Keira Knightley criticizes society & Duchess Kate for sanitized images of birth

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Keira Knightley is done with all of this nonsense. Keira wrote an essay called “The Weaker Sex,” which is featured in the new essay collection Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies). In her essay, Keira gets REAL (for-real) about childbirth and how crazy it is and she uses very visceral, descriptive language which honestly made me queasy (but I get easily nauseous at that stuff, it’s not a judgment on Keira or childbirth). Keira’s point is that childbirth is a violent, warlike experience and that every woman who gives birth knows how crazy it really is, and how women are infinitely stronger (physically and emotionally). The part that’s getting the most attention is when Keira goes off on the idea that women should look perfect or presentable or photo-ready just after giving birth. And Keira cites the Duchess of Cambridge, who stepped out seven hours after giving birth to Prince Charlotte, one day after Keira gave birth to her daughter Edie (in 2015).

We stand and watch the TV screen. She [Middleton] was out of hospital seven hours later with her face made up and high heels on. The face the world wants to see.

Hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging. Look beautiful. Look stylish, don’t show your battleground, Kate. Seven hours after your fight with life and death, seven hours after your body breaks open, and bloody, screaming life comes out. Don’t show. Don’t tell. Stand there with your girl and be shot by a pack of male photographers.

[From Keira Knightley’s essay “The Weaker Sex,” via Refinery29]

Many sites are running this as “Keira slams Duchess Kate,” or “Keira Hates Photo-Ready Kate” or something. There’s a nuance to it though, right? While I think Keira is perhaps a bit critical of Kate’s choice – or was it a choice? – to do the photo-op with Charlotte seven hours after giving birth, I think Keira’s bigger point is that WE EXPECT IT. People expect new mothers to look great and fresh and photo-ready. Keira is criticizing society for the most part, and Kate only partially. Plus, it’s not like Kate could flat-out refuse to do those photos – standing there with her newborn babies literally counts as work for her, and a big part of her job is having babies. Still, I completely believe that Keira’s point was that men dictate the culture of everything, and men don’t want to see or discuss the viscera of childbirth, so they only promote these sanitized images of women like Kate.

(Plus, I always thought that Kate did the photocall with Charlotte so quickly because Charlotte’s birth was so – relatively – fast and easy and because Kate felt really good afterwards. Reportedly, William and others tried to talk her out of leaving so soon but she insisted.)

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, leave St Mary's hospital

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, leave St Mary's hospital

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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132 Responses to “Keira Knightley criticizes society & Duchess Kate for sanitized images of birth”

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  1. grabbyhands says:

    I hope it IS a misinterpretation, because as much as I applaud her essay, does she really believe that Kate was given a real choice in coming out in front of the hospital to present her child? Somehow I doubt it.

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      Honestly. And it isn’t as if she slaved over her own appearance, for god’s sake. All she had to do was put on the clothes brought to her and walk outside. I’m sure she had a bevy of helpers.

      Also, per the point in the article, had it been a rough birth, she wouldn’t have been there. I know that after my c-section for twins I was up and walking rapidly, but vag birth for my first was a lot rougher. Labor is different for every baby any given mom has.

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      I disagree, Kate does what Kate wants. She did not have to do a big presentation each time she gave birth but she chose to. She choose to glam herself up like she was walking the red carpet. This is all part of the brand image that Kate wants to project – she’s the perfect housewife, mother etc… They could have simply released photo’s a few days later either taken inside the hosp or at home, like the ones that the Swedish royals released. I think Princess Sofia released photo’s of them preparing to leave the hosp with their first child instead of doing a big reveal – she wasn’t wearing designer clothes with full makeup and a fresh blow out.

      • Muffy says:

        If I knew photographers were going to be camped outside my hospital room all day for several days, well, I’d get myself looking as good as possible and get outta dodge.

        Of course this is part of her brand, she will literally be Queen and Queen Mother someday. It’s basically her job to make babies and raise somewhat well-adjusted offspring.

      • Cerys says:

        Exactly. If Kate didn’t want to get all glammed up or didn’t feel well enough to face the media then she wouldn’t have done it. I find it hard to believe that she would have been forced in to it.

      • perplexed says:

        Diana did it. I assumed Kate was following tradition.

    • Agirlandherdog says:

      I really don’t think she’s bashing Kate. I got the impression she was using her as an example of how ridiculous these expectations are because Kate is so visible and because she really doesn’t have a choice in putting on a good face for society.

      • A says:

        I remember seeing Kate come out and thinking the same thing – what she had gone through and how exhausted she must have been – and to have to put on this show. It’s not a judgment of her by any means, but the expectation. At least give the poor woman a day to rest and have a private moment first.

    • minx says:

      Does KK really think Kate Middleton’s postpartum pictures are going to make people think giving birth is no big deal? Childbirth is portrayed constantly in TV and movies and we all know pretty well the toll it takes.
      Some first time mothers think they discovered childbirth and that no one has done it before before them. Good for KK for discussing it, but it reminds me of Cheryl Hines saying “nobody told her” about menopause being difficult. The conversations were always going on, but these women weren’t on that particular wavelength.

      • perplexed says:

        That thought came to my mind too — I’ve seen episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.

      • M.A.F. says:

        Yep. I paid attention during sex ed when they showed the birth and it wasn’t as if they left anything out either. I can still hear the screams.

      • Belle Epoch says:

        Despite conversations going on, I have yet to meet a first-time mother who had any idea what was about to really happen. It’a a rite of passage and afterwards you are a new member of the club. I think we save those conversations for women who have already been through it, rather than scare pregnant women to death. I do think we should push back a little against the “get the birth you want” movement. Ultimately you get the birth your baby and your doctor (or midwife) want, hopefully as close to your wishes as possible – but you can’t control Nature.

      • Kate says:

        I think there’s a dissonance between what we see in fictional representations of childbirth and what we see from celebrities/royals/instagramers. On one hand, we know it will be physically very hard and plenty of people say oh you’ll still look pregnant, you’ll be sore, you might feel depressed, you might have a hard time breastfeeding. And then at the same time we are also inundated with images of the Kate Middletons and the romanticized portrayals of the afterbirth glow and celebrities looking like they never were pregnant within a couple weeks.

