America’s Baby Bump Obsession

America’s Baby Bump Obsession

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When the reigning diva of the American music scene, Beyoncé, rubbed her protruding belly during an appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards, announcing that she and Jay-Z (the reigning king of hip-hop) were expecting their first child, the Internet exploded with excitement.

According to CBS News, there were a record-setting 8,868 tweets per second about Beyoncé’s baby bump, the highest for a recorded event. That tops other major news events, including the American women’s loss in the World Cup soccer finals and even the death of Osama bin Laden.

The world was elated, nicknames like Babyoncé quickly emerged…and then came the “scandal.”

MORE: Your Healthiest Pregnancy

Last week, Beyoncé appeared on an Australian talk show and when she sat down, part of her dress around her stomach collapsed in such a way that conspiracy theorists all over the interwebs cried that she must be faking the pregnancy. Mind you, there had been pictures of the songstress on a beach mere weeks before in a bikini where her bump was on full, unadulterated display.

But this didn’t stop practically every entertainment and gossip outlet from running items on the “controversy.” Theories ranged from Beyoncé wanting to appear more pregnant for press purposes to assumptions that she was never pregnant and that she and Jay-Z had hired a surrogate so she didn’t get fat.

The truth in all likelihood is that the structure of B’s maternity dress simply crumpled a little because her bump doesn’t fill it out completely yet. But the bigger question that comes to mind is why are we so obsessed with celebrity baby bumps to begin with—because while Beyoncé might be the most famous mom-to-be on the planet at the moment, she is not the only one under scrutiny.

There are entire websites devoted to the celebrity “Bumpwatch”—and you don’t even have to be an A-lister to make the cut these days. For every “Is she or isn’t she?” about Jennifer Garner (who now is in fact pregnant with her third child with husband Ben Affleck), Jessica Alba and Victoria Beckham, there’s equal speculation about and ogling of celebrities who under normal circumstances would not warrant much press at all. Think Melissa Rycroft, Kim Zoliciak, Rebecca Gayheart and Ali Larter.

So why would any woman play up her bump or why are we so fascinated by celeb (and semi-celeb) baby bumps? YouBeauty Psychology Advisor Art Markman, Ph.D., says, “The ‘baby bump’ is the only visible sign that we have that someone is pregnant. For the first few months, you basically have to take someone’s word for it. So accentuating the baby bump allows the celebrity to send her message even through pictures, which are spread quickly on the Internet and in magazines.” He added: “I think it is no surprise that we are generally fascinated by the personal lives of celebrities. Relationships, bad behavior, births, weddings—all of it is fair game.”

It certainly is, but the pregnancies of the rich and famous seem to have a special hold on American women in particular. Is it that we are idealizing celebrity pregnancies because we only see the pretty, shiny parts—the perfectly-sized baby bump, the elaborate baby showers—and not the mood swings and morning sickness? Are we dying to see if they get fat?

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