If you’ve read anything at all today, including top news sources, you know the most important thing EVER has happened: yes, the Dutchess of Cambridge, Kate, is pregnant. Jezebel has an excerpt from the official statement, as well as a comprehensive retrospective of tabloid coverage of Kate’s uterus.
I think this is an apt opportunity for us to note the wonderful problems with our collective obsession with Kate’s pregnancy. Or, if I can rephrase this as a question: WHY DO WE CARE?
I’ll tell you why, in case you were wondering. We care, apparently, because “Prince William and Catherine’s child will be next in line to the British throne after William” (NPR). Mmmm. OK. And British monarchy plays such an instrumental role in the geopolitical landscape. Oh, especially because we definitely support bloodline-determined power. Even though we fought a revolution against it to found our nation. But no, it’s cool. It’s classy. It’s chic.
If we are feminists, we might care because “Leaders of Britain and the 15 former colonies that have the monarch as their head of state agreed in 2011 to new rules which give females equal status with males in the order of succession” (NY Times). Yes, that’s good. Personally, I’m glad that it only took 10 centuries for that to be the case. The arc of history… amiright?!
But there are some among us who care about this because it is a blatant example that not all pregnancies and motherhoods are treated equally in this world. While women of color and ethnic minorities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were told to stop being so “fertile” and having babies, white mothers were encouraged to continue “their race” and sparked a crusade against homebirth/midwifery, leading to our current medical industrial complex surrounding birth. Oh the precious little angels! Unless they’re poor. Or immigrant. Or not the children of venture capitalists and titled royalty.
Listen, I watch Downton Abbey, too. I find it all fascinating from an historical standpoint. But it remains true that as long as major news publications make “royal” women’s reproduction a top news story–and as long as we continue to care–we will be contributing to the uneven, racist, and classist notions of motherhood that underpin our culture. Celebrate her pregnancy if you love pregnancy–but consider the underlying assumptions about that pregnancy, too.
In case I’m being too vulgar for you, there is a real live book that may seem more legitimate to you, and which covers this topic en gros. It is Susan Douglas’ The Mommy Myth, and it is a brilliant history/study of the cult of motherhood.
Stay tuned for less angry (perhaps) and more diverse content on the subject of motherhood, coming soon in the December/January Issue of Re/visionist.