        All those images together can give us a story that there is a shame to our post partum bodies or any post partum feelings or challenges we may face. If you don’t rebound fast you are weak and undesirable and no one wants to see that so get your sh*t together for god’s sake. Kiera seems to be trying to celebrate and bring forward the “ugly” truth and make it beautiful for what it is, with no shame.

    • Carli says:

      Is it weird that I’m dying to see how Megan Markle handles it? Will she present as Diana and KM have done?

    • Veronica S. says:

      Honestly, i think that’s her actual point – that women are not only pressured to sanitize their body functions so they can serve as permanent sex objects for the male gaze but that we go so far as using OTHER women to uphold that patriarchal standard rather than examining it. Kate doesn’t have a choice, and because she has an international stage, the implication is that we should follow her.

  2. angie says:

    Kate suffered extreme morning sickness during the first part of her pregnancy, and didn’t try to hush it up. Women’s bodies handle pregnancy in different ways. My sister in law had easy pregnancies but difficult post-partum depression. Keira needs to lose the idea that everyone is just like her.

    • minx says:

      Yes, and that Keira needs to shed light on the reality of childbirth. Did she never watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy?

      • ttu says:

        You’d be surprised by how little women know about the reality of childbirth. There was a massive thread on reddit recently called “Women who have given birth, what’s something no one told you about it and wish you had known?” and it’s pretty clear there’s lots of stuff that women are not aware of going into this mess.

        here’s the link, btw

      • thekat says:

        @ ttu oh my god I was already terrified of giving birth – I really shouldn’t have read that reddit thread. Mmmm, don’t think I’ll be having children anytime soon or EVER. If I wasn’t sure before, this sealed the freaking deal.

      • Stumpycorgi says:

        I’m one of those women terrified of childbirth without knowing much about it. My whole life, I’ve been more terrified of giving birth than anything else. I’ve had nightmares about it. My mom wouldn’t ever talk about it with me realistically— it seemed like any talk of fears went against the belief that childbirth is a natural, loving, wonderful experience. And it seemed like blasphemy to question that opinion.

        Who knows, I may regret it later, but I have been childfree ever since it was an option. None of my close friends want kids either. I also don’t believe in bringing any life into this world unless I’m damn sure I am prepared to care for it properly. I see it as a huge responsibility that I am nowhere near capable of qualifying to undertake.

        Btw, many childfree women have to deal with quite a lot of judgment from everyone, from family to random strangers, who feel it’s appropriate to judge our personal choices. It’s crazy. If any fellow childfree people ever need to vent, I recommend the subreddit “childfree.”

      • LizB says:

        I don’t care how graphic Grey’s Anatomy is, it’s TV and sanitized for viewers.

    • Noodles says:

      I think you’re right that everyone is different. Childbirth isn’t an easy thing but being completely honest, some women have a considerably harder time with it than others. For a woman who has more than one child, the experience can be vastly different with each child. Keira sounds like she was traumatised by her own experience and it’s lead her to believe that everyone finds it that traumatic. Even my worst birth experience I wouldn’t compare to a war-like experience.

      I don’t think Keira was criticising Kate. If anything I think it sounds as though she felt sorry for her for having to go through this, on top of giving birth. However perhaps Kate had a natural, uncomplicated labour. In the UK, where epidurals and intervention are less common, it’s really not unusual to be up and out of the hospital within hours of having your baby.

      Keira is right though, that we do need to be more honest and open about childbirth. I think the problem lies with the fact that women don’t know what to expect and then are utterly traumatised when their birth plans go out of the window and things happen to them that they didn’t even know were possible.

    • chinoiserie says:

      Keira probably means well but I get the feeling she is behind discussion in this and other things, she has sometimes referred to Disney princess ideal like she was talking to the first three princesses form the 50s and before for example. In this case the role models she seems to think a lot of people have celebrity moms and royalty. And that people get their info in childbirth in fashion magazine interviews or something.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Everybody’s body handles it different, but there is definitely a social taboo linked to discussing women’s body functions viscerally. You’ll find dick and masturbation jokes all over the place in movies. When’s the last time you saw a period being dealt with? Post-partum bleeding? (Something a startling amount of women don’t know about.) There’s is definitely an effort in our culture to reduce women to “socially acceptable” body functions (pregnancy, sex, etc.).

  3. Originaltessa says:

    This has been bothering me all week. She talks about how criticism and paparazzi gave her ptsd, and then she lobs a huge insult at Kate? Was Kate to show off he baby in a bloody diaper and unwashed hair? She did what she was expected to do. And clearly fur whatever reason, birth agrees with Kate. Every pregnancy and birth are different.

    • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

      Me too. My friends ribbed me (lovingly) while looking at photos of me on an operating table post c-sections, holding my precious package, curtains still covering me, and my beautiful red-stained lips lol. Did my husband make me? Did society? My natural light color is almost white, and I go nowhere without color because (the horror) I demand it. My choice. My lips. My colors.

      I’m very disappointed in Keira’s smugness about her experience and honesty. If roles were reversed, and she had to pose for ROYAL pics, I doubt she’d have worn paper pants. I’m no Royal sympathizer either. I’m a supporter of women. All of them. Personal choices or not. Anything said that diminishes that, with the exception of supporting Nazis, rapists, bigots, mysoginy, et all, does nothing for us.

    • Rae says:

      This. Women should have the right to choose to present themselves however makes them happy after birth. I had two friends gave birth recently, within weeks of each other. One is terribly proud of the photo of her red faced, no makeup, hair dripping in sweat looking horrified at the whole deal. The other is equally proud of the photo of her with perfect hair and makeup looking serene an hour after. Power to both of them and let’s stop the judging, that shouldn’t be what feminism is about.

  4. Jay says:

    I don’t think she’s criticizing Kate. She’s using Kate as an example and is criticizing the image and expectation we have of Kate and other moms.

    • Jessica says:

      You’re exactly right. She’s critiquing society’s expectations with Kate as a prime example. Sites spinning this as a “slam” on Kate are either being willfully obtuse for clicks, or they’re seriously dense. This is not a personal attack. There is a huge problem with substantive critique of society being perceived or billed as personal attacks. I blame stan culture and clickbait.

