Serena Williams sent the Internet into a tailspin yesterday when she announced on Snapchat that she was 20 weeks pregnant. The tizzy grew as observers collectively counted backwards and realized the tennis champion was nearly two months pregnant when she won her 23rd Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January. During the entire tournament, she didn't drop a set.
The feat reinforced Williams' long-established reputation as one of the greatest athletes of all time—female or otherwise—but also delivered a powerful message to the wider world, conveying that pregnancy does not define or physically handicap a woman from the moment of conception.
Celebrities have varied approaches to pregnancy. Some publicize it (see Beyoncé) and others hide it for as long possible (see Eva Mendez, Alexis Bledel). Given the chance, the media will swoop in with a cry of "baby bump!"—an effort to satisfy our culture's glorified version of motherhood and its obsession with the female form.
"[W]e live in an age when women are supposed to perform pregnancy," Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie told the Financial Times last year. She kept her own pregnancy quiet until after giving birth. " We don’t expect fathers to perform fatherhood. I went into hiding. I wanted it to be as personal as possible."
Viewing pregnancy this way is not fair to celebrities, whose growing stomachs, however small, immediately seem to eclipse their artistic talent in the public eye. Nor is it helpful to the many decidedly un-famous women in the workplace whose pregnancies are still viewed as all-consuming or debilitating. For evidence of how "abnormal" pregnancy remains at work, just look at the EEOC's data on the pregnancy discrimination charges. In fiscal year 2016, women filed 5,170 charges of bias related to pregnancy or maternity issues with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state and local Fair Employment Practices agencies, down from a high of roughly 6,300 in 2008 but consistent with the total from a decade earlier.
All of this stems from society's abiding view of women as one-dimensional. A pregnant woman's sole role is to be an expectant mother, a role that supersedes and interferes with her other duties. A pregnant Amal Clooney is identified by her protruding belly rather than her human rights work. Italian politician Giorgia Meloni was told by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that her pregnancy disqualified her as a candidate for mayor of Rome.
What makes Williams' title at the Australian Open so extraordinary—beyond winning in straight sets while eight weeks pregnant—is that it helped make pregnancy more ordinary for the rest of us.
First 100 days
While Marine Le Pen is unlikely to win the French presidential election, there is a plausible scenario in which she could still triumph. Politico’s Nicholas Vinocur envisions what Le Pen’s first 100 days in office might look like, drawing upon her 144-point campaign platform and interviews with senior party officials, diplomats, and analysts. The resulting portrait does not bode well for the viability of a potential Le Pen administration. “What emerges is a narrative of constant crisis mixed with long stretches of institutional paralysis, starting on Day One,” Vinocur writes.
Listen to Lagarde?
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned policymakers against sowing the seeds of a global trade war by failing to comply with World Trade Organization rules. Lagarde, who is in Washington for the IMF spring meeting, pointed to a sharp rise in trade disputes among G20 nations this year, with 3,000 violations since 2008.
In the trenches
A top Israeli military officer hit back against a religious campaign to stop women from serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, saying that mixed-gender battalions serve clear operational needs for border security. Religious women are not drafted into the military, so those who choose to serve are volunteers. “They know how to decide what’s good for them and what isn’t," the officer said of devout women who choose to join up. "They aren’t in the 17th century.”
Flaws and all
The Netflix adaptation of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso’s memoir, #GIRLBOSS, debuts today, but it was almost never made. When actress Charlize Theron and screenwriter Kay Cannon shopped around the idea to television networks, they were asked to make Amoruso’s character more likable, and to ditch the “girl” in “girlboss,” because the networks said it wouldn’t attract audiences. They refused, and Netflix snapped up the series. “It always comes down to this idea of the female lead having to be incredibly likable,” Cannon said. “I wanted to tell the story of a flawed woman that is not a fairy tale.”
Dilma gets defensive
Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is warning of right-wing populist politicians in her country, pointing “to a few Trump-like figures” rising in the political sphere. Rousseff was impeached in 2016 for allegedly manipulating government accounts ahead of the 2014 elections, and she is embroiled in a huge corruption investigation that has implicated all five of Brazil’s living presidents. In an interview with the Washington Post, Rousseff defended herself by saying her budget kept alive social programs and that her refusal to cut backroom deals made her appear as “a hard, insensitive woman in politics.”
An uneven apocalypse
The "retail apocalypse," marked by the increasing automatization of the retail industry thanks to companies like Amazon, also means fewer jobs for women. A decline in brick-and-mortar businesses means a drop in "people-pleasing" retail jobs, where women predominate. Meanwhile, a growing demand for transportation and warehouse jobs opens up jobs typically occupied by men.
Fair and square
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended its handling of trademark applications from Ivanka Trump’s brand, affirming that they were handled legally and fairly. Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the ministry, said China respects "the principle of giving equal protection to foreign trademark holders" and that "there are perhaps some media engaging in hyping certain gossip to hint at something undisclosed," adding such attempts would "never succeed." Three of the company’s applications were approved on the same day that Ivanka Trump dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.
Most influential mayor
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike is one of the many women who landed on Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People list that came out yesterday. Koike's honored for her efforts to make the city more sustainable and inclusive, and to prepare it for the effects of climate change. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo profiled Koike for the annual issue, writing, “As the first female governor of Tokyo, whose GDP rivals that of a big country like Russia, Koike is a trailblazer and an example for Japanese women—and women all around the world.”
News summaries by Linda Kinstler @lindakinstler
In 2017, only 17% of startups have a female founder
Supermodel Lauren Hutton, 73, is the new star of Calvin Klein's latest underwear campaign
Meet the Martha Stewart of marijuana edibles
The women who ride for hours to visit loved ones in prison, in photos
In U.S. jails, pads and tampons as used as bargaining chips
--Chef Ina Garten, on the decision she and husband Jeffrey made to not have children.