Over the last year or two I’ve seen these kinds of photos and stories showing up in my newsfeed more and more frequently. At first I thought, “Wow, maybe this is becoming more mainstream and acceptable.” But it’s probably not. I probably see them because Facebook and Google consider me a prime target, and the more I click, the more likely I am to see others like it. Most likely, my perception of normalization being manipulated by (to misuse an extremely irritating buzzword) “big data”.
I’m curious. How many people have ever come across an article like this? Did you click on it? Why did you click or not click? If you did look, what did you think about it?
I have a theory that the only people interested are women who already look like this. I have a hard time imagining any of my flat-bellied, childless female friends having any interest. They probably think the same thing I did: “I won’t look like that after I have kids.” As for the guys, I imagine they’re response is something along the lines of, “I can’t fap to that!”
I know this makes my friends sound like a bunch of assholes. They are assholes. But I like them anyway, because I don’t think this is anything unique to just my group of friends. We’re all assholes in our own ways, about our own things. We’re all assholes about people and things we don’t understand.
You’ve been there. You think a certain movie is only for obsessive nerds. You think someone who says they’re depressed is lazy and just needs some exercise. You are disgusted by a body you see on the beach.
But then you watch that movie, and you actually like it. One day you find yourself unable to find the motivation to even shower, and wonder if you might be depressed. At some point later in life you look in the mirror, and suddenly realize you have that body.
It might not be you. It might be someone you love. But if you’re man (or woman) enough to admit the things you used to think, you feel like a real asshole.
The thing is, these pictures aren’t shared just for mothers. Yeah, it’s great that they can see other women who look like them. It always helps a little to know that you aren’t alone. But that’s not enough to give the average mother the courage to throw on a crop top and strut her stuff. Everyone else needs to see it, too. Everyone needs to get used to it and understand that this is actually very normal; it’s just always shamefully hidden away.
Don’t believe me? (“That’s not normal, right?”) There was a time when a woman was expected to completely hide her pregnancy. You never even saw baby bumps. There was a time when a gay man had to completely hide his sexual orientation. People thought homosexuality was a myth or some kind of bizarre cult. Have you ever seen Reefer Madness? People used to think that marijuana caused severe hillucinations and violence because they’d never seen it for themselves. And today, people think a woman with stretch marks and a saggy belly button is a fat-ass who needs to cover up and hit the gym.
So start working on reducing your asshole rating. Don’t skip over an article that you think isn’t meant for you. (“That Ebony article is only for black people.”) Don’t ignore causes you don’t have a personal connection to. (“I don’t know anyone with Autism, so I’m not going to walk.”) And don’t scroll past these pictures. (“Why would I look at a photo of a woman I can’t think about sexually?”)
And in case you were wondering, I’m certainly an asshole, and Karma’s a bitch. I know exactly how the young, flat-bellied me would have reacted. I would have looked at those pictures and thought, “Ugh! No one wants to see that!” But now, despite having reached my pre-pregnancy weight, despite my efforts to be the best mother I can be, and despite being what I consider to be way too young for old lady bathing suits, I’ll never wear a bikini again. Because I know the truth: No one wants to see that.