Pregnant women have a lot to deal with, from major physical changes to the stresses of welcoming a baby into the world, and it’s an unfortunate fact that, on top of everything, many also have to deal with being shamed for their pregnant bodies. Pregnancy shaming can take many forms, from overt body shaming to concern trolling about a mother’s health. Why is it that so many people feel entitled to comment on the bodies of pregnant women? Does the fact that they’re pregnant somehow make them public property? The idea that anyone deserves to be shamed for his or her body is wrong, but the idea of shaming a pregnant woman — to be clear, a woman who is busy INCUBATING A HUMAN — for the changes happening to her body is beyond ludicrous. Let’s all say it together: Other people’s bodies are their own. It’s no one’s right or job to police the body of another person.
I would bet that most women who have been pregnant have been on the receiving end of body shaming in some form (from out-and-out rudeness to subtle, invasive comments about their health), but there have been some high-profile cases of pregnancy shaming in recent years that drive home just how harmful and inappropriate it is to criticize women’s pregnant bodies, whatever shape they may take. It’s unfortunate that these women have had to deal with critics and concern-trolls while also coping with the challenges of pregnancy, but in standing up for themselves and refusing to bow to other people’s expectations, they show other women that their pregnant bodies are nothing to be ashamed about.
Let’s hear it for these ladies who weathered the storm:
This Canadian Meteorologist
In March of 2015, pregnant meteorologist Kristi Gordon went on air to discuss hateful comments she had received regarding her pregnancy, filled with gems like “Nowhere on North America TV have we seen a weather reader so gross as you” and “Buy some decent clothes and have more respect for your unborn child.” She and her colleagues responded to the shaming by taking some time out from their news reporting to send a message to the haters. She said, “It wasn't until I went to bed that I realized, despite me thinking that these guys are crazy, or me having all these rational thoughts about it — it's amazing how when you say something mean about someone, it still affects them.” (They also pointed out that, if you’re going to send nasty, anonymous letters to pregnant women on TV, you should learn how to actually spell the name of their show.)
What’s really messed up about this situation (besides, you know, all of it) is that when Gordon first announced her pregnancy on air, she specifically asked viewers not to criticize her clothing. The reason? She’d been through all of this before with her first pregnancy. She said, “They would say, ‘I can't believe you're wearing horizontal stripes. You look massive.’ Or they would complain that I'm wearing high heels. Everything. I couldn't do anything right when it came to clothing.” So the poor lady had to go through all of this TWICE.
In an article for The Huffington Post, Gordon suggests that something useful may have come out of this situation:
I did learn a good lesson. No matter how rational or confident you are, the mean things people say can have an impact. The negative thoughts seep in when you don't even realize it. Even a little joking comment could do some damage. Hopefully this can help us all be more aware of our impact on others.
This Australian Broadcaster
In January, news presenter Deborah Knight shared a “charming viewer email” with her Twitter followers:
“I was more disappointed than offended that someone would genuinely hold that view in a modern era,” she told news.com.au. She added,
The language used by the viewer was quite strong — she called me ‘repulsive’ — but I get it that there are certain people of a certain generation who might think that pregnant women should perhaps not be in the workforce, because back in the 1950s pregnant women were forced to quit their jobs. I was just disappointed that someone would express that view in 2016.
She later tweeted a more positive comment from a viewer, to show that not member of the human race is horrible:
This Philadelphia Meteorologist (Seriously, what the hell is up with people being jerks to pregnant women on the news?)
In August, Philadelphia meteorologist Katie Fehlinger, then pregnant with twins, took to Facebook to respond to comments from viewers, accusing her of looking like a “sausage in casing” and claiming that "sticking your pregnant abdomen out like that is disgusting.” She wrote, “Even during the most uncomfortable — and let's face it, less than glamorous — symptoms of pregnancy, what women go through to bring their precious children into the world is, simply put, AMAZING and you should be lauded.” She added, "Frankly, I don't care how ‘terrible’ or ‘inappropriate’ anyone thinks I look. I will gladly gain 50 pounds & suffer sleepless, uncomfortable nights if it means upping my chances to deliver 2 healthy baby girls.” PREACH.
