I never imagined I’d be penning a piece with this headline or defending reality television starlet Kim Kardashian, but size-positive activists must be indiscriminate in our battles.
Kim Kardashian is an ideal target for collective cultural dislike and paradoxical fascination. The Armenian-American TV personality has parlayed her striking features and adoration for the camera – even in intimate spaces – into a multimillion-dollar endorsement empire. I understand the aversion and have even participated in Kardashian bashings. We watch Kim and her sisters gallivanting through Los Angeles and Miami while we struggle to get Sallie Mae off our backs and bust our asses at jobs that don’t recognize our full humanity and potential. Kim discards men like Kleenex, divorcing her husband of 72 days after cashing a 1.6 million check from People and raking up dough for sexing her ex-boyfriend Ray J on camera. I get the repugnance, respect its influence in cultural criticism and understand how and why it’s wielded at Kim Kardashian and her klan.
However, the new role Kardashian’s assuming as a mother to-be has opened her to a new and unwarranted plateau of criticism. We can disagree with Kardashian’s decision to have a child with beau Kanye West while she’s still married to Kris Humphries, but lambasting her body for reacting normally to pregnancy is off-based lunacy.
Tabloid magazines like Star and In Touch Weekly and Internet gossip publications are criticizing Kardashian for gaining weight while she’s pregnant – as if that’s not supposed to happen. Newsflash: Most women chuck on a few extra pounds when they’re with child. WebMD encourages women to gain between 25 and 40 pounds during pregnancy to provide nourishment to the growing fetus. Kim Kardashian might seem superhuman, especially after a round of botox stiffens her face and renders her capable of expressing normal facial emotion, but her larger breasts and expanding waistline makes her an ordinary pregnant woman.
Ordinary pregnant women might not have access to the resources Kardashian and her child’s father do, but like them, her body is expanding without her permission. She has the right to protect the sacredness of this time by insulating herself from the criticism, but we also have a cultural responsibility to cherish the changes women’s bodies experience during pregnancy, instead of fat-shaming a fellow woman for being normal.
Clearly, Kardashian’s changing figure is causing her discomfort. She’s unsure of how to dress her new body, as evidenced by several fashion faux pas she’s committed since announcing her pregnancy. But this hasn’t stopped her from admiring her new curves.
“I love trying to dress for my new body,” she told Access Hollywood. “I still love to feel stylish and still be me. You just can’t pay attention to [fat-shaming].”
We expose our cultural biases against the expectations for pregnant bodies by fat shaming Kim Kardashian. This is not a new phenomenon; it’s been highlighted in mainstream coverage of Amber Rose and Jessica Simpson’s pregnancies as well as the reveling over Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s instant snapback to normalcy after birthing Blue.
Knowles-Carter gained 57 pounds during her pregnancy and was “eating lettuce” to lose it in time for her three-night run at the Revel resort. She dropped 60 pounds in less than three months, which is not only unhealthy, but also sets an unrealistic standard for other women to mimic.
Our bodies are not monolithic. We won’t all glow when we’re pregnant. Some of us will be depressed and sicklier than others. Our noses might spread and our breasts may hurt, but that is the beauty of pregnancy.
By holding pregnant women, including Kim Kardashian, to an unrealistic physical standard while pregnant, we inflict fat shame on ourselves. We measure our bodies to that of our favorite celebrities and ponder why we don’t have six-pack abs three months after giving birth.
Emma Gray and Margaret Wheeler sum the impact of comparison up best in a commentary for The Huffington Post Women:
“It’s about the ubiquity of weight-centric commentary on female celebrities’ bodies. It’s about portraying weight gain as a central tragedy in a woman’s life, the cause of meltdowns and the source of insults, that then must be fought with extreme diets — even while she’s pregnant. It doesn’t take much for the average female supermarket-goer to think to herself, “Do people think that about me?” And just like that, weight has become a central drama in her life too.”
In other words, if we stop fat shaming Kim Kardashian, we can also free ourselves. Now that’s worth keeping up with.