Women should be proud of their bodies. But our latest obsession with seeing “real” postpartum bodies in bikinis, complete with rolls, sagging and stretch marks, isn’t always an inspiration to all women.
The attack on moms is a real one. Men might think we’re crazy, but women can pick up on it right away because of all the psychological jabs we endured and doled out in junior high school. It’s a passive-aggressive war, the worst kind, where we are constantly being bombarded online with photographs of moms who have just given birth and look hot. Or, on the flip side, photos of moms who have body flaws and, in some part, contribute to this myth that it’s over once you have kids.
We love seeing celeb bodies, but the latest craving is for “real” women’s bodies. And the reactions to those bodies allow us to really start to understand that this is a war in which there are absolutely no winners.
Remember when pregnant model Sarah Stage posted a photo of herself eight months pregnant and in lingerie and everyone freaked out and pretty much suggested she should be burned in Salem? Lesson learned: If you’re too hot, there’s a price to pay for it.
Drew Barrymore recently compared her belly to a “kangaroo pouch” and said everything is “saggy and weird,” and a lot of women were offended because we’ve earned the right, as mommies, to have imperfect bodies. Lesson: Before babies, expect to have to adhere to a strict beauty standard. But, after babies? Don’t worry, moms aren’t supposed to be hot, and if you don’t think that way, it must mean you don’t have your priorities straight (which is nothing more than a passive-aggressive way of attacking a mom’s parenting skills).
Many moms have also taken to social media to pose in bikinis and various states of undress in order to pry people’s eyes open to the reality of how real bodies look. The only problem is: “real” implies flaws. If a woman who works really hard to lose weight and get her pre-baby body back were to post similar photos, she’d be given a map to Salem and slammed for her crooked priorities or shaming antics.
Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the self-confidence of women who pose in bikinis and admit they don’t look the same as they did at 25 — and that they’re fine with that. Rachel Hollis is a 32-year-old mother of three who runs marathons and has decided screw it, I’m not going to never wear a bikini again, so here I am — this is what I look like, stretch marks and all. No one can say Hollis isn’t at the top of her game. I certainly can’t run a marathon. I love the fact that she feels comfortable enough to share her body in a bikini and I believe she helps a lot of moms feel better about their bodies.
But I’m going to be really honest: These images don’t help me.
What I’m about to write will basically read like an invitation for some to call me shallow or worse. But here goes: I don’t want to have rolls and an untoned tummy. One day, I will be an older woman, my metabolism will slow to a snail’s pace, and I swear to God I’ll be happy and fulfilled and, with hope, surrounded by grandchildren.
But right now, I don’t want to accept my postpartum body. I want to improve it.
That isn’t to say I slam it or feel less worthy of being alive than Gisele. But there’s nothing wrong with moms who clock in hours at the gym or lock their bedroom door for an hour to do yoga or skip Friday night pizza because they don’t like the way it makes them feel.
We’ve come far with body acceptance, but we shouldn’t limit it to one type of body. Women who work hard to improve their bodies don’t deserve to be slammed for it.