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Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Pregnancy for Profit?

You’ve heard about maternity discrimination, whereby women raising kids earn less than men, and less than women without kids, right?  Ditto for the well-documented gender pay gap [1], whereby women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man does.

 

But the gender pay BUMP?  Whereby pregnant women earn MORE than other women - and definitely far more than other men.  At least more than men who can’t get pregnant.

 

This phenom is real - chronicled by no less reputable a source than the Sunday New York Times [2].  The only bad news is that the pay bump applies only to celebrity moms.

 

Like Jessica Simpson, the licensing mogul and onetime pop star who now seems far more famous for having the longest pregnancy on record (and the hugest pregnant bod) than she ever was for singing.  Or Tori Spelling, who had a short career on “Beverly Hills 90210” and made-for-TV movies, based on her father Aaron Spelling’s Hollywood connections, not Tori’s marginal acting talent.  Or Bethenny Frankel, Kendra Wilkinson, Kourtney Kardashian, Nicole Richie and now even Snooki, all B-list celebrities who are poised to make far more money out of being pregnant, becoming moms, launching and promoting mom-and-kid related clothing lines and weight-loss programs than they ever earned through mainstream entertainment.

 

The radical career move to jump start celebrity used to be making a racy sex video, ala Paris Hilton.  Today, it’s having a baby.  You can sell your photos to paparazzi!  You can design pregnancy clothes!  You can endorse a baby stroller!  And it’s not male managers or greedy husbands who are walking off with the dough - the mamas themselves are getting very, very rich off their pregnancies and their babies.

 

Nicole Richie, one time party girl, transformed herself through her babies into a designer for pricey Pea in the Pod.   Posh Spice became Victoria Beckham, fashion maven, in large part by having four children (marrying David Beckham didn’t hurt). Kendra Wilkinson went from Hugh Hefner’s playmate to a Simon & Schuster book deal (two months on the New York Times bestseller list), a new show on WE, a weight-loss plan for OK! Magazine and a supplements spokesperson contract - all because of one measly pregnancy.

 

“Having a family [turned out to be] much more valuable than being at the Playboy Mansion,” Wilkinson told the New York Times.  “Like 100 times more valuable.”

 

Even stars famous for other legitimate talents, such as Beyonce Knowles, Jessica Alba, Cindy Crawford, Kate Hudson and Angelina Jolie, today receive invaluable publicity (and sometimes hard cash, with tabloids pay hundreds of thousands for cover deals) just for being pregnant or holding hands with a toddler on a Santa Monica sidewalk.  Often the timing is invaluable as well, since the pregnant moms tend to be past their entertainment prime, and looking at work-stoppages due to motherhood.

 

Of course it took a woman to suss out the public’s salacious interest in pregnant celebs.  Much of the transformation of a baby bump’s net worth is due to one single woman:  publishing genius Bonnie Fuller.  Fuller’s career included brilliant stints at YM, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and the Star. In her Us Weekly 2002 redesign, Fuller remade the sluggish tabloid in part by breaking a cultural barrier: she focused pages and money on newly-pregnant celebrities in the “Stars, They’re Just Like Us” section.

 

The spotlight on celeb baby bumps and newborns transformed tabloid magazines, and gave paparazzi an entirely new class of prey, with bounties regularly over $500,000 for a single photo confirming a star’s pregnancy.  The record seems to be in the $4 million range, coughed up to Jennifer Lopez and Marc Antony. Two million  dollars was another record amount, paid in a glitzy auction, for 2006 photos of the first Jolie-Pitt biological child, Shiloh.

 

Much of this obsession with pregnant celebrities is gross and parasitic.

 

Pregnancy and motherhood should be private, if you want them to be. Right?

 

How crude and opportunistic, to make money off babies - especially your own.

 

All true, at least in part.  Which doesn’t mean millions of us won’t dissect that People Magazine cover featuring Kate Middleton in a clingy dress.

 

Hopefully some of the gold dust will rub off on the average working mom.

 

For most of history, pregnancy has been a condition women were made to feel badly about and ashamed of.  Working moms hid our growing uteri from bosses and co-workers until we burst into maternity jumpers. The third trimester in particular was a stage females had to cover or hide from public view.  Especially from men, who seemed horrified by women in advanced gestation. By publicizing baby bumps, even in sensational fashion, the entertainment industry is, to a valuable extent, normalizing pregnancy, and making pregnancy a desirable, lucrative state of being. 
And perhaps correcting a stubborn, unfair, free-floating cultural bias. 

 

The “pregnancy equals lower earning potential” is not a prejudice perpetrated just by male chauvinist pigs. Our entire society, male and female, has undermined pregnant women for centuries.  Pregnant women, and new moms, were ridiculed as food-obsessed, baby-obsessed, lazy, emotional, sleepy, scatter-brained, and unreliable. Maternity-bias studies conducted by Cornell University [3] show that women are just as discriminatory towards pregnant women and mothers as males. 

 

Trashy magazines and tv shows - driven by the dollars to be earned by celebrity pregnancies -- now have the power to change all that!  Maybe - bizarrely - the cha-ching of the celebrity baby bumps will teach the rest of the world, most especially employers, the value of a pregnant woman. 

 

And in the meantime, a lot of mammas are going to get very rich.

 

Originally published on ModernMom [4] 


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