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Column: Even pregnancy can't block the media criticism of women's bodies

Whatever you might think of Kim Kardsahian and her ilk, the unhealthy focus on women’s bodies and ‘fat-shaming’ tendencies of the celebrity-obsessed media is dangerous to society as a whole, writes Aoife O’Connor.

Aoife O'Connor

PREGNANCY IS PROBABLY the only time in a woman’s life when she can finally breathe and let it all hang out. No judgement, because she’s growing the miracle of life behind her belly button. Well, maybe that was true once, but these days modern maternity plays out in a skinny-obsessed society. Case in point: Kim Kardashian.

Granted Kim has never been one to shy away from media coverage, in fact, more often than not she invites it into her life, but since she announced she was expecting with boyfriend Kanye West last year, the media frenzy that follows her everywhere she goes has taken on an ugly form of intense scrutiny, something no pregnant woman should have to endure.

Inevitable criticism

Since the reality star started showing, critics everywhere jumped on the bandwagon, getting their digs in about Kim’s inevitable weight gain. Labelled as being fat, speculating about the number of pounds and cup sizes gained; the media has had a field day every time she wears something unflattering or inappropriate. But who gets to say what she should or should not wear?

Currently in her last trimester, Kim has stayed true to her own fashion sense throughout her pregnancy, be it figure-hugging mini dresses or statement high heels. And despite those who might roll their eyes and guffaw at any mention of the Kardashian clan (I am one such person normally), its hard not to take your hat off to Kim for deciding to embrace the bloating, massive boobs and swollen ankles, and show off her baby bump in all its glory.

Why does judgement come so quick to us these days?

While there is no denying that there have been some eye watering outfits that in hindsight a pregnant Kim maybe should have avoided, why is it that scathing judgement comes so quick to us these days? Everyone’s a critic it seems, well able to throw the all-too-quick harsh comment. But when it comes to pregnancy, be it Kim Kardashian and her plethora of fame, fans and fortune or the ordinary woman on the street, the bottom line is that it is her body and she can draw attention to or detract from the most visual indicator of a pregnancy – her bump – as she pleases.

A recent survey revealed that 71 per cent of pregnant women feel under pressure to look good because of the seemingly perfect example set by celebrity mothers, which is a damning reflection of contemporary society and the celebrity culture we are force-fed on a daily basis.

Celebrity news is fast becoming an addiction, as we grapple for up-to-the-minute details of the rich and famous. If you scan the ocean of magazines at any newsstand, it’s clear that celebrities are the bread and butter of the industry. Rumours and hearsay unnamed sources sell hundreds of thousands of magazines every week. Female celebrities in particular are held to a higher standard, their choices applauded or slaughtered by a gaggle of peers, all too eager to jump on the celebrity-bashing bandwagon.

The yummy mummy stereotype

A celebrity pregnancy is the cherry-on-top, with ‘yummy mummies’ who live their lives in the spotlight subject to a vicious stereotype of the perfect body image, their pregnancy physiques critiqued, and their baby bump suddenly a fashion trend. It becomes a case of Celebrity: Who Wore Their Pregnancy Better?

While Kim and her decision to flaunt her curves might be a far cry from shapeless smocks and denim dungarees of pregnancies past, the blatant attack on her expanding waistline is a frightening reminder of the tremendous pressure facing women to live up to the completely unrealistic ideals of the perfect body.

It’s no secret that skinny is attractive – we all remember the size zero phase don’t we? Pounds and inches are what count and pregnancy is not an excuse, which is probably the most galling thing about societal pressure. When a woman is visibly pregnant, like Kim Kardashian, she becomes more objectified.

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‘Fat-shaming’

Despite having little or no control over how her body changes throughout pregnancy, Kim has instead been publicly admonished for her weight gain. It’s been termed ‘fat-shaming’. Even Donald Trump has called her out on her choices to wear tight clothing, citing that it wasn’t appropriate for any woman over 120lbs (just under 8 ½ stone) to do so. I don’t think I know one woman who weighs that little.

The truth is we live in a society that loves to critique a woman’s shape. It’s bad enough that women are paranoid and obsessed with their weight for the best part of their adult lives, so is it too much to ask that when a woman is pregnant she can take a timeout? This grand notion was put to bed when I came across pregnancy shapewear online, “for pregnant women who want to gain a little extra control over the shape of their body.” I kid you not.

There seems to be no escaping the weight-centric mentality of modern day living. It’s a deeply worrying mindset that we need to snap out of sooner rather than later.

Aoife O’Connor is a journalist from Kerry. You can view here LinkedIn page here or follow her on Twitter here.

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