Keira Knightley on her childbirth essay: ‘I absolutely did not shame anybody’

The BFI 62nd London UK Premiere of 'Colette' held at the Cineworld Leicester Square

Here are some photos of Keira Knightley at Thursday night’s premiere of Colette, as part of the BFI London Film Festival. Keira wore this rather interesting Chanel gown… or is it a two-piece? The thing about this is that I feel like either part would have made a stunning dress, but put together… it sort of looks off-kilter a little bit? Like, if this was a simple white gown entirely using that skirt material, it would have been lovely. If the beaded top was a cocktail dress, it would have been incredible. Even putting the top with a pair of silver-grey silk trousers would have been awesome. Still, she does look good here.

Meanwhile, as we covered previously, Keira contributed an essay for a feminist essay collection called Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies). Keira’s essay was all about the beauty standards for women, and how it’s awful that we, as a society, expect new mothers to look done-up with hair and makeup right after giving birth. Keira name-checked the Duchess of Cambridge for her happy and breezy photocall with Princess Charlotte just seven hours after giving birth. Well, “palace sources” had some sh-t to say to Us Weekly:

“Keira is obviously entitled to her own opinion, but it was very much based on her own experiences and not of Kate’s. Not every mother feels the same way,” the Palace source told Us. “Keira’s comments were simply for attention and they weren’t justified.”

The source added that Kate was happy to have her her picture on the Lido Wing steps and pointed out, “she wouldn’t have done the photo call a second and third time if she was uncomfortable.” Though Kate managed to look flawless after giving birth, she has never claimed being a mother is easy. “Kate has spoken out about the struggles of parenthood,” the source noted.

[From Us Weekly]

Honestly, I doubt Keira is even really on Kate’s radar. Palace sources might have sniffed – “Keira’s comments were simply for attention” – but I doubt Kate really cares one way or the other. And for what it’s worth, Keira’s comments weren’t simply for attention – she had a point about society and mommyshaming and all of that, she just made her point poorly. Incidentally, at this premiere, Keira was asked about the essay, and she said this:

“I think it’s very interesting that certain parts of the media have, I don’t want to say purposefully, but let’s just say misrepresented my meaning and exactly what I said. So I would suggest to those people in the media that they re-read the entirety of the essay and not just take one bit out of it because the comments that I made are completely about our culture that silences women’s truths and forces us all to hide and I absolutely did not shame anybody in any way, in fact quite the opposite. So I would say to everybody, there is a wonderful book out at the moment, it’s called Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) and I suggest if you want to know about this then you should actually read the essay and all the others in the book and the wonderful thing is that all the proceeds go to Girl Up which is a phenomenal UN foundation which gives money to organisations that are supporting girls’ education, girls’ safety and girls’ leadership in developing countries.”

[Via The Independent]

Well, it’s more complicated than that too! It’s not black and white on either side. Keira shouldn’t just dismiss, out of hand, the idea that she “shamed” other women, because some women did feel like she was judging and perhaps even shaming them for having completely different birth experiences. Oh, well. At least she got people talking about the book.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Photos courtesy of WENN, Getty.

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35 Responses to “Keira Knightley on her childbirth essay: ‘I absolutely did not shame anybody’”

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  1. OriginalLala says:

    I think the Palace sources missed the point of the essay – that there is an expectation that women look like Kate after birthing a child and that women are expected to “lose to baby weight” and get that “pre baby body back” as if growing and birthing a freaking baby never happened to them! It’s nuts. and yes I know some women bounce back quickly, but this isn’t to shame them, it’s simply saying that this expectation for everyone is stupid and harmful.

    Let women live and let live. Stop expecting us to look and act a certain way. If men gave birth we would not even be having this kind of discussion.

    • perplexed says:

      I looked at the photos of Kate after she had George. When you look at her stomach, she didn’t actually look perfect. She did show her stomach at its regular size after pregnancy (since I’ve never had a baby, I’ll admit I didn’t know it could look like that). Yeah, she had the make-up on (who wouldn’t?) but her actual body was shown in its natural state.

      After Louis’s birth, I think she was just really happy to have the third kid (who probably doesn’t belong to the Crown) and that happiness was reflected in her face (and thus, beauty). Therefore, she looked radiant. But I think that was a byproduct of her general contentment,.

      Hollywood promotes the idea of looking a certain way after having. a baby, so I think Kaia would have to look at her own industry for promoting unrealistic beauty standards. I feel this is more on Hollywood than anybody else.

