This spring I was in a hair salon, and the majority of people around me were women reading magazines. I was absolutely shocked when a woman started criticizing Jessica Simpson for being too fat, while she was pregnant. Moments of such ridiculous gender policing are really disturbing. What has the world come to when we start judging women for how much weight they gain during pregnancy?
As it is, if a woman does not have children she is condemned, but when she has a child and does not lose the baby weight, or return to life as normal, then she is criticized. Women live in a constant dilemma.
Even though many people consider the media and pop culture to be stupid and unreliable sources of information, they do reveal many of our cultural beliefs. For example, as the years go by it seems that everyone has been extremely concerned that Jennifer Aniston is still single.
The pressure for her to settle down with someone is so strong that the media swarms with engagement rumors when she does something as simple as acknowledge another man. Then the question becomes: When is she going to have a baby?
She has been on Oprah and every other talk show countless times discussing this same issue and the only thing she can say is that she is happy with who she is and where she is in life. Still, the media continues their obsession because God forbid that a woman should be happy alone.
If Jennifer Anniston were to get pregnant, she would be expected to remain skin and bones except for her chest and stomach, and a week after giving birth everyone would be shocked if she did not return to a 120 pound frame. In terms of Jessica Simpson’s situation, I kept wondering if there was anyone else who thought the amount of criticism she received was alarming.
People were asking if she was delivering a couch instead of a baby, and they were calling her “absolute porker,” “octomom,” “disgusting.” “The View” ’s Joy Behar flatly said “the girl is fat,” which is ironic because it seems that women — especially women who have an opportunity to empower other women such as a “View” co-host — are the first to notice and consistently enforce this vile gender policing.
Now Jessica Simpson appears in TV commercials with her multi-million dollar Weight Watchers contract basically apologizing to viewers for gaining too much weight, which, keep in mind, occurred during her pregnancy. I can’t imagine what would have happened if Simpson had merely gained this weight on her own.
Again, the Simpson situation reflects a huge dilemma because women are expected to have children. Having children has even become an industry for these “stars,” with magazines paying millions of dollars, in some cases, for those precious first baby pictures.
Take a look at the reality show “Teen Mom.” People loves to criticize these girls for having children at 16, but when it comes down to it we glorify these girls for their decisions. We give them their own show, increase their ratings, all the while disapproving of them for what they are doing.
This dilemma goes beyond pop culture. I see it within my own life. Women are bombarded with expectations. Not only do you have to have a career, but you have to be married, and have a child. If any of these things do not happen, then it is a waiting game until they do. Meanwhile, other successful aspects of life are minimized. It is important to stop ourselves from focusing on what we consider normal, and instead look towards the self, because it is possible for someone to be happy without fitting into society’s sometimes misleading standard.
Contact Corin Harpe at corinharpe@gmail. com.