Let Black Women Be Pregnant

In recent, ‘this is only ever a thing on Twitter’ news, Meghan Markle is being obsessively criticised again for, no, not shutting her own door but ‘cradling’ her pregnant stomach. It is apparently a ‘disgusting and repelling’ act and is simply her ‘showing off’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, the royal family isn’t the hill I’m going to die on, but unpicking and debating the unfair and frankly racist way Meghan is spoken about is. Her transition into the royal family, the epitome of everything British and proper (read racist) has by no surprise been a huge struggle. The constant over analysing of her, her family and anything she does is a testament to the inherent racism of British culture and values. In true British fashion, though race is the real problem here, it will never be brought up. It is easier to knit pick at her nail polish and the way she dresses rather than stating the glaringly obvious – she is a women of colour.

Since joining the royal family the reporting on Meghan compared to Kate, the wife of William, has been starkly different. Sources from the palace say that she has been nicknamed ‘Duchess Difficult’ which is not surprising as even when meek, black women are labeled ‘difficult’. I don’t want to speak about her treatment as just a black woman, but rather her treatment as a pregnant black woman. Often when Black women in the public eye express joy in pregnancy, or even simply exist whilst pregnant, it is always received as a swipe at other women.

After a long arduous battle having suffered with adenomyosis, Gabrielle Union welcomed her first child into the world via surrogate. It was a beautiful moment, particularly as she has been so open about her fertility struggles including nine miscarriages. Despite this, after posting photos of herself and husband Dwyane Wade in a hospital scrubs and holding the baby, the internet erupted with hate.

People questioned why she was ‘acting like she had the baby’ after using the skin to skin technique to hold her child. The tirade against her was shameful and reflective of the general outrage over black joy. Even post-pregnancy, people continued to make comments about the way that she kissed her child and called her ‘unhygienic’. This resulted in her making a statement to let people know that she was accompanied by a nurse and always washes her hands before handling her child.  ‘I am blessed enough to have a nurse here with us while at work’ she commented ‘Kaav is healthy and I don’t even touch her without washing and sanitizing myself and everything and everyone that comes into contact with her.’

Serena Williams faced the exact same backlash after announcing her pregnancy. The New Scientist put out a now-deleted tweet and video asking: “Could Pregnancy have helped Serena Williams win the Australian Open?” The constant need to undermine Williams and her achievements has become a permanent fixture in the sport. She is heavily penalised and critiqued compared to other professional players and is often reported on in a much more negative light. After announcing her pregnancy, former Tennis champion Ilie Nastase made shockingly racist remarks about the potential colour of her daughters’ skin.

Even the Queen B was met with a flurry of tone-death and racist takes after sharing with the world that she was due to have twins. Most notable was the way that Beyonce was slated for allegedly being insensitive to those that could not get pregnant. There was also a lot of hassle about the allegedly unrealistic and ‘tacky’ way she announced her pregnancy. Rosie Millard wrote in The I paper that Beyonce should have had a ‘haggard face’ and asked ‘where are the stretch marks’. To that I ask, why can’t Black women just exist? Several white celebrities have posted their cringe-worthy pregnancy shoots without being lambasted by bitter Becky’s who vehemently believe that they don’t look realistic enough. That’s the entire point of a pregnancy shoot, it shows the delicacy, beauty and joy of pregnancy.

Pregnancy shoots aside, the racism that pregnant Black women face at the hands of the media isn’t wrong because they say mean things. It is harmful because it exacerbates already institutionalised racist ideas about black people. It is a damning reflection of the internalised racism that manifests itself in the services that are so important to us. Black women are 243% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications than white women. It is an alarming and unnerving statistic, having kids to me was always a no-brainer but now I seriously reconsider whether it is worth the risk. Whilst not all of these issues are attributed to the systemic racism of doctors, the subconscious bias of medical staff has been detrimental to Black women’s health. Irrespective of class and education there seems to be a continued issue of black women being ignored by their doctors and suffering greatly because of it.

So, the lambasting of public facing pregnant black women needs to stop. It doesn’t matter if their pregnancy shoots are glam or if they cradle their bumps, how they exist whilst pregnant should not be a worry. The fact that they are dying and an alarming rate should be.

 

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