Monthly Archives: February 2023

Rich Women’s Pregnancies, Spotlighted on TikTok

@amanda.steele24 pov: you bought *the* maternity dress (in my am@z0n) ???????????? #maternityfashion #pregnantootd #33weekspregant #youngmom #pregnancyfashion ♬ If We Ever Broke Up – Mae Stephens

Debbie says:

Kelsey Shelton’s article at Women’s Media Center, “How Young Influencers are Commodifying Pregnancy” is right on point … except that Shelton doesn’t say that influencers have been commodifying pregnancy since long before “influencer” was a word.

We live in capitalism, which commodifies everything: Sarah Lindig has an article at Marie Claire on maternity fashion history, going back several centuries and showing actual ads in newspapers and magazines as early as 1909.  Each generation uses the media of its time turn pregnancy into a profit source, along with parenting, children’s clothes, children’s toys, and and and ….  And by definition, turning something into a commodity means encouraging people to spend the most possible money, and thus shaming people who have less. Shelton almost certainly knows this, and I wish she had put it into her article.

With or without a historical context, her concerns are well-taken and well-expressed. And the concept of celebrity pregnancy centered for its own sake is probably mostly new to this century. After beginning the article with a list of pregnant influencers, few of whom are familiar to me, and says:

Their pregnancy announcements were usually followed by a photo shoot accentuating their swollen bellies and fun TikToks that document their pregnancies. Once their baby is born, followers can expect a photo dump on Instagram spotlighting the newborn or even an engagement or wedding announcement.

But the campaign doesn’t always end with the pregnancy. Several influencers made motherhood part of their brands by launching baby skin care lines in the case of Kylie Jenner, managing baby-centered TikTok accounts like Jenna Marie Greer’s, or creating a pregnancy-themed YouTube series….

She identifies these young affluent TikTok influencers as a trend, a substantial number of highly visible young women getting pregnant around or before age 25, and documenting their pregnancies in very slick and fashionable real time.

The prospect of pregnancy as a trend is concerning for a number of reasons. There’s the way influencers’ babies are seen in promotions and ads for their moms’ businesses, like props. There’s also the fact that these young women are having a very unique experience with motherhood thanks to their wealth. For example, in one pregnancy vlog in which Amanda “gets real” with her followers about becoming a mother, she says, “It just feels right, you know? In no way is this something I’m dealing with…This is something that I truly, like, am so so excited for.”

“Deal” is a distinct and deliberate verb choice; dealing with something requires handling, it requires coping, it requires strategy. If you’re rich, pregnancy might not be something you have to deal with. You can pay people to support you, you can afford the best doctors (you can afford health care in general), you can afford time off work.

Not to mention the post-pregnancy costs of the baby once they arrive.

I’m all in favor of women celebrating their pregnancies, though I hope they know that there are real risks of miscarriage, and death of baby and/or mother in childbirth, so I hope they are prepared for how to handle that with their avid TikTok followers.

Mostly, however, my concerns are Shelton’s concerns:

But I know one thing to be true: Influencers do have influence. There is certainly a relationship between social media consumption and eating disorders, for example. It saddens me that some girls might become pregnant despite their lack of resources and in spite of the abortion rights that are quickly fading away, because of these influencers.

And because they imagine themselves pregnant in fashionable outfits, twirling for large Internet audiences, building not just a family and a new life, but also perhaps a business, or a brand, or an imaginary life in which they won’t have to “deal” with the child who is the desired, delightful result of the pregnancy, because everything will be smooth and taken care of — just like it is for Amanda Steele and her ilk.


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Toni Morrison: Beloved‘s Language of Loving Your Body

Debbie says:

Maria Popova’s The Marginalian is one of the best sites on the Internet. Popova writes thought-provoking, moving essays based on contemporary and historical writing. This week, she served up some language from Toni Morrison‘s Beloved, a book I deeply care about, but rarely revisit, because it’s such a hard read. So I had no memory of these passages:

Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face… Love your mouth… This is flesh… Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms… Love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver — love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet. More than lungs that have yet to draw free air. More than your life-holding womb and your life-giving private parts… love your heart. For this is the prize.

Popova connects this passage to Walt Whitman, and adds to it with scientific art from Paul Sougy, whose work I didn’t know.

To me, however, once I get over how extraordinary the text is by itself, I connect to to the stark, painful realities of the novel, a book which is not primarily about joy, or hope, or even the possibility of getting through hard times. So what I see is the jaw-droppingly beautiful flower growing in the garbage slick, the extraordinary sunset over the killing field. Morrison was a genius beyond compare. The fact that she found the time not just to celebrate the body but to teach her readers how to love our bodies — which are, after all, us — is yet another reason to treasure her and her work.


Debbie is no longer active on Twitter. Watch this space to follow her on Mastodon.

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