Stop speculating and judging whether or not a woman is pregnant

The Halle Bailey pregnancy rumors emphasize how people feel they can dictate what a woman does to her body

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published November 3, 2023 4:10PM (EDT)

Halle Bailey arrives for the annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at 1 Marylebone Road, in central London. Picture date: Tuesday October 17, 2023. (Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
Halle Bailey arrives for the annual Glamour Women of the Year Awards at 1 Marylebone Road, in central London. Picture date: Tuesday October 17, 2023. (Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)

One-half of the Grammy-nominated duo, Chloe x Halle, and this year's Black Disney princess, Halle Bailey, has faced an onslaught of internet hatred for years for her racebent portrayal of Ariel in the live-action version of "The Little Mermaid." But this time the hate isn't fueled by racists irate over Ariel being Black. The biggest gripe the internet has with her is not knowing whether she's pregnant or not. 

If she is pregnant, the criticism is that she will lose out on her prime years in the industry. 

The guessing game surrounding Bailey's potential pregnancy has been ongoing tabloid fodder on Page Six, TMZ and the Shade Room in the last couple of months – all wondering whether the 23-year-old actress and singer is hiding a pregnancy and seemingly ready to label her as a has-been if she is pregnant. Bailey is yet to confirm or deny the rumors but the internet continues to speculate about her body in every comment across all her social media accounts. It is a relentless barrage of theorizing on the young star's body and personal choices.

This isn't the first time a woman in the public eye has been hounded over a rumored pregnancy — in fact, it's a disturbing pattern that seems to be prevalent for almost every female celebrity. Stars like Kylie Jenner, Vanessa Hudgens, Hailey Bieber, Jennifer Aniston and so many others have had to deny constant rumors about their bodies whether they were pregnant or not.

Aniston even wrote an op-ed for Huffington Post in which she dispelled pregnancy rumors with her ex-husband Justin Theroux. “The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant (for the bajillionth time . . . but who’s counting) points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children,” she wrote.

But none reached the frenzy surrounding Jenner's first pregnancy. It was an unrelenting social media firestorm from the paparazzi taking pictures of her any time she left the house in baggy clothing or just people online pressuring her to make a statement. The star did not confirm her pregnancy until her child was born but that did not stop people from scrutinizing her body, constantly taking pictures of her body and picking apart her changing looks unable to make peace with the fact that she did not care to confirm that she was pregnant. 

Bailey faces similar criticism because she has not made any statements or announcements to her fans and the media's prying eyes. Unfortunately for Bailey, her need for privacy only increases everyone's desire to involve themselves in her personal life. The fans' biggest concerns are that they believe she will be slowing down her fast-moving career. If she is pregnant, the criticism is that she will lose out on her prime years in the industry. 

This notion that young women or women, in general, have an expiration date when they are pregnant is dangerous and harmful rhetoric that confines us into stereotypical gender roles defined by age. It doesn't allow us to exist, to be desirable, to be successful outside of our 20s. It just adds pressure onto having it all by the time we are 30. The younger women are the most vulnerable to this idealistic image people have for us to have it all figured out before the clock strikes 30, and we are no longer the young ingénue.

The most troubling criticism leveled at women during pregnancy is that they won't be able to quickly snap back into shape post-birth. Even though their body has been a literal physical incubator for a growing fetus for nine months. It does not matter to people that the body has gone through incredible distress, just as long a woman looks as thin and desirable as she did before her pregnancy — no matter the cost. Most importantly, the message is also that their ability to get back into shape may determine whether they will have a successful career post-pregnancy. 

Sadly, this messaging was so strong that actress Jamie Chung bought into the notion that the industry hammers into actresses that pregnancy will put your career on hold when she received backlash for using a surrogate to have her first child. She explained she was "terrified of becoming pregnant. I was terrified of putting my life on hold for two-plus years," which played a large role in her decision to use surrogacy.  

"People probably think, 'Oh, she's so vain. She didn't want to get pregnant,' and it's much more complicated than that. For me, personally, and I will leave it at this, it's like, I worked my a** off my entire life to get where I am," she said. "I don't want to lose opportunities. I don't want to be resentful."

No celebrity owes anyone transparency about a pregancy.

This fascination with female bodies needing to be a specific size and level of perfection is only reinforced by the female celebrities who certainly do have all the resources to return to peak physical shape and return to work as easily as they had their very public pregnancies. Of course, we never know what they are dealing with behind closed doors whether it's post-partum depression, any sort of mental health issues or physical complications post-pregnancy. Therefore, they still uphold an unrealistic standard of what it looks like to be a pregnant person. Nevertheless, even the Beyoncés and Keke Palmers of the world who look even more glowy and all the post-pregancy adjectives, don't deserve to be picked apart for their looks and body either.

Most of all though, these invasive comments about a person's career and body during pregnancy or even outside of a pregancy are nobody's business. Pregnancy is one of the most personal experiences a woman can have – so constantly speculating about all the whys strips a woman of her right to privacy. In a country so dead set on controlling and policing women's bodies and our reproductive rights, privacy is literally all we have when it comes to our personal choices about pregnancy. No celebrity owes anyone transparency about pregnancy because it is a person's prerogative when they get to share that news or if they don't at all. For the most part, people don't share their pregnancies because there are unforeseen complications that could happen like miscarriage if they announce too early.

At the end of the day, as long as we continue to pick and prod at women's bodies, playing a guessing game about whether they are pregnant or not, we are also stripping them of the agency that lawmakers have recently done to us with the overturning of abortion rights in America. It may not be as egregious and it may be a completely harmless, well-intentioned comment but it has larger implications on the struggle women have had in this country over our reproductive rights and bodies and who gets to determine what pregnancy looks like and means to women.

By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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Commentary Hailey Bieber Halle Bailey Jamie Chung Jennifer Aniston Pregnancy Reproductive Rights Women