12 February 2008

Mylene Klass: B grade 'celebrity' to 'author'

Two things about pregnancy never cease to amaze me: 1) the amount of books published on the subject every year and 2) the increasing number of books about pregnancy 'written' by anyone who has a 'Dr' in front of their name or appears regularly in the tabloids. Apparently, Brit 'celebrity' Mylene Klass is adding author to her long-list of accomplishments which include showering in a white bikini and...um..showering in a white bikini?

Her new book, My Bump and Me: From Morning Sickness to Motherhood - An Honest Diary of My Pregnancy, is described as Mylene's personal account of 'what pregnancy is really like' including 'everything she did wrong' and practical medical advice.

I find this very troubling. The book has not been released so of course I have not been privy to its contents. However, whenever a celebrity is doling out medical advice and/or providing advice to other women I would like to think that there is a nice little ghost writer somewhere in the process doing the research and making sure that the women buying this book are getting proper information. It is not clear that this book and the advice that is shared is supported by any research, feminist, medical or otherwise.

When it comes to pregnancy, the last thing women need is a celebrity telling them 'how it is' no matter how 'honest' or practical an account it claims to be. Sure Jenny McCarthy provides a refreshing account of pregnancy in her book, Belly Laughs, but let's be honest. Are the women that buy this book using it as their primary resource for pregnancy information? Probably not. Are they buying it for a good laugh and a bit of fun? Of course.

With so many competing discourses surrounding how to 'do' pregnancy these days and given the primacy of celebrity in our culture generally, I think it's really inappropriate that celebrities knowingly contribute to constructions of a singular pregnant body; the idea that that there is only one way to be pregant, that there is an 'ideal' pregnant body shape or that you are supposed to feel a certain way when you are pregnant. The truth is that celebrity experiences of pregnancy and motherhood are atypical; they do not translate easily into the realities of the average woman because celebrity women are subject to a whole range of surveillance/cultural criticism and pressures of performance that the average woman is not. It's irresponsible for celebrity mothers to pose as the down-to-earth average woman because she's not. Mylene Klass, no matter what she says, had a categorically different experience of pregnancy from the average woman just by virtue of being in the public eye. Why should anyone care what she did in pregnancy? It only sets women up for failure when they unconsciously (or even consciously) compare their experiences to hers.


Anonymous said...

I've read the book, and it is frighteningly honest - I can't imagine this book leaving anyone feeling inadequate in their experiences, it really is a reassuring read. I know you acknowledged it, but please DO read the thing before assuming that this book tells you there is one right way to do things during pregnancy.

In the book Myleene does indeed acknowledge the differences between her pregnancy and that of someone not in the public eye. Give us some credit, we KNOW that her experiences are bound to be different because she's famous.

Anonymous said...

I bought the book even though I'm not pregnant because I was interested, and I found it to be a really good read. Mylene doesn't claim that the book should be a guide to pregnancy but I thought it was useful, as did my pregnant friend who couldn't get her husband to understand her mood swings until he read the diary and said something like "maybe it's normal to act that way if the celebrities don't have it all easy". If read as it was meant to be which is as a diary I think it's worth reading.

Megan said...

I read this book while pregnant the first time around and it inspired me to write a weekly journal during my pregnancy as a more real life experience - I have no ambition to publish it and lost weeks 20-38 when my computer crashed but have given it to pregnant friends who've been grateful!

Mylene's 'real' experience included going private rather than using NHS care and seeing a doctor rather than a midwife as is the norm in the UK. She experienced none of the financial worries that 'normal' 'real' pregnant UK mums on statutory maternity pay have yet was given free maternity clothes, prams etc. So it's more 'celebrity' than 'real'. Obviously.

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