    • Nic919 says:

      The media turned this into a slam on Kate but it’s not. Keira has a right to discuss her feelings about childbirth and how they are messy just as much as Kate can decide to get a blowout and heels and walk out hours later.

    • minx says:

      I didn’t really know what childbirth was like until I went through it. It was no walk in the park but I almost expected it to be worse (from Melanie in Gone with the Wind, I guess). My point about Keira is that she almost sounded so uninformed and shocked by the whole thing. I had my kids pre-internet and even I knew the possible downsides about pain, tearing, leakage, etc. Now you can see women giving birth online. Nobody is hiding anything, nor should they. The information is there, didn’t she know? Didn’t she talk to anyone or read anything?

    • JayneBirkinB says:

      I agree with Jay. I do think Kate feels the need to confirm to the Royal Press’ expectations to have photos right away. But I think the desire to go home may also have to do with Kate’s hope to avoid inconveniencing the hospital, and also avoid a repeat of the tragedy associated with George’s birth (the nurse who inadvertently forwarded a prank call from an Australian radio show, and later committed suicide because she was so ashamed). The press and certain aspects of related media will try *anything* to get a news story out of a royal birth.

      Personally I’d be fine with a family member taking a photo of the young royal in a bassinet and then posting it on the Royal Instagram and let the immediate family dote on the baby for a week in utter privacy. Maybe do a photo op at Kensington once the baby is a week old and the mother feels comfortable.

  5. Jenn says:

    I think it shows power that she Can get up and look flawless so soon after giving birth. My feminism and your feminism don’t have to look the same.

    • Betsy says:

      The *expectation* to look pretty when doing the hardest work of most people’s bodies isn’t exactly feminist.

      • MCV says:

        MTE Betsy
        I don’t get what people seem to think what feminism, I blame celebrities.

      • Enough Already says:

        You can’t define that for others. For Kate perhaps trying to look beautiful was a chance to reclaim her body, her agency and her experience. Perhaps it was a way for her to let her appearance mirror the joy and relief of delivering a healthy child. Perhaps she wanted those first pics of her to make her smile decades from now. We don’t get to say.

      • minx says:

        Enough Already, exactly.

      • Gigi La Moore says:

        Maybe it wasn’t all that hard for her? My burst ovarian cyst hurt worse than childbirth. Mine was actually excellent. I thought feminism was about choice?

    • BorderMollie says:

      Sure, yeah. But the fact is that we never see the other side of this. It’s like make-up, which can be an empowering experience for an individual to wear. However, for overall society it is a burden put on women with the ugly underlying assumption that we aren’t enough on our own and that our looks and experiences have to be sanitized even at painful and time consuming personal cost. It not specifically about Kate, she’s just a convenient example as her profile is so public.

    • Veronica S. says:

      Being attractive on a grand stage after childbirth has nothing to do with feminism. It does nothing to empower to undermine her as a woman. (If it speaks to anything, it’s her economic privilege – plenty of people helped get her ready for that photoshoot.) The only reason we think otherwise is because the conflation of female worth with beauty. That’s the real issue there that Keira Knightley is getting at.

      Sanitizing birth is what erases society’s idea of how serious of a medical condition pregnancy really is, which, over time and with extermism, can lead to questioning the value of female bodies outside of reproductive value. Hence why we see abortion rights getting restricted. Hence why Americans don’t have parental leave.

      There’s an alarming amount of “modern feminism” that seems keen to avoid serious self-reflection about where the line goes from “Women wearing makeup because they want to” versus “Calling superficial beauty empowering because it couches patriarchal constructs in a more appetizing form.” Be very careful not to let others convince you that feminism’s real goal is how to live best under patriarchy.

      • Indian says:

        At times like this I really appreciate how seriously indian culture treats motherhood. No one expects the women to do anything but rest , eat and hang out with the baby, no one expects the woman to bother to dress up or lose weight quickly or if at all. In most traditional houses the new mom would be in a separate room with her mom or sister or mother in law and baby and allowed to rest. Of course that’s the rich and middle class but I used to see a lot less pressure on women to get back to a slim figure as if birth never happened.
        Now that India is getting westernized, urban indian women fave the same crap women do in the west. Somethjfn about western culture while feminism has given power to women, has created this toxicity where women aren’t allowed to be women with all the challenges of child birth and a more complex biology.

    • TaniaOG says:

      It is understandable that we all have different experiences but let’s not pretend that Kate wasn’t 100% EXPECTED to present herself outside that hospital. Feminism is about choices and that was not a choice.

  6. Betsy says:

    I agree with your interpretation of the quoted blurb – it’s now an expectation that women look fresh and tidy basically immediately after giving birth. I get that some women really do sail through and feel ok – after my third I felt great and ready to leave the hospital. But there’s just this expectation, this pretending that a newborn baby, a birth is not monumental. And it really is monumental. It’s a fresh life and even when they almost fall out, it’s still an enormous investment of time and money and exercise (when pregnant with my second, I was terrified of GD and exercised after every meal. I know some people do that when they’re not pregnant, but I don’t.)

    It’s like how pron images have become how some women (especially young women) perceive their sexuality should be, and it’s flabbergasting and ugly.

    • Nic919 says:

      And tied into that is the quest to lose the baby weight immediately. It puts a lot of social pressure on women who aren’t able to take months off and have staff and trainers to help them do that. The perfect image is a dangerous image for most women because it’s not realistic.

    • Rita says:

      Please, Betsy, what is GD? I’ve tried to look it up, but no luck. Thanks! Rita

      • Jaded says:

        Gestational diabetes – it’s when a pregnant woman’s blood sugar gets too high and can cause things like pre-eclampsia, depression, and possible miscarriage or C- section.

      • Rita says:

        Thanks, Jaded — pre-eclampsia, yes, that I know. Caused my SIL to get c -section.

  7. Magdalin says:

    Part of me thinks your assessment is giving Keira alot of extra credit with the points she was attempting to make, although I see your point. I think that any woman criticizing another woman in such a way is extremely negative and never a good thing. Remember when Kate came out after George’s birth, still with the post-baby belly? I thought that was a big step for her, to show the world that she isn’t back down to a perfect body right away and that she just gave birth to a new human being.

