Nicole Richie Squashes "Irresponsible" Pregnancy Rumors

The star rails about the "mean-spirited and cruel" speculation that feeds "an atmosphere of self-doubt and insecurity"

On Friday evening, Nicole Richie announced that she's not pregnant -- just offended by all the gossip about the state of her uterus.

"Contrary to recent speculation, I am not pregnant," Richie tells People. "This irresponsible reporting continues to feed an atmosphere of self-doubt and insecurity."

Issues around conception and pregnancy are indeed touchy, and very personal. But Richie seems to be talking about something slightly different: the damaging effect that the constant "bump watch" can have on celebrities' self-images.

"To publicly point out a change in anyone's body is mean-spirited and cruel," Richie continues. "People's bodies change and change again. This is not newsworthy and is a waste of valuable media space that should be used for more important issues."

So how did this pregnancy speculation start then? Richie was photographed on a playdate with her two kids (Harlow, 3, and Sparrow, 1 1/2) wearing a dress that made her tummy look a little rounder than usual. That's it -- just one picture. And we all know that a single photo (especially an action shot!) can be pretty misleading. Has the "bump watch" phenomenon gotten completely out of hand?

Unfortunately for her, Richie has all the criteria that puts the paparazzi on high alert for pregnancy: a stable marriage to husband Joel Madden, two young children she clearly adores, and plenty of time to have a third (she's only 29). But we think the lady's peeved press statement makes a good point: that the endless tummy-centric gossip is just another way for the press to criticize women's bodies, often because of tiny, normal weight fluctuations. It doesn't seem that long ago that the press was begging a dangerously skinny Nicole Richie to put on a few pounds. Now that she's made peace with a healthy-looking body, could we focus on something else for a little while?

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