    • notthisagain says:

      “Let women live and let live.”

      Oh the irony isn’t that advice She should have taken before writing that totally self righteous and pretension piece and Yes she was shaming Kate
      Would she have appreciated a think piece suggesting that her (very thin and perfect )image is responsible for young girls having eating disorders and body and self image issues?
      I would guess NO

    • jay says:

      I don’t have kids…full disclosure. But I work with at risk young women in a country with universal health care. The injuries they sustain in childbirth are INSANE. And I’m talking young, healthy women. I can’t count the number of times they think there’s something wrong with them specifically when they didn’t heal properly because of the “bounce back” culture we have. So many pelvic floor injuries, musculature injuries, skeletal injuries, etc. etc. etc. that go untreated forever because they’re ashamed. Do you have a friend or mom who leaks pee after kids? That’s a pelvic floor injury that was entirely treatable and preventable for a time, but because we talk about it like it’s an inevitability of motherhood, women don’t get help. The postpartum follow up centres almost entirely on the baby and disregards the mom. Throw in the fact that women’s pain is generally dismissed as unimportant and it’s a terrible, perfect storm. God how I feel for them.

      • Nikki says:

        I had twins and later got quite run down and sick, but I had no help. I took my babies to a well visit check-up, and pathetically begged the pediatrician to just take a quick peek at my throat to see if I had strep! He was very self righteous telling me he was a pediatrician, not my general physician, and I started to cry, and said I had no time or money to see a doctor myself! Thank God I’m at least in the middle class now, but mothers are often SO neglected.

  2. perplexed says:

    I like Keira. a lot, but I’m sure she knew everyone would have run headlines about the part where she talks about Kate in the essay. Duh.

    • Carrie says:

      And good for her if she did so knowing ahead of time. The royal family is meant to serve the people and Keira brilliantly used them to help sell a book that’s much needed. Win win. Royal family needs to get on board WITH issues like this and get someone who can articulate their support better.

      Go Keira!

  3. feebee says:

    Oh, there’s no drama like mummy drama!

    Totally agree, Keira shouldn’t dismiss that she didn’t shame anyone. I mean she didn’t even bother with one of those non-apologies – “if I offended anyone, I’m sorry” as in sorry you were offended but I’m happy with what I said. But then again that’s a valid response as much as we don’t like it sometimes. I stand behind shit I say all the time knowing someone doesn’t like it.

    As for Kate… she’s definitely not the type (imho) to buck the system and not pose on the steps. The fact she has worn things reminiscent of Princess Diana makes me think she was fully on board with the PR and optics. I don’t think “comfort” came into it at all. The Palace can say what they like.

    • Carrie says:

      I f’n detest women silencing others who are expressing their own selves. If anyone felt harmed, they need to look at why they felt bad about themselves instead of editing Keira for speaking up about her own very real personal experience.

      Woman have a way to go on things like this and I want that to happen right along with MeToo. Let us speak and be accepted as ourselves when we’re supporting causes we care about and can contribute to in a substantial helpful way.

  4. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    And her smugness reigns. ‘Don’t like what I’m saying? Read a book.’

  5. Rapunzel says:

    It was judgy, wrapped in the guise of being tired of judgments. I get what she was trying to say, but it felt like she had personal issues with Kate. And it was not nuanced because it seems to completely ignore the fact that Kate might have had a different birthing experience.

    • TheHeat says:

      I agree totally.
      No two birth experiences are the same. And no one has the right to pass judgement (veiled or otherwise) on how another woman carries herself/dresses herself/heals herself afterwards.

  6. Kate says:

    “Though Kate managed to look flawless after giving birth, she has never claimed being a mother is easy.” Why did she “manage” to look flawless in the first place? That’s the point Kiera was making. Why did she feel the internal desire to have a blowout, full face of makeup and a nice dress on the same day her body went through a great and messy ordeal? People will say well that’s how she feels confident and pretty and it’s her choice. But if you keep asking “why?” you might go deeper and see the societal pressure most of us women internalize to look flawless and perfect at all times we are being seen, even after doing something beautifully messy.

    I don’t fault Kate at all for doing it the way she did – I probably would too if the world were looking at me. I think it’s interesting though to think about how hard it would be to let the world see you without makeup, hair pulled back, in sweatpants, maybe tired and still looking pregnant, just as you are. Again, fully don’t fault Kate and I don’t think Kiera does either.

