Janice Min, it turns out, is surprised at the negative reaction to her column that ran this past weekend in The New York Times, in which the former Us Weekly editor bemoans the pressures on new moms to look thin.
“Can’t I get a free pass?” she asked in the piece, noting that even her Los Angeles manicurist seems shocked that a 42-year-old would still be carrying baby weight four months after giving birth. Moms across the country, she wrote, are suffering from an unrealistic celebrity culture that has idolized both the “baby bump” and the “mommy bounce back,” in which stars shed pregnancy weight within weeks and look even better than before. You know, even skinnier, but also glowing with maternal sexiness – a "momshell," (that's bombshell with complexity).
“These genetic aberrations smile at us from celebrity magazines, or from our computer screens, wearing bikinis on the beach in Cabo weeks after Caesarean sections, or going straight from recovery room to Victoria’s Secret runway,” she wrote.
Um, yeah, says the blogosphere. And that, Ms. Min, is your fault.
See, Min presided over Us Weekly during the same time that celebrity moms became a hot topic for Hollywood watchers. As writer Tracie Egan Morrissey points out on Jezebel.com, one could actually argue that Min created the “baby bump” craze – it was under her leadership that the magazine put the phrase into circulation, and it was under her watch that the celeb mommy became popular standard fare. This was what the female audience wanted, Min explained in her column: beautiful moms and beautiful babies.
So it’s pretty rich, say the bloggers and the Tweeters, that now she’s calling it unfair. Especially since Min is coming out with a book soon, entitled “How to Look Hot in a Minivan: A Real Woman’s Guide to Losing Weight, Looking Great, and Dressing Chic in the Age of the Celebrity Mom.”
We’ve got to say, it does cut into the sympathy factor. Even if, as Min has said this week, she wrote the column to try to expose the difference between real life and Hollywood glitz.
(Although the celebrity-versus-real-people thing doesn’t do much to help out those celebrities whose bodies do seem to be mortal; new moms Jessica Simpson, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Aishwary Rai have been slammed for looking chunky months after giving birth.)
But there’s another problem with Min’s account of postpartum woe. Her life, it seems from her writing, is filled with manicurists and blow-dried school pickup lines and women wearing Lululemon; with friends who check out her midsection rather than her baby. She actually writes that she is all for “looking great, feeling good and getting skinny.”
This all sounds horribly grim to me. And while the impact of Min’s work may have ripple effects across America, I can’t believe that the sort of life she describes (not even mentioning her multi-million-dollar-a-year salary) is all that typical. In most of the country, I’d wager, you have moms wearing sweatpants, friends, and strangers cooing over babies, and a lot more sympathy for a new mom’s challenges – be it sleep deprivation or weight gain.
That doesn’t mean the standard Min created isn’t a problem. But as she herself points out, there’s a difference between Hollywood and elsewhere.