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The Best Naked Pregnant Woman on a Magazine Cover

Mar 15 2012
Why Jessica Simpson's recent 'Elle' cover is worth celebrating.

I know it's been done before. Sure, I get that it's designed to shock and awe. And indeed, I realize it may cause some to stumble and plenty others to stand in judgment. But I must say: although I usually shake my fists at the number of scantily clad "cover girls" we must endure, I couldn't help staring and smiling upon seeing a coyly covered, nude and pregnant Jessica Simpson on the cover of the April issue of Elle.

Maybe it's because I've grown weary—especially during the recent birth-control mandate-related political debates—of the cultural conversations in which pregnancy is seen as a tragedy, as a horrible inconvenience needing public dollars to prevent. Maybe it was just nice to see a pregnancy celebrated so publicly and audaciously.

But I also smiled because a photograph—even a sexy, nude one—of a woman huge with child on the cover of a fashion magazine is a welcome change of pace to the typical portraits of women's bodies as mere harbingers of lust and envy.

Of course, I'm not fool enough to think that the Elle cover is free from objectification or that it was done to make a political point (at least not the one I'm thinking) or that it's not meant to highlight what writer Margot Starbuck calls, in Unsqueezed, being "instrumental" over "ornamental." Goodness, I'm a former magazine editor. I know that the entire purpose of anyone on a cover is ornamental—a lure to compel readers to grab the magazine.

But even if the reason for the nude image of Simpson is to sell magazines (and that is the reason), if it's true that there is a time for everything—including a time for a naked woman to be used to sell a magazine—I say, it's during pregnancy. At least then, we see a woman's body in a fresh twist on "sex symbol"—this time as a symbol of the amazing and mighty miracle-worker it is.

I must confess: I demurred a bit on my stance when a friend asked why Simpson had to be nude to showcase her pregnant body. "Couldn't she have been more decent?" my friend asked. "Wouldn't a bikini have done the trick?"

Maybe. But what I love about the cover is that, aside from Simpson's fancy hair and earrings and, of course, all the retouching, it's so primal, so physical, so, well, naked—like reproduction itself.

Pregnancy is the one time of a woman's life when she is so openly and unashamedly (for the most part) public with her sexuality and physicality—meaning, with rare exception, the pregnancy is the result of having sex. Pregnancy is a season when modesty gets tossed out the window—where our body parts stretch ever toward people, where strangers will ask to touch our stomachs (and we usually let them!), where millions watch videos of our husbands kissing our growing, bare tummies, where doctor visits are the most intrusive sorts, where room-fulls of people will one day view our most private parts. And we don't feel embarrassed; we don't feel ashamed. We feel proud, grateful, and amazed at what God created our bodies to do.

Related Topics:Children; Media; Pregnancy

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