Now that the second royal baby is almost here, what’s the verdict on the Duchess of Cambridge’s maternity wardrobe this time round?
Women’s magazine writer, your newsagent
I think the fact that Kate Middleton-as-was wears anything that could even be described as “a wardrobe” while eight months pregnant – as opposed to, say, a giant sack, a pair of mismatched pyjamas from The Gap in XXXL or an animal onesie from the Primark sale – proves superhuman qualities on her part. But my opinion, it seems, is a lone one, at least in the media.
The older I get and the more I know about pregnancy, the more amazed I am by attitudes towards it from certain sectors of the media. One particular British broadsheet, for example, recently ran a whole article about “Kate Middleton’s fashion hits and misses” during pregnancy, and, for some reason, the crust of earth did not immediately split open and swallow this publication into the depths of hell.
The media – mainly, but by no means exclusively, the rightwing end of it – expend an enormous amount of energy telling women that they absolutely must bear children and that if they don’t they are clearly pitiable and yet also probably evil failures. And yet, simultaneously, these same publications openly judge women for not looking like svelte goddesses during and in the months immediately after pregnancy. Reading these kinds of articles always puts me in mind of certain conservative commentators and, worse, politicians in the US, who are somehow in the position of legislating what American women can and can’t do with their bodies and yet prove time and time again to be ignorant of female biology. So when I read articles in women’s magazines and in the so-called women’s sections of certain newspapers judging whether an eight-months-pregnant woman really “nailed” her polka-dot look, it pretty much sounds identical to the time that that sweaty pustule of ignorance Rush Limbaugh suggested that a woman desiring the birth control pill is not just “a slut”, but also that she’d have to take the pill every time she had sex (“she’s having so much sex she can’t afford her own birth control pills”, quoth Limbaugh, who, for the record, has been married four times). It really is almost impressive that, in all his experience of the female sex, he’s never actually learned how women’s bodies work. Funny how those who understand women the least feel the most entitled to pronounce on how women should live.
Just to clear something up here, pregnancy generally sucks. Oh sure, sure, miracle of birth, circle of life, hakuna matata, etc and so forth. But, by and large, pregnancy involves at the very least two and quite possibly all of the following:
1. Feeling the size of a whale
6. A collapsed pelvic floor
7. Swollen limbs
10. Varicose veins
11. Body fluids leaking from pretty much all orifices
Let me know when you want me to stop because I can continue all day on this theme. So the idea that a woman should give even a moment’s thought to how she looks when she feels like a giant watermelon inside her body is pressing down on her vagina suggests, I think we can all agree, a fairly bewildering mentality. I admit, I have a personal prejudice against maternity clothes that make cutesy references to the unborn baby – you know, T-shirts that say “Bun in the oven!” or “Mind the bump” (“bump” for pregnancy is like nails on a blackboard to my ears), or even those badges made by Transport for London saying “Baby on board!” But then, such items do let people on public transport know that they should sacrifice their seat for the pregnant lady, so, really, fair enough. Wear whatever you like, pregnant women, and more power to all of you.
Contrary to Barack Obama’s claim recently that “the American people are quite fond of the royal family”, this particular American could not give half a hoot about the Windsors, and I would be first in the streets to cheer if they were divested of their royal status tomorrow. I can’t bear popular culture that depicts the royals as if they were otherworldly noble beings, such as the ridiculous play The Audience or films such as The Queen (no offence Helen Mirren – you are a noble being in my book. The royals? Not so much). Bring on The Royals, I say, the new TV series starring Elizabeth Hurley as a member of the decidedly Kardashian-esque royal family. Because the royals really, really aren’t special – they’re a just a bunch of people who happen to have been born into a family that for some reason is waited on hand and foot for the entirety of their lives. But Kate, I’m beginning to suspect, may well be a superhero because, despite being heavily pregnant, and having suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum during both her pregnancies, she still appeared in public, flew on airplanes and even occasionally smiled, and not once was she photographed looking like a deranged wildebeest. Anyone out there saying, “Oh but it’s easy for her, she has a stylist, a hairdresser, etc” has no idea of how unpleasant hyperemesis gravidarum is. No amount of pampering can cover that shizzle up in mere mortals.
So what do I think of Kate’s pregnancy wardrobe? I think the wardrobe, and she by extension, might actually be magical. Would that I had the magic to make the media leave the poor woman in peace now.
Post your questions to Hadley Freeman, Ask Hadley, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Email ask. email@example.com.