Placenta-eating has now become so popular that even January Jones is doing it, and hospitals are changing policies to make it easier. Meanwhile, Jessica Alba founded an entire company to ensure that toxins don’t come into contact with her babies, and Alicia Silverstone is making moms wonder if chewing food for their kids is part of the job. But it’s not just celebrities (or crunchy hippies) jumping on the trend of all-natural, health-conscious parenting; now, all moms are pressured to gain the right amount of weight, eat their own placenta, breast feed long enough, and safeguard their kids against everything from BPA to GMOs. On the face of it, these all seem like a good things—after all, who wants to give their kids gestational diabetes? And what new mom isn’t desperate for a way to jack up her energy levels without having to fake a need for adirol? But much as we here at Blisstree favor being ‘natural’ and ‘healthy,’ we also wonder if all those pressures add up to a new kind of unhealthy—particularly because they’re mostly placed on women.
Amanda Marcotte of Slate’s XXfactor wrote last week about her reservations when it comes to placenta-eating. Though she’s partially just grossed out by the idea of eating actual human organs, she also thinks there’s something more disturbing to the trend:
From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like the crunchy-mom movement has graduated from putting women into the kitchen to easing them into animal status.
And put more bluntly, she wonders if the end result is that all of the natural health trends are just a return to the days when a woman’s place was in the kitchen:
That the burdens of getting “natural” fall nearly exclusively on the shoulders of women—especially when babies come—is reason enough to take a step back and wonder if this isn’t the same old oppression of women repackaged in shiny new organic wrapping.
Marcotte’s criticism of placenta-eating came with plenty of backlash, and frankly, I’m not quite ready to defend or condemn her arguments about the practice, specifically. But I do think she has some good points about the fact that all these good things that women are encouraged to do for their own health and their baby’s can border on insane.
What’s more, I don’t think it’s just moms who are oppressed by the push for being healthy and natural. In fact, the entire health and wellness industry is fairly unhealthy in its message to women.
Before motherhood, most women are bombarded with messages about how be healthy for the sake of looking sexy and thin. So-called “health” products are marketed by way of superficial promises (weight loss, better skin, a toned body, and improved sex are some of the most common ploys); rarely are we encouraged to buy a fitness DVD because we’ll feel better and lower our risk of heart attack or stroke. It’s not until women hit motherhood that we’re told to really shift our focus towards health for health’s sake…only then, the message is all about how to benefit our babies, not ourselves.
It’s great that so many women are shocked into health-consciousness by pregnancy and motherhood. And there’s no doubt that January Jones is doing better things for herself and her baby—placenta-eating included—than Betty Draper did by smoking and doing drugs while pregnant. But so long as women are crushed under pressures to be the picture of natural health for every reason but their own health, I don’t know that they’re really all that good for women.