Generation bump watch

With her curvy figure and presumably large cup size, Mad Men actress Christina Hendricks has already been a target of Hollywood’s archaic attitudes about women. But in a recent interview with Health magazine, she proved that it isn’t just her body which makes her different than the norm. She revealed that she and her husband, Geoffrey Arend, aren’t interested in having kids.

I’m not going to act like this is more revolutionary than it is. According to Salon, the number of women who choose never to become mothers has doubled in size since the 1970s to around 20 percent. Nobody in my family has ever really been offended when I say I don’t want children and don’t actually believe in marriage. Though this might be because they know I’m overweight and extremely difficult to get along with, I count it as a victory for feminism anyway.

Most of the internet chatter has been in support of Hendricks, though you do get the occasional person who is sad that she will never experience the bright smile of a child in a field of daisies, and that her life will always be selfish and empty.

These days, most people know that anyone who isn’t committed to having kids shouldn’t have them. I always think of Eat, Pray, Love, when Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how her friend was excited about being pregnant at the same time that Gilbert was excited about a journalism assignment in New Zealand. “Until I can feel as ecstatic about having a baby as I do about going to New Zealand to search for a giant squid, I cannot have a baby,” she says.

Although I do love kids, I’ve always been a giant squid type of girl. You’re probably judging me for quoting that book more than you are for my self-awareness.

Unfortunately, this trend toward embracing the choice to be child-free doesn’t entirely extend to the entertainment industry. Though I defended Vogue’s decision to use Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on their April cover, I admit that my main problem with it was that she was promoting her upcoming marriage and her baby. There seems to be a lot of that going on these days.

I don’t know when the phrase “baby bump” entered the social vernacular, but I find it incredibly creepy. Even creepier is the “bump watch” that comes whenever candid photos of a recently married female celebrity appear. Pregnancy and motherhood has become a gateway to fame and a bizarre kind of fetish.

This aspect of fame goes way beyond your average Kardashian. I admit to having a total fascination with the campaigning that goes on during awards season, and you can find a lot of appalling sexism in the bid of an actress to win an Oscar or Golden Globe.

Watch Natalie Portman’s Black Swan victory speeches from 2011. Pregnant and engaged at the time, she had a habit of talking about everything involved in her participation in the film besides the actual acting, including the fact that she met Benjamin Millipied, her now-husband, on set. “Thank you to Benjamin, who is helping me continue this creation of [sic] creating more life. Benjamin choreographed the film and also you might remember him in the movie as the guy, when they ask ‘would you sleep with that girl?’ He’s like ‘no.’ He’s the best actor, it’s not true. He totally wants to sleep with me!”

Michelle Williams followed a similar track when she was racking up nominations for My Week with Marilyn a year later. She even went so far as to tell reporters that she didn’t even know Oscar nominations were being announced because she was too busy “being a mommy.”

The narrative is often the same when young women are trying to appeal to the Academy, over 70 percent of whom are old white men. Women aren’t ambitious. They don’t care about their careers. They do award-worthy acting work in their spare time when they’re not hunting for men to impregnate them or making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

This same narrative works for people like Jennifer Aniston who aren’t particularly talented and will never really do quality projects. She is 45 years old, and yet the majority of press about her revolves around when she’ll get married again and whether or not she is pregnant. If it didn’t, would anyone talk about her?

I don’t think women who have children are necessarily lacking ambition. Mothers are as varied a group as non-mothers, and every woman comes to that decision on their own terms, hopefully. But I do think pop culture may be doing a disservice to all women with this lust for pregnant celebrities. In the same way that actresses are asked about their clothes and diets while actors are asked about their work, any highly-motivated female performer is expected to make motherhood a part of her brand because that’s presumably what housewives in the Midwest want from them.

I give a thousand times more credit to women like Hendricks. And I think the public should be given more credit too. Unless we’re all rushing to Just Jared to read the story about how Drew Barrymore looks like she’s “about to pop.” Come on, guys. You’re journalists, not someone’s awkward great-aunt at a barbecue. Leave everyone’s uterus alone.