I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day, as one does, when I came upon a sponsored article with this title: “The best-dressed moms on the red carpet!” and then later, this one: “Hot moms who rocked the red carpet!” The title photo for the first article featured the stunning Olivia Wilde (who apparently delivered a baby recently, but unless I see some kind of DNA proof there is no way I will ever believe that). You see, Facebook likes to show me sponsored stuff that it thinks I will find interesting or relatable, which seems to be anything mom-related, or recipe-related (joke’s on you, Facebook! I don’t make recipes!), or ads for that Jamie-Lee Curtis yogurt that helps you have better poops. But when I saw that article it became clear that Facebook does not really know me very well after all. Because, you see, I don’t like when women are sorted into categories from whence to be evaluated physically — specifically, the categories of mom and non-mom.
Frankly, I think these categories are annoying for both groups of women. Non-moms don’t want to be singled out any more than moms do, for many reasons, not the least of which is the false cultural and gendered expectation that women have to produce children so that their life can be “fulfilled.” But since I’m speaking as a mom and not a non-mom, I can only say that this is annoying for me because while being a mom is an important aspect of my identity, it is not my whole identity. Yes I have birthed children, but I am still a woman, and to be branded as a mom often implies a certain dowdiness, a damaged-goods-ness that is uncomfortable for someone like me who sometimes also wants to feel like I am still a woman without the evaluation of “mom” being applied. If my husband, for example, took a photo of me from one of our dates out together, times when I am doing my very best to achieve womanly hotness, and posted it on Facebook with a caption like: “One hot mom ready to hit the town!” or “She cleans up pretty nice for someone who has grown two human beings inside her body!” I would be annoyed. Of course he would never do that, because he is a smart man. Also, thankfully, he still sees me as a woman, and not just as the sentient being that he chose to be the human host of our two spawn. And I think I can look pretty good without the addendum, “for a mom!” applied.
I think it’s annoying when the media asks us to evaluate women differently based on whether or not they have children, especially if they have recently given birth to them. There are constant conversations about baby-weight that probably make it terrifying for actresses to show up on red carpets after having babies. They do, of course, have a million stylists and personal trainers, and Spanx. But I never think about which beautiful actresses are mothers and which ones aren’t until those articles decide to separate them. All of this evaluating means that moms have to face everyone celebrating a little too much when they actually look good, and it means that it is less acceptable for women who haven’t had a baby to look rounder, or dowdier, or just plain grumpy.
It all reminds me of the classic Saturday Night Live sketch about “Mom Jeans.” The faux-commercial featured smiling women with VERY high-waisted and unflattering jeans, “mom-haircuts” and hilarious eighties-era jean-vests, all cooking and cleaning and doing “mom” things. The tag-line of the hilarious sketch was, “Wear the jeans that say to the world, ‘I’m not a woman anymore, I’m a mom!'”
I guess that sketch means I’m not the only one who is sick of being evaluated in general about things that I’m sensitive enough about already. “Mom” is a word that means lots of different things and describes lots of different people, and sometimes it means your body went through a transformation, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it never means that because I am one you get to look at my body and go, “You’ve cleaned up pretty well, considering the circumstances, mom!” or, “Well, it’s fine that you’ve got an extra 10 pounds — you had a BABY after all.”
Whether or not it is fine is for me to decide, yo. And by the way, Jamie-Lee, I want to apologize for reducing you to your association with that yogurt. You are first a WOMAN, and THEN a helps-you-poop yogurt spokesperson. And a lovely one at that.