12 August 2008

Pregorexia is not caused by celebrity pregnancy

I'm getting really sick of reading about 'pregorexia'. In fact, it annoys me even more that the media is now suggesting that women are become pregorexic because of celebrities. While I'll be the first person to agree that celebrity culture is inherently problematic, the truth is that celebrities are actually not extremely significant in the life of the average woman and pregorexia is more likely to arise from significant body image issues that already existed prior to pregnancy. In fact, most body image issues in pregnancy are pre-existing. In my study, I found that sisters and best friends were far more important when it came to worrying about weight loss post-baby. If a sister lost baby weight quickly, that was more meaningful than if Angelina Jolie or Katie Holmes lost weight quickly as well. On the CBS Early Show yesterday, this doctor, Holly Phillips, was quoted as saying:

"I think we've never before been more kind of obsessed with celebrity culture, and with celebrity pregnancies, as well. It's not unusual to see pictures of these celebrities the day before and the day after birth and they're looking super-humanly fit. They're really incredible. "

I think these comments seem to assume that pregnant women (or women in general) are just these passive receptacles of popular culture, unthinking and unwilling to resist the templates of idealised beauty that put before them. Sure lots of women read gossip magazines. Heaps of women read them in my study. But, women are quite realistic when it comes to thinking about celebrities. Although my informants were interested in celebrity pregnancy and often felt badly about themselves when they couldn't lose their baby weight quickly, in the end, they would always recognise that celebrities are thin for a reason: it's their job. I hate the fact that the newsmedia constantly suggests that celebrities are like these demigods that all women, everywhere, aspire to become. Now, sure I have this blog which focuses on celebrities so you might think I'm a hypocrite but I have this blog because I think it's important to critique celebrity culture, not to constantly pay fawning tribute to these actresses just because they manged to get knocked up.

Phillips continued to say that "it's wonderful that pregnant women now have designer styles to choose from, especially those that celebrate and compliment the pregnant shape. It only becomes a problem when women become unhealthily fixated on remaining a specific size."

Yeah, well mainstream maternity wear is not necessarily 'celebratory'. In fact, it requires that pregnant women be comfortable with their size and shape in order to wear tightly fitted outfits. That in itself, is a problem, not just the fact that pregnant women worry about their weight gain. This is why alot of the women in my study didn't wear maternity clothing necessarily: they often reported feeling extremely ambivalent about wear something that would invite other people to look at them. Thus, some of these really complex experiences of pregnancy in 'public' just become watered down in the media.

Anyway, I'll just take a deep breath now and step away from the computer.

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/08/11/earlyshow/health/main4337521.shtml

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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.