Once again a woman’s body has been dissected, pinned down and torn to shreds. Not that I reckon Kate Middleton would give a diamond-encrusted rattle about it, I’m pretty sure she’d be too busy indulging in the first days with her new baby to give a shit what the world’s media is banging on about. This particular woman is well-versed in public scrutiny, unlike those who look to her as some shining beacon of motherhood. So, when the OK! magazine hit the shelves, hours after Kate proudly held her newborn son for the world to see, it was universally slammed for its story about her post-baby weight loss regime, as it would perpetuate the body shaming of women at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives. “Her stomach will shrink straight back” – oh, fuck off.
The first time I had a baby I remember looking at my swollen belly in despair. I looked like a bloated beached whale. There in her cot was my daughter, who an hour earlier was living inside of me. So, why did I still look pregnant?
I’ve since gone on to have two more babies and even three years since I last gave birth I still look about six months pregnant. My body will never look like its pre-baby shape. It will forever look different. Intellectually, I rally against the media industry which feeds on and perpetuates women’s body issues. The “body issue” – is a fallback edition for the magazine industry in what is largely an increasingly irrelevant medium. I’ve even put pictures of my belly online for all to see. Yet, on a purely vain level, I sometimes stare at my belly with embarrassment. I wish I could practice what I preach, but I am human and have flaws. My own irrational insecurities is one of them. While I do not look to the likes of a tabloid magazine for, well let’s face it, anything, there are many who do.
For weeks, the “news-style” magazines have been scrambling for covers featuring the Royals which would hold-up in case the “Royal Baby” was born while editions were being printed. They needed to have Kate on the cover or risk losing a share of the post-baby hysteria sales rush. They were desperate. Whereas in the past, magazines and newspapers could quickly whip-up a souvenir edition with their “exclusive” pictures, they are now screwed by the 24-hour news cycle. Images are shared instantaneously around the world. Live vision beamed into lounge rooms, laptops, mobile phones, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and online websites, as it happens.
Where do magazines fit now? The whole idea of a “newsy-style” magazine is redundant. It’s time the industry faced that fact and spent more time gathering exclusive, innovative content, rather than feeding the angry hoards to get exposure with outdated crap. Sadly, so many of them are falling by the wayside and I say sadly, because that means people are out of work. Good people – printers, assistants, couriers, newsagents etc. When an industry dies there are human casualties.
What better way though for magazines to stay relevant then to tap into this instant world of outrage. That magazine cover above has been seen by millions of people (yes, I know I shared it too). Its readership boosted, its advertisers, perhaps publicly angered, are secretly rubbing their hands together in glee. The magazine has since “apologised”, but really why bother? Next edition will include some other bullshit in it anyway.
Largely, I believe women are big supporters of each other. Women who have had babies know the reality of a post-baby belly, so too do the loved ones in their lives. But for those women struggling with the after effects of birth – those who feel ashamed of their bodies, who feel isolated, depressed, tired, overwhelmed – these sorts of magazine covers still do much harm. It’s right to point out the magazines inexcusable fear mongering because the mental health of all people is paramount. I just wish there was a way to do this without giving the source free publicity.
For anyone struggling with their wobbly belly, please remember your body is amazing for it grew a person. A human being who you can raise to care more about the virtues of health, kindness and intelligence – someone who won’t buy into the crap. People who won’t believe the hype.
You can listen to my interview about the issue with ABC Radio’s Matt and Dave here.