This morning, the most beautiful picture found its way on to my Facebook newsfeed. It made me smile. It grounded me. It made me proud to be privileged enough to be called “Mum”. Here it is:
I was all loved up and happy until I read the horrific caption that went with it:
“This picture and a whole swath of others like it have been removed by Facebook and other social media sites for being vulgar.”
My blood is boiling over this. It is so very wrong on multiple levels.
This picture is not pornography.
Know what is pornographic? The countless images that Facebook thrusts on to my newsfeed as ‘suggested’ stories – images of emaciated teenage bodies accompanied by information about the diet pills I should be taking/milkshakes I should be drinking to look like them. These images are vulgar in their message that, somehow, I – a 38 year old mother of three – should aim to look like them. Know what else is vulgar? The extremely damaging message that my body, with its stretch marks, rounded belly and extra folds of tummy skin – the body that grew, nourished and nurtured three healthy human beings – is somehow something to be ashamed of.
This picture does not portray violence.
Know what does portray violence? The images I see all over social media of young girls, baring all because they’ve been force-fed the notion that their entire worth lies in how sexy they can appear to men, a concept that violates the innocence of our daughters. Adding insult to injury are the captions under these devastatingly sad images – statements implying that the person pictured is asking to be raped and referring to her as an object. Then there are the comments, in the thousands, judging these young women entirely on their ability to stir primal male instincts by putting their physicality on display. Images like these violently rip away any sense of worth that women might have developed based on their intelligence or their character. There is one message given to women here, and it is clear: you are an object to be judged, used, discussed, mocked and if you’re lucky, enjoyed.
This picture is not sexually explicit.
Know what is sexually explicit? Miley Cyrus, grinding her naked body against a wrecking ball, shoved in our faces and our children’s faces, no matter where we look. (Let’s not get into the discussion about how she came to believe this was necessary in order to be popular. It couldn’t be the over-sexualisation and objectivism of women by the media, could it? Don’t be silly.) It’s not only the internet either – you can’t stand in a queue at the supermarket without something sexually-explicit screaming in your face.
Yet, this picture I saw on the internet of a real woman who is using her body as nature intended – to nourish and nurture her children – this is what is deemed vulgar and unacceptable by the social media powers that be.
We are living in an upside-down world.
Enough is enough.
It’s time that society saw more of these kinds of images of mothers – actual women breastfeeding and cuddling their babies and looking comfortable and happy with their battle-scarred bodies.
We’ve been trained masterfully by the media to aim for the skinniest possible post-pregnancy bodies and to shamefully hide the reality of what we look like. Magazines show us one size 6 celebrity after the other who has “Bounced Back After Baby!” in an effort to make this seem like something we should be aspiring to.
Never mind that, in order to achieve this, we would likely have to compromise our ability to breastfeed successfully and lose a lot of never-get-it-again bonding time with our newborns in the futile effort. And the effort is futile, I can assure you, because nobody I know has a personal trainer, a cook, a stylist, a nanny and a media officer ensuring every photo taken is photoshopped to ‘perfection’.
Sure, we could all go to the massive effort and make the extreme sacrifices necessary to look like the celebrities our society is mindlessly worshiping. Even then, only maybe we might succeed. Maybe. Realistically, along with the loss of inches and pounds would be the loss of energy to cope, the loss of nutrition to feed our babies and the unrecoverable loss of those first few months with our children.
For what? So we can pat ourselves on the back because we are perfect magazine cover mothers? Perfect in whose eyes? Certainly not our children, I can assure you.
How about instead, we choose to look at our scarred, stretch-marked bodies with reverence and awe. Why don’t we make the decision to acknowledge that loose skin on our tummies with pride because underneath it, we grew a whole human being (sometimes more!). Let’s rather start to look at our sagging, blue-veined boobs with wonder because through them we created the sole source of nutrition for our newborns. Maybe then we will look at ourselves with love and make every effort to take care of our own bodies with the same care and dedication that we look after our children’s growing bodies. Then, we all win, enjoying healthy bodies and healthy minds.
When we see pictures of skinny celebrities who have “Lost Baby Belly!” we need to resist – with everything we have – the urge to look upon our own bodies with shame or worse, disgust.
Instead, we need to look at photos like these and be proud. We need to walk tall. We need to look deeper. It’s time to give the mainstream media a message: THIS is what real women look like and we are beautiful.
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