Oh the sexist double standards we're seemingly forced to live with. Whether we're in high school and districts are imposing slut-shaming dress codes, or we're in the throes of postpartum life, discovering everything parenthood entails for the first time; how society talks about women's bodies vs men's bodies has been notoriously different and, therefore, dangerous. Things people say to moms about about their bodies are nothing like what they say to dads about theirs and I, for one, find that frustrating as hell. Sadly, it's also in keeping with the vastly different way our culture views mothers and fathers. For example, fathers who stay at home are progressive and feminist; mothers who stay at home are lazy. Fathers who work are wonderful providers; mothers who work are selfish and self-centered.
Whether it's the relentless pressure to lose the "baby weight" or the not-so-silent judgement about what a mother chooses to wear; mom's bodies are judged, shamed, and constantly evaluated by a culture that doesn't apply the same unrealistic standards to fathers. I, sadly, experienced this first hand. I was told (on numerous occasions) by a family member that I needed to lose weight directly after having a baby. I was four months postpartum and, after deciding to back for seconds during a rather delicious meal, was told I didn't "need" that extra plate of food. My partner, however, was encouraged to eat as much as he wanted because he needed to be "strong" so he could, and I quote, "provide for his family." Needless to say, I lost my appetite and it wasn't because I felt an obligation to.
It's difficult (and, you know, super sad) to think that it's 2016 and we're still dealing with these gender stereotypes and inequalities, but we are and this is real life and everything is just the worst. But, you know what they say: the first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is one so, with that in mind, here are nine things people say to moms about their bodies, that they don't say to dads. Time to start changing, society. And, like, fast.
"Your Body Has Changed So Much"
Can we just collectively decide to file this comment under the, "always unnecessary" tab, and leave it to die?! Everyone's body changes, and a woman's body is (obviously) going to change during and after she has grown and birthed and sustained and raised another human being. What isn't talked about as often, is how much a dad's body changes during pregnancy, labor, delivery and throughout parenthood, too. From emotional changes to physical changes, dads go through an evolution as well; it's just that, well, no one ever talks about it and they certainly don't seem hell-bent on judging it. For men, change is good. For men, change is positive and a sign of maturity and a necessary part of personal growth. For women, however, change is lazy and fickle and a sign of age and/or confusion and/or that pesky decision to "let themselves go." The double standards would be impressive, if they weren't also infuriating.
"Do You Have Stretch Marks?"
First and foremost, this is nobody's business. Why anyone feels like they have the right to ask a mother such a personal question about her body is infuriating but sadly not beyond me because our society has notoriously felt entitled to women's bodies since always. If the collective "we" can tell women that they shouldn't own the ability to decide when they want to be parents, of course the collective "we" is going to feel comfortable asking mothers intrusive questions about their postpartum bodies. I can guarantee you, there are plenty of dads with stretch marks as well, as fathers gain weight during their partner's pregnancy, too. No one seems to feel comfortable asking dads about the lasting marks of fatherhood, so what gives?!
"You're Hot, For A Parent"
Fathers get to be "hot dads," while mothers get to be "hot, for a mom." The ability to procreate doesn't seem to negatively affect a dad's appearance or sexual charisma, yet a mother is constantly being judged and examined to see if being someone's mom has somehow altered her ability to appear or be considered attractive. Personally, I think the idea that a mother is automatically less appealing stems from the demystification of her sexuality. According to our patriarchal society, women are to appear sexual but never be sexual, and, well, we all know how babies are made.
"Are You Worried About Losing The Baby Weight?"
I almost can't with this comment. Not only is it condescending, sexist and dangerously unhealthy, it's also ridiculous and inaccurate. News flash: everyone's body changes. The forms we hilariously attempted to control in our adolescent youth, are not the forms we're in charge of as adults. Those changes are not a sign of laziness or "letting yourself go," but a sign of age and experience and, honestly, privilege; not everyone gets to grow old and see their body change due to time and a life fully lived.
Women, however, seem to be expected to transcend biological certainties and remain age-less subjects of the male gaze and sexual desire. I mean, enough with that mess. Just, enough.
"You've Let Yourself Go"
Talk about rude. First of all, if someone is saying this to you, cut them out of your life. This person is clearly toxic and not at all interested in being supportive, so I say cut them lose (if you can). There is nothing wrong with making your appearance a priority, whether you're a mother or not. However, if you're a new mom and you have a list of extremely important things (and shaving your legs or waxing your eyebrows or curling your hair doesn't fall towards the top) that is also okay. That doesn't mean you've "let yourself go" (like, what does that even mean, really?!) it just means that you have other priorities that don't involve your appearance, or adhering to an "acceptable" and celebrated social standard of beauty.
"You Don't Look Like Someone's Parent"
First and foremost, what exactly does a parent "look" like, because I'm consistently confused when I hear this condescending comment. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to look like a mother. There is no "mom look," other than one carefully crafted to police women's bodies and control their sexualities while simultaneously attempting to sell products and articles of clothing. Dads seem to be granted the silent permission to hold onto their multifaceted personalities, while women are asked to strip every other identifier they claim, so they can be seen as a "mom," and nothing but a mom. Dads get to be people, while mothers are pigeonholed into just being mothers.
"How Did You Get Your Body Back?"
Having a pregnant body isn't "losing" your body, and suggesting otherwise is to shame women for the weight they have to put on when they're growing another human being. In fact, soon-to-be-dads, on average, gain 14 pounds during their partner's pregnancy, yet rarely are fathers asked if they're "getting their body back" after the baby is born. It's just another example of unrealistic expectations placed on women by a society that sexualizes their person ad nauseam.
"Is That Appropriate For You To Wear?"
Our predominantly patriarchal culture seems to have acquired an unhealthy focus on what is "appropriate" for women to wear, and what isn't. Whether it's policing young women's bodies via school dress codes, or telling a mother not to breastfeed in public: women, including mothers, are constantly being told that what they're wearing isn't conducive to what society silently (or not so silently, as it turns out) expects of them. Mothers, in particular, are infamously de-sexualized the moment they successfully procreate, adding another layer of social shame and judgement when a mom decides to express her sexuality via her wardrobe.
Dads, on the other hand, are rarely shamed for their clothing decisions, especially if their choices are considered "sexy". The "dad bod" is wildly celebrated as attractive, for instance, so the more a dad is willing to show it off, the better. For some strange reason (*cough* sexism *cough*), a dad's sexuality doesn't have any impact on their ability to parent, yet a mother who is open about her sexuality is considered a bad parent and/or role model.
"Your Body Did Something Incredible"
Of course, it isn't all bad. While a dad's body goes through physical changes during a pregnancy too, they're rarely (if ever) talked about, and definitely aren't widely celebrated the way a mom's physical changes are. Of course, a dad's body didn't grow, house and birth another human being, so there's probably a reason why the body changes a dad faces aren't highlighted or celebrated or appreciated. Either way, both the mom and the dad undergo body changes on their way to parenthood, yet we seem to only truly focus on the changes one specific gender experiences.