Kim Kardashian and the perils of pregnancy ‘fat-shaming’

kim-kardashianThe widespread mocking of expectant celebrities for their weight gain – or lack thereof – a sad indicator of how our society objectifies pregnant women

By Kelly Roesler

I never thought I’d see the day I’d feel compelled to defend Kim Kardashian.

She’s definitely not what I’d describe as a feminist icon.

I’ve always found her self-promoting and vapid demeanour, the seeming embodiment of the ultimate in Hollywood privilege and shallowness, off-putting.

But lately, I’ve found myself feeling sorry for the reality TV star, who is famously six months pregnant with rapper Kanye West’s baby.

Why? The poor woman’s pregnant physique is being splashed across the cover of every major U.S. tabloid, complete with cruel and demeaning remarks about her weight gain (“already a staggering 205 pounds”), cracks about how much and what she is eating, (pasta, cake and ice cream – gasp!), and scrutinizing every outfit she wears, with varying howls of “too tight!” “Another pregnancy fashion flop,” and “When will she realize she’s pregnant and can’t dress that way?”

Actually, she can dress any way she wants, so long as she feels good and comfortable, and she can eat to her
heart’s content – so long as she and her baby are healthy, which is between her and her doctor.

Pregnancy is an extremely sensitive period for most women – for obvious reasons. You’re rapidly gaining weight, riding a hormonal roller coaster, experiencing radical body changes that are totally beyond your control and coming to terms with the small, life-changing fact that you’re bringing a new person into the world, and likely asking the huge questions that come with it, such as: “will I be a good parent?”

The last thing any pregnant woman, regardless of celebrity status, should have to endure is the leering and jeering of millions, and paparazzi focused on her every movement, every snack, every outfit choice.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. Eminent feminist Gloria Steinem has also defended Kardashian against critics, saying a woman’s body is hers and hers alone. “Our bodies are never public property under any circumstance,” she told a tabloid magazine.

I can relate, somewhat.

During my third pregnancy, I gained what can only be described as an incredible amount of weight. Seriously, it was stunning.

But back then, with every step on the scale at the doctor’s office revealing shocking, previously unheard of numbers, I was able to – knowing I was healthy, and there was no risk to me or baby – simply laugh it off and continue to enjoy my pregnancy and constant snacking.

But had I been the subject of the same taunts and worldwide scrutiny about my pregnancy appearance and weight gain that Kardashian has experienced, I’d have been shattered.

No matter how ridiculous her career seems, launched by a sex tape and sustained by a reality show, she absolutely doesn’t deserve to spend these precious months of her pregnancy being ridiculed and mocked.

But Steinem says that beyond the “fat-shaming” of Kardashian, there are problems with society’s general treatment of pregnant women, including the belief that’s it’s OK to touch or rub a woman’s swollen stomach.

“People in the street who feel the right to touch a pregnant woman’s belly ought to be arrested for harassment,” she said. “Our bodies belong to us, and if we don’t invite touching, we shouldn’t tolerate it.”

Although well-intentioned, most people who feel, as I’ve heard often during my pregnancies, a “need” to caress a pregnant woman’s belly, may not realize just how invasive and uncomfortable this can be.

Steinem says this is indicative of the widespread objectification of pregnant women, whose bodies are often treated as “ornaments, instead of instruments.”

Moreover, the fat-shaming of Kardashian – and at the other end of the spectrum, criticism of Kate Middleton for appearing to be underweight during her pregnancy – is not only hurtful, but demeaning to society, Steinem says. And she couldn’t be more right.

It might be enjoyable to poke fun at celebrities such as the Kardashian family in the context of their dubious fame, as well as their over-the-top lifestyle of consumption and excess.

But mocking a healthy woman while she is enjoying the wondrous and sacred months of her pregnancy is really just ugly.

Photo: © Jean Nelson