    • perplexed says:

      ” Why did she “manage” to look flawless in the first place?”

      Because of the beauty standards set by Keira Knightley and Hollywood itself.

      Knightley has likely had the same effect on other women that Kate might have had on her. .

      Had anybody else voiced the criticism, I’d take the point. But I’m sure people have looked at photos of Knightley and wished they could look that thin and perfect as she does in a magazine so it’s strange to criticize Kate for following suit when Keira is in an industry that sets the standards for what people should look like in the media.

      • Kate says:

        Yeah definitely fair point! I think oftentimes when celebrities complain about the pressures to be thin/perfect/beautiful when they ARE thin perfect and beautiful it can ring hollow. I suspect they are just as fed up with the pressure as many of us are.

      • Amide says:

        @perplexed Exactly. 👍 Considering at the height of rumours about her weight, Knightely happily made clear that het thinness – which no doubt helped with her fashion contracts – was her business alone.

      • Enough Already says:

        I remember when Kate was snapped with half an inch of undyed roots after George was born and the commentary was brutal. A pic of her Christmas shopping described her as looking “shattered” because she had new mommy bags under her eyes. The hypocrisy of the criticism from everyone is exhausting.

    • Goneblank says:

      I totally agree with Kate. Keira was trying to examine how societal pressure creates expectations about women and their bodies and erases the full breadth of women’s experience. She wasn’t criticising Kate, she was criticising the culture. And she wasnt having a crack at women who have positive or straight forward birth experiences. Not all women do and it can be hard to find space to talk about it.
      And I don’t think her response to criticism was smug, she just said my point has been misconstrued, go read the essay. That’s fair enough to me. If you want to wage a counter argument against keira, then you should read the entirety of the essay. That’s fair.

  7. Missy says:

    Every bodies birth experiences are different. I know a woman who had a baby and left the hospital wearing a pair of jeans from before she got pregnant. I left eight hours after giving birth, tired but very happy, wearing flip flops because my feet were still so swollen but otherwise I was good. I never had a bad birth, no tearing, everything went smoothly, definitely not the horrifying experience that Keira discribes. My sister on the other hand was in the hospital for five days after an emergency c section and blood clots, her leads were so swollen for weeks. Every birth is different and no mother deserves to criticized for her choices afterwards.

  8. Darla says:

    My sister in law gave birth twice like Kate. I swear her stomach was flat when I visited her in the hospital about an hour after she gave birth both times.

    I do think we need to understand every woman is different. Sure no one should be expected to be like my sister in law, but no one should be side eyed if they are.

  9. Electric Tuba says:

    Her essay was stupid and she is up her own booty

  10. Jan says:

    For one thing I doubt “palace sources” said a thing. Made up crap for drama.

  11. Jaded1 says:

    When writing something negative, any names mentioned (other than those being praised) are being thrown under the bus. Keira is trying so hard to be a relevant feminist and it just isn’t her forte.

  12. Pandy says:

    Well, Keira wasn’t expected to show the future King of England to the world hours after giving birth … so yes, Kate had her hair and make up done and stood outside for five minutes before sensibly going back to bed.

  13. Case says:

    Keira could’ve easily made her point by saying she has seen celebrities on TV or in magazines (without naming names) looking perfect after giving birth and that she couldn’t identify with that after having her own baby, and that the expectation for women to “bounce back” so quickly reflects poorly on our society and women’s need to present a perfect front at all times. But she didn’t. She dragged Kate through the mud for no reason.

    Honestly, it wasn’t a well-written essay, and that’s the whole problem here. The focus of the essay was muddled. I liked her point at the end about questioning why women are considered the “weaker sex” given that we handle the pain of childbirth and then try to act like it was no big deal to please everyone else, but that was just tacked on at the end.

    Meh. I really do like Keira, but this essay was just really weird.

  14. Cupcake says:

    Let every woman have their own birth experience. Write about your experience if you want but don’t speak for or shame others.

  15. Nic919 says:

    The essay wasn’t shaming Kate if you actually read it. It’s just that the media used that part as a headline to get clicks and then the keen defenders jumped in without reading the essay because god forbid someone possibly criticize the future queen consort. She was saying that Kate should not have to feel the need to cover the ugly parts of childbirth to present an antiseptic image to the public. She didn’t attack Kate. Prior to Diana, the royal moms didn’t have photographers right there. The Queen didn’t do these immediate post birth photos. But the pressure to present a perfect image of motherhood has increased since then. As for the alleged quotes from Kate, yeah it’s US weekly so they aren’t real. Keira was sympathizing with what Kate had to do, but it turned into a mommy war, because that’s what the media does and then so many women jump in to defend their hero without realizing they are part of the problem.