    And how dare Keira blame Kate, or any other woman, for the choices they make after giving birth? She should add just about EVERY SINGLE other royal woman and throw in Chelsea Clinton to the mix, too and not single-out Kate. I also know people for whom childbirth was not so dramatic an experience. It was very easy in a jealousy-inducing kind of way. Others, it nearly killed them and they were not prepared for the reality. It sounds to me like Keira is almost, what? Bitter? about her own experience and is spewing judgement upon others because of it. You don’t have to go screaming from the rooftops about things sometimes, unless that’s your jam and if so, fine. But don’t go judging others for other reactions. And sure, state your case, but get off your friggin’ soapbox.

    • Nic919 says:

      Keira’s actual essay did not slam Kate. Keira has a right to speak about her feelings about childbirth as much as anyone else.

  8. Maum says:

    I don’t think she was criticising Kate. As a Brit she’s well aware that all royal mothers appear looking fairly polished v soon after birth.
    Diana and Sarah did it last generation too.

    I agree with her that there’s not just an airbrushing of the realities of early motherhood (which explains why a lot of people are disgusted by breastfeeding) but with social media there’s also a rise of competitive postpartum-ness, with celebs and models bouncing back seemingly effortlessly to pre-baby body.

    Keira ‘disappeared’ after giving birth and seemed to have taken and really enjoyed the early years of her little girl’s life.
    Good for her.

  9. Muffy says:

    Lets be realistic, Kate wasn’t standing there, made up, for several hours. She did her thing and then went home—with plenty of help—and put some sweats on!

    • Swack says:

      And was probably wheeled from her room to the door and only walked the small amount to go out the door and then back in. Also, Hollywood is also adding to this narrative. It bothers me when I constantly see stories of how women have gotten back to their pre-baby bodies in 6 weeks, 1 month, etc. Also, as others have pointed out, each birth (even for the same woman) is different. I’m of the generation where you stayed 5 days in the hospital after birth. I was ready to go home after 2 days. But not all women are like that.

    • KK2 says:

      That’s kind of the point though- the fakeness of the image. Anyone who has given birth knows she went home, changed her own diaper, and put on sweats. But she’s never going to leave the hospital in sweatpants. The horror! I get the point she’s making. My first pictures when we brought my son home- I am wearing my husband’s oversized tshirt and sweatpants and I look dazed (I went into labor in the evening and then didn’t sleep well at hospital, so I hadn’t slept in 2 days). I’ll plan better next time, but still. You see the pics of Kate walking out of the hospital the same day in a dress and heels and makeup and it makes you feel like crap about yourself, even if you know it’s a lie and took a team to get there. It also creates a lot of false expectations. Society’s treatment of pregnancy and childbirth in general is really weird and disturbing, to me.

    • Wilma says:

      I seem to remember that with George people were praising Kate for not hiding her post-partum belly and showing the world what your midsection looks like after giving birth.

      • VirgiliaCoriolanus says:

        I actually really liked that–I’m 23 and the only other person I’ve seen pregnant as a teenager, etc was my aunt, who is morbidly obese. I probably haven’t seen a slim pregnant woman (in my personal life/family) since I was a child. But I had no idea that it took a while for your belly to go down after childbirth, if you were as slim/fit as Kate is.

    • hogtowngooner says:

      Exactly. And Kate probably did the exact same thing as soon as she got home. She’s a royal ffs, there was always going to be a photo op outside the hospital for each of their children. If she had looked tired, sloppy or haggard, that’s all people would have said.

  10. Lenn says:

    Not everyones birthing experience is bloody and traumatic. Yes, standing in heels and a dress with your hair done on the same day is unrealistic but come on, lots of things about the royal family are that: unrealistic. It’s a fairy tale that Kate knows she is expected to be a part of. No need to attack the woman. And like i said, giving birthh can be quite ‘easy’ in many cases. No judgement either way!

    • Maum says:

      In this case it wasn’t really a choice though.

      One of the expected duties of royal brides is the presenting of the infant. They all do it.
      Kate no way had a choice there, which is the point Keira was making about this particular situation.
      Even if Kate had felt shit she still would have had to stand on the stairs with her baby.

      • Jan90067 says:

        Yes, she would. But not necessarily hours after giving birth. If she didn’t want to, she most certainly could’ve waited a day or even two. I hardly think Lido Wing was going to kick her out to go home on THEIR schedule! Her timing is HER choice.

    • Millenial says:

      I’m trying to imagine a birth that’s not bloody and traumatic? Vaginal births are most definitely bloody, mucous-y gore shows for literally everybody, whether you see it or not, and for c-sections they literally take your intestines out of your body, set them besides you, and then pack them back in when it’s over. It’s not pretty, no matter how you do it. I think Keira’s being real about the dichotomy of the messy business of birth vs. the presentation of perfection only hours afterwards.

      • Tourmaline says:

        Yeah I agree I don’t think there has ever been a birth that is NOT bloody

      • Gigi La Moore says:

        I had a vaginal birth, no tearing, no cutting, no stitches. Baby just pop got. A bit of blood leaking for a few days, that’s it. Walked out of the hospital the next day with my son in my arms. Had my son out at a flower shop 3 days after birth. Not everyone has the same experience.

      • Millenial says:

        For the record, my initial comment didn’t mention tearing or stitches. I was talking about gore. At birth you will lose on average: 500mL of blood, 600mL of amniotic fluid, and of course your placenta. These things don’t magically evaporate. Not to mention your baby will be covered in vernix and blood. And labor and delivery nurses report than most every mom poops, whether you know it or not. You might lose less blood than average, but lets not pretend this is a clean experience, and that depending on who you are, you might get away with it being pretty. That is real and it happens to everyone.

  11. Beth says:

    A feminist can wear any color she wants, I wear pink every day in October for breast cancer awareness month. Not every woman feels like getting dressed up right after child birth, but not everyone is sick and exhausted, and I’d never criticize them for staying in bed or being up and running immediately.

