@amanda.steele24 pov: you bought *the* maternity dress (in my am@z0n) ???????????? #maternityfashion #pregnantootd #33weekspregant #youngmom #pregnancyfashion ♬ If We Ever Broke Up – Mae Stephens
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.
Debbie is no longer active on Twitter. Follow her on Mastodon .
Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.