have been eating just as much as I was when I was pregnant because in order to produce breast milk you have to keep the carbohydrate going.

I found this intriguing. One one hand, a visible baby bump is praised on a celebrity when it is actually meant to be there but the minute the baby is born, it is assumed that the celebrity in question is trying desperately to 'rid herself' of the 'bump' as if it was a vestigal organ just sitting there with no purpose. The connection between the 'bump' and the 'baby' is entirely lost. The quote from Naomi Watts does not insinuate that she was actively trying to lose weight, rather she notes that she is losing weight because of breastfeeding. However, it is assumed that she must be trying to lose weight because a 'bump' is just 'fat' even though that same 'bump' represented her 'baby' only a few weeks before.

Source: http://www.kentnews.co.uk/kent-news/Life-imitates-art-for-Hollywood-star-Naomi-newsinkent5116.aspx

12 September 2007

Kim Raver: just a bump with no head

Kim Raver from the American show Lipstick Jungle has posed nude and 7 months pregnant for a new Vaseline ad debuting in the October editions of Vanity Fair, Vogue, Self and Glamour magazines. The quote at the bottom says:
'Pregnancy, in particular, makes you appreciate your skin and want to take care of it. I'm so that, as my body grows, my skin stretches and stretches. I'm in awe of how elastic it is'.
Of the ad campaign, Raver says:
'I feel a lot more comfortable getting naked than I do when I’m not pregnant'
Again, why is it necessary for women to be disembodied in advertising? Raver is just a belly with no head, an object to be looked it. She's not portrayed as a 'mother-to-be', she is a body on display. Strange that the quote at the bottom is meant to imply that she is 'talking' about her own body but her 'mind' and 'body' are quite literally disconnected by gaze of the camera.
And doesn't it break your heart that women can't feel good about their bodies unless they are 'big' for a reason?

11 September 2007

Britney Spears: faux pas or just fat?

Seriously. If I hear another balding, middle-aged male news presenter make another crack about how 'fat' Britney Spears looked at the MTV VMAs the other night, I swear I will have to throw down.
After two children, more power to you, Britney. At least your entire torso doesn't fit up my sleeve.

10 September 2007

Pregnant in Britain? Get paid to eat.

Well, we have now reached the zenith of our discussion about pregnancy and nutrition. Called the 'Health in Pregnancy Grant' According to the BBC News, British pregnant women will be paid £200 from 2009 during their 29th week of pregnancy as an enticement to eat well for their babies.

Whilst there is no way to establish whether pregnant women will actually spend the one-off payment on 'good' food, women who would like to receive the payment must visit with a health practitioner to discuss prenatal nutrition before receiving the money. The measure has been put in place as a result of high infant mortality rates among women of lower socioeconomic groups.

Sure it's great that the British government wants to implement a program to help undernourished pregnant women. Yet, it is very clear to me that the British government is more interested in 'saving babies' than helping women to maintain good health for themselves, first and foremost. How is giving women money to women just over 10 weeks before birth going to make that much of a difference? If pregnant women cannot afford to feed themselves well during pregnancy what will happen after the baby is born?

There are a lot of factors that contribute to low birth weight and maternal diet is only one of them.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6984122.stm

08 September 2007

Pregnancy stripped bare with Damien Hirst's 'Virgin Mother'

Controversial visual artist, Damien Hirst has done it again. With his latest installation in Lever House in New York and another virgin..er I mean...version standing tall at the entrance of the garden at Chatsworth for the 'Beyond Limits' exhibition, 'The Virgin Mother' is turning out to be one of Hirst's most confronting and some would even say 'grotesque' visions of pregnancy. Inspired by Degas' 'Little Dancer', the exposure of bones, muscle tissue and a fully grown fetus captured inside a very pregnant body, leaves me with mixed reactions.

I hesitate to call this a pregnant 'woman' because the exposure of this body, stripped of its skin and visualised is not a 'woman'. This 'woman' is completely disembodied strangely reminiscent of the ways in which reproductive technology has opened up the once hidden recesses of a woman's uterus for biomedicine. Whereas pregnancy was only evident through quickening and known only to the woman herself, today we live in a world that is endlessly visualisable. Fetuses can be 'seen' only a few weeks into a pregnancy and treated surgically inside the womb before they are even born. This sculpture is confronting to say the least and a significant challenge to the fantasy world of celebrity pregnancy where the pregnant body is treated as a sexual object. Here, Hirst strongly connects with early anatomical visions of the pregnant body, most of which represented only a torso and exposed uterus, with no reference to the woman herself.

Curious title. Quite obviously there are religious undertones here. Perhaps a reference to increasing technologising/bioengineering of 'life'. Is IVF is the new immaculate conception?

06 September 2007

Charlize Theron doesn't want to look like a whale

Charlize Theron apparently wants to be a mother but doesn't want to lose her body......

Well, at least she's honest.

"Getting pregnant doesn’t excite me, but having kids does. I know I’ll be a mother someday. It’s just that… I don’t really want to look like a whale, you know? But I’m sure the idea of something growing inside of you is pretty powerful.”

Source: http://ok-magazine.com/news/view/1116

Shedding weight during pregnancy: not a good thing

This is why making the prenatal nutrition guidelines more stringent in dangerous. This woman was on a 'weight loss' eating plan throughout her pregnancy:

Even though her midwife told her she could stay on the plan (she had been losing weight before falling pregnant for a second time after the birth of her first son) because it was just 'healthy eating', I still find it disturbing that she was not on the plan to 'eat healthfully', she was on the plan with the intention of losing weight.

05 September 2007

Paris Hilton: knocked up by next year?

Paris Hilton is in the mood.

