On October 15, news broke that activist and former actress Meghan Markle is pregnant with her first child with Prince Harry. It seemed that nearly every publication covered her pregnancy announcement. This wasn’t surprising, due to the British Royal Family’s popularity. Also, a lot of people like reading about positive baby news in general, so this announcement was a happy disruption to the news cycle. What did disappoint me was how it seemed that media outlets began to talk about Markle only in relation to her pregnancy.
This change, from referring to Meghan as a person to “pregnant”, came overnight. Literally. People.com published an article titled “This Is How Pregnant Meghan Markle Plans to Survive 76 Tour Stops in 16 Days — in Heels!” on October 16. The title is the first thing that rubbed me the wrong way. Why is her title “pregnant”? She’s an accomplished activist and actress. Why didn’t one of these roles go in front of her name? Or, if you want to recognize her formal title, why not refer to her as Duchess Meghan? It seems odd that her title would change so quickly and so universally. Additionally, the basis of the article itself also seems condescending towards pregnant people. Pregnant people work hard jobs and accomplish amazing tasks every day. Why is it so hard for Meghan to “survive” a publicity tour?
The media prying into Meghan’s life and guessing how her pregnancy may change it is also just weird. Pregnancies impact people’s bodies differently, and I doubt media outlets can guess how Meghan’s pregnancy affects her.
Meghan is hardly alone when it comes to the media turning her pregnancy into a major part of her identity. Celebrities like Beyoncé were also subjected to the same misogyny. In 2017, USA Today published a piece titled “Pregnant Beyoncé stuns in $420 turquoise gown at pre-Oscar party.” I’m interested to know why it was important to write that “Pregnant Beyonce” stunned at a party. Last time I checked Beyoncé always looks fierce. Or are people so misogynistic that they find it shocking and newsworthy that a pregnant person can look great?
Why do media outlets change the title of a celebrity if they are expecting a child? I blame misogyny. The role of women has long been to produce children for their husbands. And in the case of women in the royal family, produce heirs for the throne. This is not to say that media outlets set out to hold misogynistic values when writing articles about people who are pregnant. But the outcome is more important than the intent. The media needs to recognize its role in upholding and perpetuating misogynistic values.
However, a person’s pregnancy is important to bring up on certain occasions. Even for Meghan, I understand mentioning her pregnancy when it’s appropriate. Like how she cannot travel with her husband to a summit in Zambia over Zika virus concerns, because the Zika virus can cause serious birth defects. Mentioning this in an article about Meghan can help raise awareness about the devastating effects the Zika virus has in some parts of the world. Or in the case of Trystan Reese, mentioning his pregnancy helps remind us that cis women are not the only people who carry children. Trans men face a lot more barriers than cis women do when it comes to being pregnant. Showcasing this in the media is a positive step.
That being said, the media needs to recognize its own role of perpetuating misogynistic values. Sure, Meghan is pregnant, but that’s not the only thing that she has going on in her life. People who are pregnant are more than child-bearers, and it’s time the world realized that.