This summer Kim Kardashian had a baby girl. As have a number of A-List celebrities, including Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Jessica Simpson. Not only was a ton of media space devoted to their pregnancies but also their bodies, their recovery and their post-pregnancy reveals. Jessica Simpson was treated much kinder by the press that Kim Kardashian, despite both having substantial weight gain. KMids practically gained no weight – with the Daily Mail triumphantly showing her wearing ‘regular” clothing even into the 5th month of her pregnancy.
One media outlet that is usually very female friendly is The Cut – expectedly their coverage of these events would be friendlier towards the mama bearers and their brand new progeny. Recently, The Cut hailed Kate for stepping out in skinny jeans (um, I appreciate it cause it was the same jeans twice in one week, go recycling) and looking fabulous. Which is interesting, because the same publication has been waiting with slightly baited breath, and certainly malicious thought for Kim Kardashian to present her post baby self.
Since 13 August 2013, The Cut has been openly counting the hours until Kim Kardashian appears in public, at a public event. In a seemingly backhanded compliment kind of way, the NY Mag blog comments on Kardashian’s absence and video only presence, while also noting the remarkable ability to Victoria’s Secret Angels to bounce back (with trainers helps) to pre pregnancy perfection. Kardashian was never Victoria’s Secret perfect to begin with. Even people who won’t admit to watching her family’s show have to admit that she is Curvy with a capitol C in the 21st century definition of the word and has made that her signature. She has curves and various bulges that will never grace the lingerie walkway, and that was prior to her pregnancy.
According to the Cut: The post-pregnancy weight-loss success story has become such a popular celebrity narrative that it dominates newsstands and websites. Most famous women don’t even allow themselves to be photographed until they’ve returned to their previous weight.
But technically, women have not been seen pregnant, or demonstrating post pregnancy extreme weight loss for most of history. It was not until as recently as the early 20th Century that upper class women, like millionaire Los Angelenas or Duchesses, would even appear in public pregnant. And pregnant most women, across classes, were as it was until the 20th Century that birth control was reliable and publicly available. In Victorian England, it was illegal to publish information about birth control. For most of history, women were in confinement (shut away from the public and male eyes) for several months prior to and then also after giving birth.
Just as Mary Tyler Moore was the first woman on TV to subtle introduce birth control, pregnancy had to be slowly conveyed in literature before it was addressed in media. George Elliot, in writing Adam Bede, alluded to Hetty’s missed periods and her resulting “more luxurious womaness.” By the early 20th Century, women had gained suffrage, Planned Parenthood had been created, and the rigid morality of the Victorian era had been relaxed into the decadence of the Gilded Age. Flappers had discarded pregnancy corsets along with other corsets. Lane Bryant even began marketing maternity wear for the first time. Pregnancy was not paraded, but at least recognized.
Now elite women are expected to bounce back immediately after parading a cute but not too large (unless they had an excuse like Jessica Simpson) baby bump. More noteworthy than Kim Kardashian’s reticience to be seen until she deems herself camera ready is the Duchess of Cambridge’s appearance one day after giving birth, complete with non-shrunk back belly.