Yesterday, as I was breastfeeding my newborn son, I run into an online article about how ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have banned an ad from Frida, a company that makes newborn and new mom products, from screening during the Oscars.
Let’s ignore for a second the fact that I was checking my phone while breastfeeding. I will be happy to write a whole post on Facebook and guilt another day.
But for today, let’s focus on the topic at hand, right on time for the Oscars broadcast tonight.
Before you continue reading, please, watch the commercial. In it you are not going to see tall, long legged models sporting a perfect tan. You are not going to see a cashmere lad suburban mom in a spotless white kitchen. Neither will you see a hipster mom wearing her baby in a trendy wrap, while she strolls down an artsy street.
What you are going to see is the reality of the postpartum period. In all its beauty, and all its ugliness, in all its glory, and all its pain. What you are going to see is a truthful portrayal of the beginning of motherhood.
I am not forgetting that this is an ad, trying to sell a product. But I have to say that I wish I had seen this ad a month ago, because although I had used Frida baby products (if you have never used a Nose Frida, your motherhood experience is not complete, or at least not ready for a stand comedy routine), I had no idea they also made products for new moms. And I would have happily bought some of these, instead of having my poor husband drive around several stores looking for things like cotton pads, suitable underwear, or perinatal products while i took care of our baby in the hospital.
You may be wondering whether I am an expert on postpartum. I am not. But I am a veteran, after having four babies, and the ban hit me specially hard because I am on day 16 of what will most likely be my last postpartum period. And whether Hollywood wants to see me or not, I see myself in that ad, and I also see every single mom I have ever met, and all the moms to come. And I would be doing them no favors if I didn’t strongly protest this ban. After all, and as Toni Fitzgerald stated in an article in Forbes, the audience of the Oscars “… definitely skew female, which is reflected in the advertising of products and themes geared toward women. CivicScience found roughly twice as many women as men intend to watch the ceremony”.
Preventing those women from seeing themselves portrayed on TV, or having a truthful glimpse of what is to come once they become mothers is a disservice to them. And to all of us. There has been a lot of focus lately on the mental health of new mothers. And that is great news. But something that I often feel is missing in that conversation is the adjustment of expectations. Our culture has sugarcoated motherhood, pregnancy and birth, and mothers arrive to the labor and delivery room without a clear idea of what is to happen there. We talk about the baby clothes, the strollers, the classes, and what nightgown to pack in our hospital bag. Rarely do I see conversations about those unflattering mesh briefs or where to find natural cotton pads large enough to hold your blood the days after a cantaloupe sized head comes out of your vagina or your surgically sectioned uterus.
Seeing all that on TV was refreshing, and inspiring, and would have made me feel much better about myself right about now. Because even though this is my fourth baby, day 16 is still emotional, because although this time I had to be moving around quite a bit mere hours after giving birth (my baby was in the NICU), and despite the fact that I am having a fairly easy recovery, feelings are still raw, self care still has to be around the clock to avoid infections, complications, interference with breastfeeding, etc., and I have to be reminded that caring for myself is important if I want to care for everyone else.
That is why this slap in the face by ABC and AMPAS hurts even more today than it would have hurt twelve months ago.
Ironically, Hollywood wants to show women’s bodies as long as they are wearing pretty dresses, lots of make up, and jewelry that could pay most of our mortgages. Probably, even their shoes alone could pay for that. Meanwhile, they are scared or offended by an ad that shows raw images of one of women’s most sensitive times. Are you offended by the image of an overtired mother who is mostly naked because she is in pain so intense that she can barely stand wearing any clothes, to the point that she has to wear mesh underwear? Are you uncomfortable by seeing what mothers have been doing quietly in private for the ages? But curiously enough, unbothered by leg long slits and vertiginous necklines that show as much skin? Then you are quite cynical. For sure ABC and AMPAS are. And, then, maybe, they should stop profiting from us, women, altogether, because, let’s be honest, most of their audience is female, and many of us tune in to see those same gorgeous dresses, that they are happy to show just so they can sell us a whole lot of other products. At least they could have the decency of selling us something that we truly need.
And, although there wasn’t time for this issue to become viral enough to make them change course, the way it has happened other times, I hope that at least its presence in the media will give mothers the opportunity to see the ad. The opportunity to see their real selves represented. The opportunity to start a much needed conversation about pregnancy, and birth, and body, and identity. And the opportunity to love themselves and believe in their bodies in such a hard and beautiful time of their lives.
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