BLOOMING FUSS: Why are pictures of this pregnant belly causing such a huge furore?
Tuesday July 21 2009
Another day, another photograph of a young starlet attracts comment. Hey ho, what's new?
It's the subject matter of the picture that surprises. No-one has mislaid their underwear and no-one is tottering drunk out of a nightclub.
The snap that has launched a thousand blog posts is of Nicole Richie frolicking on a beach in a bikini and displaying her sizeable baby bump. I mean, how could she?
Commentary on the public sporting of her sticky-out belly has ranged from the 'hot mama' type to the less positive 'put it away!'.
As outrageous pictures go, it's up there with a still life of a bowl of fruit.
Richie looks healthy and happy in a sensible black two-piece. Shocking, really.
How can it be that the sight of a pregnant woman's belly is still so remarkable?
Did we not have this conversation in 1991 when a with-child Demi Moore posed naked on the cover of Vanity Fair?
The furore surrounding her bountiful charms had some newsagents dispensing copies of the magazine in brown paper bags.
It was as if she was spread-eagled on the cover of Hustler.
Moore later said she was startled by all the fuss, and hoped the world had moved on since. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera also posed nude while heavily pregnant, their publicists presumably relying on the hope that it hadn't.
They were right.
Tokyo considered banning posters advertising the Britney photoshoot.
By the time it relented, Britney's belly had made headlines all over the world. Job done.
The people who turn apoplectic at the sight of a swollen belly must be so traumatised by being born that they don't want to reminded of exactly where they came from.
If Nicole Richie was swaddled in a floaty maternity dress, it would be 'ooh' and 'ahh' central.
It's the fleshy sight of what lies beneath that seems to disturb people most.
There was once a time when expectant women were ushered out of public sight for months, for fear society might be offended by a glimpse of their undainty figures.
Only when the baby was born were they allowed out of confinement, their bundle of joy all cleaned up and suitable for presentation like the happy ending to a Jane Austen novel.
Even up to fairly recently, the closest a father was allowed to the delivery ward was the pub next door.
It wasn't regarded as seemly for women to do their swearing and panting and screaming in front of the person who, by definition, had seen already them in something of a compromising position.
Now men are right in at the business end, cutting cords, witnessing miracles -- and, for the most part, liking it.
All it needed for there to be that sea change was for society to get over itself.
Childbirth's not a dirty big sin; and neither is being obviously pregnant.
That's the problem. Pregnant women are seen as a necessary evil for the world to continue, rather than people to be celebrated.
Remember when that empty plinth in Trafalgar Square in London was filled with the nude sculpture of a pregnant woman?
Grumpy old men speculated that Nelson would be turning in his grave at the spectacle. It offended people's sense of propriety that the sensual figure of a pregnant lady might upset the decorum of the square with its military heroes casting a cold eye on the masses scurrying below.
It's all a bit hilarious -- what's the big deal? Much more shocking to me were the photos published of a skeletal Nicole Richie a few years ago.
She was a lollipop lady then, riven with eating issues, head bigger than her body, ribs protruding like those of a half-starved stray dog.
And if you want to talk about offensive, is there anything more obscene than the pictures emanating from far-flung war zones every day of children's corpses red with blood or covered in grey dust from shelled-out homes?
Those, apparently, are easier to ignore than a candid snap of a woman up the duff.