This Awesome Florida Mom
When Florida resident Brittany Dykstra was pregnant, she had some lovely maternity photos taken at the beach. After posting the images on her Facebook page, Dykstra received a barrage of criticism from friends, family, and total strangers about her weight. “People said I shouldn't be taking pictures, that my face and my arms have blown up, and not just because of the baby,” she told TODAY.com. “And that pregnancy pictures are just for skinny women.”
Dykstra responded to the cruel comments in an amazing way: She had Natalie McCain of the Honest Body Project create a beautiful black and white portrait of her, celebrating her pregnant body just as it was. Dyksrta told TODAY, “If I can help one woman feel like she doesn't have to hide, then that's all I want. A plus-size woman can be beautiful, even if she's pregnant. It's something to celebrate, not shame.”
This Lingerie Model
Proof that a pregnant lady just can’t win: Whereas some pregnant women get criticized for getting too big (which is utterly ridiculous), others face hate for not getting big enough. Model Sarah Stage sparked controversy when she posted a photo of her toned pregnant body on Instagram. As Bustle reported, the public response was a weird shame-y whirlwind, with many media outlets seeming to hold up Stage and her small bump as an example to shame other women, while at the same time, many Instagram commenters chimed in to criticize Stage for not gaining enough weight.
Stage shut down the critics who accused her of not taking care of her growing baby (which… WTF, people?) by proving them wrong and posting an image of her healthy, adorable baby boy. (Which is kind of messed up, actually. Her baby is delightful, obviously, and she has every right to post whatever images she chooses, but the very idea that she was somehow obligated to prove that her baby was healthy to a bunch of total strangers is ridiculous).
This Badass Weightlifter
Last year, Sophie Guidolin made headlines after posting an image of herself lifting a 30-kilogram weight when she was 26 weeks pregnant with twins, with many critics arguing that her exercise regime was dangerous. She told the Daily Mail that most of the nasty comments came from men, recounting, “I had a man comment on my Facebook page saying that what I was lifting was considerably heavy — but considerably heavy to who? Him? My son is 29 kilos — if he falls asleep somewhere, I have to carry him. To me, that's not a heavy weight.”
She took to Instagram to defend her (completely valid) choices, writing,
Alot of people express concern over women exercising in pregnancy and I 110% understand why. There are so many myths, old wives tales & opinions out there it is hard to understand what is the truth and what is made up. In my opinion, listen to noone except your qualified & trusted medical staff. ... Each pregnancy is different & exercises that I or anyone else may be doing may not be safe for your body to perform. I have studied my pre/post natal certificate for fitness and still believe it comes down to each individuals fitness, pregnancy and circumstances.
This model/cookbook author/generally hilarious human
When Chrissy Teigen posted a picture of her baby bump on Instagram, it wasn’t long before followers were commenting on the size of her belly, even going to far as to suggest she’s having twins. She responded with a maxim that everyone should follow when it comes to other people’s pregnancies: “Get out of my uterus!” Amen.
Teigen hasn’t been shy about responding to criticism and concern-trolling. In October, when strangers criticized her cereal choices (yes, her CEREAL choices), she went on a hilarious, epic twitter rant to let people know that she gets to do whatever she wants with her own body:
This Little-Known Reality Star
Kim Kardashian’s first pregnancy was riddled with body shaming. Magazines with disgusting headlines like “I Can’t Stop Eating!” and “65-LB WEIGHT GAIN!” came out in droves, telling pregnant women everywhere that their most important concern should be looking hot — as opposed to, you know, GROWING A BABY. In her second pregnancy, Kardashian continued to face intense scrutiny, and even accusations that she was faking being pregnant (?!). She fired back in July by posting a nude selfie on Instagram. She wrote, “Everyone’s body is different, every pregnancy is very different! I’ve learned to love my body at every stage! I’m going to get even bigger & that’s beautiful too!”
Images: Getty Images; Giphy