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How Rihanna challenged the way people think about pregnancy

Here's what we can all learn from the singer's bold maternity wear and IDGAF attitude.
Rihanna: Pregnant, proud and unapologetic. Let's all channel that energy, shall we?
Rihanna: Pregnant, proud and unapologetic. Let's all channel that energy, shall we?Getty Images

We'll always have Rihanna's pregnancy inspiration. The way in which Rihanna unapologetically flaunted her pregnancy is a lesson in how people should feel empowered to act — and demand they be treated — when they're growing humans.

One moment that perfectly encapsulated Rihanna's pregnancy attitude occurred in early March, when the nine-time Grammy winner walked the red carpet at a Dior fashion show.

Video shows someone in the crowd yelling, "You're late!" at the singer, to which she replied, "No s----."

Related: Rihanna talks her bold maternity fashion: ‘When you look good, you feel good’

Rihanna did not apologize — and studies have shown women say sorry far more than men.

The fashion mogul did not express any guilt for making people wait to see her. Instead, she walked the red carpet with confidence, demanding with every gliding movement that people accommodate her as she grew limbs, toenails and earlobes inside her body.

Employers, take note — many businesses fail to accommodate pregnant people. One 2019 study found that 21% of women are afraid to tell their boss they're pregnant, and another 2019 survey for Young Women’s Trust revealed that one in eight employers are "hesitant" to hire young women, for fear they'll eventually be pregnant in the future.

Pregnant people need more employers, hiring managers, CEOs, and business owners to walk into the workplace like Rihanna — with the assumption people who are pregnant will be offered reasonable accommodations, and not a public reprimand.

Rihanna celebrates the launch of Fenty Beauty at ULTA Beauty on March 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
“I’m enjoying not having to worry about covering up my tummy,” Rihanna said about her pregnancy fashion. Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

Rihanna channeled that same pregnant and unrepentant energy into her maternity looks — a collection of sheer lace slips, belly-showing crop-tops, shiny bralettes and skin-tight miniature dresses.

“I’m enjoying not having to worry about covering up my tummy,” Rihanna told People on the red carpet of a Fenty Beauty Universe event in Los Angeles in February. “If I feel a little chubby, it’s like, whatever! It’s a baby!”

The actress said it's easy to "just want to lay here on this couch all day" when you're pregnant. But when she put on clothes that made her look good, she said she'd start to feel good, too.

“I’ve heard that for a very long time, but it’s true," she added. "It really can get you up off that couch and make you feel like a bad bitch.”

Rihanna Celebrates Fenty Beauty & Fenty Skin in LA
A$AP Rocky and Rihanna on February 11, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for Fenty Beauty & Fenty Skin)Rich Fury / Getty Images

Yet pregnancy has been a thing to "hide" for decades. And even now, women are encouraged to dress conservatively while pregnant, and often shamed if they don't; a precursor for the swift de-sexualization of women the moment they become mothers.

Pregnant people also often experience months of fatphobia. One 2020 study of 501 pregnant and postpartum women found that nearly two-thirds of participants reported experiencing weight stigma from at least one person.

How pregnant bodies are treated has mental health consequences.

The same 2020 study found that experiencing weight stigma puts a person at a higher risk of depression, both during and following a pregnancy. A 2019 study of 600 pregnant women found that participants who felt more positively about their body changes had lower depression and anxiety scores.

Rihanna isn't just "serving us looks" — she's protecting her mental health.

Rihanna shows off her belly bump while out to late night dinner at Giorgio Baldi in Santa Monica, CA
Rihanna shows off her belly bump while out to late night dinner in Santa Monica, CA NYP / BACKGRID

Ask any mom, and they'll likely tell you that the inequities you experience while pregnant do not magically disappear once that pregnancy is over. From "mommy tracking" at work, to a disparity in pay between mothers and fathers, to a lingering unequal division of labor in the home, moms can face just as much discrimination, stigma, and judgment as they do when they're pregnant.

If Rihanna's pregnancy is any indication, her public life as a mom will serve another rebuke of what society "thinks" moms should act and look like.

And I'm here for it.

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