Why Aren’t Women Allowed To Get Married, Or Gain Weight, Without The World Assuming They’re Pregnant?

Sarah Snook is the latest victim of pregnancy surveillance - which has become yet another way we police women’s bodies.

Sarah Snook Succession

by Beth Ashley |

From Hailey Bieber fans to Kylie Jenner TikTok sleuths, people are obsessed with predicting the pregnancies of celebrities - some even presenting their collated evidence in social media threads and others starting up rumours about the conception. On one hand, anticipating the pregnancies of famous people is a mostly harmless, expected part of celebrity stan culture. But pregnancy speculations have a dark side to them, especially when they crop up following weight gain or marriages. And when the woman at the centre of rumour turns out not to be pregnant (or just hasn’t revealed it), this says a lot about how we view women in bigger bodies, women who are married, and women who are not mothers.

It’s hard for any woman to escape pregnancy surveillance. I remember being off the booze for a night at the ripe old age of eighteen, and immediately being asked by several people if I was pregnant. And now that I’m engaged and planning a wedding, people have assumed - for their own odd reasons - that I must also be planning a child. I don’t remember the last time I went out with the in-laws without them asking if I’d be pregnant soon, if I’m not already.

For celebrities, this experience is tenfold and the latest womb under scrutiny is that of Sarah Snook’s. Following Last night’s episode of Succession, fans are convinced Snook is pregnant.

To be fair to the producers, it’s probably hard to hide, but it’s always laughably obvious when actors are hiding a pregnancy - remember when Courtney Cox started wearing shirts six sizes too big in Friends? Or when Melissa Fumero just stood behind random objects to hide her stomach in Brooklyn 99? It’s often ridiculously easy to tell when actors in television shows are pregnant. But this isn’t the case with Snook - the rumours surrounding her potential pregnancy are particularly infuriating, as they seem to just be based entirely on her body, and her being a newly-wed. Sarah recently married Australian comedian Dave Lawson, which fans are connecting to the idea that she may also be concealing a pregnancy.

It should go without saying, but weight gain or changes in a woman’s body does not automatically point to a pregnancy. Women’s bodies change all the time, sometimes fluctuating a few times within one day. And women certainly don’t throw away their contraception in exchange for a ‘baby on board’ sign just because they’ve got a ring on their finger.

This isn’t the first time a celebrity has been presumed to be pregnant because they’ve recently been married. The same pregnancy rumours bothered Jennifer Aniston back in 2016. In a statement, she said ‘The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing,’ but it doesn’t feel like anything has changed.

Even the royals have succumbed to this marriage-must-mean-kids weirdness. On the day of their engagement announcement, Prince Harry was asked to address the question of parenthood. In their official interview, a BBC journalist bluntly asked ‘Children?’, to which the Prince replied: ‘One step at a time, and hopefully we’ll start a family in the near future.’

The people who are married must want to become mothers soon is a frustrating one, to say the least. It’s understandable that this happens. As a collective, we have been brought up thinking that motherhood is something that eventually happens to all women. Half of the advice we’re used to receiving is preceded with “when you have children” or “you’ll understand when you’re a mother. This idea that once you’re married the next thing to think about is kids, perpetuates old-fashioned ideas that women are married by men in order to continue a bloodline - that women are ultimately here to grow the family tree.

The seemingly innocent question 'so, when do you plan to have kids?', ignores the emotional, physical and psychological issues newlyweds may face when trying to get pregnant, or the pressure and guilt they may feel for not wanting to conceive at all. Whichever way it is, it’s none of your business and neither group wants to hear it.

Perhaps naively, I thought we’d moved on from this narrative. With more and more women talking about being childless by choice and celebrities like Helen Mirren, Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz talking about the importance of women choosing not to have kids, and millennials having way less children than their predecessors, I expected society and entertainment culture to have progressed past pregnancy speculations.

There’s plenty of awareness around the harm that can be caused when people’s potentially non-existent pregnancies are tracked, interrogated about or reported on. But it still happens all the time, and surveying celebrities in this way unfortunately encourages us to do similar to our own peers - side eyeing or excitedly yelping ‘are you knocked up or something?!’ whenever a friend coos at a baby for a second too long or turns down a drink at a party.

Seriously, this happens all the time. According to stats by non-alcoholic spirits brand CleanCo, one in six women partaking in Sober October this year were asked ‘You’re not pregnant, are you?’ by enquiring friends.

There are many reasons why this isn’t okay. We can never know what happens in the private lives of others, even if they are our friends. Most people keep child bearing - if they choose to do it - very private, and it’s difficult to know whether couples are having fertility complications. And if they are, unprovoked comments about potential pregnancies seriously won’t hit well.

On the opposite side of the coin, women who’ve chosen not to have children or are unsure if motherhood is for them as yet, can find comments about pregnancy distressing.

If Sarah Snook is pregnant, there’s a reason she hasn’t revealed this to the public. And if she’s not, it could be incredibly difficult for her to hear false rumours about pregnancies, whether she’s all for motherhood, actively avoiding it or is simply indifferent (because that’s possible, too!)

Of course, with celebs like Kylie Jenner and a few others, the pregnancy rumours turned out to be true. But regardless of whether sleuths are onto something, no woman’s pregnancy should be speculated. It reinforces damaging ideas about who should or shouldn’t be having kids, that women can only put on weight if they’re carrying a child, and maintains the outdated idea that women will inevitably reproduce at some point. This has been an upsetting social trope for too long, it’s time for it to go. Other people’s input on something that is so personal adds pressure to women who should be allowed to enjoy themselves and make their own choices.

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