The Take: celebrity preg­nan­cies are none of our busi­ness

Af­ter months of spec­u­la­tion, Cardi B last week con­firmed her preg­nancy in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion on SNL. But why should women have to com­ment, won­ders

Grazia (UK) - - Contents - Jes­sica Bar­rett

Last week be­longed to Cardi B. The Brook­lyn rap­per re­leased her de­but al­bum In­va­sion Of Pri­vacy to world­wide ac­claim and hys­te­ria – it im­me­di­ately went gold – and was on track to be­come the first fe­male rap­per to top the US al­bum charts for six years. Cardi, whose real name is Bel­calis Al­man­zar, was also booked for the cov­eted per­for­mance slot on Satur­day Night Live, one of the most talked about en­ter­tain­ment shows in the world.

All of this was over­shad­owed, how­ever, when Cardi used her per­for­mance of new sin­gle Be Care­ful to show the world her preg­nancy bump, end­ing months of spec­u­la­tion that she was ex­pect­ing. The term ‘ break­ing the in­ter­net’ was in­vented for mo­ments like this: the rap­per’s so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers went wild. A video posted on Cardi’s In­sta­gram story showed her 

back­stage fol­low­ing the per­for­mance, throw­ing her hands in the air and ex­claim­ing, ‘I’m fi­nally free,’ to screams and ap­plause from her friends.

It’s a bit­ter­sweet mo­ment to watch: on the one hand Cardi – who is en­gaged to rap­per Off­set – looks so happy it’s hard not to smile. But take a sec­ond to think about what she ac­tu­ally said – that she feels free – and the mo­ment takes on a more prob­lem­atic con­text.

Rap­per Remy Ma summed it up well when she wrote in a Sun­day morn­ing In­sta­gram post di­rected at her friend Cardi, ‘For so many years they made us (women) feel like we had to pre­tend to be sin­gle, pre­tend to not have a real life, and put our lives on hold to “en­ter­tain” the masses. Mean­while, you feel trapped in your own body, a pris­oner to your ca­reer, and so un­happy when you [sic] sup­posed to be hav­ing the time of your life... I am so happy you are free too.’

In­deed, Cardi has been forced to ad­dress ques­tions about her preg­nancy several times over the last few months, and was the sub­ject of in­ces­sant tabloid re­ports which spec­u­lated whether she was hid­ing a bump with out­fits that had gone from skintight to vo­lu­mi­nous. When one fan asked her in the com­ments sec­tion of an In­sta­gram post, Cardi re­sponded in a typ­i­cally de­fi­ant fash­ion: ‘No bitch I’m just get­ting fat. Let me [ get] fat in peace.’

In the cli­mate of Me Too and Time’s Up, when women are claim­ing back their bod­ies, it’s jar­ring that the rap­per is yet an­other vic­tim of the world’s ob­ses­sion with what fe­male bod­ies look like – and the sense of own­er­ship that’s felt when they change.

So­cial me­dia has meant that our looks and our bod­ies reg­u­larly go on dis­play for judge­ment and com­ment, but has also made it so much harder for any­one to keep any­thing to them­selves. If you’re a celebrity it’s near im­pos­si­ble – af­ter all, it’s part of the job to hand your pri­vate life over to your fans, right?

So when an A-lis­ter like Ch­eryl Cole or Kylie Jen­ner goes off-radar for nine months it can mean only one thing: they’re preg­nant. Both stars did just that last year, adopt­ing a so­cial me­dia blackout ( bar a few care­fully po­si­tioned self­ies). They chose not to ad­dress their preg­nan­cies, chose not to make a state­ment and chose not to ap­pear in pub­lic, ‘show­ing off ’ their bumps.

Kylie Jen­ner, 20, who gave birth to her baby Stormi by Travis Scott in Fe­bru­ary, said when she fi­nally re­vealed the news, ‘I un­der­stand you’re used to me bring­ing you along on all my jour­neys. My preg­nancy was one I chose not to do in front of the world.’ She added, ‘I knew for my­self I needed to pre­pare for this role of a life­time in the most pos­i­tive, stress-free, and healthy way I knew how. There was no gotcha mo­ment, no big paid re­veal I had planned. I knew my baby would feel ev­ery stress and ev­ery emo­tion, so I chose to do it this way for my lit­tle life and our hap­pi­ness.’

Of course, the me­dia has a huge role to play in this game of cat and mouse. Where coy head­lines like ‘ Tum-thing to tell us?’ were once the norm, on­line and tabloid re­ports now take preg­nancy spec­u­la­tion to fren­zied new lev­els. And where they go, so­cial me­dia users fol­low, de­mand­ing to know the truth.

Grazia hasn’t been to­tally free of blame in the past, but times have changed – and we would now never add to spec­u­la­tion. In part, be­cause we’ve seen the ef­fect such pres­sure can have. In 2016, Jennifer Anis­ton made the un­prece­dented de­ci­sion to write an op-ed for The Huff­in­g­ton Post on the years of scru­tiny she had been sub­jected to. ‘For the record, I am not preg­nant,’ she said. ‘ What I am is fed up.’ She added, ‘ The way I am por­trayed by the me­dia is sim­ply a re­flec­tion of how we see and por­tray women in gen­eral, mea­sured against some warped stan­dard of beauty... Is she preg­nant? Is she eat­ing too much? Has she let her­self go? Is her mar­riage on the rocks be­cause the cam­era de­tects some phys­i­cal “im­per­fec­tion”?’

Sim­i­larly, the BBC Break­fast presenter Steph Mcgovern was tweeted a string of con­grat­u­la­tions dur­ing a live seg­ment in Jan­uary. She replied, ‘For those who are con­grat­u­lat­ing me on my “preg­nancy”. I am not “with child”, I am “with pot belly”.’ All that amounts to is giv­ing state­ments about why our bod­ies look a cer­tain way. Weight gain, preg­nancy, bloat­ing or just a big lunch: these are our bod­ies. We should never have to ex­plain them, just like men never do.


Ch­eryl (shown with Liam) and Kylie Jen­ner (left) chose to leave so­cial me­dia dur­ing their preg­nan­cies

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