Pregnancy and public ownership

I almost forgot to blog this week, because I’ve spent hours on my latest project. (I might have gotten a little over-excited … )

I had debated doing something about the globalization of media, with my argument being something along the lines of “Local media are important.” Then, during class, someone said something that tripped an idea. I have recently studied images of pregnancy in an independent study on medical rhetoric, and one thing that struck me was how often pregnant women are bossed around, ignored, made to feel stupid, and generally abused. While talking to pregnant friends and seeking out other narratives, I found a recurring feeling that a woman’s pregnant body is not her own. I set out to combine these two ideas, and ended up with a research question about how the globalization of media has caused this public ownership of the pregnant body.

Britney Spears on cover of Harper's BazaarOne thing that really struck me as I went to work on this project was the truth about how much pregnant women are ignored. People generally think that pregnant women get a lot of attention, but that’s really not true; it’s their bellies, their fetus, that get all the attention. Very little effort is expended in determining the feelings and status of the woman. Sure enough, when you do a Google image search for “pregnant,” most of the photos that come up show engorged breasts and swollen bellies. Very few even show, much less focus on, a woman’s full body or face. In fact, the few instances in which a woman’s face was shown generally fell into two categories: 1) the pregnant woman in question was famous and her face was a selling point (like the Harper’s cover with Britney Spears shown above) or 2) showing the face was a necessary part of placing a pregnant woman in context. In my research, I found only one exception. It was an artist’s rendering, so I was not terribly surprised that it deviated from the dominant viewpoint.

Having completed this module, I am still left with a question. Is it possible for pregnant women to take back their agency without seriously endangering themselves or their babies?

I don’t know the answer to that – and I don’t know any women willing to risk it.

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