31 October 2007

Amanda Peet: a pregnant nightmare

Of her pregnancy, actress Amanda Peet says:

"The second I found out I was pregnant, I got out of a chair stomach first. I literally was a nightmare. I was like a princess. I was like a pig in s**t. "I was like, `Get me more food, get me my bags, let me go home early,' and then, `Look at my big boobs, look at my big bum. Aren't I delicious? "I ate peas about five nights a week with 10 pounds of butter and 10 pounds of salt. I was so excited that my craving was so healthy until I realised it was the butter and the salt I was craving."

Wow. Pregnancy must have done wonders for her marriage.

Source: http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/article/pregnant%20peet%20was%20a%20nightmare_1048133

Eva Herzigova: back in shape

Eva Herzigova is back in shape only 4 months since giving birth according to People.

"Nature has a way of taking care of things. If you have a certain figure you'll go back to it," the Czech model revealed at the AmfAR fundraiser in Rome. "Breastfeed and don't worry about it."
Hmm. If only every mother had the metabolism of a model (or is that just a disguise for starvation?) and the pressure to return to the catwalk..

30 October 2007

More statistics that piss me off.

Apparently, the most fertile women in Australia are women in their 30s according to reports in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. In particular, women between 30-34 are fuelling the 'baby boom' bringing Australia's fertility rate to its highest level in 12 years.

This is not the statistic that pisses me off. In fact, this comes as no surprise to me personally considering the bulk of the women in my study are between the ages of 30-34 and a good number of my cohort are older than that, between 37-40. This can be attributed to a number of positive social changes: 1) more women are educated 2) more women are waiting to get married or enter a long-term partnership 3) more women are employed in the paid sector 4) women can 'control' (for want of a better word) fertility more easily

This statistic really pisses me off:

"...Victorian women are real laggers in the younger ages and there has been a substantial fall in fertility rates among 20-year-olds over the last five years," Dr Birrell [a demographer] said.

Isn't that a good thing? For once, certain women feel confident enough be positively selfish and put themselves before motherhood; to establish a career, become financially stable, gain life experience. And yet, now people want to complain that 20 year olds are not having babies any more?

Has anyone been reading the British newspapers? Teen pregnancy is the new black of moral panics. They are sucking off the welfare system. They are irresponsible. They are 'bad' mothers. Young pregnant women have never been well-received. In fact, wasn't it the 'young mothers' of Australia who were blamed for selfishly getting pregnant only to receive the Baby Bonus? And now people are complaining that 20 year olds aren't getting pregnant fast enough? Instead of positioning the growth of 'older' mothers as a great thing, the tables are turned against women for wanting to be better human beings in waiting to have children.

This is the kicker:

"Fertility Society of Australia spokeswoman Anne Clark warned that the decision to defer motherhood could have serious implications for national population growth: "This is not good news, because fertility levels change for women in their mid-30s and for men after 40, so you are going to have a lot of people pushing it to have more than two children."

Seriously, the boring adage that women's reproductive capacities completely deteriorate at 35 is so ridiculous and only reinforces the nature/culture binary which has plagued the representation of women's bodies in medicine for the last century. If women's bodies are positioned as unruly and chaotic, it is so much easier to justify that the minute a woman is 'old' she is no longer useful and this become a perfect means of social control. It's like 'Have a baby before 35 or else you will dry up, like the useless vessel that you are'.

I don't think any woman over 35 is not blinded by the cultural 'ticking' of her 'biological clock' . But if it means that more women can have full lives by waiting to become mothers (especially young women) then that seems like a great trade off to me. IVF has not become a default mechanism for late parenthood. IVF is so expensive it is definitely not as popular or easily accessible as the media would like us to believe. Women are not selfishly waiting to become mothers to screw over the nation; they are selfishly choosing to put themselves first, a rarity indeed.

Sources: http://www.smh.com.au/news/parenting/baby-boom-for-thirtysomethings/2007/10/29/1193618837109.html

Being yummy costs money

Here are some frightening statistics:

British mums are spending close to £6 billion a year on Botox, beauty treatments and body conditioning in an attempt to regain their pre-baby figures.

They spend an average of £939 buying the latest baby accessories and treat themselves to a £123 makeover after giving birth - making a total of £1,062 each.

In the survey for the online bank Egg, a third of mothers admitted they felt pressured to buy designer items such as Bugaboo prams, which can cost up to £599.

More than one in five said they bought designer gadgets or the latest technology for bringing up baby.

Twelve per cent bought designer highchairs, 8 per cent splashed out on designer baby clothes, and 7 per cent bought bespoke furniture.

Almost nine in ten (87 per cent) had their hair styled and bought new clothes after the birth, and a small number admitted to having botox injections or employing a personal trainer.

Around 15 per cent said they had visited the beautician shortly after giving birth.

This is my theory. As a result of women having children later in life (mid-late 30s) children have becoming increasingly precious and commodified. Mid-life mums have more money to spend and also tend to be more worried about regaining their pre-pregnancy identities after having a career for so many years prior to motherhood. As I said in a previous post, clever companies are taking advantage of middle-class mother anxiety by selling as many products as they can to assuage the guilt associated with having a body that doesn't 'bounce back' or a baby that isn't lavished with the best, most desirable designer duds. Coupled with a celebrity culture that makes 'bouncing back' look easy, the pressure to return to 'normal' and 'thin' is now the only way that many women feel they will regain their sense of self. When you think about it, 'yummy mummy' is the antithesis of everything we associate with motherhood. The classical maternal body is supposed to be self-sacrificing, asexual and pudgy. YM's indulge themselves, wear short skirts and look thinner than they did before they became mothers.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=490309&in_page_id=1770

26 October 2007

Milla weight update

Another update from Milla from her website:

"hey everyone! just thought you might enjoy seeing the progression of my physical downfall! LOL! these three pics encompass the over 50 pounds i had to gain to achieve my present unbelievably svelte figure of 191! i think i did a great job getting here and the journey has been a gastronomical pleasure!
i also added a pic of me in the nursery! of course now that i've set everything up, i won't let my daughter touch anything! its way too cute just the way it is! just kidding! kind of. but seriously, babies want to play with the box that toys came in more than the toys themselves! thank god. not cause i want to play with them myself or anything! what do you think, that i would buy my daughter toys and then not let her touch them?! how could you say such a thing?! i'll let her play with them! when she's like 18! LOL!"

