In 1991, when Demi Moore posed nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair, there was significant outrage. While Moore’s intent was to show the beauty of pregnancy as well as her “anti-glamour” attitude, she also succeeded in angering conservatives across the country and pleasing feminists, who saw it as an act of empowerment. At the same time, she sparked a trend that continues to this day, with stars like Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears emulating Moore’s iconic pose on the covers of magazines. In the US, the “baby bump” has become almost passé.
This November, 2009, Moroccan television newscaster Nadia Larguet (of 2M) took to the cover of Femmes du Maroc with the same pose, making the statement (as my friend cabalamuse stated), “I am pregnant, I am beautiful, I exist.” In a country where out-of-wedlock pregnancies are completely taboo (but on the rise), where women still die in childbirth on semi-frequent basis in some rural areas, and where abortion is illegal but not so hard to find, this is quite a statement.
And yet in some ways, Morocco makes being a mother easier. Working women get more time off than their American counterparts, breastfeeding in public (with a blanket to cover) is normal, and there is an expectation that the extended family will help raise the child.
The article* accompanying the provocative cover dug deep into serious issues: of maternal health, of abortion, of teenage pregnancy. And it couldn’t have come at a better time; Morocco is in many ways waking up to the realities it now faces: Just this week, Aicha Ech Channa, Association Solidarité Feminine, an organization that provides services to unmarried women with children, was awarded a $1 million prize by The University of St. Thomas and the Opus Prize Foundation for her work in Morocco. Ech Channa’s project, though not without its challenges, has been extremely successful; I remember first reading about it in a copy of Glamour my parents sent to me while I was living in Morocco in 2007 (that article is here).
After finally reading the full article inside Femmes du Maroc, I first saw incongruence between the cover image and the contents of the article; it seemed to me an unnecessary provocation, like including “sex” in a blog post tag simply to get hits (which works, by the by). But the more I saw it (and it’s been popping up in blogs all over the place), the more it seemed to me a revolutionary stance, just like that of Demi eighteen years ago: “I’m pregnant, I’m beautiful, I exist.” And even considering local sentiment and sensitivities, which shy away from nudity, public displays of affection, scantily-dressed women, I, like cabalamuse, would like to make the case that this is indeed revolutionary: It is a woman, standing up, unashamed and unafraid, in a country where “television channels are flipped at the mere sight of a man an a woman kissing, where, in neighborhood foodstuff stores, [and] menstrual pads are stuffed in a black plastic bag to conceal them from the embarassed looks of customers.” It is revolutionary because it is so far out of the realm of what is acceptable, and out of the realm of what is (publicly, anyway) considered beautiful. And it is, beautiful.
*If anyone would like the full article (in French), I can email a scanned copy.