Skip to main content

Perfectly pregnant celebs? Don't fall for it

By Peggy Drexler, Special to CNN
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1943 GMT (0343 HKT)
It's another boy for Kourtney Kardashian. The "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star welcomed <a href='http://www.eonline.com/shows/keeping_up_with_the_kardashians/news/549034/kourtney-kardashian-reveals-that-she-is-pregnant-on-keeping-up-with-the-kardashians-premiere-see-the-full-recap' target='_blank'>her third child </a>with partner Scott Disick on December 14. The new arrival, named Reign Aston, joins siblings Mason, 5, and daughter Penelope, 2. It's another boy for Kourtney Kardashian. The "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" star welcomed her third child with partner Scott Disick on December 14. The new arrival, named Reign Aston, joins siblings Mason, 5, and daughter Penelope, 2.
HIDE CAPTION
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
Oh, baby! Growing celebrity families
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peggy Drexler: Kate Winslet on Vogue is pregnant but it's impossible to tell
  • Drexler: Pregnant celebs on magazine covers look flawless, skinny with a bump
  • Drexler: It says big is OK only when you're expecting and Photoshopped to perfection
  • In reality, she says, women change shape and don't look perfect, and that's fine

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler.

(CNN) -- Actress Kate Winslet appears on the cover of the November issue of Vogue, now on newsstands. She is radiant; glowing and fairly ageless in that way that, one has come to suspect, only professional photo editing can achieve, although Winslet has objected to digital manipulation of her image in the past.

Still, much ado has been made of the fact that Winslet is pregnant with her third child during the shoot -- but it's impossible to tell. On the cover, only her face is visible; inside, her body is shrouded in layers of thick fabrics. She looks gorgeous. But pregnant? Aside from the maternal wrapping of her hands around her nonexistent belly, not particularly.

Peggy Drexler
Peggy Drexler

The publishing industry has a history of putting pregnant celebrities on magazine covers and featuring them in fashion shoots. Naturally, these women are made to look flawlessly chic and as comfortable as ever in their skin, two characteristics not typically associated with the very physical nine months of carrying a child.

Demi Moore photographed by Annie Leibovitz was, of course, the pioneer of this particular genre of cover modeling when she posed naked -- aside from some giant jewels and an aloof expression -- for the cover of Vanity Fair back in 1991. It's an image that's inspired countless others, with magazines recreating the look since then with celebrities such as Cindy Crawford, Jessica Simpson and Claudia Schiffer.

And the bodies keep getting better: At least Leibovitz, or Vanity Fair, let Moore retain a bit of realistic cellulite. But by the time we got to supermodel Miranda Kerr, naked and pregnant in W in 2010, it was official: Pregnancy is just regular life, albeit with a slightly rounded tummy.

And so it goes this month, both with Winslet and with Ivanka Trump, who is seen posing for the cover of FitPregnancy magazine in a dress with a hip-high slit looking both very pregnant and very trim. The cover elicited such raves as "Ivanka Trump is flawless!" And indeed she is, enviably, almost impossibly, so.

"Big is OK when you're expecting and Photoshopped to glowing perfection: after all, it's only temporary. Otherwise, forget about it."
Peggy Drexler

Putting aside the now-standard practice of electronically "perfecting" already gorgeous women for the purpose of selling magazines, there is something particularly dangerous about depicting pregnant women in such a way. One might argue that these magazines are celebrating a woman's natural shape during a beautiful time in her life. But is it a celebration? Or an exploitation?

The fact is that it's the rare instance in which a female celebrity larger than a size 4 is put on the cover of a magazine, especially a fashion magazine. When she is, it's often because the magazine is running a "special issue" -- or because she's expecting. Or both. In 2003, for example, Vogue put a pregnant Brooke Shields on the cover for its Shape issue. But pregnancy isn't a shape; not exactly. It is, however, to hear these magazines tell it -- or, rather, to see them depict it -- pretty damn glamorous.

The message: Big is OK when you're expecting and Photoshopped to glowing perfection: After all, it's only temporary. Otherwise, forget about it.

Consider Elle's current issue, which features six different cover celebrities as part of its annual "Women in Hollywood" theme. One is actress Melissa McCarthy, who looks gorgeous in an enormous Marina Rinaldi coat, as the other cover actresses are shown in form-fitting dresses or various states of undress. How come we don't get to see McCarthy's bumps the way we do Trump's?

Of course, women respond differently to pregnancy. Perhaps these female celebrities, who are indisputably genetically blessed, look no different posing pregnant than they do when they're not expecting. Perhaps, but not likely.

What's likely, though, is the message society is getting: that ease and beauty in pregnancy are the norm. By unequivocally depicting expectant women as beautiful and glowing and ready for a night out in a tight dress, these magazines set up unrealistic expectations for both pregnancy and motherhood, neither of which is easy, beautiful, or picture-perfect, at least not all the time.

Proof of shifting expectations has already emerged, and society has indeed come to expect a certain level of beauty from its pregnant stars. Though Kim Kardashian is generally admired for having a body that does not succumb to the Hollywood ideal, she received constant negative press throughout her pregnancy for her weight gain; for not being, at all times, "cover-worthy."

People, with the help of the media, seem to forget that pregnant women change shape, and that's a wonderful, natural thing that needn't be covered up or defended or cloaked in haute couture. It needn't always look perfect, because when is it, really?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peggy Drexler.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 0127 GMT (0927 HKT)
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1617 GMT (0017 HKT)
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
December 26, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
December 27, 2014 -- Updated 2327 GMT (0727 HKT)
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
December 25, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT