Keira Knightley is an outspoken feminist and has fought for equal representation in Hollywood and beyond. However, she isn’t just concerned with how women are portrayed on-screen; she also has a bone to pick with the IRL societal pressures so many women face. And one “pressure” that’s particularly plaguing Knightley is the unrealistic expectations of what women should do and look like after giving birth — the old and dreaded “bounce back” concept.
Case in point: Kate Middleton, aka Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who made public appearances hours after giving birth to all three of her children.
In Knightley’s recent essay entitled “The Weaker Sex,” she made a point of criticizing the Kate for yielding to these silly standards.
“We stand and watch the TV screen. [Kate] was out of hospital seven hours later with her face made up and high heels on,” Knightley wrote in the piece for Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and Other Lies), as reported by Refinery29. “The face the world wants to see.”
We “hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging,” Knightley wrote. “Look beautiful. Look stylish, don’t show your battleground, Kate. Seven hours after your fight with life and death, seven hours after your body breaks open, and bloody, screaming life comes out. Don’t show. Don’t tell. Stand there with your girl and be shot by a pack of male photographers.”
Of course, some would argue Kate Middleton’s appearances were the ultimate feminist “fuck you,” a real, “look at how strong I am” sort of moment. However, others — including Knightley — believe the Duchess of Cambridge simply caved to the aforementioned standards. Why? Simply because it’s what was expected of her.
So which standpoint is right? Well, both — and neither. Women should be allowed to do, say and wear whatever they wish — post-childbirth or otherwise. But Knightley does make an important point. Women — particularly women’s bodies — are held to very different standards than men, and it’s time for that to change.
In the essay, Knightley also spoke about her own birth experience, which was graphic, painful and strangely beautiful. According to Refinery29, the actor wrote, “[M]y vagina split. You came out with your eyes open. Arms up in the air. Screaming. They put you on to me, covered in blood, vernix, your head misshapen from the birth canal. Pulsating, gasping, screaming… [and] you latched on to my breast immediately, hungrily. I remember the pain… the s–t, the vomit, the blood, the stitches. I remember my battleground.”
As do I; as does everyone who’s witnessed a birth. But parenthood is what you make of it, and everyone handles their experience differently.
As such, when it comes to Knightley and Kate, we say this: Mommy wars are brutal. They are never-ending, and they are real. And while I certainly wouldn’t be rocking heels hours after birth, if that makes the duchess happy, she should go for it — because women are divided enough. It’s time to prop one another up instead of dragging each other down.