Meghan Markle & Mom Shaming: Women Condemning Women
Alright, big bad online community. I rarely jump out of the woodwork to voice my feelings. I root for diplomacy always, which often keeps me quiet and nonchalant. However, after coming upon a flighty Adweek article (see it here) that detailed a letter, written by Fridababy CEO Chelsea Hirchhorn to the soon-to-be royal mother Meghan Markle, and given a full-spread ad in the New York Times, I had a few thoughts. The article asked (well, demanded) that royal baby mama Meghan Markle skip the post-birth photo op that royals traditionally do and instead find a way to display her real afterbirth. But this ode to “honesty” is making a few crucial mistakes, in my eyes.
See for yourself:
Dear Royal Mom-To-Be,
You will soon give birth to one of the most anticipated babies in the world and like your princess predecessors, you’ll be expected to parade outside of the hospital in front of throngs of photographers to show off your new bundle of joy shortly after giving birth. You’ll smile, you’ll wave, you’ll be radiant, but between your legs will be a whole different story.
Sure your blowout will be perfect for your hospital step photo-op, but people will be opining on all the wrong things instead of having an honest conversation about what women go through during birth and immediately thereafter. In my line of work we tackle the side of childbirth that won’t get as much airtime. Women are breaking down barriers left and right, so why is it still considered taboo to talk about the raw aftermath of what your body just went through?
Spoiler alert: bringing a new life into the world usually starts with your vagina, and the aftermath is a mess. The bleeding and swelling will linger, peeing will burn, and sitting like your old self will feel like a herculean feat. And if it’s a C-section, there’s a whole host of other issues to tend to.
So when the “big reveal” day arrives but you’re feeling like all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put your vagina back together again – use this stage to do your part for all women who are about to embark on their first “fourth trimester.” Skip the pomp and circumstance of the baby parade. Let the headlines instead read: “Prince Brings Royal Baby Out Because Mom Is in Bed Sitting on a Pack of Ice.” And if you really can’t skip it, then at the very least flash us a glimpse of the mesh underwear underneath to keep it real. With your help we’ll have made some real progress. We’ll be rooting for you on your path to recovery and hope you take all the time you need – because raising a human requires feeling like a human. Trust us, your vagina (and baby) will thank you.
Chelsea Hirschhorn, mom of 3+CEO
Wait a hot minute: this seems like a demand. This is not an invitation of support, or a plea for honesty. This is a highly-publicized demand that a royal heroine drop her princess act and “get real.” As if she hasn’t already – in advocating for diversity and breaking from royal tradition time and time again – pushed protocol enough.
My first problem is that Meghan Markle owes us nothing. Americans are often quick to cry for a flip from tradition. Begging our beautiful American beacon to do the same is unjust. And to assume the CEO of Fridababy knows British pressures and protocols better than the royal circle (or Meghan herself) is surely ignorant. Besides, pitting women against her, should she choose to go through with tradition? That, right there, is not progress.
My idea of feminism is only true to its stellar meaning when we advocate the support of all women in their individual choice (so long as it does not oppress others). Sure, it irks when people put perfection on display and shuttle away their strife. But nothing is more anti-supportive than condemning the way that a woman chooses to go about her presentation.
Can’t we open up the conversation without gutting women in their path?
I see this often in those who I consider “social media haters” (who, ironically, glutton all their hate on social media). They aim in earnest to kickstart a conversation about their real lives. Many are tactful and genuine in doing so, using their own platform to put wholesome living on display. They are making a difference! But some still wriggle in insecurity, squawking about women who are doing it wrong, and chirp out complaints that are putting successful women down. Not cool, right?
This is the opposite of “women supporting women.” This is degradation. This breeds animosity and invites others to see women as “liars” or “dishonest,” when the reality is: their reality is not your reality. And what they choose to display is a culmination of inner-belief, preference, and perhaps their truth. For Meghan Markle, it’s far more than that: it’s politics, scrutiny, protocol, and the pressure of millions. Add that to pile, and it gives no person, CEO or slumdog, the space to make demands.
So, dear Fridababy CEO, while I think your intention to pop open a strong, genuine conversation will offer lots of moms support and understanding, you’ve done it in a way that’s forced a highly scrutinized princess between a rock and a hard place. You’ve used a beautiful public figure, who’s done her best to satisfy British protocol and American mania, to fuel your conversation.
Mom shaming is sad, cruel stuff.
Let’s find another way to talk about this.
And perhaps Meghan Markle will take a new approach to this baby business. Maybe she’ll refuse to bind up that after-baby bump and sport tomboy sweats. It’s possible that she flashes a leaky milk stain and opts out of the makeup crew.
But she may not.
And, as a woman, I will be applauding her in all of her fresh, maternal glory, no matter what it looks like. I hope, for the sake of female support, you do the same.
What do you think? This conversation is surely important, but finding a stronger, more feminist-friendly way to do so is important to me. Comment below: