June 28, 2017

"But really, it would have been fine to skip this strange celebrity ritual, this complicated stew of personal indulgence, brand tending and sociopolitical me-too-ism."

"Yes, pregnancy is beautiful and powerful and worthy of celebration. You are womanly. You are phenomenal. God bless. But it has become virtually impossible for a celebrity to go through a pregnancy without getting naked for the cameras, her fans and — presumably — herself."

From "Let Serena Williams’s naked pregnancy photo shoot be the last of its kind," by Robin Givhan (in The Washington Post).

As Givhan notes, it all started with Demi Moore back in 1991. It was surprising then — unlike now — and it's never been done better. The photographer was Annie Leibovitz, who also did the Serena Williams portrait.

Givhan concludes:
But what is the broader value of the bared baby bump? Under the best of circumstances, pregnancy is a beautiful and life-changing experience. And every woman’s pregnancy is unique and captivating to her. But even if a woman is a celebrity, that doesn’t make her pregnancy newsworthy.
I'm not sure I agree. We could talk about the frivolity of our celebrity culture and the excess of vanity, nudity, and photography in American life today. But pregnancy is actually more important than we generally take it to be. It is our central purpose from a biological, evolutionary point of view. Our deep understanding of that reality pops out in weird distorted ways, but when we see the weirdness, we should take it as a cue to remember what we so often forget: We are all here because women carried babies in their bodies. Pregnancy is beyond newsworthy. By comparison, the idea of "news" is frivolous.

69 comments:

Bay Area Guy said...

Naked pregnant Serena Williams is still better than naked non-pregnant Lena Dunham.

art.the.nerd said...

> We are all here because women carried babies in their bodies. Pregnancy is beyond newsworthy.

Does the phrase "beyond newsworthy" now mean "remarkably common"? Something that has happened tens of billions of times in the past 100 years hardly seems to qualify as news. Shall we soon see exciting coverage of our every breath, excretion, and orgasm? (Or perhaps only a celebrity's breath, etc., qualifies as "news.")

eric said...

Why are they taking pictures of women with huge stomachs who have a large clump of cells stored in there, to either be aborted later or perhaps birthed, I mean, her choice.

Lem said...

Althouse said our deep understanding pops out.

David Docetad said...

"We are all here because women carried babies in their bodies."

True. This seems to be forgotten by same-sex "marriage" crowd, who are happy to deny a child its mother for the emotional fulfillment of two men.

Chuck said...

Well the #700 player in the world in the men's ATP rankings can't do that.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

We are all here because women carried babies in their bodies.

That and maybe one or two other things, possibly.

Ann Althouse said...

I meant to do that.

Ann Althouse said...

"That and maybe one or two other things, possibly."

But those other things were means to the end. The central project is reproduction.

Bay Area Guy said...

Oh, we're supposed to focus on the pregnancy part, not the naked part? My bad.

Yes, thank you to all the women who had sex, got pregnant, and gave birth to a lot of people. Much appreciated.

tcrosse said...

Does this baby make my ass look fat ?

MayBee said...

I'm fine if the celebrity wants to celebrate her pregnancy. I can never be as excited for her as I will be for my own loved ones and friend.

What I balk at is the idea that somehow a celebrity- because of her celebrity talents- is going to be a better parent or a more loving parent than the average joe.

MayBee said...

The Beyonce pregnancy photos were just creepy.

William said...

We are all here because men are attracted to naked women.

Gahrie said...

But pregnancy is actually more important than we generally take it to be. It is our central purpose from a biological, evolutionary point of view.

Exactly. Pregnancy is a blessing, not a curse.

Earnest Prole said...

The heterosexual angle is interesting, but in fact it is women who are most profoundly fascinated with other women's naked pregnant bodies.

John Tuffnell said...

Why the frustration from Robin? Jealous?

Or maybe she thinks she still gets to decide what is or is not newsworthy and that's stuck in her craw. Newsworthiness being the Holy Grail for the elite. Those former gatekeepers whose status is jeopardized by those who won't acknowledge either the gate or the keeper.

It's Keepergate.

John Tuffnell said...

Plus, nobody cares if Robin Givhan gets naked. Sad.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Yes, pregnancy is beautiful and powerful and worthy of celebration. You are womanly. You are phenomenal. God bless.

How to square that with.........AND then it is your right to rip that baby out of your body, cut it up alive, sell the remaining body parts and have an abortion celebration. Plus bonus: if you use Planned Parenthood, the taxpayers get to pick up the tab..

You go girl......or something :-0

Ann Althouse said...

"The heterosexual angle is interesting, but in fact it is women who are most profoundly fascinated with other women's naked pregnant bodies."

It makes little sense from an evolutionary standpoint for men to be sexually interested in pregnant women. And it makes sense, again from an evolutionary standpoint, that women should fixate on it: This is the condition that the species needs us to want for ourselves, when in fact it is a strain on the body and a serious risk to our survival.

We are thinking about this subject with minds that evolved from a long string of successful pregnancies.

Ann Althouse said...

"Exactly. Pregnancy is a blessing, not a curse."

