On Sunday, I read Rixa's post, It's a water birth at home for Gisele Bunchen where at the end she mentioned the obsession of getting back to pre-baby weight. At the same time, yesterday's post about birth nudity was already scheduled and on my mind. The juxtaposition of the two posts in my head made me realize that I forgot to mention an important thing about birth photos: you see me naked.
Naked is not slimming. My arms aren't toned, my butt is round, my skin is stretched. I wondered how much of the uproar about my birth photos was about, "You're naked!" and how much resulted from our fat-phobic society which likes to assert, "I shouldn't have to see that. How disgusting!" or in kinder terms, "Your birth pictures challenge my views of what a sexually-active 20-something-year old, white, college-educated, middle class, American woman should look like."
Well, according to the radio advertisements I hear, she's not supposed to look like this:
What? No abs? Stretchmarks?! That's not what I saw on the cover of People!
Last week in my Taking it from the Top post, a couple of women commented concern about pulling down to breastfeed while sporting large breasts. I commented,
Large breasted women have quite the catch-22. If you have a smaller waist, then your breasts are extra-sexualized, and if you have a thicker waist, then your entire body is considered "disgusting." Our culture needs to get over both the sexualization of the breast and the fat-hate.
If you follow the breastfeeding-related tweets on Twitter, you'll notice a pretty regular pattern: people complaining about "fat" women breastfeeding in public. Sometimes they are ridiculous enough to assert, "I wouldn't mind breastfeeding in public if the mom was HOT." Excuse me?
How sexualized is the woman's body? Very. A friend of mine once pointed out to me that our bodies are so sexualized that even listing the body parts of a woman is erotic. Try it: back away from the computer, close your eyes, and list off things like hair, lips, breasts, hips, thighs, legs. Now do it while associating those body parts with men. Which time was more neutral to you? Which was more sexual?
I'm not the thinnest woman out there, I know. And pregnancy emphasizes that in my body. Even last Saturday when I posted my belly shot, I thought to myself, "Wow, my face looks rounder than normal." And I was a little self-conscious. Of course, when your body doubles your blood supply to support a baby and when you don't do your hair that day (it makes a big difference) then it's expected. And normal. I have a round face.
I'm not immune to looking at myself and thinking, "fat," but I am trying to act as if I am immune for Margaret's sake. So often we both hear, "Margaret looks just like you!" and I don't want her to think, "If I look just like Mom, then are those things she doesn't like about her body the same in my body? Should I not like that part of me?" When I look at Margaret, I see her round belly and her chunky legs and arms and I know some people might think she's too "fat" already. But when I see her, I see that she's perfect. Even if she is "fat" when she's 10 or 14 or 20 or 50, she'll still be perfect to me. I think that's how God thinks of us too. He's never repulsed by our bodies- they are in His image. Why are we repulsed by them? Why are we ashamed of them?
So to add another reason why I think birth and breastfeeding images are important in our society: we need to see what we look like. Without photoshop, without airbrushes, without mockery, without sex, without repulsion, without shame.
Also, see the blog, The Shape of a Mother, for a collection of pictures of mothers from all walks of life. There are even categories for women who've had multiples, surgery scars and others.