In the age of instant news and viral trends, the rumor mill on social media often operates at lightning speed. The latest celebrity to fall victim to baseless rumors is Halle Bailey, the star of Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid,” and “Wait for U” singer Tems.
In recent weeks, speculations about Bailey and Tems being pregnant have run rampant across various social media platforms, sparking intense discussions and debates about the potential baby daddies and fans’ approval (or, more often, disapproval) of them. Amidst the social media chatter and think pieces, this trend and the behavior behind this trend reveal more than just Black Twitter’s storytelling and investigative skills.
ANH sat down with Dr. Loree Johnson, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in reproductive mental health, to discuss the potential harm of such unfounded social media rumors.
“I think these types of speculations, while they [can be] well-meaning, I think they’re highly problematic, said Johnson. “Culturally, once people start to couple or reach childbearing ages, there’s just this sense of womb watching or kind of paying attention to what’s happening to other people’s bodies and creates this heightened kind of awareness that isn’t helpful.”
While it may come across as the latest social media gossip to most users, Johnson says that “womb watching,” the hyper-fixation on women’s reproductive health, can be harmful to celebrities and non-celebrities alike as it sends a subtle yet powerful message on the watchful eye of social media and society.
“What I think is being amplified here is the power of social media and having this window into people’s lives that we didn’t have before,” said the licensed therapist. “We have these cultural interactions, thoughts about looking at other people’s bodies and being fixated on that. So what we see on social media is an overflow of what happens in our communities.”
Whether it’s coming from a place of love, excitement or shade, no one should comment on another person’s physical appearance or make assumptions about any perceived changes in their bodies. The fact is women’s bodies are naturally very complex. Through her experiences with clients, Johnson explained that the unpredictable nature of reproductive health can trigger a number of emotions, including anxiety and depression, especially when things do not go as expected. So, these types of assumptions are not only insensitive to potential fertility struggles but also trigger internalized emotions.
“When the journey isn’t unfolding the way one expects, it can create this dissonance and this disconnection and really cause people to feel bad about themselves. [Women] can suffer from low self-esteem or wonder if their bodies are somehow broken because it is not performing the way that we anticipate.”
Though you can’t stop people from passing judgement and speculating on women’s bodies, Johnson shared a few tips on how to respond to such claims:
- Check in with yourself before addressing anyone else.
How are you feeling? What kind of mood are you in at the moment? For Johnson these are some of the first questions people should ask themselves before responding to these types of comments.
“It’s really such a personal decision about what you also have the capacity to manage and so I think that going back to that to like, not necessarily just what is your mood but what do you have the capacity to kind of deal with or handle,” she emphasized.
- Gauge your relationship with the person making the comment.
Is it a well-meaning family member? Or an overly curious peer? Sometimes, depending on the relationship and your personal mood, Johnson says you may simply brush off the comment, and that’s OK!
- Have a few different responses drafted based on your mood.
“Sometimes [people] come from certain cultures or regions where there’s a certain expectation around politeness. So, sometimes people might struggle with coming off as rude or may not want to offend people,” she notes. “Or people may just feel kind of snippy and [simply want to say] stay in your lane.”
These responses can include things like: ‘That really felt uncomfortable when you commented on …’, ‘I’m loving my curves, and I’m glad that you do too.’ Or, as Cardi B once responded to pregnancy allegations, “Let me [be] fat in peace.”
Haniyah Philogene is a multimedia storyteller and Lifestyle reporter covering all things culture. With a passion for digital media, she goes above and beyond to find new ways to tell and share stories.
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