    • Chicken says:

      The full title of the book is “Feminists Can’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies)” so the book is mocking the idea that feminists don’t wear pink. You seem to have misunderstood.

  12. ds says:

    My mom spoke about her experience with childbirth of both me and my sister. She always explained how it was easy for her but I’m terrified just with the idea of it. My aunt on the other hand had a horrible experinence and she was so traumatised by it she decided not to have any more children. So, yeah my mom was all Kate and her sister was all Keira. And as a woman I value the fact that they both shared it with me. I still don’t have children and I think every woman deals with childbirth differently but I do applaud the idea of talking about it. Just like I don’t understand why women don’t share their breast feeding experience as well, some of my friends had trauma from that.

  13. Cee says:

    I didn’t read it as a diss, I read it as “Look what they make us do, even when you’re a Duchess and future Queen Consort”. Kate had no choice, she had to look presentable, even if the birth was (relatively) easy. If someone like her has to go through the hoops, imagine working mothers, or mothers with already young children, mothers with the kind of partner that expects you to bounce back in a month.

    Yeah, I’m with Keira (and Kate!).

  14. Nikki says:

    I get Keira’s point, AND I agree, but she definitely should have said something like “Kate had paparazzi expecting perfection 7 hours after childbirth” rather than her wording, which to me sounded critical of Kate for maintaining her perfect image. BTW, my mom told me to keep wearing a robe as long as possible after your delivery, because the moment after you get dressed, everyone expects you to get up and cook dinner!

  15. Jane says:

    I think a lot of people commenting are missing the point: whether Kate and Kiera had the same birthing experience, or whether Kate was up for the task, or whether Kate had a choice or not, it all comes down to the same thing, an image that society has held on to: women’s jobs are to give birth, and in order to ensure that no-one questions how body-breaking that task is, it forces happy, pretty images of new mothers so that no one ever questions this status quo.

    • Originaltessa says:

      No no, we get her point. It’s that she used Kate to make her point. She threw her under the bus.

    • Anon33 says:

      No. People are reading what isn’t there. I don’t care about either of these women, I’m not a stan, I have no dog in this fight, but when I read this story, frankly, I was shocked. Kiera came for Kate and definitely threw her under the bus. She is the one who obfuscated her own larger, pertinent point, by making it with a personal attack on another woman. It was shameful.
      And, frankly, I’m sick of these Hollywood women completely buying into and promoting the body image/must be hot and skinny/I’ll just develop an eating disorder/whatever, until something REAL *gasp* happens TO THEM. Suddenly, Kiera is concerned with media expressions of “reality”? Gmafb.

      • Nikki says:

        Extremely interesting point about Hollywood skinny unreality versus reality of other experiences…

  16. Sash says:

    I didn’t take it as Keira criticizing Kate but the expectations society puts on women.

  17. AmandaPanda says:

    She just sounds am dram and exhausting. I had an absolutely horrible birth but I am aware that it’s not like that for all women.

    She has a serious point to make (that pregnancy and birth can be a big deal for women and we shouldn’t pretend it isn’t) but her language is just eye rollingly over the top.

    Plus am LMAO at a Hollywood star telling off someone for air brushing an image of reality. Isn’t Keira still gallivanting around in those ridiculously ‘shopped Dior ads?

  18. Ali says:

    They had babies within one day of each other. Keira’s literally just gone through her own birthing experience to see a woman on TV who looks like she was just handed a newborn baby versus having a new human come out of her body a few hours earlier and that image stayed with her.

    I get where Keira is coming from.

    I also get that being the future Queen or whatever Kate is, isn’t about being relatable or attainable. She’s supposed to be “special”.

    Two different issues really.

    • Molly says:

      The timing of it was important, yes. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, but Keira was saying, ” what Kate did was crazy.” A sentiment many women have shared. And it’s every MORE crazy to a woman laying in a hospital bed who had literally just done the exact same thing the day before.

    • chisey says:

      I didn’t realize they gave birth so close to one another. The whole thing makes much more sense to me now. I can imagine Keira Knightley turning on the TV, seeing Kate, and thinking ‘wait, she is out there like that *already*? After she went through what I just went through? Is that what I’m supposed to be doing/looking like now?’ and just feeling incredibly frustrated by the whole thing. And I can also see a bunch of regular women who don’t have a platform feeling the same way, and being pushed to have unrealistic expectations for themselves and others. For example, I know someone who wouldn’t leave for the hospital, even though her water had broken, until she put on her makeup because she wanted to make sure she looked nice in the post-birth photo. That pressure is intense. I don’t think this ridiculous expectation is Kate’s fault, but I do think that, by virtue of being such a public figure, she is the symbol of it for people, and some criticism is going to go with the territory. It’s not quite fair to her since I agree it’s not like she had a choice, and I hope it’s possible to critique the symbol of Kate without it hurting her feelings (since I’m sure it’s rough being so much in the public eye).

  19. Justwastingtime says:

    I have two kids, one through an (early) vaginal delivery, the other through adoption. My all-day Lamaze class was held on the day I delivered – I missed it- so I was less prepared for the sheer amount of blood involved than most first-time mothers. At some point I asked if it was supposed to be like a pig slaughter ? Not that I had ever been to a pig slaughter but you get the idea.,

  20. Lindy says:

    I get what Keira is saying and I think people taking it as a slam on Kate are not paying close enough attention. I think it’s always a good idea to peel back the layers of culture when we talk about anything like this (meaning, expectations or customs around women’s appearance or their bodies etc.).

    It’s not that I think we should condemn women for doing their best to look put together or to feel beautiful, regardless if circumstances (though having given birth 5 months ago, I can honestly say that it really did feel like a bloody, messy battle).

    But rather, we can and should ask ourselves as women *why* something makes us feel beautiful. Why lipstick, why heels, why a blowout, why the pressure to get your body back after childbirth, why the taboo in discussing the blood and messy reality of it?

    I mean, here I sit at work hooked up to my breast pump, which is a bit painful and time I could better spend on work, and I hate even thinking about talking about this with my boss. And when someone books a meeting over the time I’ve blocked to pump, I usually try to find another time to pump rather than inconvenience a colleague.

