The Glamorization of Pregnancy

January 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

Are we getting the wrong message?

You’re waiting in your doctor’s office for one of your seemingly countless pre-natal visits. You are comfortably but definitely not glamorously clad in those stretch tights you love so much and an oversized t-shirt. You’re leafing through this month’s issue of People Magazine when there she is, spread out across the magazine’s high gloss centerfold, the most glamorous, breathtaking, flawless picture of the pregnant Christina Auguilara. Her skin soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom, her hair full and silky, her make-up startlingly beautiful, the outline of her shape a series of geometrically perfect curves – even you find her irresistable. You find yourself glued to the page. Your eyes scan every inch of her maternal beauty while you swallow your envy in great gulps. You are lost in her perfection.

Only moments later, as you lay on the doctor’s table sporting a mint green, triple tie gown and mismatched socks while your doctor spreads jelly over your tummy with a fetal doppler, you find yourself recalling the image of the pregnant blonde bombshell and you are suddenly overcome by feelings of inadequacy. You say to yourself : “Why doesn’t my skin look like that?” “My boobs are not that perky?” “If only I had hair like that.” “I wish I didn’t have these stretch marks.” “My belly doesn’t look like that.”

Such feelings are perfectly natural when confronted with the picture of pregnancy perfected. The truth, of course, is that the Christina Aquilera in the magazine’s centerfold exists only there, as an image, an idealization of maternity. The real Christina is beautiful, no question, but beautiful in the way that a real women is beautiful, not in this falsified, glamorized way that the media portrays her.

In 1991, Demi Moore debuted her nude, 3rd timester pregnant self on the cover of Vanity Fair and controversy struck as some claimed she had “sexually objectified herself.” Moore claims it was an attempt to portray just the opposite, an “anti glitz, anti hollywood attitude, not a pregnant sex symbol.” The real truth is that Demi’s picture on the cover of Vanity Fair, no less than the spread of Christina Aquilera, is just a pregnant version of celebrity glamorization.

We all pick up the magazines and stare but in doing so we may be acquiring unrealistic ideas of how we should look during our pregnancies. It’s not often we look at images like these and imagine what took place behind the scenes – the stylists who worked from every angle attaching hair extensions, applying make up, powdering noses. We’re all aware enough to have a good laugh at the shampoo commercials showing models with their lustrous hair being blown by a fan and cry – BS! – but are we self-aware enough to look objectively at the picture perfect pregnant Christina Aquilera and realize that not only do we not look like that but neither does she? The photograph doesn’t show the photographer who shone his lights in all the right places and cast shadows over the wrong ones. Or the techie who, post shoot, spent hours airbrushing the photograph to get Christina’s skin looking just so. Every bump, line, wrinkle, bruise, scar, blemish, mole and vein was removed; then a fake tan was added, or false nails, full lips, puffy cheeks, tinted eyebrows, and her belly digitally manipulated to create that perfect, that ideal curve. Sure it’s perfection but, like all things perfect, it isn’t real.

It’s a fair question to ask what good or, more to the point, what harm the media is doing by portraying false, unrealistically glamorized, even unhealthy notions of maternity. Is it possible that the messages we receive from the media shape and distort our ideas of authenticity and beauty and that the unrealistic portrayal of pregnancy among celebrities is provoking impressions of perpetual, negative self image.

Diamonds, heels, and a 3rd trimester belly? Really?


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