With expectations weighting upon women post-partum regarding their careers, appearance and the question of returning to their pre-pregnancy body, Label volunteer, Rebecca Pearson, explores the conversation around female choice after giving birth.
The world of fashion has long been fraught with expectations surrounding appearance, perceived beauty and fitting-the-mould. Being so often seen as a “young girl’s” profession, models have begun to ask the question: why does it matter? Famous females, such as Serena Williams and Gigi Hadid, have sparked the conversation about women’s careers post-partum: how giving birth changes a woman’s body in structure and size in order to produce life. But it has also sparked conversations about the expectation that a woman’s body can simply “bounce back” after undergoing such life-altering changes. With careers that demand a certain physical appearance or performance in order to succeed, the pressure to return to pre-partum bodies is beginning to be explored.
Only a few months after giving birth, media articles flooded feeds with exclamations that ‘Gigi Hadid Returns to Modelling Four Months After Giving Birth’. Subliminally, such articles highlighted the synergies between having a baby and the speed at which a female body could return to a pre-partum state, the physical demands of modelling suggesting that Gigi Hadid’s body had magically returned to a size that could model. It was an idea that equated quickly returning to a pre-pregnancy size with success. Arguably, Hadid’s elite model status privileged her position in returning to the modelling industry but, by appearance, her body had, indeed, seemed to bounce-back. But still, TikTok comments on videos of Hadid’s most recent catwalks picked faults in her appearance, criticising her post-baby-body and questioning her credibility as a model for returning to the industry after becoming a mother.
In a candid Instagram post, model Grace Elizabeth openly explored how she has grappled with her post-partum body whilst also being subject to online scrutiny:
“I looked at the pictures, and felt so insecure. It’s a shame that I felt that way even after going through one of the most miraculous things the female body can endure. But I did. […] You have to understand I’ve spent the last 6 years of my life trying to be in the best physical condition possible, I didn’t take rest days, I didn’t let myself go because I was/am judged based on my looks. That’s how I make a living.”
Online, it is so easy to hide the reality of life post-giving-birth. Yet, when revealing its reality and becoming subject to intrusive comments about body shape, weight and appearance, it doesn’t exactly encourage an open and honest conversation about the female experience beyond pregnancy.
In the world of sports, it is Serena Williams who has often unfairly been the subject of abuse about her muscularity and appearance. However, in a candid interview with Allure, Serena asserted herself against such comments.
“After I came out [of the hospital], I had a stomach, but I thought, This is kind of cool. I have a stomach because the baby was there.”
Coming from a long tradition of choosing between having a family and having a career, the question of pregnancy has always been fraught with questions that ask whether it is possible to return to a career – with the same success – after giving birth. Whilst Gigi Hadid, Serena Williams and Grace Elizabeth have spotlighted the dichotomies between careers and pregnancy, less high-profile names are likely to slip unnoticed into a tradition that omits female choice. Whether it is professional industries or societal expectations that continue to reinforce pressures upon the female body, sparking conversations can begin to unravel tradition, challenging and normalising post-pregnancy life and decisions.