Pippa Middleton went on holiday with her husband and baby, and while they looked like they were having a lovely time, the trip sparked a robust round of public body judgement for the first-time mum.
Pippa was photographed in her togs while vacationing in St Barts with hubby James, then 11-week-old baby boy Arthur and extended family.
Outlets began sharing the photos widely online, mostly writing about her body and whether the way she looked was a GOOD or BAD thing. Sigh.
Some applauded Pippa implying she looked like she hadn’t even given birth (okayyyyy.) Others crossly decided her lucky lifestyle contributed to her postpartum recovery. A few wanted to talk about the Middleton genes. Some asserted she was promoting unrealistic body standards. By just being herself and living the way she chooses to. Um.
We know that every woman recovers from childbirth differently and while the way a new mum’s body looks is so often seen as some kind of ‘postpartum success measure’ this is simply not the case.
Also? It’s pretty intrusive to focus on and judge women’s bodies AT ALL after they’ve given birth. Even if that woman is famous, like Pippa.
Read more about Pippa and Kate:
- Pippa Middleton’s baby boy’s name has been revealed – a month after his birth
- A VERY pregnant Pippa Middleton admits she’s feeling pretty crappy
- 14 of the sweetest photos Duchess Kate’s taken of George, Charlotte and Louis
- Princess Charlotte and Duchess Kate nipped into a pub for the cutest reason
A dangerous default
While some new mums are keen to document their changing bodies before and after babies – and go them – many are not the least bit interested in doing that.
It’s become a dangerous default to focus on the external postpartum – and this Pippa episode is further proof of that.
Celebrating a particular body type in new mums sends a message that the way we look is where our value is. Which – unless you are a model – is rubbish.
There’s little doubt that this body scrutiny is making plenty of new mums feel terrible, unwell and like they have to measure up.
Some studies have demonstrated a link between postpartum body dissatisfaction and depression (Abraham, Taylor, & Conti, 2001; Clark, Skouteris, Wertheim, Milgrom, Paxton, 2009; Dipietro, Millet, Costigan, Gurewitsch, & Caulfield, 2003; Duncombe, Wertheim, Skouteris, Paxton, & Kelly, 2008; Walker, Timmerman, Kim, & Sterling, 2002; Walker et al., 2004).
Research also tells us that women who are preoccupied or unsatisfied with their body are less likely to breastfeed (Barnes, Stein, Smith, & Pollock, 1997; Foster, Slade, & Wilson, 1996; Walker & Freeland-Graves, 1998).
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg because this body dissatisfaction often accidentally gets passed from mother to child as women wrangle with big feelings and try to measure up.
Celebrating new mums’ achievements, ideas, skills, efforts, strengths, humour, creativity, honesty, hopes and dreams are what we should be aiming for.
“Showing off her enviable bikini body”
When Pippa’s bikini-wearing image was flashed across the internet, presumably without her consent, media outlets encouraged the public to form opinions about and discuss her body.
Numerous entertainment sites and tabloids decide she was “showing off” her “enviable bikini body” (guess who?!)
Fashion sites began writing articles about how to Pippa, breaking down possible diet and exercise regimes.
Experts began issuing warnings to women about Pippa’s new mum look, deciding it was worrying and assuming that she was spending a lot of time and money on her postpartum recovery. Time and money ‘non-famous’ women didn’t have.
Meanwhile, Pippa was … just being Pippa. Inhabiting her own human-growing body, snuggling with her new baby, learning to be a mum in her own blinking way … while sometimes wearing a bikini.
How very dare she.
Obviously Pippa’s leading a pretty charmed life and may not give a toss that thousands of people are discussing her abdomen and making judgements about how she looks after her health …
But that doesn’t make reducing her to a sort of postpartum object nor celebrating or demonising the body she inhabits okay.
Make it stop!