"Showing off her bump" - the vanishing identity of a pregnant woman

A pregnant woman is more than just a bump with a woman attached.

It's a painful experience, but I do read the Daily Mail every day. I always feel that it's important to be aware of the misinformed bile it's giving out to people.

On right-hand side of their web page there's a column called "Femail Today" which gives an index of articles about various celebrities going out wearing clothes and either putting on or losing weight. Each are bad, apparently. Because that's what women should be interested in. 
 
They often use a ridiculous phrase whenever a pregnant woman steps out in public. They say that she's "showing off her bump". Today it was Holly Madison. I wouldn't have heard of the former Playboy playmate and US reality star either if she hadn't been in Dancing with the Stars three years ago. What was Ms Madison doing? She was filling with car with petrol. I can't imagine for a moment that she was thinking "I must show my bump to the world". More likely it was something like "darn, the red light's flashing, I'd better get some gas."
 
She only announced she was pregnant the day before. It's quite common for a woman's identity to just disappear, even if the baby you're carrying is not much bigger than a grain of rice. Suddenly you become public property. People come up to you in the street and pat your bump and think they have the right to ask you all sorts of personal questions.
 
Pregnancy takes around 40 weeks. During that time, you pretty much carry on as normal. You go to work, you go shopping, you go to the gym, you go out to parties. Harriet Harman fought and won a parliamentary by-election in 1982 during her pregnancy. Angela Constance, now the Scottish Government's youth employment minister, won her Livingston constituency from Labour while in the early stages of her pregnancy with son Cyrus. I'm sure that neither of them thought for a second that they were "showing off their bump" as they headed off to the next stop on their campaign trail. 
 
You can't exactly leave your bump at home when you are pregnant, but it shouldn't define everything about you. Pregnant women don't stop being nurses, lawyers, government ministers or whatever. 
 
Further down, by the way, the Mail decided to have a pop at some other pregnant celebrity who was on her way to a yoga class. The paper expressed disbelief that anyone could bend with a bump, showing their usual ignorance of both pregnancy and yoga. 
 
It really annoys me that the aspirations of young girls appear to be directed towards fashion, frivolity and footballers by the likes of celebrity magazines and the Femail column on the Mail website. I kid you not - Louis Walsh actually suggested in his book Fast Track to Fame that aspiring female singers should give their career a boost by dating a footballer. We need to provide alternative sources of inspiration for young girls. Let's hope that will be a big part of the Olympic legacy with so many positive role models - from the warmth and wide ranging wisdom of Clare Balding's broadcasting to Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton and now Sarah Storey's and many others' achievements in their sports. 
 
At some point in the next few years it is likelier than not that Kate and William will have one or more children. The media will go into overdrive and Kate will have even more ridiculous things written about her. The reporting on William will be very much business as usual, while the reports on his wife will be, pretty much, about a bump with a woman attached. It's a depressing thought.
 
Caron Lindsay is a Lib Dem activist and blogger. This post originally appeared on her blog here. You can find her on Twitter as @caronmlindsay
Who is the woman attached to this bump? You can't even tell... Photograph: Getty Images
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I am special and I am worthless: inside the mind of a narcissist

There's been a lot of discussion about narcissists this week. But what does the term actually mean?

Since the rise of Donald Trump, the term “narcissistic” has been cropping up with great regularity in certain sections of the media, including the pages of this journal. I wouldn’t want to comment about an individual I’ve never met, but I thought it would be interesting to look at the troubling psychological health problem of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

People with NPD (which is estimated to affect about 1 per cent of the population) have a characteristic set of personality traits. First, they have a deeply held sense of specialness and entitlement. Male NPD sufferers frequently present as highly egotistical, with an unshakeable sense of their superiority and importance; female sufferers commonly present as eternal victims on whom the world repeatedly inflicts terrible injustices. In both cases, the affected person believes he or she is deserving of privileged treatment, and expects it as a right from those around them.

Second, NPD sufferers have little or no capacity for empathy, and usually relate to other people as objects (as opposed to thinking, feeling beings) whose sole function is to meet the narcissist’s need for special treatment and admiration – known as “supply”. In order to recruit supply, NPD sufferers become highly skilled at manipulating people’s perceptions of them, acting out what is called a “false self” – the glittering high achiever, the indefatigable do-gooder, the pitiable victim.

The third characteristic is termed “splitting”, where the world is experienced in terms of two rigid categories – either Good or Bad – with no areas of grey. As long as others are meeting the narcissist’s need for supply, they are Good, and they find themselves idealised and showered with reciprocal positive affirmation – a process called “love-bombing”. However, if someone criticises or questions the narcissist’s false self, that person becomes Bad, and is subjected to implacable hostility.

It is not known for certain what triggers the disorder. There is likely to be a genetic component, but in many cases early life experiences are the primary cause. Narcissism is a natural phase of child development (as the parents of many teenagers will testify) and its persistence as adult NPD frequently reflects chronic trauma during childhood. Paradoxically for a condition that often manifests as apparent egotism, all NPD sufferers have virtually non-existent self-esteem. This may arise from ongoing emotional neglect on the part of parents or caregivers, or from sustained psychological or sexual abuse.

The common factor is a failure in the development of a healthy sense of self-worth. It is likely that narcissism becomes entrenched as a defence against the deep-seated shame associated with these experiences of being unworthy and valueless.

When surrounded by supply, the NPD sufferer can anaesthetise this horrible sense of shame with the waves of positive regard washing over them. Equally, when another person destabilises that supply (by criticising or questioning the narcissist’s false self) this is highly threatening, and the NPD sufferer will go to practically any lengths to prevent a destabiliser adversely influencing other people’s perceptions of the narcissist.

One of the many tragic aspects of NPD is the invariable lack of insight. A narcissist’s experience of the world is essentially: “I am special; some people love me for this, and are Good; some people hate me for it, and are Bad.” If people with NPD do present to health services, it is usually because of the negative impacts Bad people are having on their life, rather than because they are able to recognise that they have a psychological health problem.

Far more commonly, health professionals end up helping those who have had the misfortune to enter into a supply relationship with an NPD sufferer. Narcissism is one of the most frequent factors in intimate partner and child abuse, as well as workplace bullying. The narcissist depends on the positive affirmation of others to neutralise their own sense of unworthiness. They use others to shore themselves up, and lash out at those who threaten this precarious balance. And they leave a trail of damaged people in their wake. 

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times