“Would you say that to my face?”
In 2016, Jennifer Aniston reminded the media how tiresome it is to have to effectively defend yourself for a change in your physical appearance. She called suggestions that she was secretly pregnant “absurd and disturbing”. And she was right: no one should need reminding that a woman’s body is not something to speculate over.
However, it seems as if we have a very long way to go before things change for the better, as Kaley Cuoco – who stars in The Big Bang Theory as Penny – found out this week.
The actress had recently shared a photo of herself and her husband Karl Cook on their honeymoon, leaning towards each other and kissing. However, this innocent image was enough to send the rumour mill into overdrive, with many suggesting that Cuoco is pregnant with Cook’s baby.
“Are you hiding a baby bump?” wrote one.
“When’s the baby due?” added another.
Taking to her Instagram Stories, Cuoco decided to address the comments directly.
Over a screenshot of the original photo, the actress wrote: “I’m so sorry I bent over in a way to where my dress billowed in the wind and made you think this.”
Then, in a direct challenge to those who felt the need to pass comment on her body and reproductive status, Cuoco added: “Would you walk up and ask this straight to my face?”
Cuoco is not the first woman in the spotlight to have this happen to her, and we sadly doubt she will be the last. Indeed, earlier this year saw Lili Reinhart (aka Riverdale’s Betty) forced to respond to rumours that she was secretly expecting a baby with co-star Cole Sprouse.
“It’s unfortunate that one unflattering photo of my stomach circulating the internet causes hundreds of people to think that I’m pregnant,” she wrote on her social media feed.
“Nope. Not pregnant… this is just my body. And sometimes I’m bloated. Sometimes an unflattering photo is taken of me. Sometimes I go through periods of time where I gain weight.”
Reinhart added: “My body is something that I will NEVER apologise for. My body will constantly go through change. And so will yours. And that’s fine. So let’s not put so much time and effort into caring about a stranger’s figure, OK?”
Of course, it is worth noting that those people who post comments about phantom baby bumps are never doing so to be cruel: many actually seem genuinely excited about the idea their favourite celebrity might be pregnant.
However, this only goes to prove the point originally made by Aniston: gossip like this doesn’t just see women’s bodies thoughtlessly picked apart, but also implies that pregnancy is the ultimate goal for our sex.
“[These reports give us a] dehumanising view of females, focused solely on one’s physical appearance… Is she pregnant? Is she eating too much? Has she let herself go?” the Friends star stated previously.
“I resent being made to feel ‘less than’ because my body is changing and/or I had a burger for lunch and was photographed from a weird angle and therefore deemed one of two things: ‘pregnant’ or ‘fat.’
“We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies.”