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There’s a picture of Kim Kardashian in a color-blocked black-and-white dress from February 21, 2013 — about five months into her first pregnancy.Her “bump,” as pregnant bellies have come to be called in the mainstream media, is visible, as are her white pumps, red lipstick, black wrist cuff, and perfectly made‑up face. News called “absolutely stunning.” But there was another photo from that same appearance — taken from the side as Kardashian turns her head back, presumably at the beckoning of one of the paparazzi who, at that point, were tracking her every pregnant move.
But childbirth is a messy, primal process: consider the afterbirth, the leakage of breast milk, the caked gunk scraped from the newborn’s body, the blood and screaming, and the fact that for so long, so many otherwise healthy women died in the process of giving birth.
The pregnant body was also profoundly contradictory: as scholar Jane Ussher explains, pregnancy is, at its most essential, the most vivid proof of women’s sexuality — which is precisely why representations of mothers took on the opposite characteristics.
It’s difficult to emphasize just how radical this attitude would seem to women experiencing pregnancy even thirty years ago.
To be pregnant in public was in poor taste — unsophisticated, trashy, unbecoming, obscene.
” The photo circulated swiftly across the Internet, but it didn’t stop there: Star magazine put it on its cover, along with the headlines “65‑lb Weight Gain! From that point forward, the already Kardashian-frenzied paparazzi went into over‑drive.
The ultimate prize wasn’t just a picture of Kim, but one of Kim eating, Kim looking fat, Kim looking miserable, Kim looking uncomfortable, Kim looking, in other words, not like Kim: a betrayal of the image of celebrity maternity that, over the last ten years, has become the norm.
The issue ended up selling more than a million copies — 250,000 more than normal circulation. I was just on vacation in Mexico, in my bikini with my big belly hanging out and my low-cut top.” Even before the shoot, Moore’s attitude had been catching on: swimsuit designer John Koerner reported that his maternity bikini, released three years before, was now his number one seller.
“The Demi Moore cover is a radical statement of New Hollywood values,” Brown declared. “Women’s whole attitude toward pregnancy is changing fast,” he explained.
Like all things hidden for fear of abjection (women’s sexuality, menstrual periods, feces), it became societally unacceptable to even speak openly of pregnancy: according to historian Carol Brooks Gardner, in nineteenth-century America “talk of pregnancy was forbidden even between mother and daughter, if either hoped to claim breeding and gentility.” Colloquialisms were developed to refer tactfully to the obscenity of a woman’s condition: she was “with child” or “in a family way,” never “pregnant.”Up until the 1950s, the word “pregnancy” was not even allowed on‑screen.
In 1953, the Motion Picture Association of America refused to approve the script for The Moon Is Blue because it included the word “pregnant”; the MPAA’s list of “13 Don’ts and 31 Be Carefuls,” which determined what could and could not make its way on‑screen from the 1920s to the 1960s, included a ban on any depiction of childbirth, even “in silhouette.” In silent film–era Hollywood, most stars avoided motherhood in one way or another so as to sustain their marketability; those who did become pregnant removed themselves from public view, even as the studios offered access to all other parts of the stars’ homes and family life.