Part of the Hollywood starlet/super-model career trajectory is getting pregnant and posing in some state of undress. The latest naked mom-in-waiting is Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr. She even raises the bar in the December issue of W magazine by, as Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory points out, forgoing the forearm draped over her chest. She’s letting it all hang out.
Clark-Flory gives a great historical sketch of naked pregnant women — or PILFs as Babble’s Rebecca calls the women over in Being Pregnant. Back when Demi Moore did it on the cover of Vanity Fair, we didn’t see nearly as much as we do of Kerr and yet the photos were simply scandalous. That was almost 20 years ago. American society has come pretty far in not just tolerating pregnant women but enjoying them, embracing them, making room for them in the world instead of asking them to step aside until that little condition is over and things can get back to normal.
Pregnancy is part of the new normal!
Admittedly, I cringe a little reading Kerr’s comments in the caption — she’s looking forward to a vegetable garden and something about solar panels. I think pictures of pregnant beauties — and their statements — are often on the sentimental and/or cave mom side of things. Obviously, there are those who still find child-bearing wildly romantic. And there are those who see it as a reason to hold a bikini contest. Philosophically, I’m more on the bikini contest side of things. Let’s stick those bellies in all natural lighting!
My dream photo essay of pregnant women would include them sitting behind a desk, jogging around the block, arguing a case before a judge, wearing a hardhat and holding blueprints. Stuff like that — what real pregnant women do. It would be the kind of fuss that Erica Jong said, in her recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, she thinks is making women retreat from feminist progress. But I think the obsessed over baby bumps serve quite an opposite purpose. Here’s part of my response:
Pregnancy and motherhood in itself isn’t the collective curse that it was when working-woman Jong had her daughter. Or when my working-mother, a Jong enthusiast, had me. Jong rolls her eyes at the cult of motherhood but I say let’s praise it. I’m glad pregnant women are obsessed over and not looked on with pity or disgust or housewife-y assumptions as they were back in the day. I dare say it has something to do with the front-and-center placement of babies in today’s pop culture, in the strollers we push through crowded urban streets, in the fact that companies recognize us as big fat cash cows and interesting TV show storylines.
Photos like Kerr’s and Moore’s and all of those that have come in between have done much to desensitize the culture to pregnancy and its consequence, motherhood. There are still hang-ups, sometimes an employer’s and sometimes our own. But all these exposed bellies and the paraded-around infants and toddlers that follow have made motherhood — no, parenthood — a quite reasonable undertaking and nothing to be ashamed of.
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