Source: http://www.millaj.com/from/index.shtml

Milla J weight update

Milla Jovovich has just posted a new entry on her website about all the hype about her cravings and weight gain along with some great photos:

"i have noticed that my weight has been a hilarious subject with many people recently and my cravings as well! lol! you will all be glad to know that i have evened out at an astronomically well proportioned 191 and feel very confident that if i continue having minimal amounts of tiramisu (about 3 servings every second day) and cutting my sprite intake (to about 4 cans every 3 hours) i should be totally fit and ready to have this baby! lol! JUST KIDDING PEOPLE! (i'm sure someone will print this quote without the "just kidding" part of course! but how would people sell their magazines without the selective honesty of the press! well, honesty is SO overrated anyway! i mean, give me a juicy gossip column any day! puhleaze! lol!)

i'm totally serious about the balancing out at 191 thing though. my doctor is very proud of me and to tell you the truth, i'm proud too! it's just that food tastes so darn good when you don't deaden your taste buds with tobacco! i feel like i discovered some ancient secret of life and happiness or something! but it's all good, as soon as i am back to my normal super hero standard, i'm gonna go to kfc and get a box of 10 biscuits, stop at my local market where they make the most unbelievable fried chicken (cause kfc chicken is just bad karma), grab half a chicken and eat it all!!!! this is seriously what i fantasize about these days! lol! but it works! as long as i know that at some point i can do that, i stay on my boneless, skinless, grilled chicken and veggies torture regimen."

You might like to revisit my last Milla post where I talk about what I think her cravings mean:

Source: http://www.millaj.com/from/index.shtml

Trista Sutter wants to be skinny *sigh*

3 months postbaby, Bachelorette star Trista Sutter wants to get down to 106 lbs and back into her size 26 Hudson jeans according to the latest issue of Us magazine.

“I’m definitely not pleased when I look in the mirror,” admits the 5-foot-2 star, who now wears a size 4 and weighs 116 pounds. “When I fit into my size 26 Hudson jeans, then I’ll be happy.”

But why 106lbs? Women like Trista Sutter have forever been burdened by the feeling that 'If only I were..two sizes smaller, was married, beautiful, taller, had a smaller nose--the list goes on and on---I would be happy'. Altering our bodies has become the only solution to (literally) fitting into the normalised feminine aesthetic that women are valued for maintaining. Fitting into size 26 jeans is not what makes women like Sutter 'happy'; women are 'happy' when they lose weight particularly after birth because it means they are able to reconnect with a former, familiar 'self' that is seemingly lost in the transition to motherhood. Body dysmorphia colonises women's ability to focus on the true sources of their problems and instead all of this anxiety is managed by controlling or disciplining the body. Particularly after birth, women have never felt more attached to their stomachs.

Sutter continues:

"My friend said that when I came home from the hospital, I’d be back in my old jeans. Fifteen pounds did fall off immediately, but the fact that it’s been three months and I’m still not in them is a bummer.”

What bothers her the most?

“My belly. It has a layer of fat, which, of course, your body has to put on, but it’s blubbery and I hate it. I want to be able to go bathing suit shopping for a vacation and not feel totally disgusted…I just don’t feel good in a lot of my clothes.”

It's amazing that women expend so much energy thinking about their stomachs. As Eve Ensler writes in The Good Body, it's our 'most serious committed relationship'. Flatness and tautness is evidence of containment, self-control and discipline. Wobbly bits are nothing less than failure. And when we start to lose sight of the world, our in Sutters's case, who she 'is', our stomach is the easiest body part to try and control.

Apparently her husband, Ryan, monitors her intake to keep her on track. This bit makes me really sad for her:

"If I eat something that I shouldn’t, Ryan shakes his finger at me and says, ‘Uh, uh, uh!’ He’s been awesome, 100 percent supportive. He watches Max when I go to the gym and is constantly saying that I look great. But when you don’t feel good about yourself, you don’t feel like you want to be intimate. I want to feel, and look, sexy again for him. Even though he is being nice and saying he’s still attracted to me, I want to feel like he’s telling me the truth and not just saying it because he’s a good husband.”

Women are 'bad' for eating things they 'shouldn't and in this case, Sutter's male partner is involved in monitoring her behaviour which only emphasises the fact that she feels out of control. I wish she could say that she wants to feel 'good' and look attractive for herself and not live up to someone else's standards. If only a woman's sense of self did not reside in her appearance, perhaps women wouldn't have to constantly be fixing their bodies. And the sad part is that women like Sutter are not pathetic or stupid for wanting to lose weight. As Susan Bordo argues, women know the routes to success in a world fixated on thinness and beauty and they are not 'dopes' to pursue them even if their personal happiness is at stake (1993: 30).

25 October 2007

4D ultrasounds: fetus v. mother

If 4D ultrasounds are your thing, you will be amazed by Phillips new 'Presentation Bump' 4D ultrasound integrated scanning 'belt' which was introduced to the world this week in London from their Simplicity Concept Collection. This new technology is presented under the 'Celebrating Pregnancy' concept as a way of making ultrasound experiences less clinical and more 'playful'.

According to Phillips, this new ultrasound would take place in 'The Pregnancy Room' with ambient lighting for optimatl 'fetal viewing'. Expectant parents would be shown a series of images on a 'tummy-shaped wall' to demonstrate how the fetus has grown and ending with the current scan. Parents then have access to 'The Bebescope', a wireless portable device onto which the regular scans, including the baby’s heartbeat, are uploaded so that they can be reviewed at home. By imitating the imaging specialist’s hand movements on the Presentation Bump, parents use the Bebescope to move backwards or forwards in time to view a recording of their baby’s growth, or simply rotate their ‘virtual’ baby in any direction for the view of their choice.