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a reason we feel better or more beautiful with these things in place (the taboo, the makeup, the heels). And if we’re really honest with ourselves and really ask “but why” until we get to the bottom of it all, I suspect we’ll find that the reason has to do with deeply embedded expectations about female appearance, and most of those expectations just make life harder and more expensive for us relative to men.

  21. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I just googled Mom’s after giving birth and it’s pretty even. Messy moms. Neat moms. Frazzled moms. Composed moms. Plain moms. Makeup’d moms. The only common thread? Being completely and totally in love with their baby. Which, by the way, should be the only observation. Like ever.

  22. Case says:

    I understand (and agree with) her main point that society expects a very clean, pretty version of what giving life to someone actually means, and it does a disservice to how strong women are during childbirth and the days that follow. But I wish she sympathized with Kate for needing to present that image instead of attacking her for it. It’s like she ALMOST hit the nail on the head in her essay, but not quite. Throwing a fellow woman, a fellow mom under the bus should not have been the objective.

  23. Lindy says:

    Oh, and one of the things I’ve read that makes this connection between patriarchal cultural expectations and women’s voluntary behavior is an article by a scholar named Sandra Bartky, called “Foucault, Feminity, and the modernization of Patriarchal Power.” If you can get your hands on it, it’s really eye opening, and it helps explain why we as women sort of police ourselves and each other when it comes to these impossible expectations. So worth reading!

  24. Misty says:

    This came off as overly artsy to me considering the point she was trying to make, and that always makes me cringey. I’d rather read what her point was without all the drama and overly descriptive prose behind it. She’s always come off to me as one of those people who feel they are on another level with their artistry when they’re okay at best.

  25. vanjam says:

    This sounds luvvie actor hyperbole to me and I’m a Keira fan. “Life or death?”.

    My sister has three children around the same age as Kate’s kids and (apparently) like Kate had quick births, two water births and one too fast for that. She looked pretty good the same day too, not blowdry or heels good obviously. Saying this about the likes of my sister and Kate isn’t diminishing the pain of labour or the toll it takes emotionally and physically but it’s acknowledging that childbirth isn’t the life or death struggle for all women that KK describes

  26. Sparkly says:

    Birth is everything she says it is, but women handle it differently. I was happy to wait on cuddling and nursing and had to get my shower FIRST THING. No one could understand it. “You shouldn’t be standing up!” Um, no, I’m dirty and gross and I’m getting clean. I stayed up and walking around for a while, and it helped the cramps. I nursed within an hour, once I knew that was good, I was ready to go home. The hospital wouldn’t let me. If she wants to come out and do her baby intro and get to go home that same day, I don’t begrudge her that. I was cleaned up and trying to look decent for photos too. The ones of me all feral are great, but you want a few nice ones to share with the world. If moms want to hermit and bond, they should get to. If they want to get dressed and get the hospital stuff over with, they should get to. There’s nothing wrong with any way women approach it.

  27. CocoNoir says:

    I think Kate is a champ for standing outside of the hospital right after delivery. It is a power move to show that she is indeed the birth mother. It removes doubt in the minds of the public. This is necessary for reasons that I’m not at liberty to discuss. In addition, presenting a strong presence after delivery will insure against any ideas HRH PW entertains about leaving her. On another note, I climb mountains in full makeup and chiffon frocks so I can relate to the commenter who said she wore lipstick to her c section. The problem with childbirth for me is that I suffer PTSD from my aggressively heavy, crippling and nauseating periods, so I applaud every woman who’s made it through delivery. I love children and would love to raise a couple of banshees but … I hate dating. So no one is in danger of mating with me. If I were inclined to consider raising a child on my own, something I’m totally against given my own upbringing, surrogacy would be the answer. But how could I ask anyone to go through this potentially life threatening process for my sake? Impossible. So, no babies for me.

    • Enough Already says:

      You sound awesome!

    • Jan90067 says:

      “In addition, presenting a strong presence after delivery will insure against any ideas HRH PW entertains about leaving her.”

      Uhm, yeah…. that worked SO WELL for Diana, didn’t it?

      • minx says:


      • CocoNoir says:

        Thanks for your reply Jan. I love it when people doubt what I disclose. It really adds to the soup of speculation which helps cover me. I’m writing as someone who sees their situation for what it really is. Diana and Kate are in completely different universes, like DC and Marvel. Diana was clever but not enterprising enough to twirl the right people around her middle finger. There were lots of missed opportunities. Kate and her mummy obviously read the tea leaves and decided to capitalise on the opportunities that are presented themselves. Specifically, the jelly for brains PW who had Kate help him with his homework at Andrews. That fact was well publicised. You think he’s amazing and boring because his indiscretions have been expertly covered up. Keep doubting absolutely everything you read. It’s your best defence. Enjoy the rest of your lovely day.

    • Genessee says:

      “It removes doubt in the minds of the public. This is necessary for reasons that I’m not at liberty to discuss.”

      Don’t see why you aren’t at liberty to discuss. This is a gossip site. Spill.

      • CocoNoir says:

        I want to spill but I can’t, sorry. It will take too long and the information is already out there in the public space. A lot of news reports have inadvertently disclosed the actual reason and even PW himself almost let the cat out of the bag in an interview where he talked about George. Very curious comment to make about your own child. But no one picked up on it.

  28. Gigi La Moore says:

    Sigh…why don’t we as women just do what is best for us and stop focusing on what other women are doing? Most of us do not need to look to Kate or any other celebrity on these issues anyway. If a grown woman doesn’t already know that bodies do not always pop back and deliveries can be complicated and messy, I don’t know what to tell you. When I had my son at 25, I admit, I would have been able to do what Kate did but I was young, fit, with a very easy delivery (no tearing, no stitches and baby just popped out). However, I am very much aware that is probably not the norm. We have to stop looking at other women to validate our experiences.

  29. elimaeby says:

    I’d like to think that she is criticizing the media here, but holding up Kate as an example of their outlandish expectations. Hopefully most of us understand that pregnancy looks different for every woman. My mother only gained 25 pounds with each of us and dropped it in two months. My sister had two high-risk pregnancies and gained 50 with one, lost 30 during the other (being already medically overweight). I have been pregnant twice, but sadly never carried to term, and I lost A LOT of weight both times due to extreme morning sickness. Motherhood is a miracle and we need to stop pitting mothers against one another.