You're saying "exactly," but I said nothing about blessings and curses.

rhhardin said...

Pregnancy is an accident, and is blessing or curse depending on the circumstances.

rhhardin said...

If it draws clicks, it's newsworthy.

Guys will always click on naked babes that they haven't seen before. Repeat traffic is a problem.

Women like the pregnancy.

Which wiring for evolution is to be praised or deplored is a matter for ideology.

rehajm said...

We are all here because women carried babies in their bodies. Pregnancy is beyond newsworthy

It's the commonality that's the problem for women who see exceptionalism for their pregnancy. If you're not pregnant someone else will be...and if we're undervaluing anything in biological reproduction it's the role of men in the process, not pregnant women.

MayBee said...

We've all been through enough celebrity parenting to know the celebrated baby bump will all too often turn into a baby who is shunted off to three nannies, a public divorce in which the kids are the pawns, a string of mini-me (look at me) appearances, and resentment between the mother and the less-attractive daughter.

So yeah yeah yeah, you're pregnant. That's about you. Now do a good job being a parent. That's about your child.

Unknown said...

I agree 100% with @althouse. Doesn't happen often or at all but on this all the way.

Unknown said...

"... in fact it is women who are most profoundly fascinated with other women's naked pregnant bodies."

Speak for yourself. Pregnant women are totally fascinating and in most cases, up till the first 6 months, sexy as hell.

rhhardin said...

Guys' celebrity clicks are about being interested in the character the woman played once, rather in the babe herself. Celebrities aren't usually the best looking ones naked, by whatever standard there is at the time. It's evolution too. Celebrities are selected for their specialty, not pinup status. Pinups are selected for pinupability and look better.

Earnest Prole said...

It makes little sense from an evolutionary standpoint for men to be sexually interested in pregnant women. And it makes sense, again from an evolutionary standpoint, that women should fixate on it

Zactly.

Kate said...

Serena Williams, pre-pregnancy, looked like a drag queen.

Her naked belly is art because we're surprised that a woman so masculine could grow a baby.

Roughcoat said...

Pregnancy is physically unattractive. Pregnant women are physically unattractive.

There.

n.n said...

Look at me!

Roughcoat said...

Kate @11:19.

Yep.

Gahrie said...

You're saying "exactly," but I said nothing about blessings and curses.

The "exactly" was referring to "But pregnancy is actually more important than we generally take it to be. It is our central purpose from a biological, evolutionary point of view."

The "Pregnancy is a blessing, not a curse." is a separate comment that probably should have been separated by a line break.

Of course from your point of view pregnancy is neither a blessing nor a curse, just a choice to be made by a woman...right?

Bay Area Guy said...

When do we get to see naked pregnant photos of Annie Leibovitz? Why does she get to take all the pictures?

n.n said...

It's funny how we perceive ourselves. It's as if our minds are detached from our bodies, and our brain is merely a conduit to express our consciousness.

Saint Croix said...

she looks great!

Saint Croix said...

"Let Serena Williams’s naked pregnancy photo shoot be the last of its kind"

fashion critic fears unemployment!

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

But those other things were means to the end. The central project is reproduction.

I was thinking more along the lines of liquid water and the planet Jupiter.

rhhardin said...

"But pregnancy is actually more important than we generally take it to be. It is our central purpose from a biological, evolutionary point of view."

A chicken is an egg's way of making another egg.

Fernandinande said...

You are womanly. You are phenomenal.

A giant clam can release half-a-billion eggs at a time.

You go girl!

Rick said...

I'm not sure I agree.

Me either. She's maybe the 700th best example of pregnancy power.

Saint Croix said...

A woman who does not live her life on the public stage might hire a photographer to memorialize these special nine months and then tuck those images into a family photo album, frame them for display at her home.

Is she objecting to all forms of public nudity?

Why single out a nude pregnant woman and tell her she must wear clothes?

buwaya said...

I don't know about you other fellows, but I like seeing pregnant women.

exiledonmainstreet said...

If I remember correctly, the first celeb to pose nude when she was big with child was Demi Moore. By now, it's like the celeb version of baby showers.

"Her? She's strictly C list. 6 months pregnant and not one nude photo shoot!"

Saint Croix said...

She won the Australian Open while pregnant!

I wonder if anybody has ever done that before?


rehajm said...

When do we get to see naked pregnant photos of Annie Leibovitz?

When you Google it.

CJinPA said...

Well the #700 player in the world in the men's ATP rankings can't do that.

This is so binary I can't even.

CJinPA said...

She won the Australian Open while pregnant! I wonder if anybody has ever done that before

Renee Richards came close in the 70s.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Actually, the pregnant female body was a fascination to all humans in ancient times. Before we truly understood the connection between sperm, egg and copulation; there was perhaps a vague idea that there may be a correlation.

However, the process of growing and expelling a living human being from the female body was (and should still be) viewed as a miracle. A gift from the Gods. Maybe a curse from the Gods if things didn't go well. A mystery and a miracle.

This is why some of the earliest carvings or depictions of women are of pregnant figures or are of "motherly" shaped figures.

