All Around the Mulberry Bush: Jessica Simpson & Body Image

I was prepared to rant. Jessica Simpson debuted her “new mom body” on the Katie Show and my emotions told reason to take a coffee and doughnut break while I raked Simpson (who gave birth in May) through the coals for selling out and giving me an even bigger complex about the size of my ass and the five-year-old that calls me Mama.

I’m still pissed, mind you. My brain is waffling between cheering for pregnant Jessica Simpson and pointing an accusatory finger  at the media for bashing her for, you know, PUTTING ON WEIGHT to begin with. But now I’m equal parts pissed at the media and Simpson. Why? Because I’d be telling the paparazzi to fuck off as they snapped photos of me wolfing down a pack of Ding Dongs if I knew I was going to be collecting millions to drop the baby weight, too.

I’ll be honest, it kind of makes me feel like I got played. I guess I’d kind of been hoping that Jessica was going to play for Team Reality.

I don’t follow celebrity news as a general rule, but it’s practically impossible to avoid the onslaught of media attention focusing on who’s got a baby bump and how much weight they gained. And then, of course, the bikini-clad magazine Hollywood moms boasting their svelte six-week post-postpartum figures.The TV is stuck on Nick Jr. in my house but I do have to grocery shop. And it’s while I’m standing in line at the checkout lane that I’m reminded time and time again that Hollywood thinks I’m a fatass and that media pressure to get as skinny as possible faster than is healthy for our bodies affects all of us. Actress Jenna Fischer of The Office spoke out recently against the “unnatural” fixation for stars to be bikini ready mere weeks after pushing their babies out.

“Let me please stand in solidarity with all of the women who are not a size 2 six weeks after leaving the hospital. You read all of the stuff in magazines like, ‘Oh, I breastfed my baby and I am so skinny now.’ I am breast-feeding my baby and I am not getting any skinnier!” the actress has been quoted as saying. “I think I’m just going to be a little bit bigger for a little bit longer, and that’s fine with me.”

Hallelujah, sister. Let’s pretend I’m famous so we can become BFFs because you are so my people.

But you know what? It’s while I’m glaring at the the media for perpetuating this whole celebrity-obsession that I suddenly realize maybe I’m aiming my anger in the wrong direction.

To be honest, I feel kind of sorry for celeb moms. Simpson’s body is being dubbed “a work still in progress” even though she’s lost 40 pounds since giving birth in May. Remember when Melissa Joan Hart was publicly mocked in magazines for being a fat new mom? She ended up on the cover of a magazine, in a bikini, telling the world how she was “motivated” by the media attacks to get back into shape. And Bollywood star and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was slammed for not losing the pregnancy pounds in the six months after giving birth by her fans in India. Elephants can be heard trumpeting in the background of an online video report showing images of the star pre- and post-pregnancy.

For celebrities, their bodies are their livelihood. They are expected to look a certain way by the big movie and recording studios that pay for their lavish lifestyles because the people signing the checks were smart enough to realize that this shit sells. If it didn’t, Simpson and her weight loss deal wouldn’t have been the only one news outlets were tripping over themselves to cover yesterday. Kelly WickhamJenny LawsonErin Kotecki Vest, & Brene Brown will all be on the show, y’all.* In what world does Simpson’s celebrity-afforded ability to work out four to five days a week with a personal trainer trump that line up of awesomeness?

Oh…right. This one.

So that leaves me with us, Society.

I can’t be any more mad at Simpson for playing the role for which we have created the market (and I feel for her having to weather in public what we all go through in the privacy of our own heads). We buy the mindless magazines with cover stories publicizing every Beyonce story touting her transformation from pregnant to perfect, thereby making it more socially acceptable to put even more pressure on the next celeb to announce she’s expecting. That pressure, my friends, trickles right on down to Average Town, USA and our own perceptions on how we view ourselves, and those around us.

Maybe I’m not playing that game anymore. Maybe I refuse to let Hollywood’s idea of what my body should look like after having a child take precedence over my physical and mental health. Maybe I refuse to let these magazine covers and celeb weight loss deals dictate my feelings about the woman looking back at me in the mirror. And maybe I’m full of shit because this whole web site is an exercise in convincing myself that I am fine just the way I am because I’m not quite there yet. But none of that matters right now, because we all need to shut up for a fucking minute and stop playing the blame game when it comes to which headlines strike our last nerve.

Jessica Simpson may have made the average American woman feel even less perfect than we did before she earned her multimillion-dollar enforcement deal to shed the pregnancy pounds and got plenty of press for it. Katie Couric may have asked Simpson how she dealt with the public pressure to make it all happen which may have set off an emotional trigger I forgot was there. But I’m not blaming Jessica Simpson for my own jacked-up body image issues. I’m not blaming Couric, either.

I’d rather just hand you back the mirror I’m holding, stop chasing my own tail around the proverbial mulberry bush, and resign myself to the fact that we are part of the very problem we are trying so hard to fix.

Forget the rant. I’ve got some egg shells to pick out of this omelet I’m trying to make.

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