Lauren Gross challenges the societal expectations placed on mothers to not be seen as ‘sexy’.
When Kim Kardashian broke the Internet two weeks ago with her peachy bum and huge breasts completely exposed, reactions were mixed to say the least. Comments on a Facebook post varied from the appreciative; “she looks bangin’”, to the dismissive; “we’ve already seen it in her sex tape”, and the most irritatingly of them all “ew, she’s a mum and should act like it, North West is going to be so embarrassed when she’s older”. Two weeks later that ‘mum’ comment still bugs the hell out of me.
Kim K looks sexy as hell in her photo shoot, but judging by that comment and the 768 likes it received, she should not look sexy because a child has previously vacated her uterus. Of course, it is reasonable to assume that having a child causes both the mother and the father to give up some personal freedoms in order to assume the responsibility of caring for an infant. But, does this mean mothers, and fathers for that matter, are expected to never feel sexy again? Or act in a sexy manner? Or be naked? Or have a bum?
It sounds ridiculous, because it is a ridiculous expectation. Sex creates a child, so after one is created why is the mother suddenly an inappropriate embarrassment if she ever appears sexy again? Though it sounds ridiculous, 769 people (including the original commenter) felt this way and I’m sure a lot more do as well.
This made me think about the societal expectations we place on mothers and women generally. Both sexes give up freedoms upon assuming the role of parenthood but I feel like women are expected to relinquish their freedom of sexual expression more than men are. Kim’s male celebrity counterparts appear to almost never receive criticism for expressing their sexuality in the media. David Beckham is plastered on billboards in the buff apart from some very tight fitting underwear, P Diddy raps about getting hoes and bitches and Channing Tatum is set to pole dance his way into Magic Mike 2, and I am yet to hear someone say “you’re a father, act like it”. However, if Beyonce does a sexy music video I guarantee there is someone out there bashing the keyboard as they type “BUT SHE’S A MUM” in furious all-caps… It seems men are allowed to freely express their sexuality after children but this human need is denied to women.
It is reasonable to assume that the sexism that is clearly evident when considering the world of celebrity affects the every day mum. The message appears to be that women are allowed to be sexual until they give birth to the byproduct of sex but thereafter sexual expression must be regulated to an appropriate ‘mum level’, or it’s just embarrassing and unsavoury to everyone involved. I think it’s an unhealthy idea that women cannot feel sexy after children, and that this can only lead to mothers feeling shit about themselves. After gaining weight and experiencing huge body changes, what could possibly be wrong with a mum feeling good about herself again? At the end of the day, what is so disgusting about Kim Kardashian or any other woman’s naked body?
The second source of disgust against Kim K’s oiled bare body is that her child will be embarrassed and possibly even committed to years of therapy after laying eyes upon her mother’s naked photos. Again, it sounds ridiculous… because it is. Communicating and demonstrating healthy sexual expression is vital to a young child’s development. Should we really be teaching a young North West that being comfortable in your own skin is disgusting? I think that if North West is severely traumatised by her mother’s photos in the future than that is more of a sign of society’s unchanged expectations of mothers than Kim’s inappropriateness. Spoiler alert: I’m sure North West has actually seen Kim in the flesh, completely naked, many a time.
After all, did anyone really expect anything different from Kim Kardashian given her history of posing nude? Did people really expect her to hang up her Louboutins, hop into some trackpants and drive around in a ‘soccer mum’ van? She is returning to her life as it was before the birth of her child and is acting completely in character. And why shouldn’t she? She had a baby, not a lobotomy. Kim shouldn’t have to apologise for acting like Kim, for being a celebrity, a businesswoman, a fashion designer, a reality TV star, a wife and a socialite, just because she also wears the title of mum. And neither should any woman.
I understand a lot of the hostility against Kim Kardashian comes from the perception of her being a self-obsessed, talentless and vain reality star, and I daresay I won’t be keeping up with Kim, Khloe, Kourtney and the rest of the K-named brood anytime soon. But, how can a mother engaging in consensual nudity, celebrating her sexuality and being comfortable in her own skin possibly be a bad thing? Whether intentional or not she’s challenging the out-dated and unhealthy notion that mothers have to act in a certain way purely because they are a mum, and for that, I take my clothes off to her.