I hate that I'm even writing about the acronym MILF. Mercifully it's been re-defined as "Moms I Want to Follow" in this video, but of course, if you haven't actually viewed Fergie's new music video, that's certainly not what you would think when listening to the song. I just can't get it out of my mind. Last night I was flipping through channels and landed on Keeping up with the Kardashians. In this episode, Kim was making an appearance on Fergie's M.I.L.F. $ video (more on Kim in a moment).
I had seen the video before the episode - it's taking the internet by storm. The video features stunningly gorgeous celebrity moms, most of whom are wearing very little clothing. My initial reaction was irritation - surely this video just burdens women further by setting the expectation that having bodies like that is the symbol of success post-baby. It also seems to, once again, emphasize women's bodies and sexuality as their number one source of value.
Having said that, I know and affirm that a powerful woman is also connected to and confident in her sexuality.
Anyway, here is the video (apologies, I couldn't find a clean version so there is profanity) - have a look and read on. I'd love to know what you think.
Motherhood, body image and power
When you think about having a baby, you would think we would all feel so much more powerful for the experience- creating new life, giving birth (which is a very intimidating prospect) and nourishing that life. What could be more powerful? However, it is exhausting, isolating and is not held in high esteem by society, so it can leave women feeling weak, lonely and depressed. Coming through that is a massive journey, and while it certainly should be celebrated (and I'm glad Fergie is doing so), a video like this is a double-edged sword. It could inspire (yes it's possible to have a great body and career after a baby), but the pressure could be a real downer for new moms as well. (BUT bravo, Fergie, for showing Chrissy Teigen breastfeeding her baby. That's a seriously strange cultural taboo that needs to be left behind.)
We certainly don't see mothers portrayed as sexual beings very often (which, I suppose, is progress), but the line between empowered sexuality and lewd exhibitionism is fine (Beyoncé in all her Sasha Fierceness is great, but Miley Cyrus not so much).
I was talking with Vic about this post, and she mentioned some research she came across regarding libido (and a different perspective of the MILF). Women in their mid-30s to mid-50s often have a higher libido, on a level similar to men in their 20s. So from that perspective, this increased focus on sexuality among these women is authentic. Men are attracted to women in this age bracket, since they are often more confident in their bodies and themselves, know what they want and have an increased drive - this is an aspect to the term MILF I hadn't considered before.
The pressure to "have it all"
It's been said before, but I sometimes wonder if feminism has almost done women a disservice. Now we not only feel the need to fulfil the obligations that our anatomy necessitates (pregnancy and breastfeeding, which are both astonishing achievements in their own right) but we also need to have great careers, be great wives/partners/mothers/friends/daughters/church members and let's just lump in looking fantastic and not being a crazy person from all the strain (those last two, of course, are not from feminism but certainly are big pressures we all feel). There is certainly an immense amount of value and fulfilment in the choice to be a full time mom, and I wish that choice was celebrated more as well.
It has to be said that this is consistent with Fergie's MO. Her "Lady Lumps" song made me want to pull my hair out (to be fair, I'm not a Fergie fan). In the end, this is her industry and business, so her goal is to have her videos viewed by as many people as possible. We all know the surest way to have that happen is to provoke and have sexuality in the mix. And honestly, it works; coming from a design and advertising background, this is a wonderfully produced video and compliments the song - and it's fun to watch.
Stop with the tit for tat
In this instance, men are shown drooling over powerful women who are mothers. While this does flip the model* of powerful men rapping with scantily clad women draping themselves all over them (except that in both instances the women are the ones showing skin), cutting men down to bring women up is not a productive way to advance things. This isn't fair to either women or men - I know many men (including my own husband and family) who are honourable feminists and support and uplift their partners, wives, daughters and friends in every way they can. Reducing them to lobotomised creatures at the whim of sexual appeal is degrading, and just because women have been portrayed that way in the past doesn't mean we have to do it to men as well. If we want to uplift, let's be uplifting to everyone.
Ok now back to Kim Kardashian. In regard to the experience, she talks about how much she loves the song, how empowering she believes it is to women, and how difficult it is to work out and eat well while doing all the other things modern life demands of mothers, so she was excited to celebrate moms who are doing that. Following that, there is a scene where she's chatting with the stylist for the video, and Kim says "just make me look skinny." Finally, there is a scene with Khloe and Kim talking about MILFs vs. "mommy moms", and disparaging their sister Kourtney for being a "mommy mom" for some years, and their relief that she's now a MILF again.
A few thoughts:
- I know that when I eat well and exercise, I feel so invigorated and much more empowered. So I absolutely agree with Kim that that should be celebrated; but that's not exactly the message this video conveys.
- If the video is about celebrating amazing moms and owning their power, maybe their bodies should be celebrated as well without having to cinch it in to the extreme with a corset?
- I don't like the term "mommy moms"; of course I believe we should all work out and eat right, but I don't like the "us vs. them" connotation to that. We need to have compassion and support one another - being a mom is hard enough!
The bottom line for me is that I want all women, including Fergie, to stand in their power and inspire other women to do the same. If this form of creative expression does that for her and other women, great. It just doesn't quite do it for me.
How do you feel when you watch the video? Do you find it inspiring and empowering, or degrading and objectifying? Please let us know in the comments.
*You may remember this controversial feminist parody of Robin Thicke's Blurred lines video, which truly does flip the paradigm
Image credit: Screenshot/FergieVEVO/YouTube