I find the idea of scanning yourself at home a little too 'Brave New World' and this invites a whole host of problematic disjunctures medically and culturally between mothers and fetuses. A fantastic tool for bonding, clearly, but in the long run, I think it is hard enough for women to negotiate pregnancy in cultures that constantly implore that the fetus is the more important subject. Now that fetuses are becoming 'babies' earlier and earlier in pregnancy, the idea that women will be 'playing' with their 'virtual baby' from the outset, makes my skin crawl. When did pregnancy become a game? The safety of multiple ultrasound scans in pregnancy is still unclear, women scanning themselves or having multiple scans is highly unethical and threatens women's autonomy.

Source: http://www.newscenter.philips.com/about/news/press/20071023_simplicity_concept_collection.page

23 October 2007

J.Lo and her bump

Well, it's official. I mean not really 'official' but J.Lo's body is definitely betraying her secret(s?)

See for yourself at Us magazine: http://www.usmagazine.com/see_jlos_baby_bump

22 October 2007

The increasingly commodified pregnancy

As more women are waiting until their mid-30s to fall pregnant, as you have probably noticed, the sheer volume of pregnancy/birth companies awaiting the middle class mother-to-be to rip out her chequebook and start spending up big is staggering. For every year that a woman waits to have a baby, ostensibly she earns more money so it's not wonder that the children's market is worth about $10 billion per year and is expected to double in the next 5 years. According to The Times, a new British pregnancy/birth planning company is attracting attention for the services it can provide to well-off mums like a bump 'showing' package which includes an at-home styling session, maternity bra-fitting consultation, plus a treatment for £250. Why do intelligent career women need someone to come into their homes to help them try on bras? Are women just spending their hard-earned cash because they can or are companies preying on middle-class motherhood anxiety?

Source: http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/body_and_soul/article2694036.ece

19 October 2007

More, more, more Milla J: are cravings fact or fiction?

It's funny how the media is so fickle in choosing which celebrity preggo to pick on from one week to the next. It was only a few weeks ago that our dear Milla J fessed up to stuffing her face resulting in the 70+ pounds she has packed on with little more than a month left to go before her first baby is born. We haven't heard any baby mammoth comments about her increasing proportions until today.
Milla J 'confesses' to Britain's glossy Grazia that she has a new relationship with food in light of her decades long stint as a stick figure model in which coffee, cigarettes, and alcohol were the building blocks of her food pyramid. Of a recent stay in Paris, Milla says,

"My friend and I went round Saint Sulpice cemetery, where French royalty are buried. On the way back, I said to her, 'Let's eat like kings!' I was craving bone marrow one day, and I scoured the whole of Paris searching for the leg of a cow. When I finally found what I was looking for, I cut it in half, digging out the yellowish substance, slathering it all over bread."
Of her modeling diet, she notes:

"Before I got pregnant, I really didn't care about food. I saw it as fuel, not something to sit down and enjoy. As an actress and model, I lived on cigarettes and coffee, and jet-lag tended to kill off any appetite I had.

And now that she's pregnant, oh how the tide has turned:

"My diet for most of this year has been - for breakfast, four eggs with bacon, toast and butter, if I was at home. Then if I was at a diner, I'd have a Mexican omelette, a stack of pancakes and strawberry milkshake.
"I'd stuff myself with cookies all morning - whatever was in the cupboard really - then I'd have a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts for dessert. And I once ate two whole packs of coffee cake in one sitting!"

Perhaps a bit excessive but isn't it refreshing to read about a celebrity preggo that actually eats and isn't ashamed to say it?
It actually doesn't surprise me that Milla J is eating enough for a small army. In my own work on pregnancy cravings, I argue that whereas women are usually condemned for eating ‘junk’ food when they are not pregnant, pregnant women are often absolved of resposibility for their ‘bad’ eating behavior because they are ‘eating for two’ and are allowed to ‘give in’ or indulge their cravings. Milla's weight gain is evidence that she is allowing herself to actually establish a pleasure-driven relationship with ‘comfort’ foods. Whereas she might not have eaten junk food (or any food at all) pre-pregnancy because of its association with weight gain and given her career as an incredibly succesful model/actress, in pregnancy, the 'inevitable' weight gain liberates her food choices.

Before you start shaking your head, I'm not discounting that there are no actual physiological cravings for food in pregnancy. There's plenty of research to support that (hello, pica?!). I'm highlighting that Milla J is totally aware of her eating behaviour and is attuned to her eating in a way that cultural discourses suggest that pregnant women indulge their ‘cravings’ unreflectively or passively. She knows full well why she indulges her ‘cravings’ in pregnancy and has already said that her latitude in eating is justified because, ultimately, her weight gain in pregnancy absolves her, within reason and for a limited time, of the slim body ideal most women of the world aspire to achieve throughout their lifetime. Pregnancy is really the only time in her life (or in the life of any woman, for that matter) when she can be 'fat' and happy. Pretty sad realisation, isn't it?

Great article in The Guardian on Milla's weight gain and celeb pregnancy:

18 October 2007

Tori: famous for her weight loss...and well, not much else

Oh Tori. You are the bad $3.50 latte that I drink anyway just because I need the caffeine.
Of her Nutrisystem weight loss program, she says:

"I was terrified! I thought, 'Oh my God! I can't be so strict. I can't be on flavourless food, tiny portions. What am I going to do? Am I going to starve to death?'"

Not only are you thinner than you were pre-pregnancy, at least you haven't lost your charm.

17 October 2007

Looking at pregnancy with 'new' eyes

I just read a great article in the Guardian about a formerly anorexic woman who is now pregnant and she discusses how being pregnant has changed her view of her own body.

