We spend a lot of time here discussing the hard sell of parenthood in the tabloids: baby bump speculation, the motherhood/fatherhood whitewash, selling photos, social media posts, even maternity clothing. There’s an argument to be made that Hollywood commodifies women’s bodies, and that attitude extends into the womb. There’s also an argument to be made that when given the opportunity, celebrities will use their kids to increase their profile and likability.
I love gossip, and it’s fun to dissect if a conniving actress is playing Sally Homemaker just for awards season, or if an Oscar winner is calling the paps to the playground to make her look softer and more accessible. But there are issues that are too important to trivialize, because in doing it, we are treating women’s health like it’s a product that can be voted on by committee.
This week, Life & Style wrote a story speculating that Mila Kunis has post-partum depression. Now it’s Life & Style so, obviously, bullsh*t. The validity of the story isn’t in question here, but rather why they think it’s OK to write about a woman’s health in that way. Just because it’s female mental health doesn’t make it trivial or simple. The condescending tone about “staying in bed all day” and “feeling fat” (um, hi, ever had a baby?) is reducing a new mom into a generic and shallow sitcom character.
It also puts Mila in the position of having to deny it, and what does that say to women have suffered/are suffering from post-partum depression? That it’s something to be embarrassed about and denied? (And I don’t put this on Mila whatsoever.) But this is how the stigma clings to every conversation about depression.
Most infuriating is that the story is aimed at women, mothers in particular. So what does it say about Life & Style that they think we are so stupid, so small-minded, so petty, that we would enjoy reading about a doctor speculating on a new mom’s mental health. That we would use someone’s depression as entertainment. (And who is this f*&king doctor?)
But are they wrong about us? Moms are fighters; a story about Gisele will elicit hundreds of angry comments for and against her. A story about how Gwyneth feeds her family can inspire an online cage match. The comments on this story are pretty disheartening. Some are supportive, and some imply that she is spoiled/unprepared for motherhood and that many people do it without a night nurse or nanny. So if Mila is depressed it’s her fault for being a pampered celebrity and it’s not “real.” That having money should solve all of her problems and if it doesn’t then that’s on her. That depression is a character flaw, not an illness. Well sh*t, if we are going to buy into it, why would Life & Style stop? If we can’t advocate for one another and say, “Nope, this is bullsh*t, and unfair to women” then we’re not just allowing this narrative to continue, but we are encouraging it. And really moms, that’s totally on us.
Kevin Winter/ Getty