Ashley Olsen and the Power of Silence

Photo: Getty Images

First of all, congratulations are in order for Ashley Olsen, who reportedly had a baby months ago. Second—pardon?

It’s true, everyone’s favorite Olsen twin (she’s definitely top two) is said to have welcomed her first child with reported husband Louis Eisner in characteristically lowest of low-key style. The pair have said absolutely nothing on the matter of the recent birth, nor their tiny, “perfect” (according to media reports) wedding last year. They’ve never actually confirmed they’re a couple.

This is all very much in line with the Olsen-twin school of public relations; a notoriously private duo, they don’t really do announcements of any sort. They exist outside our default (and by now heavily ingrained) impulse to socially post when something, anything, happens. Pregnancies in particular tend to dot our feeds: You’re three months into your pregnancy, you’ve orchestrated blue pyrotechnics so we know you’re having a boy, you’re swaddling at the hospital.

Social media is so saturated culturally it seems impossible to be commercially successful without your businesses having a savvy broadcasting strategy, whether you’re selling well-tailored coats or your ability to inhabit a role. The twins have a Marvel Universe sister, yet we’re offered no ’grams, no Xeets, no Threads. From The Row we get immaculate collections and show notes; from the women themselves, it’s paparazzi shots and occasional glimpses of them hiking with a machete. The rest we fill in for ourselves.

We cannot deny that this is extremely chic. Chicness is, of course, amorphous—hard to pin down to a sum of parts, at once mystical and tangible. But the less the Olsens give us, the more we want. Their privacy is the ultimate luxury. (The opposite side of the pregnancy coin is Rihanna, who’s the opposite of confined, never missing a red-carpet step.)

As a cis gay man, I was hesitant to wade into how a pregnant woman moves through the world, but I’m interested in how we all externalize our internal worlds, how what we’re feeling lines up with what we’re posting. It’s somehow both shocking and refreshing for someone in the public eye to have deep and meaningful life-changing developments that aren’t used as opportunities to draw themselves more attention.

With all this sharing, we tend to conflate how things look with how they feel. We pay close attention to each other’s goings-on, comparisons inevitably (naturally) bleeding in. In this climate, it feels almost strikingly healthy to hold back, to opt out, to do you quietly and not make a thing of it. Rather than thinking of Ashely Olsen’s private pregnancy as another standard in femininity for women, a way to influence how you move through the world too—pregnant or not, single or attached, getting your morning latte or eating vegan or wearing something cute (or not)—maybe this is a sign that you can opt out of the carnival of broadcasting? Maybe the next thing you do doesn’t need recording? Maybe, at a broader level, your own choice is the right choice—and maybe you don’t have to tell anyone about it.

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