'Pregnancy has been a release into a body that feels happily beyond my control. I've watched it grow and transform. I've looked at it in the mirror and been fascinated by it. I'm much more interested in nourishing my baby than caring about what dress size I am...'

Source: http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/wellbeing/story/0,,2192063,00.html

Also in more post-baby body news, according to Us magazine, Samantha Harris, co-host of America's Dancing With the Stars has returned back to work just three weeks after birth. Harris admits she started back into her fitness regimen just two and half weeks postbaby

"My doctor said it was OK," she said backstage at last night's show in L.A. "So I slowly went back to a yoga class one day, a sculpting class one day and a cardio-sculpting class another day. But I’m taking it easy. I’m not trying to drop the weight fast in any capacity."

Source: http://www.usmagazine.com/samantha_harris_0

16 October 2007

Bump watch and British maternity

As usual, your latest installment of 'The Bumps that Ate Manhattan' from Us magazine:

I also enjoyed this bit from the Huffington Post comparing the relatively progressive British maternity system to the faltering system in America:

At the moment, I can't bring myself to weigh in on the drinking in pregnancy debates...I've done that before...that is, unless my dear readers would like another post devoted to the topic. In Australia, the latest is that pregnant women should not drink at all. Period. I'm interested in what you think...did you drink?

Eva Herzigova and Tori Spelling: bikini bodies

Eva Herzigova: gained 11.3kg, lost 11kg 4 mths since birth
How she lost the weight: good health and a positive attitude (riiight)
Eva says, 'I'm not thinking about getting back into shape. I just want to enjoy this. I'm not one of those celebrity people who'd die to get back into shape'.
Sure. Your career only depends on it.
Totally Tori: gained 18kg, lost 16kg 7 mths since birth
How she did it: food delivery dieting program, hard training one month after birth
She says, 'I'd have days where I'd feel really proud of my tummy and walk in front of a mirror and be amazed by it. And I'd have some days where I felt like a whale. I gained weight in places that I didn't know I could.
Oh yeah, the outfit? She was hosting a Pussycat Dolls show.
Source: NW, 15 October 2007, p.25

Brooke Burke and Jennifer Garner: bikini bodies

Jennifer Garner: gained 20kg, lost 16kg 22 mths since birth

How she lost most of her weight: a sensible approach

She says 'I got on the treadmill, stopped stuffing my face and lost the weight. I cut out croissants, bagels and muffins- all the good stuff - and went back to having a salad once a day and protein'.

Brooke Burke: gained 13kg, lost 8.5kg 9 months since birth

How she lost the weight: a diet of low-carb meals, protein shakes, and *scowl* Pilates

She says, 'At 35 and having my third baby, I didn't know if I was ever going to get back in my bathing suit'.

Source: NW, 15 October 2007, p.24

15 October 2007

Jaime Pressly and Mel B: Bikini bodies

Jaime Pressly: gained 14kg, lost 14kg 5mths since birth
How she did it: intense 7 day detox diet inluding 3 days of cabbage soup to bring weight fown to 57kg
Hmm. That sounds healthy!
She also hit the gym for 3hr cardio sessions, 5 days per week only days after the birth.
Pressly says, 'I needed to get back to my shape. I had a closet full of jeans I couldn't wear'.
Mel B: gained about 15kg, lost it all with plastic surgery
One months postbaby, Mel B enlisted the services of a plastic surgeon to have a third breast job, tummy tuck, liposuction and Botox as a result of her commitment to be on the American version of Dancing With the Stars
Mel B is now trying to lose 15kg through diet and exercise.

Gwen Stefani and Jordan: Bikini bodies continued

Gwen Stefani: gained 18kg, lost 18kg 17 mths since birth
Gwen Stefani says, 'I worked out with my trainer throughout my whole pregnancy until about two weeks before. I cried during my last session. It was crazy.'
How she shaped up: Gwen was back in the gym straight away building up to 1000 sit ups per day.
'I gave myself three months [to get into shape]. But if I didn't have an album coming out, there's no way I'd have got back into shape in that time. I worked out with my trainer five days a week, with weekends off. I like going to the gym and lifting weights or doing a little boxing'.
At least she's honest.
Jordan (aka Katie Price): gained 14kg, lost 15kg 5 months since birth
Jordan was back into a bikini only 10 weeks since the birth of her daughter by eating 'healthy' meals.
Source: NW, 15 Oct 2007, p.21

Bikini bodies after baby

Oh man. It has been a long time since I've actually purchased a tabloid, but when I saw this week's NW I couldn't resist. The topic?

Bikini bodies after baby
Revealed: how Hollywood mums get back in shape so fast

So of course, I pounced and scanned the article for your viewing pleasure. Not only does the article have some amazing pictures, but this is the first time I've seen a magazine provide a sort of inventory as to how much weight each celebrity gained, number of months since birth and weight loss since birth. The pictures are clearly not enough of a 'ranking' system in themselves, the numbers are meant to tell the 'real' story.

Geri Halliwell (gained 15kg, lost 18kg since birth)
How she lost the weight: personal trainer using boot-camp style fitness program
According to a friend, 'Her stomach's so flat, it's hard to believe she's ever given birth'
Source: NW, 15 Oct 2007, 20-7

12 October 2007

J.Lo's bump: the mystery continues and no one cares (or everyone cares?)

I'm not sure why every media outlet is paying such close attention to J.Lo's womb. Perhaps it's her seemingly 'barren' status that get everyone all a twitter with the slightest suggestion of tummy swelling. However, much like Christina Aguilera, whenever J.Lo does announce her pregnancy or her body starts to betray the most poorly kept secret in Hollywood, will anyone even care? For the time being we are stuck with every news outlet analysing every flowy dress she wears, all of the vaguely discernible sightings of a 'baby bump'. Even Us magazine says 'She is pregnant' on this week's cover. The world is waiting with bated breath to know if the woman famous for her junk in the trunk is holding precious cargo.