    • Nikki says:

      Elimaeby, you sound like you have been through a lot, yet you seem so kind hearted to others. Very best wishes to you!

      • elimaeby says:

        Thank you. I just know every mom is doing their best, and I hate seeing the media pitting women against one another, especially right after giving birth when we are particularly vulnerable.

  30. HyacinthBucket says:

    I can’t believe KK gets slammed for this essay. She is spot on. Even if KM felt like Atlas, the pictures that come out of this are putting some bad expectations out there. And being in the public spotlight means not only rubbing our plebejan noses in it, but having to take it down a notch. It’s called responsibility of a public figure.
    Same goes for those who sport a flat tummy three days after giving birth and whatnot. My sons are 20 and 21 and my body still shows I am a mother. It took my father in laws catty sidekick to point out to me that so and so was looking fabulous only weeks after giving birth and why didn’t I?
    To be honest I am not sure the lady has ever recovered from the reply I gave her, but the remark burned.
    We’re not all the same, and the luckier ones shouldn’t flaunt their luck until it is perceived normalcy and we, the pouchy moms, are just not making an effort.

    • Linda says:


      That is too much responsibility to put on anyone Kate included. You may need to ask yourself why Kate’s first appearance after she gave birth and women who have flat tummies after child birth is triggering to you. No woman owes you anything.

    • minx says:

      How is it “flaunting?” People look how they look, some look better, some look worse. As others said KM probably had people to help her look good and then she went home and put on a robe. I like KK but she is really making too big a deal out of this.

    • Rdmum says:

      What rubbish. KM stepped out with her postpartum stomach proudly protruding. What’s wrong with putting on a bit of makeup and having your hair done. People just love slamming into KM and I guess KK felt it would be the best way to get headlines.

    • Nikki says:

      What was your retort?

  31. Pose83 says:

    Seems a little ironic for an actress who has an army of people to help her with her own personal style to go in on a duchess.

    Do any of us really expect to be living up to the same beauty standards of a damn duchess?

    As for men defining everything in society, I doubt there is a huge audience of men counting down the moments until a new photo of Kate and Charlotte appears. It’s a bit chicken and egg really. Do the pictures get taken to satiate the audience or is the audience told what to be satiated by? I.e. are men telling women what photo content to consume or is the photo content driven by historical consumption figures of any given subject?

    Kind of sick of hearing from women with controversial attitudes who pretend to be someone else for a living. Can’t we have some more nuanced opinions from woman contributing a little more to society please?

  32. Loulalou says:

    Wow. Go Kiera!

  33. Cupcake says:

    The realities of birth are becoming more accessible everyday. There are thousands of graphic birth videos and pictures publicly available through the magic of the internet, Instagram, etc. If a woman wants to put on makeup and take pictures after birth that is her right and she should feel good about it. If a woman wants to hide and wear the softest clothes available after birth that is her right and she should feel good about it.

  34. Rdmum says:

    I was up and about the day after both my deliveries and I did my hair and makeup up a bit. Not for anyone else but to feel good and look good for myself. I don’t hate on Kate for wanting to look good – millions of people around the world saw these pictures and what’s wrong with wanting to look your best. Also – she stepped out with her postpartum stomach showing each time. If she was that concerned with looking perfect and hiding or what else wouldn’t she have doubled up on the Spanx?

  35. Tina says:

    Sophie had a placental abruption and an emergency C-section giving birth to Louise, and almost died. She didn’t, and wasn’t expected to do this kind of photocall. Diana was very young (I would argue too young) when she had both William and Harry. Kate clearly has uncomplicated births, or at least has thus far. All births are different.

  36. perplexed says:

    Keira is presented in magazines looking her best at all times. It’s part of her job (I guess). In that sense. it doesn’t make sense to me that she’d use Kate as an example. I say this because Keira is as much a part of the flawed system as Kate is. If an academic who doesn’t have their picture taken all the time had written this essay, I wouldn’t have thought anything about it. But when an actress complicit with the system writes about this, it’s hard not to think “But you’ve done the same thing in magazines. It’s not like you’re a realistic version of anything I’ve seen in real life ether.”

  37. DS9 says:

    Keira does realize every birth is different, yes?

    I have three children. All were quick births, relatively easy labors, none felt like a war or some great battle. I shot them all out in under 6 hours and suffered no real issues beyond the obnoxious one month period and those awful fishnet panties.

    I don’t begrudge Keira her statement as a whole. I don’t know her childbirth experience but she doesn’t know Kate’s either. All three times I gave birth I could have pulled on some knee highs, wore a middling height pair of heels and smiled for a few pics before needing another nap.

    We need to let women be great on their own terms and not presume to know their experiences.

    • sunshine cookie says:

      [irony on]
      Yep, as a mother I totally buy that you can press a small melon-sized head through your vagina without feeling exhausted or stretched or tired afterwards and of course no woman should be blamed for bending over to what patriarchal society expects from us like silky well-coiffed angel hair and high heels and a non-shiny face.
      [irony off]

      How about we demand the above mentioned “values” from soldier who come right of the battle field. Surely they have their own individual experience, too.

  38. Littlefishmom says:

    It’s none of this bitches business. Who the eff is she to judge? Her “essay” is an embarrassment to women.

  39. Ladykeller says:

    I am sure Kate didn’t have much choice. But lets be honest, birth is different for everyone. After my second I was ready to leave the hospital a couple hours after having him. I had a crazy burst of energy I would have had no problem slapping on some make up and going out and showing off my baby. And there is nothing wrong with that, just as there is nothing wrong with wanting to spend a few days in bed. To each her own. Let a new mother decide what is best for her.

  40. MarDelSur says:

    Personally I understand why Kate came out looking like she did, and have no problem with it, and probably would have done the same in her place. But I also have no problem AT ALL with what Keira said.

    After Louis’s birth, The Guardian ran a piece on this very same topic of unrealistic expectations placed on new mothers after childbirth. What shocked me was the huge number of male responses basically saying ‘good for the Duchess, that’s what all women should be able to do, but so many of them get fat, look for excuses etc., and all this discussion is just female jealousy’. You get the idea. I was floored.

