Rihanna's Pregnancy Style Politics

Since she announced her pregnancy end of January via Instagram and a cleverly staged paparazzi photo of her and partner ASAP Rocky str...

Since she announced her pregnancy end of January via Instagram and a cleverly staged paparazzi photo of her and partner ASAP Rocky strolling under the Riverside Drive overpass, Rihanna’s maternity style has been marked more by what she hasn’t worn than by what she has.

She did not wear tent dresses. She didn’t wear maternity jeans. In fact, she barely wore a lot of clothes.

Instead, she bared her bare midriff at every turn: in green draped bangs and ombre pants at a Fenty beauty event; in a bra, sheer blue top unbuttoned over her bump and low-rise gray jeans at the Super Bowl; in black dragon-embellished pants, a vinyl headband and a crystal headpiece at a Gucci show; in a sheer babydoll dress over a bra and lace panties at Dior; and, most recently, in a Valentino sheer organza turtleneck over a sequined skirt and headband at Jay-Z’s Oscars after-party.

In the annals of public pregnancy, there has never been a display quite like it.

Unsurprisingly, the general reaction among celebrity watch sites was a breathless swoon. “Rihanna continues to wear the sexiest maternity looks ever” HighSnobiety sung. “Rihanna single-handedly gives ‘Maternity Style’ a new name” Glamor United Kingdom. sang.

They are right, of course. But, really, the styling choices are just the start. By dressing to face the world with the physical reality of her pregnancy so consistently, Rihanna went way beyond just a fashion statement. She is making a “totally transgressive and highly political statement,” said Liza Tsaliki, a professor of media studies and popular culture at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece.

It’s all simply expressed in the familiar trope of the “celebrity humpback watch.” Sneaky, right?

The result is a dizzying whirlwind of contemporary phenomena, including: (1) celebrity culture, in which we increasingly take our cues of consumption and behavior from bold nouns; (2) what Mrs. Tsaliki calls “the aestheticization of the body and the control of the size of women”; and (3) modern politics.

All of which takes this particular pregnancy dress story way beyond just “getting the look” role modeling. (They also explain why this particular “get the look” role modeling has been so disproportionately exciting for so many people.)

After all, said Renée Ann Cramer, vice provost at Drake University and author of “Pregnant With the Stars: Watching and Wanting the Celebrity Baby Bump,” this is a time when “many far-right people and even mainstream right-wingers are promoting policies that challenge women’s continued autonomy by identifying people over their bodies, their lives, and their decision-making capacity.

By dressing to show off her pregnant belly, and in a way that has nothing to do with traditional maternity clothes, Rihanna is modeling an entirely opposite reality. “She says, ‘I’m still a person and I’m my person. “, Ms. Cramer said. That she can be “autonomous, powerful and herself, even while carrying a life”. She connects the right to dress as one wants with all sorts of other more constitutional rights.

It’s a pretty drastic move.

The pregnant body, after all, has been celebrated, controlled, hidden, and considered problematic for centuries.

In ancient times, pregnancy was revered and exhibited, seen as a physical embodiment of women’s connection to mother earth, but by the Middle Ages and medieval Christianity, Ms Tsaliki said, it had turned into a state shameful, a state linked not so much to the sacred as to the profane.

It had become a symbol of our basic desires and a sign of feminine instability and lack of control and therefore something best kept behind closed doors and (literally) under wraps. At least until the child emerges and the woman turns into a model of pure maternal selflessness.

It was an evolution revealed in “Represent pregnancy”, a 2020 exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London which demonstrated how, since the 16th century, “the response to the disturbing physical reminder of mortality and sexuality engendered by pregnant bodies has changed”. Or so writes Helen Charman in a review of the exhibition in the international art magazine Apollo.

It revealed, she said, how paintings and other art forms have gone from depicting pregnant bodies “as assertions of paternalistic structures of inheritance and power” to trying to claim they are not pregnant. didn’t really exist (or that the condition of being pregnant didn’t exist) to bring pregnancy to the fore as an increasingly idealized state.

It started in 1952, when Lucille Ball got pregnant while filming “i love lucyand forced her producers to write her impossible-to-ignore condition into the script and onto everyone’s screens (though they still couldn’t use the word “pregnant”), as dramatized in the recent movie “Being the Ricardos.”

This in turn gave way to the tent-dress compromise. (Remember Princess Diana’s ruffled blouses and sailor dresses during her pregnancies in the early and mid-1980s?) At least until Demi Moore shocked the world by posing naked and heavily pregnant for the Vanity Fair cover in 1991, ushering in the era of pregnancy portrait art.

And that period stretched across blankets as bare as Cindy Crawfordnaked and pregnant on W; Britney Spears, naked and pregnant for Harper’s Bazaar in 2006; and Serena Williamsnaked and pregnant on Vanity Fair in 2017. This phase culminated with Beyoncé’s photoshoot/announcement in 2017 that she was pregnant with twins, a series of heavily art-oriented images that seemed to encompass references such as Botticelli’s Venus and a Renaissance Madonna.

As the pregnant woman’s body became valued for its vital potential, it increasingly became “a safe place of transgression”, Ms Cramer said. And that meant “this is one of the few times that people who identify women can safely disrupt certain norms.”

While they may appear progressive, however, as Ms. Charman wrote in Apollo of such images, they “still conform to glossy conventions”.

Not so Rihanna. She has made confrontation with her pregnancy part of her daily life. Or perhaps more pertinently, our daily lives. “I was expecting the announcement,” Ms Cramer said – maybe even a few more carefully calculated appearances. “But there has been no return to concealment.”

Although it’s possible this was a completely unconscious choice – perhaps her skin is so sensitive that it’s uncomfortable to have anything on her stomach – Rihanna herself is used to using consciously her own physicality and profile to force reconsideration of old prejudices and social conventions about female agency and beauty. Most obviously in her lingerie brand Savage X Fenty, currently valued at around $3 billion.

Indeed, her current approach may have been foreshadowed by her choice to have nine-month-pregnant Slick Woods model in her debut Savage X Fenty show in 2018 wearing nothing but lace pasties and lingerie. Famous, Mrs. Woods gave birth on the runway, later publication “I’m here to say I CAN DO WHAT I WANT, WHEN I WANT AND YOU CAN TOO.” (There were a few extra words in there to emphasize his point, but they cannot be printed in this journal.)

Change the date and those lines could easily be Rihanna’s maternity wear motto. She did characterize her own pregnancy style as “rebellious”.

Now the question, Ms Cramer said, is whether “an open celebration of the power embodied in pregnancy can make a difference”. Can the “performance of a powerful pregnancy by a wealthy woman at the top of her game filter” to change the way all pregnancies are viewed?

If so, Rihanna will have done more than influence the way pregnant women dress. She will have influenced our way of thinking about women’s rights. Pregnant or not.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Rihanna's Pregnancy Style Politics
Rihanna's Pregnancy Style Politics
Newsrust - US Top News
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