The New York Daily News has a few ideas as to why J.Lo is keeping mum:

10. After the poor reception of her other collaborations with Marc Anthony, she's not releasing this baby.
9. She's waiting for the announcement cards to be rhinestoned.
8. Versace doesn't make maternity wear.
7. She's only releasing a Spanish-language version of the child.
6. She wants to spite Marc Anthony's ex-wife, Dayanara Torres, for spilling the beans before she could. No one steals Jen's baby thunder!
5. She's nervous the kid won't be as cute as Violet Affleck.
4. She's worried the bump will detract attention from her booty.
3. It's important to know the sex before designing her own line of velour onesies.
2. She did announce it. She did it in a song from her new album. What? Didn't you listen to it?
1. K-Fed is the father.

Source: http://www.nydailynews.com/lifestyle/2007/10/11/2007-10 11_theres_a_reason_mums_the_word_from_momst.html

11 October 2007

Tori Spelling and her 'new' body

Yeah. Tori Spelling. Holy freaking cow.
Accoring to Life & Style Weekly:
When svelte new mom Tori Spelling stepped out during New York Fashion Week, onlookers assumed her amazing mommy makeover involved a few nips and tucks. But Tori tells Life & Style that since the birth of son Liam, now 7 months old, she hasn’t taken any surgical shortcuts to regain her hot body!
“It all happened from my NutriSystem diet,” says Tori, 34, who receives the program’s daily deliveries of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. And keeping focused has been key. Pal Bill Horn says that over Labor Day weekend while her friends ordered french fries and cheeseburgers, “Tori whipped out her packaged NutriSystem snacks — she didn’t have a single french fry!”

10 October 2007

Pregorexia: eating for one?

We spend alot of time talking about the cultural pressure for women not to eat for two on this blog..but what about the pregnant women barely are able to eat for one?

I know it's not a quality (or even very reliable) publication, however, today in The Sun, two anorexic pregnant women are profiled and their stories are pretty horrifying. It bothers me that these anorexic women are treated like spectacles or even 'freak shows' in this particular tabloid. However this article highlights that when it comes to pregnancy, neither anorexia nor obesity is accepted as an appropriate response to motherhood. Yet, in both cases, overeating or undereating, desire (the desire to eat or not eat) is at the root of both problems.

Although most people who have never had an eating disorder cannot imagine not eating whilst growing a baby, the women in the article are represented as though they are proud of their abilities to transcend their hunger on one hand, but on the other hand, they are both extremely concerned for the safety of their future children and even their own health. As their bodies seem to be out of control in pregnancy, anorexia is the only way they can be in control. In fact, historically, anorexia has been theorised as feminine protest; a means by which women resist the limitations of the ideal of female domesticity and separate themselves from their mothers.

In Unbearable Weight, feminist scholar Susan Bordo (1993:160) argues:

Women may feel themselves deeply attracted by the aura of freedom and independence suggested by the boyish body ideal of today. Yet, each hour, each minute spent in anxious pursuit of that ideal (for it does not come naturally to most mature women) is in fact time and energy taken from inner development and social achievement. As a feminine protest, the obsession with slenderness is hopelessly counterproductive.

In pregnancy, women take up more space (literally). The anorexic is always convinced she is taking up too much space. Pregorexia is perhaps the most extreme cultural example of the fear of motherhood and the fear of bodily bigness played out on the body through a sort of internal self-mutilation.

Sources: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/real_life/article314257.ece
Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993.

09 October 2007

Halle Berry: blah blah blah

Excuse my cynicism but I find Halle Berry's constant glowing exhortations about how magnificent it is to be pregnant a bit unsettling (almost as unsettling as the relentless surveillance of J.Lo's womb). Surely, she is excited to be having a baby. That's great. However, I find this recent comment from People absolutely ridiculous:

"There's no bad," the Oscar winner, 41, said Sunday at a press gathering for her new movie, Things We Lost in the Fire, which opens Oct. 19. "There is nothing bad about it. The morning sickness and the vomiting and the hot sweats. Nothing's been bad about it. I've loved every second of it," she said.

Find me a woman that loves to puke without warning and I'll start to believe that there's nothing 'bad' (or at least marginally inconvenient) about being pregnant. It is one thing to be completely 'over the moon' (cringe!) with the idea of becoming a mother. It is another thng entirely to suggest that the physical signs of pregnancy are not at all inconvenient as if Berry is so worried about being perceived as a selfless, 'good' mother she could never even admit that some physical aspects of pregnancy can be wonderful and even (shock! horror!) terrible. I am yet to find a woman (in my research or otherwise) who has 'loved' every physical experience associated with pregnancy (particularly the more unpleasant ones). Seriously, it's like saying that a Brazillian wax doesn't hurt or slamming your hand in a car door is fun and you would do it again.

Even though I'm sure Berry never intended someone like me to read so deeply into her verbal diarrhea, I think this sort of statement reinforces the idea that women must be pregnant (physically, psychologically and emotionally) selflessly; that they must embody 'goodness' at all costs and never 'complain' like obedient little women. It does not do justice to the enormous physical burden (that's right, i said 'burden'..I think housing another human for 9 months and then pushing it out is physically taxing...and I doubt many women would argue) women endure. Pregnancy is like having a full-time job in addition to the full-time paid work most women do daily except being pregnant (or being a mother) is not recognised or valued as 'work'.

Berry actually contradicts her image of 'goodness' or 'selflessness' later in this particular article by saying:

"I crave things daily. It changes every day, and I try to listen to my body and not overdo it so I don't become too big."

Clearly, 'bigness' or 'fatness' are negative aspects of pregnancy for Berry. Women are not supposed to take up too much space. Whereas vomitting and nausea associated with pregnancy are constructed as being out of a woman's control in early pregnancy, eating and body size are perceived as being within her control. Becoming 'too big' for Berry would suggest that she is not a mother that is in control of her body or her life. Berry does not identify her fear of fat as something particularly negative because women are supposed to be consumed with thinness and body size. Of course, Berry doesn't want to get too 'fat'. That's just part of being a 'woman'.