The Mother Goddess was important to the Neolithic and older cultures. Without birth, there would be no people, no life.

Of course that doesn't mean that men would necessarily find the pregnant figure attractive in a sexual way. Most likely attractive in a reverent and protective sense.

Birches said...

The Beyonce pregnancy photos were just creepy.

Amen.

There seems to be this weird interplay between a society that preaches preventing procreation at all costs, and the availability and celebration of abortion, but then becoming completely obsessed with pregnancy.

n.n said...

Is the point to celebrate her pregnancy, the act of reproduction; or is it to celebrate the female body? Perhaps to boost the self-esteem of the woman undergoing Nature's life-altering, life-giving process. It seems that we can appreciate the female form and the act of procreation without the undergarment detail.

Earnest Prole said...

There seems to be this weird interplay between a society that preaches preventing procreation at all costs, and the availability and celebration of abortion, but then becoming completely obsessed with pregnancy.

Mrs. Madonna, I'd like you to meet Ms. Whore.

gg6 said...

"...pregnancy is actually ... our central purpose from a biological, evolutionary point of view. Our deep understanding of that reality pops out in weird distorted ways, but when we see the weirdness, we should take it as a cue to remember what we so often forget: We are all here because women carried babies in their bodies..."
Oh, Ms. A, please! ...'weird indeed! If you really believe that why not a Vanity Fair cover of a male erection?! After all, "We are all here because men have hard-ons..."
Actually, as aesthetic as I can read this Leibowitz photo, I find it is much more about the reverse architecture of Ms. Williams' buttock line than her stomach.
Bottom line (no pun intended), I find the entire thing a very dumb and clumsy affair.
:-(

Sebastian said...

This discussion is so inappropriate. As Williams demanded of McEnroe, give the woman some privacy--right there on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Lydia said...

Since when do we go all lofty-meaning over a "bump".

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said.. We are all here because women carried babies in their bodies

Women?? Blasphemy.
PEOPLE, Professor. Men can get pregnant too.

Johnny Sokko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Sokko said...

That's not newsworthy, but Obama's jeans game getting stronger in 2017 certainly is.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/28/politics/obama-dad-jeans/index.html?sr=twpol062817obama-dad-jeans0847PMStoryLink&linkId=39211546

Humperdink said...

Have they installed cameras in the birth canal yet?

n.n said...

I thought the prevailing leftism was that babies, at least human babies, are delivered by stork at a woman's convenience (e.g. worthiness, viability).

Jupiter said...

"And it makes sense, again from an evolutionary standpoint, that women should fixate on it ...".

Well, no. I'm glad you are trying to see things in evolutionary terms, but it really doesn't make a lot of evolutionary sense that women should be interested in each others' pregnancies. How exactly does interest in other women's pregnancies improve your chances of getting your genes copied?

And by the way, "making evolutionary sense" is a really low bar to begin with. It is notoriously easy to come up with an "evolutionary" explanation for just about anything. This is why some thoughtful people do not accept evolution as a scientific theory; it is not falsifiable. There is no observation that would cause us to say, "Ooops! No possible evolutionary explanation for THAT! Must be creation after all!"

Lydia said...

When do we get to see naked pregnant photos of Annie Leibovitz?

Here you go.

buwaya said...

" How exactly does interest in other women's pregnancies improve your chances of getting your genes copied?"

Inspiration to emulation.

buwaya said...

You all would solve your dysgenic birth dearth by somehow making haut-bourgeois young women see pregnancy as a fashion requirement. The new feminism, a fourth wave, the cutting edge, or something like that.

If that takes hundreds or thousands of naked pregnant celebrity photos by Annie Leibovitz its worth the price.

FIDO said...

These celebs do naked baby bumps for novelty sake. Consider how rarely they get pregnant compared to the number of hush hush abortions they engage in.

But exactly how brave is if tor a mega rich person who has 4 illegal nannies lined up to take care of their little darlings? That is the opposite of 'brave'.

And yes, we need a lot more babies, but if we keep raising them like the kids in Berkeley and Mizzou, no thanks! We need fewer of them, not more.

It seems pretty self indulgent and a bit narcissistic to demand all society give these women 'beauty validation', instead of their hus...significant others.

Honestly, the only celebrity mother I have any real respect for is Angelina and she never had a kid herself AFAIK. She has a bunch of them, she keeps them out of the lime light and she does as little publicity with them as possible.

openidname said...

"I'm not sure I agree. . . . [P]regnancy is actually more important than we generally take it to be. . . . Pregnancy is beyond newsworthy."

Seriously, Professor? I suspect some Althouse trolling here. The logical endpoint of this position is that we shoukd all be glued to YouTube videos of female celebrities giving birth, slimy babies shooting out of their grossly stretched cooters, followed by butcher's meat placentas and dripping blood. And if celebrities, why not everybody else?

Some things are meant to be private.

JAORE said...

"Pregnancy is physically unattractive. Pregnant women are physically unattractive."

Not to me, brother.

Jonathan Graehl said...

nothing wrong with glorifying pregnancy
nothing wrong at all
it's a plus for me that it's getting under anyone's skin, really