Monday, September 26, 2016

The MILF, her Post-Pregnancy Body, and Existential Angst

December 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Body Image, Media Literacy, Pregnancy

This guest post provided by Dr. Dana from www.drudallweiner.com

It’s hard to get through a week without reading about a celebrity who has recently given birth and—ta dah!—dropped all those pesky pounds to get her pre-baby body back.  Like three days after giving birth.

We seem to find joy in the idea that celebrities actually put on weight during pregnancy (maybe they are just like us, after all!), and resent it when they take it off so quickly (on second thought, they are a totally different species).  Most of us can’t rebound as fast, because we are busy actually caring for our babies.  We don’t have a live-in nanny or chef or personal trainer or butler or baby-nose wiper.  Many of us can barely stay awake to do the laundry, let alone whittle our waistlines.

Why is it so important that we get back to our original size, anyway? There has been a fundamental shift in our lives, because there is a NEW PERSON on the planet.  Our lives will never—can never—be the same.  And lest we forget about this profound alteration in the course of things, a shrill, bird-like cry will remind us.  At all hours of the night.

Several things seem to underlie the idea that we should reclaim our pre-baby body.  First is the inaccurate perception that our bodies are static and immutable.  Despite the presence of homeostasis, we are perpetually changing and adapting.  It would be more logical to fear stagnation than change, as stagnation accompanies death.  Our bodies have grown and birthed a child; is it not okay that they reflect this wonder?  (Notice I didn’t say miracle, a term that makes me break out in sweat.  But if you’ve participated in or watched a birth, it’s hard to escape the word wonder.)

On another level, our difficulty with change might relate to an existential fear of getting older and, ultimately, dying.  Change, as manifested by sagging skin, extra fat, or lines on our face, bothers us.  Perhaps it indicates that we are not in charge, that time marches on despite our best efforts to apply the brakes.  The issue of control is at stake, and we are clearly losing the battle if we can’t make our bodies look as they did when we were 16.  Or at least 25.

Third, although there is a holiday dedicated uniquely to us, complete with an aisle full of schmaltzy cards, the arrival of motherhood may bring an uneasy shift in identity. Whereas we are necessary and needed by our brood, the rest of the world may not find us as, well, relevant.

Many of us will spend more time at home and have less interaction with the non-domestic sphere.  When we see women our age in the media, they are often cleaning a toilet or driving a mini-van.  Or perhaps they are drinking wine at a rare girls’ night out, with their hair freshly (and surprisingly) washed.  (Or wait, maybe that was my weekend.  Who can remember anymore?)

Regardless, it should come as no surprise that we—individually and as a culture—have difficulty with the idea that mothers are sexual and sexy; we feel like we’re supposed to give up that part of ourselves when the stork arrives on our doorstep, and, in fact, our culture nearly demands that we do so.

We might consider the term MILF as illustrative of this point.  If you are unfamiliar with its meaning, please google it.  I can’t bring myself to spell it out here, partly because it makes me cringe, and partly because my parents faithfully read my posts.  (Hi, mom and dad.)

Anyway, why in the world does this term even exist?  Is it so hard to believe a mother would be sexually desirable that we had to develop an acronym?  Is she such an exception to the general rule of motherhood, with all its priggish, frumpy associations?

I have never heard of a FILF.  Perhaps this is because fatherhood isn’t thought to affect a man’s sexual appeal.  In fact, many of us swoon when we see a man with a wee babe in arms.  So if anything, parenthood may help a man get laid.

Although we could easily assume that our discomfort with the post-baby body exists for superficial reasons (e.g., wanting to fit back into all those clothes), like most things related to appearance, the real story is about the symbolic: what it means to be heavier, more substantial, or fatter than we used to be.  Fat, after all, is not inherently bad or ugly; it is not reviled across all cultures, which means that it is our particular interpretation which renders it unpalatable.

If our society placed more value on mothers and the (unpaid) work we do, then perhaps we wouldn’t feel the need to revert to our youthful figures.  We could be large, full and happy.

But we’d probably still have to clean toilets.

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

WATRD

Comments

8 Responses to “The MILF, her Post-Pregnancy Body, and Existential Angst”
  1. Kyle says:

    FILF doesn’t exist, but DILF does…

  2. Ashley says:

    It’s important for actors and models to get their bodies back after giving birth because their looks are a big part of their career. If they don’t get back in shape, it will affect their job, so that I can understand.

    • Chanelle says:

      I totally agree. The tone of this post sounds a bit jealous and I think it’s a shame that celebrity mothers are being criticized for “not taking care of their kids”. Sure, SOME celebs may have nannies and seem to get back into shape fast after birth but IT IS THEIR JOB. It’s a freaking recession, they’re supposed to just stop working because they have a child?

      There are extremes out there but God I wish the posts on this site would celebrate women more than tearing them down for putting hard work into their bodies because it’s part of their job description.

      • Hannah says:

        The societal problem inherent in your response, Chanelle, is that the film industry and its viewing public demands for that part of a celebrity’s ‘job description.’ If we didn’t tear them down for being bigger, they wouldn’t have to get their bodies back.

  3. Chelsea says:

    I hate the term MILF. It’s so dismissive, as if women who have had a child are now asexual, except for some hottie movie star or singer exception. Like women should be grateful for the “compliment”. I do get that celebrity women often make a living based on them staying a small size, but I don’t appreciate the ones who say, “Oh, the pounds just flew off!”. They reference that running around after kids and breast feeding made them lose all the weight 5 minutes after they gave birth.

  4. Jules says:

    The origin of the term MILF goes to teenage/young adult boys being attracted to women old enough to be their mother, ie. being attracted to a friend’s mother. It does not apply to couples of the same relative age, at least not originally. The term is being used too freely now.

  5. Chelsea says:

    I agree, Jules. “Cougar” is also a term I hate and it’s used quite freely, as if all women over a certain age that are attractive must be either a cougar or a milf. Gag.

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