Source: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20151100,00.html

08 October 2007

Lindsay Davenport: on bouncing back (on the court)

Here we go again. Why is it always a surprise that a professional female athlete can remain at the top of her game as a mother?
"Just three months after the birth of her first child, Davenport became an instant and almost shocking success".

What is shocking about Lindsay Davenport serving it up to some of her most challenging opponents post-birth considering her widely held status as a 'natural athlete' with a 'lethal groundstroke'? Who is sounding the death knell of the careers of professional female sportswomen just because they fall pregnant?

This is not a new story. The critics sang the praises Jana Rawlinson (who did a 30 min run on the day she gave birth) upon winning gold last month in Osaka after many months of speculation that she would give up her sport. Paula Radcliffe, world champion marathon runner, was similarly subject to whispers that her desire for competition would wane as soon as she announced her pregnancy. At the time, Radcliffe said:

"What has surprised me most is that people ask if I will carry on competing," she said. "This is especially surprising, as I have said I want to carry on until 2012. And this news means it is more likely rather than less likely that I will do that."

Rawlinson, Radcliffe and of course, Aussie marathoner and winner of Commonwealth gold, Kerryn McCann have all proven that mothers can still win races.

So why are sporting critics consistently surprised that someone like Lindsay Davenport would be unable to continue achieving in tennis?

"Now she returns as a devoted, full-time mom, those punishing groundstrokes still intact. Embrace the sight while you can".

Give me a break. Davenport has many, many years of experience and 'natural' talent. Pregnancy actually gives professional female athletes a bit of a break from their hardcore training and their bodies can rest so it is no wonder that so many women come storming back into their favoured sport, renewed and energised by motherhood. Professional athletes are supposed to be selfish, obsessively devoted to training and with a vision only of winning. Mothers, in contrast, are seen as being antithetical to athleticism. Represented as selflessly devoted to their babies, 'soft' and hormonal, the thought that a professional athlete could revive her body from the 'trauma' of pregnancy and birth is a constant source of discussion for all the majority of male sports writers.

Lindsay Davenport didn't have her arm cut off. She had a baby. Get over it!

06 October 2007

Hot Mamas?

Us magazine has yet another slide show documenting various celebrities and their pregnant/post-baby metamorphoses asking: Do these stars look sexier pregnant?

Hmm...I don't know about sexier...perhaps just slightly less skeletal?

Of pregnancy, Heidi Klum says, "You have to indulge in food, but I've never really had that big of a problem to lose the weight afterwards."

We know, Heidi. Trust me. We know.

Source: http://www.usmagazine.com/hot_mamas_100107

I love a hypocrite: Mylene Klass

Remember when Mylene Klass said this during her pregnancy?

'When the baby is born, she says there will be "no faddy diets, none of that nonsense. I'm as prey as anyone to images of super-skinny women, but it's important that women see someone who's normal. I'm 5ft 5in and I've got boobs and a bum...'

Well apparently, Klass has lost her baby weight only 6 weeks since giving birth. According to the Daily Mail, she embarked on a 'vigorous exercise regime' in order to 'bounce back' in time for her upcoming TV appearances.
'Her trim physique and glowing complexion are the result of gruelling gym sessions with her personal trainer, including long runs on the treadmill and stomach crunches'.

According to her friends, she has been working off her weight with a 'vengeance' ever since.

Now, she's a celebrity. Part of her job is to look beautiful and fit. This is a reality for many famous women. What really annoys me is that during the pregnancy she felt like she had to say what everyone wanted to hear: 'I dont care about losing weight' 'It's totally unrealistic' 'I'm a 'normal' woman' BLAH BLAH BLAH

And now, she has gone off and worked out like a maniac like every other celebrity. Why can't these women just tell the bloody truth? 'I'm a celebrity. People pay me to look good. This is an unfortunate side effect of the job'.

Women are not stupid. Pretending that 'size doesn't matter' isn't doing anyone any favours. Frank and honest admissions of the tyranny of beauty and slenderness post-birth that mothers around the world are subject to is at least a way to admit that all of this stuff about achieving perfection is pretty ridiculous and yet a huge number of women are increasingly participating in these regimes of bodily discipline. Where is the resistance in conformity even if most mothers know exactly how she is feeling?

If someone asks her how she lost the weight and she says 'pilates' I will dry wretch.

Sources: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/showbiznews.html?in_article_id=485433&in_page_id=1773


The shape of a woman: change over 50 years

In my last post, I noted that women's bodies have changed significantly over time. In answer to a reader comment, I thought I would address this. Normative images of 'beauty' and slenderness have shifted in popular representations in the media as most of us know, however, I was referring specifically to the changing shape of women's bodies (quite literally). The bulk of this research comes from the fashion industry which has for the most part, ignored the changing shapes of women's bodies and which is in part responsible for how hard it is for most of us to buy a pair of jeans that fit. The truth is that clothing manufacturers are still designing slim-fitting clothing based on the ideal womanly body of the 1950s, the hourglass. Only 8% of women in the world today have this figure.

In a study by researchers at North Carolina State University, 6000 women's bodies were analysed over a period of 2 years. As a result, the researchers 4 body shapes which now seem to be the most prevalent among women:

1) rectangular: waist less than 9inches smaller than hips/bust---46% of women

2) spoons: bottom heavy, or 'pear shape'---20% of women

3) inverted triangle: bust is at least 3 inches larger than hips--14% of women

4) hourglass: equal hip and busy measurement and narrow waist---8% of women

The 'inverted triangle' shape is particularly pertinent now as a result of cosmetic breast-enhancing surgery which signifies a shape that is not influenced by diet or exercise, whereas the first two 'shapes' are affected by weight gain.

