My mid-morning errand today involved going to Target to buy things I needed (diapers, coffee) and a few things I didn’t really need, that nevertheless will make my life a little easier (Dollar Spot mini binder with abundant list inserts to replace my near-full daily to-do list notebook, underwear that isn’t so old and stretched out that it barely stays up – sorry, I have no dignity).
What I came across, and what should come as no surprise yet still filled me with rage and dismay, was something I really, really didn’t need: a glaring reminder that I personally and new moms across the Western world owe it to society to GET OUR BODIES BACK after baby.
I was meandering through the baby aisles looking for a non-plastic sippy cup option (no luck) as The Baby has taken to clanking his bottom teeth on the shot glass I fill with water to offer him at meals. At the end of the bottles and breast pumps aisle, there it was, shining like a beacon of judgment: A rack of fitness magazines showing off the extremely fit, glowing bodies of women.
To this I say (and here comes some French, with no apologies), FUCK YOU, TARGET.
Like just about any woman with a pulse in America, I have fought my whole life to come to a place where I can love and accept my body as it is. It took me marveling with wonder and gratitude at my body’s ability to grow and push out and feed another human being. I’ve finally been able to quit grimacing at the way my thighs spread out on a seat or glowering at my arm hair or wishing I were different, or better. I am finally content with who I am, and while I have never had to endure the stigma of being extremely overweight or otherwise extremely far from conventionally acceptable appearance, I feel something almost like grief at the first 30 years of my life spent looking in the mirror and not feeling like enough.
And I have nothing against exercise. In fact, I credit exercise with helping me maintain my sanity and maybe having an almost obscenely quick and easy labor. I have been craving a chance to go running again and take every opportunity to walk around the farm or get a good stretch in, because it makes me feel good.
But this display isn’t about exercise. It’s about exploiting the vulnerability of women whose bodies have been stretched and taxed and transformed in ways that definitely don’t always feel comfortable or normal or acceptable. Society seems to think pregnant women’s bodies are public space, open for any remarks or criticisms that might come to mind. And then when baby actually arrives, even though life is 1000% different and priorities have shifted like tectonic plates, there’s that shitty expectation that if you don’t get your body “back,” you have tumbled headlong toward permanent fat frump town and your worth as a woman is forever revoked.
Exhausted new mothers who face fear and judgment and limitless guilt in every direction. It’s not enough to keep a baby alive and fed and happy and appropriately enriched. Better make room in your cart for instructions on putting yourself back together, because you’re (still) broken.
How dare you, Target.
How dare you strategically place this column of manufactured perfection in this spot, amplifying those insecurities for new mothers who are just trying to find a pump so they can go back to work or the right bottle in hopes of easing colic.
I know Target didn’t invent this expectation, but they certainly have no problem taking advantage of it to sell more magazines.
This makes me angry and sad, and makes me want to say to new moms who come across this and other post-baby fitspo and feel the monstrous weight of inadequacy:
You are good enough.
You’re more than good enough, in fact. You are a goddamn superhero, and you don’t owe it to anyone to look a certain way.
I know this may seem like a big soapbox for a small transgression, but this and every instance of post-baby body pressure is yet another form of misogyny that we shouldn’t have to fucking put up with. If we don’t call it out when we see it, if we don’t condemn it for how it makes us feel and for how it reinforces society’s apparent say in how women must occupy space in a certain way, then it’s never going to get better.
Target, you don’t get to make me feel bad about my postpartum self. I’m good enough.