Fat-Shaming Pregnant Women Has to Stop

image source: Twitter via Jenny McCarthy
image source: Twitter via Jenny McCarthy

We are in 2015, right? As in, not in 1950? Just checking, because for a moment I thought we literally had crawled back into the Dark Ages. Why?

Because a respected Canadian meteorologist recently described on air the hate mail she received — simply for being pregnant. Yup, you read that right. She dared to show off her gorgeous 6-months-pregnant bump in all its glory, in a stylish tight-fitting dress, and as a result she got HATE mail. It makes me wonder if people have too much time on their hands …

Kristi Gordon said she was “amazed” to be barraged with abuse from disgusted viewers. The meteorologist divulged that it happened before, when she was expecting her first child (who’s now 3), so sadly she “expected” such a reaction. On an edition of News Hour Plus, an online segment from Global BC, she shared with her fellow news anchors Robin Stickley and Squire Barnes a letter that criticized her, reading:

“Nowhere on North American TV have we seen a weather reader as gross as you. Your front end looks like the Hindenburg and your rear end looks like a brick s**t-house. We now turn off Globel.”

To which Gordon’s supportive colleague Barnes replied, “You know what? Good. If you’re going to diss us, please learn how to spell. Global is not G L O B E L.”

While it’s great Gordon has been able to air her hurt and get support from her fellow co-workers for these critical jabs about her pregnant body, it seems the abuse didn’t stop there. Gordon admitted she received other hurtful correspondence, including one that urged her to:

“Buy some decent clothes and have some respect for your unborn child. You’re not the first pregnant woman. OMG.”

For me, perhaps the most damning comment of all was one from someone who clearly doesn’t wish to see pregnant women on screen:

“Looser tops would look much more professional.”

Say what? Are you telling me that pregnant women should try and conceal their pregnancies as if it’s something shameful? It reminded me of way back in December 1988 when a gloriously 7-months-pregnant Neneh Cherry appeared on the UK’s Top of the Pops singing her hit “Buffalo Stance.” It took a few moments for my 15-year-old brain to realize that her curved tummy was in fact a baby bump! Cherry danced, stomped, grooved, and sang her heart out, and she received a barrage of press abuse for doing so. She said of the event:

“I remember some doctor saying that what Neneh Cherry’s doing could cause her child harm, that sort of bollocks. But I feel really proud of having done that. I didn’t feel being pregnant took anything away from my sexuality, who I am, the woman. It felt like a positive thing to celebrate it.”

She added:

“When I found out I was pregnant, my mother said, ‘Don’t separate your life, the life that you’re going to make with this child, from the things that you are and what you want to do.’ Getting on Top of the Pops and having that feeling with me was such a saving grace. […] I remember standing there pregnant, and feeling charged by it — and proud, and very feminine, very woman. I thought, I’m not going to go away. I’m not going to go away.”

I can honestly say it was the first time I had seen such a heavily pregnant woman on screen, outside of a drama or film. I was in awe of Cherry — she made me believe that being pregnant didn’t stop you from doing anything. That being a mom isn’t the only part of who you are. This stayed with me all my life. To say she was inspiring is an understatement. Previously I had watched my aunt, neighbors, and even Princess Diana hide their pregnancies in great billowing smock dresses. And here was a woman in lycra! Dancing! How brave of Cherry to be so confident in the ’80s.

Then 10 years later, in 1998, All Saints singer Melanie Blatt refused to hide her bump, showing it off in low-slung combat trousers and a short top while bouncing around on stage, saying, “It’s a child not a terminal illness.” She added:

“It’s like I’ve dared to bare my bump and there’s people going, ‘Oh, it’s a fashion statement, she’s being trendy.’ The only reason I’m doing it is because I happen to be pregnant and have to work at the same time. Millions of women do it. It just happens that I’m pregnant while I’m in the limelight. I’ve got no choice.”

Yet her visible bump made countless headlines. She was seen in a similar light as Cherry: a pioneer for pregnant women. It made me much less wary when I was pregnant in 2006. I deliberately wore clothing that showed off my pregnancy on screen; I wanted people to realize I was in fact pregnant! I found that clothes that were clingy looked much better and didn’t drown me. I actually think my pregnancy wardrobe was one the most stylish times of my life!

So why in 2015 are people complaining about pregnant women on screen? It is the most natural state in the world for a woman to be in. And people who assume that celebrities won’t be offended by their thoughtless criticisms are wrong.

Kristi Gordon revealed: 

“I feel like I’m a pretty confident person, I wouldn’t be in this industry if I wasn’t. I don’t feel like this is affecting me, or has affected me. But I thought about some of the things I did last night; I checked the mirror to see how big I’m getting, I asked my husband, ‘Am I not seeing it? Am I getting really big?’ It wasn’t until I went to bed that I realized that — despite us saying that these guys are crazy — it’s amazing that when you say something mean about someone it still affects them.”

Criticizing someone for being pregnant is just as wrong as picking on them for their weight, their sex, their race, or their beliefs. There’s no excuse for it. It greatly disappoints me that the world hasn’t moved on after 30 years of this harassment.

Thankfully, the News Hour Plus anchors finished their chat by ripping the letters up into tiny wads of paper and flicking them from the studio table onto the floor with the message: “Haters gonna hate. But if you’re going to hate, learn how to spell.”

Amen to that.

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