Another study of British women found that the average woman's waist has expanded 6 inches since 1950. The average woman today is taller and has a bigger bust and hips. Most of these changes are attributed to lifestyle.

Check out this post from the Diet Blog, for a visual representation of the changing shape of women's bodies:

05 October 2007

Post-baby butchery

I pity the silly Californian plastic surgeon who says this about the post-baby body, according to the New York Times:

“The severe physical trauma of pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding can have profound negative effects that cause women to lose their hourglass figures,” he said.

Dr. David Stoker and his colleagues at Marina Plastic Surgery Associates (MPSA) only highlight a disturbing and ever-growing trend capitalising on the butchery of post-baby bodies. Called a 'mommy makeover' the MPSA website plays on women's bodily insecurities with their slogan 'Embrace the feeling of a being a woman' as a ploy to encourage women to have their bodies cut apart and fat sucked out with the promise of being a happier, better mother.

Before people start writing in and saying women can choose to have surgery if they feel the need, well, hold on because I am not judging anyone's choices here. My problem with the 'mommy makeover' is that it introduces medical management and pathologises the post-baby body as a problem to fixed. Furthermore, it implies that the only way women can ever be fulfilled is if they have an 'hourglass figure' (which by the way, is pretty much disappearing as women's bodies have so dramatically changed shape over the past 40 years).

The post-baby surgery makeover is framed as an empowering haven for women who 'hate' their stretch marks and excess 'fat' and also primes women for anxiety about their 'shameful' bodies. This is a particularly dangerous construction because empowerment and liberation are actually equated with intense scrutiny of the post-baby body. Women now must have a perfect birth, be a 'good' mother and show no physical signs of having experienced the process. As mothers are juggling working with motherhood, this post-baby surgery ploy is just another 'shift' in which women need to negotiate their body image and 'bouncing back' as if it was another job. Even more unsettling is that the exaggerated importance of having a perfectly slender post-baby body guarantees men an unimpeded brand of female sexuality and in a number of ways masculinises women's bodies by allowing them to slip in and out of 'reproduction' without even breaking a sweat. Using surgery as an answer to women's bodily anxieties only creates beauty hierarchies among women: the attractive alpha mothers who 'bounce back' are always on top because they are beautiful and fit and the 'fat' 'unattractive' mothers are seen as lazy and value-less.

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/fashion/04skin.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&oref=slogin

04 October 2007

'Push' presents: pop out a baby, get a diamond necklace?

If you thought pregnancy and birth couldn't be commodified any more...

Apparently, in the US (read: New York) “push presents” — have become standard and expected after the birth of a child as a reward for a 'job well done' usually in the form of expensive jewelry. According to the Today show, certain department stores in New York actually have push present registries so cashed up fathers can buy their wives some post-birth bling. High-end jeweler Fortunoff has an entire range of pieces made specifically for the 'new mum'.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On one hand, considering women have to carry around another human for 9 months and then squeeze it out, a little recognition doesn't seem so bad. However, if you watch the video of the segment on the link below, some women 'expect' to have jewelry or some expensive item for a 'job well done' after they give birth and this just reeks of unnecessary middle-class materialism. What if a woman's 'natural' birth doesn't go to plan? If she has a caesarean does that mean she only gets to have 1 carat diamond necklace instead of the 3 carat diamond ring? Is a woman's worth contingent upon her ability to have a 'good' birth?

Give me a break.

Source: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/21101071/

Milla Jovovich and the bump that ate London

Poor Milla. She's admitted to gaining a fair whack of weight in her pregnancy, who cares?

According to This is London, Milla ' did little to complement her enormous bump at a red carpet appearance last night. Wearing a full length billowing silk gown at the world premiere of Resident Evil: Extinction, the former model's outfit looked to be an example of what not to wear in the final stages of pregnancy'.

Even though Jovovich claims to have gained more than 70lbs, she seems to be really happy with the imminent birth of her first child. To add insult to injury, the website continues, 'It's unclear if the actress is giving birth to more than one baby, but if that happy event did occur, it might not be such a huge surprise!'

She is housing another human being! What do you expect? Maybe she has gained an inordinate amount of weight, but come on, celebrities who are tiny and pregnant are actually a minority of women. Look at any woman who is close to her due date and it's a pretty big ask for them to look fabulous as opposed to 5cm dilated. Milla is spectacular!

Source: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/showbiz/article-23414752-details/Enormous+Milla+shows+what+NOT+to+wear+when+you+are+pregnant/article.do

03 October 2007

Charlotte Church: martyr or mother?

Charlotte Church finally pushed out her first baby at home whilst watching the rugby according to the Daily Mail and apparently she says the pain of birth was 'outrageous'.

Granted celeb birth stories never seem to interest me as much as pregnancy, I was particularly stunned to read that according to Charlotte's mother, Maria, the singer is planning to quit her career to concentrate on motherhood. She's only 21! Given the growing backlash against our dear Britney Spears (and don't even get me started on the 752 articles I found today ranting on about her temporary loss of custody) who everyone thinks needs to brush up on her 'bad' mothering skills, there is a growing trend for celebrities to extol the virtues of motherhood such that everything these sucessful career women have accomplished prior to pregnancy seems to pale in comparison. Now before you start getting angry, of course I think mothering is valuable, important work. I have a problem with the perception that somehow the productive and the reproductive are incompatible. Working in the paid sector is important for many women. Granted life becomes increasingly more complex whilst trying to juggle a career, family life and what I call the 'third shift' or gym sphere where mothers have to devote time to disciplining their bodies and staying in shape, even so, many women would rather deal with the struggle than give up working indefinitely.

