Amal Clooney, 39, an international human rights lawyer and wife of some actor named George Clooney, gave an impassioned and powerful speech at the United Nations yesterday, pleading for action to be taken against the Islamic State.
“If we do not change course, history will judge us, and there will be no excuse for our failure to act,” Clooney said. “We cannot say that ISIS’ crimes were not serious enough; we cannot say that the interests of powerful states stood in the way; or that these crimes are too hard to prove. That’s why I am asking you today: to stand up for justice.”
Like the woman herself, her speech was strong, smart, and fervent, but instead of focusing on Amal and her work, many saw only one thing:
Many popular news outlets focused their coverage of Amal’s speech on how she looked and more specifically, how she looked pregnant. Some examples:
Amal Clooney Rocks the Baby Bump on International Women’s Day Ahead of U.N. Speech
Pregnant Amal Clooney Shows Off a Small Baby Bump in Clinging Black Suit and Yellow Dress on Trips to the UN in New York
Amal Clooney Showcases Her Baby Bump in a Pink Dress and Overcoat Ahead of U.N. Visit
I mean, if I didn’t know any better, I would think that good ol’ Amal had nothing better to do than dream up ways she could dazzle us all with her very normal pregnant appearance that is no different than any other working mother going about her day and certainly does not impact her abilities as a lawyer whatsoever.
Luckily, some other outlets recognized the fact that describing any woman — especially a woman whose work has made an enormous impact for victims around the world — by her reproductive status and appearance, is not only absurd, but also downright harmful to women everywhere.
The Washington Post noted that other outlets seem to have focused on Amal’s baby bump, when the real focus of her speech was on the woman she is representing, Nadia Murad, a Yazidi enslaved and raped by ISIS.
“Those watching her speech would have hardly noticed her barely visible bump, unless, of course, they were specifically looking for it,” The Washington Post writer Samantha Schmidt pointed out.
Also, can we talk about how ridiculous it is when media outlets use the popular headline that a woman is “showing off ” or “rocking” her baby bump, because let’s be honest — when you’re pregnant, you can’t not show off your baby bump. You rock it because you have it.
A developing fetus is not a cute little accessory you can choose to take on and off. It’s attached, and it’s going to show no matter what the heck you wear. But that’s beside the point.
The point is, women are more than their style and appearance, and women who happen to be gestating at the time of delivering powerful speeches on behalf of a woman who has undergone unspeakable horrors, deserve a little more recognition that a cute blurb about their maternity wear.
Amal is one incredible woman who does important work, and it’s the work, not her dress, that should be making headlines.
I find the constant barrage of media attention on pregnant celebrities’ appearance especially telling, because it points to a deeper issue, which is that, as a society, we expect pregnancy to “ruin” a woman. It’s shocking to some that women can still manage to accomplish great things while simultaneously gestating or breastfeeding or herding small children.
Pregnancy, at a primitive level, means a woman is no longer mate-able material, and no matter how far we have evolved, it seems we want to write off women who are pregnant as no longer traditionally desirable or useful for anything other than breeding.
And then, after they are pregnant, we are inundated with constant updates about their bodies.
Famous Celebrity Shows Off Stomach Only Days After Giving Birth! (Even if said woman is doing something totally normal and non-showy, like um, taking out her trash.)
Celebrity Admits That Having a Baby Stretches Skin in the Most Shocking Way Possible! (Who knew?!)
Our society treats women like their only value and worth lies in how they look, and then they are judged on an even harsher scale if they become mothers, because we expect that motherhood = not sexy. And every woman only wants to be sexy, right?
Many people have come to Amal’s defense, calling out the outlets who have talked about her bump and even described her in terms of her marriage to Clooney.
“Sigh. It’s okay Amal,” wrote one woman on Facebook. “Welcome to the ranks of lawyer mothers. Fiercest of warriors, frequently underestimated. You’ll find it an advantage.”
And like the class act she is, Amal herself has only responded to the controversy by hinting that she is grateful for the extra publicity her case is getting, as long as it brings more awareness to the plight of the Islamic State and Yazidis. Which is definitely something to showcase, not her yellow maternity dress.