Then, earlier this year, Baldwin announced she was pregnant with her second child. At four months, she took a bathroom selfie in her underwear — a basic baby bump pic. That's when the real vitriol started. "People were like, 'you Photoshopped that,'" Baldwin says. To some, her body looked suspiciously good. Or not: "People would say, 'you look sick.' 'Why are your arms and legs so skinny?'" Others added
, "Dude, you're someone's mom. Cover up that butt," or "I'm surprised Alec allows this."
"When I started taking those photos, I wanted to say, 'My body is the same as everybody else's body. So, let's see what it's going to look like,'" Baldwin explains.
Her ethos is one of almost aggressive equality. She constantly highlights the un-glamorous side of her life, in addition to the red carpet one. Her feed shows more baby snot than ball gowns. Some may call this oversharing (though, no one's forcing them to follow her), but I think a celebrity showing the un-photoshopped realities of her life and her body is a bold move — particularly in the face of shitty comments like that. But what I find even bolder is what Hilaria did next: She responded.
"If you don’t want to see my belly grow, unfollow," Baldwin wrote
in a follow-up post. "Women used to be so ashamed of their changing bodies and just hide. Why?" She took it a step further, posting a screenshot one negative comment. "If somebody wrote me something terrible and they sent an email to my assistant, I would never post it," Baldwin told me. "But if you're going to write it on a public forum, I take a picture, and I say, 'would you like to say it to everyone?'"
Again, some have called Baldwin out for moves like this, calling it extreme or shaming. That was my first reaction as well. But then I thought about something Roxane Gay told me
earlier this year about handling her own critics on social media: "Sometimes you have to push back, and so I've started pushing back. If you want to talk shit, that's fine, but I'm going to talk shit right back. I'm going to challenge you when you come to my doorstep with nonsense. That stuff should not go unquestioned."
That's what Baldwin is doing, too. She doesn't submit to those who tell her to tone it down. She gets real about criticism, and more than that, she gets angry. For months, I could not figure out what I found so compelling about this lady. Then, it struck me: She gets pissed off, she expresses hurt feelings, she flouts the rules of social media, and she doesn't apologize for it. While I'm politely stewing in silence over one jerky comment, she's calling the jerks out and moving on.
"I'm human. Of course, I want you to like me. I want everybody to like me," Baldwin told me. But, she adds, you can't compromise on your sense of self. "You have to say your piece. I don’t think you should ever be silent. I think about it all the time, because I have kids now. I don’t want them to think, I have to hold my feelings inside, because I don’t want to make it worse.
Baldwin continued to post belly photos throughout her pregnancy, and after her son was born in June, she began another series of pics, taken every two weeks, showing what her abdomen looked like after she gave birth. "That first photo I took, I was in my hospital room, in the bathroom," Baldwin said. A mere 48 hours after childbirth is probably no woman's most glamorous moment, but as Hilaria wrote in her caption, "I believe it is important to accept and love our form after going through a bit of a battle bringing life into this world."