For too long, women in the public eye have been subject to rampant media speculation over whether or not they are pregnant.
Not only is this kind of “fun” showbiz gossip a huge violation of privacy, it can also be misleading and deeply damaging.
Pregnancy occupies a strange crossover territory whereby it’s a very personal topic that is simultaneously seen as “fair game” by some – whether that’s invasive questions over “when are you going to have a baby?” or strangers touching a pregnant woman’s belly.
Speculation over whether or not a famous person is pregnant plays into this narrative, adding to an endless litany of sexism that women in Hollywood already face.
All credit to Emma Roberts, then, who shared news of her pregnancy on her own terms via a low-key announcement on Instagram this weekend.
We’re The Millers star Roberts posted a series of photos with her boyfriend Garrett Hedlund to show that the couple are expecting their first child, a baby boy, together.
For all the downsides of Instagram (the insidious comparison effect, a pressure to be perfect), it has at least re-handed celebrities control over their own narratives in this way – as opposed to having to rely on or respond via the media.
Much like YouTube has democratised the playing field for content creators / influencers (taking the monopoly away from large brands and entertainment companies), Instagram has allowed public figures to make announcements like this on their own terms. And when it comes to the more invasive elements of celebrity gossip, that’s definitely a good thing.
Roberts’ simple post, short on both detail and hyperbole, is also a clear contrast to the sensational way in which celebrity pregnancies are often depicted by tabloid sites.
And it’s a subtle pushback, too, against the cliché that pregnancy is a time of unhampered joy and elation. While many women will experience it as that, others may struggle with perinatal physical or mental health issues. Or they want to avoid celebrating their pregnancies in a way that’s too blatant, in sensitivity to friends who cannot have children or are struggling to conceive.
Roberts’ restained announcement avoids the festishisation of pregnancy that we so often see in popular culture. And it also allows her to reclaim control – a small but significant win in an area that women frequently lose out on, whether that’s a fight for the right to abort or maternity discrimination.
Roberts, who is the niece of Hollywood star Julia Roberts, is no stranger to the gender pay gap; an inequality that is exacerbated by the so-called “motherhood penalty” that women entail when they take time out of their careers for childcare.
“I’ve taken less money knowing I’m taking less than a male co-star because they’re telling me this is as much as we’re going to give you,” Roberts said in a joint discussion on industry sexism with Ellen Pompeo, Gina Rodriguez and Gabrielle Union in 2018. “Your male co-star is getting more; if you don’t take this deal, another girl will.”
Here’s hoping Roberts will raise her son in a different world, where boys and girls are more equal than ever before.