Church's mother insists she won't hire a nanny, just to be make her seem that much more virtuous. Would anyone really care if she did outsource her care? This is the reality of middle-class motherhood in 2007. In the 'real' non-celeb world, the decision stay home is not that simple especially when living on one income is not a possibility. And of course Charlotte insists she's not worried about losing baby weight:
"I think it's sad when people get obsessed with all of that. I'm pretty happy with the way I am and I bagged Gavin so I can't be doing that badly, can I?"
I know I usually praise celebrities for not claiming not to be obsessed with dropping the baby weight, however, I feel here, Church only says this because she's too worried that people are going to think she's narcissistic for wanting to 'bounce back'. In order to seen as a 'good' mother, you're not supposed to be concerned about yourself. You must selflessly devote yourself to your baby.

'Maria told Reveal magazine: "I wouldn't be surprised if she turns her back on fame as well. She never looked for it - it found her.
"All she cares about is being a good mother. And she's doing a pretty good job so far.
"She has hung up her partying shoes for good. You won't be seeing her out on the town for a long while. And she is totally off the booze. In fact, at the moment she's not bothered about having it ever again."

Seriously. The competition to be a supermum is rubbish. Public celebrity performances of 'perfect' pregnancy and 'perfect' motherhood only make it worse for the average mum who just wants to make it through the day without killing her baby. Mothers don't have to be saints. Being a 'good' mother means alot more than giving up a glass of wine and even an entire career. Whether Charlotte Church ever actually said these things, we will never know. However, the fact that now celebrities (and indeed the average woman) has to constantly justify her behaviour as a mother is only a stark reminder of just how firmly our heads are implanted in the birth canals of other women. Women are under intense scrutiny (hello, Britney) in a never-ending web of surveillance where women as reproductive entities are now basically held responsible for the maintenance of the human race. For many women, now it's no longer, tell me about your career, your aspirations, your dreams; it's tell me all about your womb.

01 October 2007

Jennifer Garner: on losing baby weight (yawn)

You would think that considering Jen Garner's daughter Violet is not 22 months old, journalists would be sick of asking her questions about how she lost her baby weight. But low and behold, in the Herald Sun Sunday magazine, Garner says she didn't feel the need to lose her baby weight quickly (which contradicts various other reports around the time that she was actually losing the weight). She says:

'I went back to work on Alias very soon after giving birth, but I didn't lose the weight quickly. I can see why women look at Hollywood and wonder how they do it, because I couldn't until I finished on Alias. I was a working mum- of course I didn't have time'.

She also says that since becoming a mother, her days of waking up at 3:30 to work out are long gone.

'I barely recognise that woman. These days, pilates makes me happy and I do five or six workouts a week. I love a basic workout and do it in the mornings to get it over with, but I'll gladly cancel if Viole has been up in the night. I try to be kind to myself when it comes to eating and staying in shape'.

Pilates. BAH! Seriously, pilates is such a cop out. She has a trainer. Like every other actress in Hollywood. Get over yourself. She gets paid to look amazing. I'm really over the 'I'm just a normal woman' routine. Why is she 'super woman' just because she has the luxury of hanging out with her baby all day? Most women would kill for that if they didn't have to have a full-time job with being a mother that cannot afford a nanny!

As if to prove the point, she goes on to say:

'I do eat chocolate. I keep really good chocolate in the house and take bites of it several times a day. Although, it times of crisis, there's nothing wrong with plain old M & Ms'.

Now, if this was Britney Spears, she would be accused of being a bad mother for eating chocolate, for being 'fat' and for not working out enough. Interesting how some celebrities are praised for being 'normal' and seemingly undisciplined whereas others like Spears are criticised for not being disciplined enough.

Source: Sunday magazine, 30 September, pp. 16-18.

Ask the stylist (for the most impractical maternity fashion advice you've ever heard)

Leave it to the 'stylist' who likens contemporary maternity fashion to 'nauseating visions of Laura Ashley-inspired floral prints' to give advice to a pregnant reader in need of some brand new duds. Yesterday in M magazine, the supplement to the Sunday Age, stylist Sophie Hexter attempted to sort out the style woes of this woman of 24 weeks:

Q: Good news, I'm pregnant. Bad news, nothing fits any more. What can I wear to work that won't make me look like a whale? I've got three months to go and don't want to fork out on designer maternity gear I will never wear again.

And Hexter's answer...

Amongst her suggestions, 'buying clothes in bigger sizes'...for anyone that has ever been pregnant, you know that at a certain stage, 'buying a bigger size' results in an item of clothing that only fits around the bump and is too loose everywhere else. This is why good maternity fashion is exactly that..fashionable...and also accommodates a changing shape. It drives me insane that whenever pregnancy fashion comes up in magazines or newspapers, journalists or stylists hesitate to highlight some of the amazing local maternity fashion happening here in Melbourne and which are now international brands. It is so ridiculous to keep referring back to floral print pinafores and big Peter Pan collars. Maternity wear has changed just as much as experiences of pregnancy and you don't need to buy expensive maternity wear to find good pieces that can go the distance in the pregnancy and after. Most of the maternity designers I have spoken to have a fashion background and have worked in mainstream fashion for many years before making the switch to maternity. These are women that know style.

Hexter only highlights mainstream fashion for the reason that it can be worn after pregnancy. But seriosuly, buying clothing a few sizes too big isn't going to fit after baby is born even if you are carrying a bit of extra weight. Today, most maternity designers produce clothing that can be worn post-baby (hello, Lycra!) and in fact, most women are wearing maternity clothing for up to a year post-birth. What annoys me the most are the outfit options she suggests (shown in image):

Willow dress: $994

Guiseppe Zanotti flats: $995

Feathers jacket: $389

Feathers dress: $199

Sambag boots: $450

Stella McCartney cuff: $450

TOTAL: $3,477

Are you kidding me? The average woman can barely afford to pay for prenatal care, let alone spend nearly $3,500 on two outfits. What a ridiculous waste of an article and an opportunity to give women practical advice on looking fabulous during pregnancy! Give me a bloody break...Take a hint from the designing women at Soon, Ripe and Egg and you will see that pregnancy does not have to be 9 months of fashion hell (most of these are available in the US as well).

For real maternity fashion ideas, check out:
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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.