By Lauren Le Vine, REDBOOK.
While society's post-baby-body obsession is far from over, it really seemed like we'd made some progress this year. Kristen Bell, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Alba, and Beyoncé all voiced their dislike of the media's baby-weight story mill. And though some of them still took drastic measures to get back to their pre-baby size, having celebrities take a stand was enough to get the groundswell started--or so we hoped.
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"It used to be that people would understand that you had at least nine months to gain the weight, and you have nine months to lose it. For some reason, that axiom has gone out the window. Our culture has adopted the stance that a woman's body is never off-limits when it comes to being commented on," Dr. Sari Shepphird, a psychologist and eating disorder specialist, tells us. And with social media networks now connecting people worldwide, it seems that even new moms are no longer upholding the unspoken vow of solidarity when it comes to commenting on each other's post-baby bodies.
A few months ago, Maria Kang, a.k.a. "Fit Mom," faced a media firestorm after posting the above photo on her Facebook page with the caption, "What's your excuse?" The backlash was immediate. Kang swears she wasn't asking "What's your excuse… for every mother not to look like me," but that's how people who saw the photo perceived her question.
After Kang's photo went viral, Taryn Brumfit, who lives half a world away in Australia, decided to chronicle her own quest to have a "perfect body" in an open letter to "Fit Mom" on the blog for her Body Image Movement. "THIS is my excuse for not having a body like yours," Brumfit says. She then details her journey to lose weight after having a baby in 2009, which she decided to do by training to compete in a "sport figure" contest mere months after giving birth.
While she did achieve her goal, she confesses to feeling like a selfish mother when she focused all of her time on training for the competition. Brumfit has since given up her extreme diet and fitness regimen, and she posted the above before-and-after photo on her blog, saying that she's happier and healthier now. "There is a darker, untold side to having a body like Maria's--she's hiding it (I know)," Brumfit accuses before finishing her open-letter post with a plea that other women not "feel threatened or annoyed, but rather content in the knowledge that having the 'perfect' body isn't all it's cracked up to be."
Both women really need to take a major step back and see what's happening here. Brumfit's body image movement is about self-acceptance and not comparing your body to someone else's, yet she's fixating on someone she's pinpointed as having the "perfect" body. She's also drawing conclusions about the daily life of a woman she's never actually met. As for Kang, yes, she said some inconsiderate things about other women's lifestyle choices during her "What's your excuse?" media tour, but A. she insists she didn't mean her comment in an accusatory way and B. if you don't like something you see on Facebook, you don't have to go on Facebook.
In 2012, the mommy wars were about work-life balance and whether it could ever be achieved. This year, they've clearly become more intimate--and we're over it. If celebrities can get the post-baby-body-obsession fatigue to permeate the media, surely we can all agree not to comment on other mothers' personal decisions about their post-pregnancy bodies. Just do what's right for you. That's the only way things will change and the negative chatter will stop.
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