Faith and Feminism Part Three - Forever young

Saturday, 7 May 2016

We now have a laptop :) regular posting can recommence! Yay!



You can probably guess from the title what this one will be about. I've written about this before, but I was surprised to find myself feeling the pressure to lose the baby weight after Jellybean was born. I didn't like my wobbly tummy, that's for sure.

Women's magazines and websites don't like women to look like they've had a baby. They like headlines and articles like these:


I like to imagine all these women have had extended out-of-body experiences and are so overjoyed to be back in their bodies again that they give interviews about it.

The thing is, for most women, this is unattainable. I don't know anyone that could afford a personal trainer. In fact, I don't know many people that even have the money for gym memberships. Never mind dieticians, and nannies to watch the children while you work out. Never mind super-expensive health food.

To be honest, I'm okay with that. And most mothers I know are, too: we have accepted that our bodies will never be the same again. I, for one, found that nearly my whole body changed shape after having Jellybean: I didn't just have a wobbly tummy to contend with, it was like having a new body. (Shopping for clothes after that was fun. Not.) People understand this, though, and don't expect mothers to drop all the weight immediately like celebrities do.

Well. Most people, anyway.

*Clears throat*

But it's more the underlying attitude that gets me - the idea that, in order to be 'ourselves' again, we have to erase the evidence of ever having carried a child, and carry on looking the way we did when we were in our early twenties. I don't get that. I don't like that there is another aspect of ourselves that we are supposed to hide or change to become palatable to people. I don't like that we aren't supposed to embrace who we are: not who we once were, but who we are now, with all of the physical changes that go along with that. It's like ageing: we're not really supposed to do that. But what is the point? What is the point of trying to look forever eighteen? I don't just think it's unrealistic: I think the pursuit of eternal youth is unhealthy. It is undermining the wisdom, experiences, and life that we have had after that point. And it continues to push the idea that attractive = young and the right shape. Which frankly, is a lot to do with a) what stage of life you happen to be at right now, and b) genetics.

Well, mostly. You can kind of control your body shape naturally without surgical procedures. But it's not easy. Not a lot of women are naturally slim with curves in the right places - a lot of us have a family history of wobbly thighs or big upper arms. It takes a heck of a lot of dedication to fight against your DNA. I'm not saying we shouldn't ever feel self-concious about it. I had a little wobble recently when I noticed lines around my eyes for the first time. But we should be able to deal with those feelings on our own terms without being sold the idea that Young Is Beautiful all the time.

Making this point perfectly, Gillian Anderson recently tweeted this:


Do people actually get paid for writing headlines like this?

And then this:


I mean to be fair it's the Daily Mail. To expect more of them would be, you know, misguided at best. I love that she called them out for it, though. How does this stuff make up a whole PAGE of a newspaper? 'In a SHOCKING turn of events, woman looks older than she did twenty years ago. But maybe not old enough actually.'

Interestingly there was no mention of David Duchovny and how he has or hasn't aged since the X Files finished.

It's easy to laugh this kind of stuff off, but I really believe it has a trickle-down effect. Women are under more pressure than ever to look younger for longer. 

This obsession with erasing all evidence of our bodies actually going through life - and dealing with the trauma that sometimes comes and the sorrows and the joys and the laughter, all of it - and of hiding away the fact that we have, in fact, once carried life inside us, disturbs me.

Recently, I read an excellent blog post by Al from The Dad Network about bikini wearing in pregnancy. The blog was about the comments you can read under celebrity gossip articles (I've said this before - if you want to avoid rage, never read the comments on things like that!) about celebrity women in bikinis during pregnancy. This blogger couldn't understand the disgust that people expressed when seeing an exposed baby bump. He included a picture of his own wife with a beautiful bump. And then someone commented:

'Disgusting. I will never understand why you people insist we think and feel the way you do. Seeing a pregnant woman is instantaneously repulsive to me; more so when the shebeast is bikini clad.
I bet your own wife looks great pregnant with your child. The rest of us would just like some damned decorum and respect.'

I mean, as much as I hate drawing attention to trolls, it needs to be said: what?! I'll never understand why people are so disgusted by pregnancy and breastfeeding. 'Put your beautiful display of human biology away. IT'S GROSS. I mean, I like sex, but I'd rather not think about the natural consequences of it THANK YOU VERY MUCH.' I mean, I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree, Mr Troll: but it goes to show the weird attitudes we have to our own natural bodily processes.

It's like the whole breastfeeding debate: despite the fact that I hate the extreme, you-must-breastfeed-or-you-are-a-terrible-human-being argument that pops up every now and then, I celebrate when I see women breastfeeding. As in, using their breasts for their actual function. I think it's amazing. The people that moan about breastfeeding, I suspect, might not be the same people that were fighting against Page 3 a while back. I don't think its breasts in general that offend them: it's breasts that aren't purely for pleasure that freak them out.

I hate all this: this mangled, twisted way that women are supposed to feel about themselves and the way their bodies are. Somewhere along the line our purpose has changed from nourishing, life-growing people, to objects to be looked at and used for pleasure.

Thankfully I see people pushing back against this. The Belly Project is a blog collecting images of real women's stomachs - the person remains anonymous but they explain the age of the women, and how many children they have had, etc. It is beautiful to see actual, realistic looking bodies of all shapes and sizes. Along a similar theme, Look at Me! is a project that aims to challenge the current perceptions of older women in our society. I love that there are places to turn when you want to see realistic, untouched images of women - these beautiful projects send a loud message to a world that is obsessed with putting a glossy veneer on life itself.

***

Do you know of any more online movements or projects that celebrate women for more than how quickly they've slimmed down after birth? Had any real-life body shaming? Comment and let's talk about it :)


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com


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4 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more, I hate how people think it is okay to comment on others appearances. I also hate how people judge according to how someone looks when looks really aren't important. There is way too much pressure on women to look a certain way and it has such an awful effect on so many.

    Thank you for linking up to #PicknMix

    Stevie x

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    1. Thank you for reading. There is definitely way too much pressure to look a certain way x

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  2. There's so much judgement out there and body shaming. Kind of appropriate I've read this after a man was insistent I was pregnant because my belly was sticking out....

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    1. Wow - I cannot believe how rude people are! Why do people think it's acceptable to make these kind of comments? I can understand people commenting on a very obviously heavily pregnant person - but still. Unless you're 100% sure it's probably best not to say anything. I don't understand how people think it is polite to comment x

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