Mommie Dearest: Seriously, Stop Policing Mothers’ Bodies

Kim Kardashian recently posed naked for Paper magazine, and despite the prediction, she did not actually break the internet. Instead, she got a whole lot of people talking. While many people are naturally talking about her shiny posterior, others are rightfully discussing the racial implications of the photoshoot. Along with the thoughtful critique, there’s also a hefty dose of personal opinion, like “Glee” actress Naya Rivera who left a snarky comment on Kardashian’s Instagram, reminding the reality star that she is — gasp! — someone’s mother! And Rivera isn’t the only one. Tons of internet commenters brought up the fact that Kardashian is a mother, as if mothers all of a sudden stop being sexy or sexual after they have sex that one time to reproduce. I have no clue what Rivera’s plans are for her own uterus, but I wonder if she’ll stop participating in scantily clad photo shoots once she gives birth?

But it’s not just mothers being sexy that people take issue with. We also can’t publicly display our bodies in non-sexual ways, as Alyssa Milano discovered. The actress received a lot of heat over a recently posted breastfeeding selfie with her new daughter. After Kardashian’s Paper cover came out, Milano tweeted:

While I’m not so sure I agree with her assessment that everyone is totally fine with Kardashian’s “booty cover,” I definitely think there is merit in looking at the way people love to not only police women’s bodies in general, but specifically focus on mothers. Despite being as stereotypically “mom” as possible, breastfeeding selfies are called out as too controversial (and up until recently, banned by sites like Facebook), and yet much more revealing pictures all the way on the other end of the spectrum are decried for being too sexy for a mother.

So, what’s a mom to do? Is it that difficult to look at us as multi-dimensional people? A lot of this has to do with American society’s refusal to give up the puritanical ideal of mothers, regardless of the fact that in 2014, that is as far removed from our reality as, say, smallpox. At the same time — and let’s not kid ourselves — some of it has to do with the types of bodies being “exposed.” While many played the mom card on Kardashian’s photoshoot, it’s never brought up with mothers like Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen or Heidi Klum, all of whom have been photographed in their underwear (or less!).

We just can’t win, if internet commenters have anything to say about it. Raise your kids, lean in, have it all, but heaven forbid if you go outside these imaginary drawn boundaries and dare to post a breastfeeding selfie or choose to go nude for a magazine. You’re a mother for goodness sake! Think of what that means!!!

Here’s a novel concept. How about instead of policing women’s bodies and choices in every arena imaginable, we just stop and let them live their lives? Yes, many women are mothers, but that’s not all they are and to reduce mothers to an outdated notion of propriety is just plain idiotic. So, let me break it down for everyone once and for all:

Mommies are people too (or have we already forgotten what Marlo Thomas and Harry Belafonte taught us?). Some of us stay home while others of us work outside of it. Some of us like to wear tiny bikinis that “flaunt” our postpartum bodies, while others don’t. Some of us love to share pictures of ourselves with our kids, and sometimes that includes breastfeeding. And, hell, some of us like to get naked, slather our bodies in oil, step into a bedazzled black garbage bag, and pose on the cover of a magazine to make ourselves way more money than is necessary. And we all still manage to take care of ourselves, our kids, and our families. It’s just how we roll. Women are faced with more than enough double standards on a daily basis, that we really don’t need to create a separate section all for mothers. So, let’s ease up on the finger wagging when it comes to mom, eh?

And speaking of double standards, I wonder where all the outrage was when certain fathers posed nude for ESPN magazine’s the Body Issue? Oh, right…