Stop prying into celebrities' pregnancies

Kelly Yang says the spotlight on celebrity pregnancies, often the result of people's idle curiosity, is intrusive and hurtful

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2012, 2:21am

What is it about celebrity babies that so enthralls us? Is it their chubby cheeks, the timing of their conception - usually a carefully guarded secret - or their glowing photogenic parents? Whatever the reason, people are at it again.

When I first heard that Prince William's wife Kate was in the "very early stages" of pregnancy while suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum - severe morning sickness - I was simultaneously thrilled and concerned. I know first hand the incessant worrying that goes with a difficult pregnancy.

As I've found out the hard way, pregnancy is not a guarantee, it is a gamble. Given that Kate and William are usually so private, why tell people so early? I can't help but wonder if it had anything to do with society's obsession about who is pregnant and who is not.

It was this infatuation that led two Australian DJs to make the hoax call to the hospital where Kate was staying. The nurse who took the call, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead last week.

In fact, the pregnancy rumour mill went into overdrive even before the announcement. For months, reporters have been analysing her every outfit, drink and even the fullness of her face for signs of pregnancy. They also did this with Beyonce and countless other celebrities - ruthlessly, at one point, calling Beyonce's bump fake. When Katie Holmes was pregnant with Suri Cruise, several news sources questioned whether Tom Cruise was the father. Then, when a pregnancy is confirmed, there is endless commentary about how much weight the woman gains, and, post-baby, how much she has lost.

By sharing her news, Kate opens herself up to similar gossip and hurtful rumours, not what anyone needs during a complicated pregnancy.

When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced her pregnancy, countless bloggers and journalists masked their criticism as congratulations. Specifically, they criticised her short maternity leave and castigated her for putting the company before family. Leave her alone, I wanted to say; it's nobody else's business how Mayer, or any other woman, prioritises her time or takes care of her baby.

But that's not true, said some Yahoo investors; Mayer's pregnancy was material information to the company, some analysts claimed. Others made a similar argument about Kate - she would be giving birth to an heir for the British people, so it is everyone's business.

I don't buy the argument that just because a pregnancy may affect others, we are entitled to know the details. A pregnancy - especially one with complications - is tricky enough without the musings of millions of others. If a person wants to share the news, that's great. But nobody should feel they need to divulge information just to satisfy the world's hunger for gossip.

While it's wonderful that pregnancy is celebrated so openly all over the world, we should remember that our comments and curiosity affect others. After all, a bump is not a basketball team - it is a person, not something that should be bet on.

Kelly Yang is the founder of The Kelly Yang Project, an after-school programme for children in Hong Kong. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard Law School.