On Sept. 4, Cardi B gave birth to a baby boy. Just over three weeks later, she made her first postpartum appearance at an event at Musée des Arts Décoratifs, a decorative arts museum in Paris. Many fans were thrilled to see her out and about again, but others weren't so impressed.
Buried in a thread of Twitter comments praising her bold Mugler look, one user wrote: “The work done tho …”
This person was not the only one criticizing Cardi B's snapback from her recent pregnancy. Rumors of her receiving cosmetic surgery have been circulating ever since she gave birth. The rapper had to turn to her Instagram stories to address the gossip, forced by strangers on the internet to defend the changes in her body.
Cardi B is still in the process of recovering from a challenging delivery, all while taking care of her newborn son and three–year–old daughter. Getting her pre–baby body back should be the least of her worries. But the internet doesn't seem to agree.
In recent years, celebrity mothers have faced immense pressure to snap back to their “regular” bodies after giving birth—all while fielding questions about how they really did it.
In a 2014 interview, Emily Blunt swore it was breastfeeding that got her back in shape after three months. Gigi Hadid took only four months off after giving birth before returning to her supermodel job for a Maybelline campaign. While many were supportive of Hadid's post–pregnancy debut, there were also scores of comments left on her Instagram post speculating about her stretch marks and criticizing the model for aging.
Emily Ratajkowski made headlines last spring when, less than two weeks after giving birth, she shared photos of herself practically back in the same shape she was before her pregnancy. Many influencers in the self–love and body positivity movement condemned Ratajkowski for perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards, clashing with fans who claimed that those who were upset were simply not doing enough to lose weight.
In reality, it typically takes six to eight weeks for someone’s body to recover after giving birth and several months for baby–related weight to be lost—though this timeline varies for everyone. Although celebrities' lifestyles often land them in the public eye, we do not have a right to their personal or medical information. In fact, it is never our business to speculate if, when, or how anyone’s body is changing.
Stephanie Lange, a body positivity influencer, has dedicated multiple videos on her YouTube channel to unpacking the negative impact that celebrity bounce–back culture has on new parents. In a video titled “Bouncing Back after Pregnancy is Not ‘Goals,’” she starts off by showcasing comments left on her channel by new mothers criticizing their own bodies.
“I’m four months postpartum, and I’m feeling so much shame and hatred toward my body,” reads one comment featured in the video.
“I set unrealistic expectations for myself to 'bounce back' by now, and it’s been getting to me that I haven’t,” reads another from a mother who was just one month out from giving birth.
In the video, Lange emphasizes that promoting weight loss after birth as an achievement leads people to think that “their body has failed them or they’re doing something wrong” when they aren’t able to get back into shape immediately. She also notes that many of the factors that influence the appearance of a person's postpartum body are out of their control. Genetics play a major role, meaning that many bodies may never return to the way they looked pre–pregnancy regardless of the use of any weight–loss methods.
Lange's video has nearly 400,000 views, but popular or not, her work emphasizes a society–wide need to rethink the notion that people who have had children aren’t allowed to look like it.
When we critique celebrities’ pregnancy snapbacks, we're also indirectly commenting on the recovery journeys of everyday new mothers who follow the headlines. By nitpicking new parents over their post–baby bodies, we create a toxic culture that leads people to believe that their postpartum appearance is something to be ashamed of.
Giving birth in and of itself is the achievement that we should be celebrating—not a person's ability to rebound from it.