By now you’ve probably seen Norweigen WAG, Caroline Berg’s, picture or “selfie” which is a picture, often sexy, that a person has taken of themselves to post to social media. What made this selfie go viral is that she posted the image just four days after giving birth. Let me start by saying that I do not intend in any way to “body shame” Ms. Berg. I feel the same way looking at her body as I do when I look at one of Oprah’s homes — it’s beauty or attractiveness doesn’t make me resent my own home or body. The question that immediately popped into my head actually wasn’t “Why not me?”. Instead it was, “What would possess a woman to do this?” The obvious answer seems to be that Caroline wants to show that she doesn’t bear any of the tell-tale signs of childbirth and this is what concerns me.
Caroline Berg isn’t the first to post a provocative selfie. Thanks to social media, selfies are ubiquitous in our culture but that doesn’t mean they are healthy. According to psychologist Dr. Carole Lieberman, “[t]he rise of the selfie is a perfect metaphor for our increasingly narcissistic culture. We’re desperately crying out: Look at me!” In fact, psychologists now worry that we are seeing an unprecedented level of narcissism in the Millennial generation and what’s worse is that narcissists are the ones setting our standards. Perhaps the worst new standard that social and traditional media have set is that of the post-partum mother who, in a matter of weeks, must look as if she’s never given birth. Berg has no doubt upped the ante to a matter of days.
Where are the mandatory disclaimers?
With all this focus on women’s body after childbirth, it’s perhaps not a surprise that are seeing a rise in what is being called “pregorexia” or women develop eating disorders because they are afraid they will gain “too much” weight while they are pregnant. As a result, many pregnant mothers don’t gain the recommended 25 to 35 lbs thus jeopardizing their babies and themselves. Even with this information, what’s amazing is that I haven’t read in the articles about this photo any disclaimers about what a woman’s body will look like days after giving birth. What I am seeing is that women who are concerned about the message this selfie sends, are being portrayed as irrational “haters”. Motherhood, especially new motherhood, is hard enough without the added pressure on women to go back to their pre-pregnancy figures within a matter of days.
Do public figures bear any responsibility for the feelings of other mothers?
Women everywhere rejoiced when Kate Middleton’s figure-hugging dress clearly showed her still present post-partum tummy. Some made it seem as if it was her duty as a public figure to show what the “fourth trimester” body looks like. I don’t agree. It is up to all journalists to include a mandatory disclaimer about what the bodies of 99.9% of us women will look like days after giving birth. Unfortunately, most people in this country are not aware of basic biology which is why many were shocked that Kate’s belly looked pregnant mere days after giving birth! As mothers, we also have a responsibility to scoff at these stories. After all, we know the story of the faked before and after pictures and we also have first-hand knowledge of how a woman’s body works.
Living in the moment
Finally, I really have to wonder about a mom whose priority a few days after giving birth, is stripping down to her skivvies for a selfie. I can’t entirely blame her, however, because we live in a culture where beauty standards are still largely defined by men so that even a new mother has to show that she is still sexy within days of giving birth. The underlying competitiveness in our selfies takes us out of the moment so we are not quite living for ourselves but for the image others have of us. Let’s hope that it’s not the same for Ms. Berg.