On last night’s American Idol finale, season three champion Fantasia took the stage to perform–and Twitter erupted with a firestorm of cruel commentary about her weight. No one seemed to be mentioning or remembering that she’d recently had a baby, so I posted my own tweet as a reminder. “Everyone who’s commenting on Fantasia’s weight:” I tweeted, “Y’all do know she just had a kid, right?” I received one reply, from a man: “So did Beyonce.”
As troubling as I found the particularly insulting tweets about Fantasia last night (and some defended the intensity of their scrutiny by chalking up their insults as a loss of respect for her as a person, in light of her personal choices), I knew that, in large part, shaming celebrity mothers for taking too long to shed their post-pregnancy weight is par for the internet course.
Just weeks ago, the notoriously classless tabloid site, TMZ posted pics of another new celebrity mom, actress Bryce Dallas Howard, and gave commenters carte blanche to take vicious barbs at her. On Mother’s Day. Howard very public battled severe postpartum depression following the birth of her first child, so this online assault was especially disturbing. She discussed at various turns how her self-image took a hit after giving birth. Who’s to say she wasn’t experiencing this again with her second born? And if so, wouldn’t something like TMZ’s attack exacerbate the issue?
Also just this month, Bollywood star and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai also suffered the impatient media’s digs for taking too long to shed her post-pregnancy weight. Never mind that she’s 38 years old, this is her first child, and she’s given her impossibly thin body to the public as a beauty queen and an actress for her entire adult life. Nine months of carrying a child and a few months of nursing it are enough to undo all the gains she made as a beloved celebrity in her native India.
All fat-shaming is egregious, but shaming mothers for taking “too long” to lose their pregnancy weight is even more heinous–especially when people deem five months “too long,” as in the case of Bryce Dallas Howard. It’s been just six months for Fantasia, who delivered in December, and seven for Rai, who gave birth last November. Many physicians will tell you that, as long as you’re nursing, weight loss should not be a primary objective; nutrition should. Crash dieting to quell the public’s impatience and avoid their insults should take a back seat to making sure the milk a mother’s dispensing meets the particular dietary needs of her infant.
Though it’s probably too much to ask of the public to remember that celebrities don’t owe us size zero figures, but rather their talent, it would be great if more media outlets started to adopt that mentality. At the very least, they could stop calling particular attention to women five months postpartum and scrutinizing them like they’ve entered some contest where we all get a vote on what size they should be.