If you spend any time on the internet or social media you will have seen the photos and stories of women like Ashy Bines, who have a baby and then return to gym-bunny status within a matter of weeks.
The phenomenon was highlighted on Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program in a story featuring Ms Bines, a Gold Coast mum with a booming fitness business. She also has the body of a goddess.
Just weeks after giving birth, Ms Bines and others like her photograph themselves in bikinis showing off their perfect abs and a glowing smile, but there are three very questionable things implied by the images.
First, that after childbirth a woman’s body should revert to an ideal of ‘perfection’ as soon as possible. Second, that a reversion to ‘before’ in the challenging months after a newborn arrives somehow matters, like there is something wrong with the ‘after’. And third, that coping during that exhausting period should be measured by how good you look.
Speaking on Seven, Ms Bines admitted that she attracted women to her fitness programs with promises of bikini bodies and better booties and then taught them about healthy diet and lifestyle. So far, so sensible.
If Bines and other insta-perfect mums can strengthen their sense of self during those early days of motherhood by getting their abs back in a hurry, more power to them.
But for most women, obtaining a cover-girl shapeliness soon after childbirth ranks about 500th on the list of things to do, just a few spots below trekking solo to the South Pole.
For the bulk of women these images will represent a subtle, if unintended, form of fit-shaming.
I say ‘unintended’ because Ashy Bines has claims to being a victim here, too. She might be selling the body image equivalent of junk food, but she’s also caught in an unfortunate binary between the health benefits of exercise and the way our culture fetishises ‘ideal’ forms of the female body.
For women without Ms Bines’ commitment to the gym or genetic gifts, the best defence against the post-baby body meme is to declare a ceasefire on your self-esteem while you have a newborn, if you can. (Or even better, embrace self-acceptance forevermore).
It’s open season the rest of the time and as equal partners in the business of life, we’re dealing with it. Let’s just list a few of the places that we are reminded – minute by minute – of the ideal versus the real: magazines, cereal boxes, underwear ads, billboards, every Hollywood movie ever filmed, television, junk mail, and every corner of the internet. Oh, and on the side of buses when you and your daughter are patiently waiting at the traffic lights.
But after childbirth, the perfect curves shared online by women like Ashy Bines just add pressure at a time of vulnerability. The critical work of a new mum is being done amid extreme sleep deprivation, in pyjamas (at midday!), and the constant shuttling between cot, couch and washing machine.
That’s the true heroism that we should be celebrating.
This article first appeared on The New Daily.