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Internet’s obsession with who Ileana D’Cruz’s baby daddy is shows just how women are judged

On a slow Tuesday morning, the internet exploded following Ileana D’Cruz’s Instagram post announcing her pregnancy. The actor is expecting her first child. Almost immediately, there was rampant speculation over who Ileana’s baby daddy is (yes, that is a terminology used by many on social media), with a few people placing their bets on her rumoured boyfriend (or ex) Sebastien Laurent Michel, who is actor Katrina Kaif’s brother. Also read: Ileana D’Cruz is pregnant, shares pictures to make announcement. See here

Ileana D’Cruz is pregnant with her first child. She is 36.

While the buzz around Ileana’s baby announcement was somewhat inevitable – she is an actor – what was not inevitable was the judgment surrounding the identity of the alleged father of Ileana’s future baby. You would think that a successful woman living in Mumbai could share the news that she will soon have a child and people would recognise that it’s none of their business how that baby was conceived. But, well, this is not the world we live in.

The fact that Ileana has not been forthcoming about her path to parenthood – she wrote on Instagram ‘Coming soon, can’t wait to meet you my little darling’, which is about all that’s publicly known on the subject – has been questioned by a section of social media users. This section cannot deal with the fact that Ileana, a grown, independent woman, announced she is having a child without a father in the picture. Ileana’s silence about her future baby’s conception has led to much speculation about not only who the father is, but also what his role would be in the baby’s future.

A comment on her post read, “Who’s the father?” One more wrote, “When did she get married? She never revealed her husband or is this an adopted child?” One more commented, “Papa ka role kaun play kar raha hai (Who is playing the role of the father)?” One more wrote, “Bina shadi ke, wah (wow, without marriage she is having a baby).” Like she owes anyone an explanation.

Thanks to the societal trend of women delaying marriage and kids, it’s never been more acceptable for women to become mothers on their own timeline and their own terms. And given that Ileana is 36, she falls squarely within this trend. But a woman, albeit a celebrity, having children without publicly revealing who the father is, is another story altogether. The fact that late motherhood is becoming more culturally acceptable, however, does not mean that the stigma has disappeared entirely.

Celebrity mothers are typically bombarded with incessant questions about their pregnancy struggles, baby name choices, exact due date, and more. When they are not facing constant inquiries, they meet those that find their baby bump photos ‘inappropriate’. Case in point: Sonam Kapoor.

Nearing the end of her first trimester last year, Sonam had posed in a photoshoot showing her growing baby bump. She had shared the pictures on Instagram in June, 2022 with the caption, “On the cusp of motherhood and at the brink of my birthday, I’m choosing to dress how I feel – pregnant and powerful, bold and beautiful… Thanks @abujanisandeepkhosla for draping women in outfits that bring out the most fierce and the most sensual parts of their femininity.” Instead of sharing in her joy, trolls were quick to leave comments of disapproval, one of which read, “Kitni phool gayi hai (how fat you have become)…”

Alia Bhatt, Neha Dhupia, Dia Mirza are just some of the celebs, who decided to start a family, before they married. Even though they have been relatively open about their pregnancy, they were all subjected to criticism for becoming pregnant before marriage. Even their maternity fashion choices were questioned. “Why is she not covering up her tummy?” read a comment on Alia’s post last year, as the actor wore a see-through pink top.

Moreover, if a woman has a child out of wedlock, people typically make the assumption that there are no other parents in the picture, even if she has an extensive support network of family and friends, or, in some cases, even if the father assumes co-parenting responsibilities.

Becoming a mom without marriage comes with stigma, even in 2023. Society wants the woman to feel it is more like an embarrassment, than an achievement. With her baby announcement, what Ileana has done is making it clear that she does not consider having a husband to be a prerequisite for parenthood. She can hopefully make people realise that parents come in many different forms.

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