The XX Factor

Celebrities Have the Right to Remain Silent About Their Pregnancies

Melissa Harris-Perry bravely talked about her surrogate pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean every celebrity mom should have to.

Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for GLAAD

Let’s applaud Melissa Harris-Perry. The host of her eponymous MSNBC show just had a baby girl, and in a blog post Tuesday, she was totally transparent about her struggles with fibroids, secondary infertility, and use of a surrogate. “It took two families, three states, four doctors, and five attorneys to get this little girl here,” Harris-Perry writes. “And while our gestational carrier has no genetic tie to our little one, she is now our family.”

While it’s great that Harris-Perry wanted to go public about her experience of “raising a tween and a tot” at 40, as well as her experience of using a surrogate, the key here is that it was her choice to speak out. I’ve been somewhat appalled of late at commentators who say celebrities older than 35 must talk about their struggles to get pregnant, as if they owe it to us.

This has come up in particular in the publicity surrounding The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock by Tanya Selvaratnam. In an interview with CNN, Selvarantam said, “We see celebrities having kids seemingly without any problems, and we have no idea what they went through. We see the end result, but not the struggle.”

Maybe that’s because their struggles are none of our business, unless they choose to make it our business, as Harris-Perry bravely did. In an age when 49-year-old Laura Linney’s pregnancy and subsequent birth is described as a “secret” just because she didn’t start a blog about it on People’s celebrity baby website, we’ve come too far in expecting famous women to expose their private lives to us.

CNN’s Wendy Sachs describes celebrities such as Halle Berry and Uma Thurman seemingly having babies easily after 35 as a “tragic disservice to women” who might think that they, too, can get pregnant without assistance into their 40s. No. Berry is not your biology teacher. There is no shortage of media telling women about how their eggs are shriveling up and dying. It’s a tragic disservice to assume that women can’t learn that there’s a relationship between age and fertility without someone famous telling them so.