There’s a moment halfway into this week’s episode of Kourtney & Kim Take Miami when Kim Kardashian stands in front of her sisters, asking for their advice on a new dress.
“Is this a good look for me?” she says, fidgeting with the straps. “Because I’ve been struggling with clothes and designers.”
There’s something undeniably poignant about it. Kim Kardashian, you realize in that moment (and later, when she’s sent into a tailspin after being put on a worst-dressed list), is a fragile flower. She constantly questions her appearance and—under the tutelage of her style-obsessed boyfriend, Kanye West—takes great pains to wear things that are simultaneously fashion-forward, avant-garde, and (and this is where things get tricky) flattering.
But now that she’s pregnant, Kardashian’s insecurities about fashion and body image are brought into high relief. And she hasn’t had it easy: if you listen to the tabloids, you’d believe that Kardashian, who’s due in July, was simultaneously gorging herself and planning an extreme diet. In the last few weeks alone, Star magazine has claimed Kim has piled on a “65-Lb Weight Gain,” with “binges on pasta, cake, and ice cream.” In Touch says Kim is closer to 200 pounds but that her foods of choice are “waffle cones and fries.” According to a cover line, “With 4 months to go, she already ‘hates’ her body … Plus: her meltdown over a busted Zipper.” Us Weekly, meanwhile, says Kim is enduring “agony over pregnancy weight insults,” but that she’s struggling to keep a “strict diet.” One cruel blog even put up a picture of Kardashian side-by-side with a whale. Can’t we just let someone be pregnant in peace?
Kim Kardashian is, simply put, being fat-shamed. The headlines and news articles seem baseless—but they’re raising questions about how we have begun talking about pregnancy and women’s bodies. “This particular situation of fat-shaming because somebody is pregnant is really a form of bullying, and it is really, really hostile,” says Dr. Connie Quinn, site director of the Renfrew Center in New York. “Gaining weight is a natural consequence of pregnancy. Everybody’s body responds differently to pregnancy—and I don’t think it’s anybody’s business to judge a pregnant person as they move through a developmental stage.”
Somehow, it’s become fair game to mock the challenges of pregnancy. As Emma Gray and Margaret Wheeler Johnson wrote on The Huffington Post, the coverage of Kardashian’s weight gain “reminds us how acceptable it is has become to talk publicly about an individual woman’s appearance in terrible ways.” And it’s true: like Jessica Simpson before her, we’re using Kardashian as some totem of self-hatred, fascinated with her weight gain as a way of feeling better or worse about ourselves.
“Her fashion is one thing, but the personal attacks are uncalled for,” says Rosie Pope, maternity-wear designer and author of Mommy IQ. “First of all, it’s all false. Kim Kardashian has gained 65 pounds? That’s not true. And if it was, it’s something that many people deal with. It’s not to be made fun of.”
Kim addressed her weight gain—and the way it’s been talked about—in an interview with Extra’s Maria Menounos earlier this week. “When your body changes so much, I don’t think anyone will ever prepare you for what all the changes are, but once you grasp that and embrace it, it’s amazing,” she said. Of the tabloid covers, she seemed resigned. “There’s maybe two or three covers this week that say I am 200 pounds,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You are 60 pounds off here’ … It wouldn’t even bother me if I gained all the weight. I have the biggest sweet tooth and I love junk food. Being pregnant, I don’t like any of it.”
Despite reports that Kanye has forbidden Kim to wear maternity clothes, Pope says it would probably benefit her to wear clothes more suited for a pregnant body. “Kim is choosing things that maybe don’t flatter her as much as they could,” she says. “The waistlines should fall higher than the belly, rather than sit where the waistlines used to be.” She pauses. “But she’s still Kim Kardashian—and she still looks gorgeous.”
When Kim debuts whatever strange and overly styled thing she wears next, let’s love it or hate it—but please, let’s not talk about her weight.