For babies that is. Nicole Ritchie has done a complete 180 since the announcement of her pregnancy and despite the fact that she was on drugs and starving, now that she is approaching motherhood, the pregnancy glow has done wonders for her media image. Apparently Paris thinks pregnancy can turn her life around too.

She is 'preparing her body for motherhood' and according to a 'source' said:

'I want lots of babies and a more simple life away from the celebrity spotlight. I did a lot of soul-searching about my partying and then I heard Nicole was pregnant and I decided it's time for me to grow up and take responsibility - and the best way to do that is to become a mother.' "

Who knows if she actually said this but since when did motherhood become the easy answer?

Mother does not equal Madonna. All we need now is for Lindsay Lohan to announce that she's in the family way and all three jail birds can share their sordid tales of sex, drugs and rock-a-bye baby.


Nicole Kidman: miscarriage or miscommunication?

Everyone is talking about Nicole Kidman's recent interview with Vanity Fair magazine where she apparently 'bares all' about Keith Urban and the miscarriage she had when she was married to Tom Cruise. As all of the gossip websites are onto the story and publishing tidbits of the interview, Us Magazine published the headline:

Nicole Kidman: I Miscarried Tom’s Baby'

This makes me so insanely angry. As usual, blame the woman. First of all, Nicole Kidman never says in the interview 'I miscarried Tom's baby'. This headline makes it seem as though Nicole's body was inadequate to carry a pregnancy to term. Nicole is the source of blame as if she had the power to control whether she would miscarry or not. Furthermore, why is the fetal death referred to as 'Tom's baby'? Was Tom pregnant? Since when is it 'his'? Just because he was the 'father', why wouldn't the headline say that she miscarried her own baby?
None of us have any idea how Nicole Kidman felt about this pregnancy. Did she think of it as a 'fetus' or a 'baby'? We don't even know at what stage in the pregnancy she miscarried but the use of the word 'baby' makes it seem as though she and Tom lost a 'child'. In fact, Us says:

"In a revealing interview in the October issue of Vanity Fair, Nicole Kidman admits that she and Tom Cruise lost a baby early into their marriage."

I think this is really misleading and unnecessarily sensationalistic. It's great that Nicole feels secure enough to talk about her experience openly but it is unfortunate that emotive language has to be attached to her miscarriage and even more so, this article basically suggests that she failed in her reproductive duties as a woman because she was unable to carry a pregnancy to term.

Maggie G: agent provocateur

I've just had a glimpse of Maggie Gyllenhaal in the new Agent Provocateur ad campaign which she shot 6 months post birth and of which I alerted you to a few posts ago. Maggie looks like you've never seen her before (even though she did become famous by appearing in a movie about S & M). Serena Rees, co-founder of Agent Provocateur, believes Gyllenhaal “is not an obvious sex symbol. She wasn’t worried about her body at all. Maggie is proof that life doesn’t stop once you have a child.”
Um, why would it?

Anyway..whilst I think it's fantastic that an unconventionally beautiful actress like Maggie is enjoying the limelight in lingerie, I am slightly unsettled by the appearance of Maggie in handcuffs in one of the photos. It's one thing to be sexy and playful, but it's another thing to even playfully suggest that handcuffing women is 'sexy'.

Im not trying to suggest that consensual S & M can't be fulfilling or feminist or empowering for some women, but the nature of these images makes it difficult to decipher whether Maggie 'wants' it or if she's just the object of a heterosexual male gaze? Why isn't Maggie handcuffing a man?

04 September 2007

Eating for one or two?

Well. It's been a few days and I've had a think about everything that people have been posting about prenatal nutrition and exercise. In fact, that's pretty much all I've been thinking about because I've been trying to finish a chapter on this very topic in my dissertation this week.

In a nutshell, pregnancy is experienced differently by all women and popular culture does not make it any easier for women who are constantly bombarded with contradictory messages about how to 'do' pregnancy in 2007. On one hand, pregnant women are encouraged to 'eat for two' because having a large maternal body has always been a sign of fertility and historically symbolises a mother's selfless devotion to the unborn. Women are socially rewarded for participating in eating behaviors that contribute to the development of a large maternal body. Whereas it is socially unacceptable for non-pregnant women to eat excessively or to eat large quantities of food in public, in pregnancy, eating a lot of food has been highly regarded. Historically, in order to ‘naturalise’ the gendered division of labour and the relegation of women to the ‘private sphere’, the denial of the self and the feeding of others became inextricably linked with cultural constructions of motherhood.

On the other hand, doctors are now suggesting that pregnant women should not gain too much weight and should be even more vigilant when it comes to consumption. Although pregnancy is culturally and biomedically defined as a time when women are supposed to selflessly surrender their bodies and by proxy, their appetites, to the well-being of the fetus, most women are extremely aware of the impact of ‘eating for two’ on the postnatal body. Even though the tenets of acceptable female body size are redefined in pregnancy, pregnant women are not absolved of the overall maintenance of normative femininity. Although previous sociological and medical research argues that pregnant women are not required to submit to the normative standards of feminine beauty as objects of a male gaze and are liberated to gain weight and eat excessively, as the recent spate of comments on this blog suggest and many women in my study acknowledge that eating excessively in pregnancy only make its harder for women to conform to societal expectations that they look exactly the same as they did prior to pregnancy after birth.

With the new biomedical view that pregnant women should monitor their intake of food even more closely to the effect of consuming only 200-300 extra calories per day, the worry is that many women will swing too far in the opposite direction and actually start to ‘diet’ or develop eating disorders during pregnancy.

A new study from the UK suggests that pregnant women are under so much stress in the transition to motherhood, many women are more likely to develop eating disorders:
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The Baby Bump Project by Meredith Nash is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.