  16. ladida says:

    To be fair to Keira, Kate is obsessed with looking perfect. Her hair, teeth, tan, weight etc. are exceedingly regulated. She represents a certain standard that is outlined by society in terms of how women should look: perfectly thin, tan (but white), perfect teeth, nose, clothes etc. So as women, we are allowed to rebel against that and it’s good for young girls to know that they don’t have to be perfect like this all the time. Keira, however, represents this too. She has most definitely had some work done. She’s bowed to hollywood pressures to be thin. She’s a Chanel model for Christ’s sake. So in many ways, she’s not well positioned to write this essay. No shame in writing a feminist essay, but I want to hear more from underrepresented voices. As a white woman, I feel comfortable saying that it is time for white women to step aside a little bit in the feminist debate. Women of all shapes, sizes, skin colors, ability, background, ethnicity, country of origin, rich and poor, etc. to get a platform. Because that’s where we’re going to have truly interesting debates that will open our eyes to the struggles of others and eventually improve society, which is the goal right?

  17. London Lozza says:

    I appreciate what Keira was trying to achieve, and equally am not going to knock Kate for her approach, but…

    For me, one of the people I find who has written so well about the female body pre, during and post pregnancy is the fitness trainer / blogger Emily Skye. She is someone who encourages exercise and diet but coupled with an encouragement for women to develop a healthy, realistic expectation about how they may feel about what they look like and what they want to achieve. She fell pregnant and then post pregnancy due to complications couldn’t exercise for sometime – I think it was almost three months.

    She was open, honest and unfiltered with her words and photographs about how she looked and how she felt. There was no instant bounce back, there was no model perfect photo shoot stuffed in everyone’s face, which for someone in her industry was such an honest revelation!

    For me, it was refreshing to find someone – who works in the model / fitness / “inspo” industry – being so candid and honest about how her body changed, how it didn’t bounce back immediately and mostly how amazed and inspired she thought her body was for being able to bring a person into the world. That was the bit she was most proud of … not her pregnancy work outs, not her getting her “pre-pregnancy body back”, but that her body was capable of sustaining life and bringing it into this world.

  18. Meg says:

    I love keiras esay and her response here-she is doing the opposite of shaming because society says there is only one way to be after giving birth-presentable and dont discuss how bad labor or birth may have been just like women are shamed into covering up our menstral cramps and never discuss them-its body shaming women because our bodies are only acceptable in a sexualized context. Society is saying only looking like kate is acceptable. Keira is NOT saying if your labor went smoothly and you personally feel better with your hair styled and makeup on ‘shame on you’ shes saying that shouldnt be the ONLY acceptable result after giving birth otherwise cover yourself up in shame.
    kate had an entire team go to the hospital to make her look like that-she wears heels for christs sake after giving birth. Kate does this because she loves attention but how would the press have responded if shed said this was rough i really want to save my energy for my well being and to carefor my baby-ive earned these grey hairs and bags under my eyes-i just gave birth! Pregnancy and child birth is taken for granted as natural for women so many feel discouraged from showing any signs of how rough or scary it may have been we feel like we’ve failed in a way as women.

  19. Meg says:

    Even after kate had really bad morning sickness early on in her first pregnancy with george she was photographed outside the hospital. What if she had uggs, sweats, her hair tied up and no makeup? She wouldve turned down the photo op and been transported out of the hospital out of sight. I had a friend give birth and of course those close to you want to see you and your baby and are happy for you-but even pictures being sent to those not very close to her she opted to look tired, no makeup, hair not done-she worked hard and she felt proud she didnt want to cover that up as it felt to her like shame to cover up what shed done-to each their own but i loved her for that

  20. Mina says:

    I felt she was kind of judgy in her essay. Perhaps if she hadn’t given an example with name, but she pointed her finger at Kate (to make the point that she was doing what was expected of her, I get that, but still). That being said, some of my friends on their second or third baby have been like nothing happened to them a few hours after labor, so Keira should know that giving birth is not this bloody, traumatic experience to every woman always.