Amal Clooney’s a renowned international human rights expert and is frequently invited to speak on the subject at the United Nations. In fact, on Wednesday, which also happened to be International Women’s Day — she gave a speech at the New York headquarters with her client, ISIS survivor and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Nadia Murad. The next day, Clooney was back at work, urging the international agency to investigate allegations of genocide against the terrorist group.
And yet, while Clooney’s a top lawyer taking on high-profile and important cases, many in the media (Yahoo Style included) wrote about Clooney’s appearance solely in the context of her body, as she’s presently pregnant with twins with her husband, actor George Clooney.
Case in point: Time magazine, which tweeted the following:
Amal Clooney shows off her baby bump at the United Nations https://t.co/0Vkr8aad1D
— TIME (@TIME) March 10, 2017
The tweet, to many across the Internet, felt a little tone-deaf. To note that one of the preeminent experts in her field is rocking a “baby bump” almost reduces the identity of the woman in question to no more than a vessel for the progeny of the Oscar winner to whom she is married.
Oh, c'mon. Better headline: Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney calls for action at U.N. against genocide and mass rape of the Yazidi people. https://t.co/KUGKW16XzX
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) March 10, 2017
Amal Clooney went to UN on International Women’s Day to discuss genocide. TIME talks about her "baby bump" and shows her on the red carpet. pic.twitter.com/2kTWfrrPnJ
— Michael Arnovitz (@MichaelArnovitz) March 10, 2017
I look up to Amal Clooney sm for who she is and what she does, this is disappointing coverage of her https://t.co/k6CFd7ChRO
— Grace Bailey (@GraceBai1ey) March 10, 2017
— Travels With Tadji (@TadjiKretschmer) March 10, 2017
— Jessie Thomson (@jessiecthomson) March 10, 2017
You have to worry about our society when a baby bump is seemingly more remarkable than a speech to the UN on genocide ????#amalclooney
— Emily McCulloch (@emmyloumac) March 10, 2017
@NicolaSturgeon A stupid misogynistic comment. Amal Clooney is smart, committed, and passionate lawyer, she also happens to be pregnant, so what.
— Chris (@OllieNewYork) March 10, 2017
— So-Called Anna ???? (@girlvanized) March 10, 2017
Fixing this tweet/headline:
Amal Clooney called on UN to bring ISIS to justice for its atrocities in Iraqhttps://t.co/cePq3x2hkZ
— Anup Kaphle (@AnupKaphle) March 10, 2017
I wish we would apply the Amal Clooney standard to Trump.
"Our president looked saucy in a green polo as he accused Obama of wiretapping!"
— Don Zolidis (@donzolidis) March 10, 2017
Amal Clooney: A Woman™
— bing bong (@funksocks) March 10, 2017
The Twitter reaction rightfully reflects the ridiculousness of the situation, while also underscoring the larger socio-cultural problem of the kinds of identities we, even in the year 2017, feel uncomfortable about letting women assume — and the kinds of identities we restrict them to in the name of comfort and security with a certain sort of understanding about gender.
The Time-Twitter snafu belies the way in which, even as Barbie’s career goals are allowed to evolve from pageant queen to president, women are still expected to still basically be like Barbie — that is, careers are OK, as long as you can still be posed and looked at within the context of what you’re wearing and whether or not Ken is sold separately.
The default with women remains to talk about them as bodies, something that is often exaggerated even further when it comes to pregnant bodies and the feverish bump-watches that often consume celebrity culture — a process that renders women into objects, and not people. This dynamic is further complicated by the double-edged sword of locking women into identities rooted in motherhood, letting the work of parenting override work that women may do outside that capacity, something that diminishes nonparenting work done by women — women who have the right to work whether or not they choose to ever become mothers. If a woman works but is not a mother, but is told through cultural messaging that she should best be identified by her capacity to carry a child, her work is quietly erased by her not checking this other box.
And this experience creates a tricky, self-reinforcing cycle in which it’s harder for women to get into and move up in the workforce. After all, you can’t break the glass ceiling when you show up to do your job and Time talks about your baby bump.
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