    So while Kate, like any other woman, is of course free to make her own choices and I for one wouldn’t dream of criticizing her in that respect, there is a deeper societal issue here, and Keira is very right about that. If we don’t challenge these very toxic expectations, we do it at our peril and at our daughters’ peril, too.

    • sunshine cookie II says:

      Thank you for your comment!
      Let’s not forget that Kate can do this and look like that because she has all the help available that money can buy. Nurses, nannies, best doctors, best nutritionists, private sports trainers, personal assistants, housemaids, cooks, drivers, stylists, …
      Thing is that all this help which Kate gets is never mentioned when normal ordinary women are told to be like Kate. Normal ordinary women don’t have that much help. At best there is the baby daddy and perhaps some family or friends. But a normal ordinary woman can not pay for nannies, housemaids or drivers because her normal ordinary (median) income just won’t pay for that. Normal ordinary women can’t afford as much exercise as Kate can because they lack resources. Normal ordinary women often can’t afford maternity leave because if you take full maternity leave your career will inevitably get dented. So as a normal ordinary woman you go back to work as soon as you can. Normal ordinary women have more important things to do than think about which cute dress to wear and how to style your hair right after birth.

      This is never mentioned but nevertheless normal ordinary women are expected to look and smile and style themselves like Kate despite not even having a fraction of her paid-for support network.

  41. Donuttime says:

    Keira has a good point, her honesty is admirable, and this isn’t really about attacking Kate obviously, but isn’t this mostly a case of vaginal birth vs c section? Vaginal birth gives your child a better microbiome but it’s also hard on the body and requires more recovery. “Natural” birth kids tend to have fewer allergies as a result and are statistically associated with lower autism rates.

  42. Jaded1 says:

    I’ve seen hundreds of births for my job. I’ve never seen anything that would fulfill what Knightley describes. But I’m sure it happens. There are people that have a horrible experience and then more people who have an okay or good one. And then there are some who make delivery sound far more dramatic and grueling than they truly experienced (like my SIL who barely pushed, had a functional epidural and yet years later will tell everyone her tale of woe). Anyway, everyone has their own experience and, for all we know, Kate has easy deliveries, gets glammed up for a few pics, and then settles into bed at home and sleeps because she can. Why knock her? I wouldn’t judge her any more than someone who just made childbirth sound like a vicious assault.

    • sunshine cookie II says:

      There are reports about women treated like cattle or worse in maternity wards in “normal” non-stellar hospitals. That is why so many women opt to do a home birth and why so many women do carefully chose the hospital/maternity ward where they give birth.

      Any video of any woman giving birth will depict that it is ugly and dirty: amniotic fluids often enriched with baby poo and blood and sometimes pee and slime and sweat.

      • Jaded1 says:

        Odeon maternity wards in most hospitals tend to cater to be mothers these days. It’s almost a competition for business (and, yes, that’s a whole other story). But there are now 24 room service, separate room areas for labor, delivery, and recovery. Hot tubs, birthing balls, you name it. At least in most of the U.S.

        And, yes, most birth have some goo involved. Sweat, amniotic fluids, vernix are all normal and typically not that excessive, especially when viewed as the norm. That will happen at home or in a hospital. “Amniotic fluids enriched with baby poo” is a medical emergency and is a major reason against home births.

  43. TyrantDestroyed says:

    Somebody posted the foto op from Louis birth in one of my only women’s Facebook groups and the conversation divided in 2 groups : The ones that believe it’s nearly impossible to look that good after a birth and the other bragging now they went to the mall the day after and that looking rough was for weak and slopy women. Yikes! Thanks media for turning women against women.

  44. Whodat says:

    I’ve been a long time lurker here … like 8 years or so lol. But this is the first story I had to comment on …. I feel like there shouldn’t be the pressure for her to look perfect but at the same time I kinda-sorta-hate to say resented her for it? I almost died during childbirth and it completely changed my life to this day. I love that childbirth is seen as natural but also love a shout out to those moms whose labours were horrific and life-changing. As with everything- I see a lot of shades of grey.

  45. Heather says:

    She obviously was not criticising Kate, she was drawing attention to the societal pressures on women.

  46. HerHighness says:

    no lies detected. she is right, my bff told me after her 1st child that she also felt deceived by ALL women, the truth of the pain and aftermath ARE completely whitewash. We think video games are violent, try normalizing what childbirth really looks like for us.

  47. ladida says:

    I agree that Hollywood births are very sanitized. But it’s kind of impossible to show some of this on TV without an R rating and 24 hours of labor. Personally, it’s not lost on me. I have been hearing about how horrible childbirth is from my friends and siblings who already have kids, to the point of not wanting to have kids myself. Quite frankly, it’s kind of refreshing to hear or perceive something wonderful about childbirth. I don’t need Kate to tell me and show me everything she went through, that is a personal/family matter that no woman is required to share. Each woman is different. My mom had three kids with no problems, my brother was nearly born in the backseat of a cab due to the speed of delivery. My best friend on the other hand had a horrible painful delivery, in retrospect she should have had a C section which the doctor later admitted.

  48. violet says:

    Good lord, as if the woman had a choice! And it’s not as if she hid the postpartum swollen womb, either. If she’d snuck out in the middle of the night she would have been clobbered for not giving the peasants their rightful look at the new royal, and if she has to face the photogs, is she really supposed to do so bare-faced and wearing slippers and a bathrobe to make a point?

    Last – some women actually do look great after giving birth. Those hormones rage in a variety of ways. I have to say I wasn’t one of them, but I’ve got wimpy coloring and permanent bags under my eyes, but I have known close friends look absolutely radiant immediately after giving birth -they’re usually the ones that have stronger coloring.

    Keira Knightley works in an industry that makes its living off objectifying women – plastic surgery and eating disorders are the norm in her business, and she’s going to single out a woman who would have been taken apart by the media if she’d snuck home?

    And who would stay in the hospital if they had a luxurious set up all comfy at home?! It’s not as if any of the royal women are going home to housekeeping, cooking, errands, etc., in addition to caring for the newborn!