Poppy Harlow to Serena Williams: Thank you

A week after suffering the heaviest defeat of her career, tennis star Serena Williams admitted in an Instagram post that she is struggling with "postpartum emotions" and has felt in a "funk."

Posted: Aug 8, 2018 4:47 PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2018 5:06 PM

Beyoncé and Serena Williams have once again proven that they are icons -- but this time, it's not for the reasons you might think. I'm not referring to their legendary professional accomplishments, but rather to their willingness to speak out publicly to counteract the pervasive fat-shaming that surrounds women's postpartum bodies.

Earlier this week, in a rare and candid as-told-to Vogue feature, Beyoncé spoke about her difficult pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir, revealing that she weighed 218 pounds the day she gave birth by emergency C-section because she had been suffering from toxemia -- more commonly known as pre-eclampsia and whose typical symptoms are high blood pressure and swelling of the limbs -- and had been on bed rest for over a month.

She contrasted this birth with that of her daughter Blue, when she felt pressure to lose all the baby weight in three months. This time, she said, "During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be. ... To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I'm in no rush to get rid of it."

Twitter went particularly crazy over the kicker of this part of the feature: "But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be." And rightly so: the Queen of popular music and one of the sexiest women in the world has embraced her "Fat Upper Pubic Area" (the "p" sometimes stands for a different word), the fatty pouch that hangs over the genital area that is the bane of many a mother's existence.

Beyoncé's public revelation of her weight was a real bombshell, as it represents for many women (myself included) one of the most private details of a woman's pregnancy. