We're talking about Jessica Simpson's body again.
Lest you thought the arrival of the singer's baby in May merited the end of a seemingly years-long debate over her weight, shape, size and stature, think again.
Even before Simpson and husband Eric Johnson welcomed baby Maxwell into the world, people were speculating over how the first-time mom would lose those post-pregnancy pounds. And now that she's officially on the Weight Watchers bandwagon, everyone from the LA Times to TMZ is freaking out over a recent interview in which Simpson told USA Today, "I let myself indulge in everything I wanted because it was the first time I was ever pregnant, and I wanted to enjoy it. I wanted to be happy and eat what I wanted."
Sarcasm aside (and believe me, it's difficult to put it there in instances like this), the attention on Simpson's post-baby body is just part of a larger societal obsession with watching, willing and rooting on new moms to bounce back after babies rudely wreak havoc on their bodies. And, of course, quickly condemning those who fail to fall in line fast.
Celebrity trainer Tracy Anderson recently got into some hot water for comments she made regarding the very kind of pregnant woman Simpson admits she was:
A lot of women use pregnancy as an excuse to let their bodies go, and that's the worst thing. I've seen so many women who come to me right after [having children] with disaster bodies that have gone through hell, or they come to me years later and say, 'Oh, my body is like this because I had three kids.'
Just so we're clear, has "gone through hell" officially replaced "miracle of life" in terms of birthing euphemisms? Just checking.
Anderson later appeared on Good Morning America and I couldn't help but feel a twinge of empathy when she claimed her comments were taken out of context.
"I am so mortified," she said. "It sounds so bad when it comes back like that. It's not what I meant."
And she may very well have not meant it in the judgmental, degrading, critical way it came across. And she shouldn't be held responsible for society's anti-baby-body backlash. At the end of the day, she's a fitness expert making a living off of her clients' desires to lose weight and tone up.
But the operative word here is clients. The last time I checked, my bank ledger didn't reflect a multiple-zeroed payment to Ms. Anderson for her services. And while the easy antidote to avoiding unsolicited advice is to simply tune it out, it's become increasingly difficult to sidestep the seemingly endless amount of postpartum-body negativity.
Not that anyone in our society is even daring to look at a real post-baby body, but if anyone did, they likely wouldn't acknowledge it for its strength, recognize its resilience or admire its accomplishments. Today's post-partum body is pretty much nothing more than an ongoing project in slimming down and shaping up. It's a project that should be vigilantly monitored and dutifully attended to, morning and night. It's a project in reforming a traitorous enemy that's betrayed new moms everywhere and whipping it back into shape fast.
And how does one sweat down to a slimmer shape fast? Six hours of daily exercise does the trick, according to actress and new mom Kate Hudson. "I devoted six hours a day to a vigorous workout regime," she recently told Star Magazine. "I would do 45 or 55 minutes of cardio then an hour of Pilates or yoga, three times a day."
That first sound you heard was my head exploding.
The second was my fingers drumming on the desk, restlessly waiting in vain for a frazzled publicist's denial of this quote's legitimacy.
But in the frightening event that this is actually an authentic quote presumably said with a straight face, let's discuss. Where to begin? The fact that six hours of "vigorous" exercise for a non-athlete seems entirely obsessive and indicative of a mental health problem? The terrifying notion that girls and women -- post-partum or not -- might read that quote and feel inferior for their perceived lack of comparable discipline? Or the looming question of how in the world this woman cares for her new child while jogging, stretching and working her core for 25% of every day?
Just a few weeks ago, former Us Weekly editor Janice Min wrote something of a manifesto for the New York Times, decrying the rise of "momshells" who snap back into Hollywood-form post-baby and paint an unrealistic, often-unattainable picture of new motherhood.
Some applauded Min's candid honesty, and others were incensed that someone so undeniably responsible for creating the magazine-selling momshell phenomenon would dare denounce the very institution she essentially invented (not to mention the somewhat nauseating fact that the 42-year-old mom has a diet book for new moms called How to Look Hot in a Minivan coming out in September).
"Sometimes, in my sleep-deprived nights, I ponder our ideal of this near-emaciated, sexy and well-dressed Frankenmom we've created and wonder how to undo her. Even just a little bit," Min wrote.
I would think doling out diet advice, detailing grueling six-hour workouts and elevating moms who do manage to "bounce back" to supernatural, Goddess-like status by parading them on magazine covers and valuing their bodies over their work are probably not the ways to undo Frankenmom.
Celebrating new moms for being new moms? That might be a start.
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