Is Royal Baby-Making All We Expect From The Duchess Of Cambridge?

23/07/2013 11:32 | Updated 22 May 2015

Our obsession over one woman's womb has been so fevered it's turned into something of a nationwide fetish. So is baby-making all we expect from the Duchess Of Cambridge? That's kind of weird, says Philippa Warr


This was the question put to visitors to the Guardian homepage on Monday as the artist formerly known as Kate Middleton was [probably] swearing at Prince William, demanding fourteen epidurals and pooping into the water birth pool. Hey. We've watched a LOT of reality telly, that happens.

The point of the question was so that readers with zero interest in Windsor Womb Watch 2013 could toggle all royal baby content off and get back to, I dunno, real grown up news or something.

But the problem with that is that we live under a monarchy. Okay fine, so it might be pretty much meaningless and more a linchpin of the tourist economy or something we trot out when the Obamas are over but it still exists. (The Queen is basically that butter dish which collects dust in the corner until someone noteworthy comes to visit and then suddenly we're supposed to pretend we're a family who uses a butter dish at every damn mealtime.) I digress, the point is that part of our system of governance still involves the monarchy and so things which could change that are newsworthy whether you are pro- or anti-monarchist.

The fact that there was enough content on the Guardian's site to warrant a toggle and enable readers to find other content is a flashing neon sign explaining exactly how badly we - as writers and as readers have lost all sense of perspective when it comes to the contents of Kate's uterus (a boy, in case you were wondering but also fearful of unleashing cascades of online pregnancy style galleries and morning sickness debates).

Having written more than my fair share of articles about Kate, although all of them pre-pregnancy, she cuts a truly weird figure. She's constantly examined, constantly in magazines, but you never feel like you've learned anything about her.

She's the opposite of the reality stars clamouring for attention and giving interviews on every aspect of their life. The lack of easy access combines with her blank canvas of a personality and suddenly Kate is the perfect focus for all manner of hopes and dreams. You can build her personality yourself according to what you think she should think or feel.

One of the things people have assumed Kate was thinking or feeling since her engagement was first announced was "oooh, I simply must produce an heir." A weird mixture of "well that's what royals do, isn't it?" and the fact that Kate doesn't seem to do much with her time so she might as well have a baby.

They're both utterly appalling as reasons to have a child and incredibly backwards in terms of how we see and talk about women. As a result we've had months and months of coverage which pumps out messages that what you need to do to be well regarded as a lady is to say nothing of consequence, have babies and wear nice coats.

This fetishisation of the royal pregnancy has distorted it way past anything recognisable as real life, and yet, buried within the speculation and the chitchat and the nonsense is a real woman and a real baby. It's newsworthy for the point that we still have a monarchy and this has an impact on the line of succession but the volume of vapid and speculative coverage just showed how capable we were of losing our collective marbles at the mention of tiny clothes.

Instead of ending on a negative note, though, let's talk about a woman who has made a difference in terms of the messages young girls receive. It's Pleasant Rowland who created the American Girl line of dolls.

The dolls come in a range of ethnicities and skin colours and are further individualised in terms of their interests and appearance. In short, they represent female diversity and activity and a recent financial report shows they are growing as a business while Barbie sales are declining. They might be as silent as Kate, but the messages they are sending out are so much more healthy and it seems that we, the public, may actually be ready to listen.

LOVE THIS WRITER? Follow Philippa on Twitter @philippawarr.

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