Whitewashing the Postpartum Experience and Censorship at the Oscars
This year an ad by Frida Mom aimed at new mothers was rejected from the Oscars. It was censored because of its “graphic” content, lumped in with other banned things like gun violence and political ads. Sadly, I wasn’t surprised at this move by ABC. It was just another example of the whitewashing of the postpartum experience and a reminder of how so many parts of a woman’s life are shamefully hidden by our culture.
Let’s face it folks. Everyone loves new babies. They don’t want to hear about sitz baths and peri bottles and mesh undies. We live in a puritanical culture that likes to hide away and make shameful our very human traits. We see examples of this everywhere. Women are shamed into covering up while breastfeeding, or worse, forced to breastfeed in bathroom stalls because there is no other place offered. Feminine hygiene products are sold in paper bags in order to “hide the evidence.” Here in the United States, many schools don’t teach proper sex education for fear of rampant promiscuity. We as women are taught from a very early age to feel intense shame over normal bodily functions, to feel shame in our own bodies.
Glitz vs Reality
When it comes to this particular incidence of misogyny at the Oscars (because let’s not whitewash this, that’s what this was!), I have a specific perspective. I am a student midwife and doula now, but for a dozen years, I was a working actress in Los Angeles. I went through phases of my career where I really aspired to winning one of those golden statues.
I used to see the Academy awards as a celebration of hard work and talent. They are indeed that. Now, I see the awards as yet another chance for the Hollywood industry to portray itself and the folks working in it as super-human. It’s a great marketing event for the grand entertainment machine that is “the industry.” What gets lost is reality. All the gowns and tuxes and jewels and red carpet interviews gloss over the real people who work incredibly hard to reach points in their careers to be there in the first place.
The Oscars are all the glitter and glitz that many people outside of the film industry have grown accustomed to. But it’s not real. It’s just another performance. It’s entertainment. It’s what people tune in to watch. That’s why I’m not surprised to see censorship like this. This night, like all the big televised events, are highly choreographed performances that are meant to fit into specific parameters, based on what the networks think their audiences should see. Given that probably at least half of the roughly 30 million people watching the awards show are women, censoring Frida Mom’s ad seems like a big mistake.
According to the UN, 360,000 babies are born each day. That means that every day, there are hundreds of thousands of women who experience the pain and discomfort that invariably are part of the postpartum experience. To reject this ad is to reject a huge portion of our population. There’s a larger conversation that obviously needs to happen about what people think is acceptable for public watching.
What’s most important here is that there’s a company that is getting very vocal about how it cares about changing (for the better) the immediate postpartum experience which thousands and thousands of people who have birthed experience daily.
Do people who haven’t birthed children even know about this part of birth? Are we as birthing people even taught about what happens after birth (I mean what it’s REALLY like, without censors and filtered language or worrying about offending anyone)? What is our responsibility as a society to birthing people?
Honoring the 4th Trimester
The fourth trimester and the immediate period after birth are difficult times of transitions. We need to prepare our birthers for every part of birth, even the parts that are hard to talk about. Time to shed fear around patriarchal taboo subjects and uncloak the mystery of “women’s issues.” Awareness and education and frank discussions can help vanquish inequity, ignorance and mysogeny.
#normalizebirth #birthwithoutfear #seeher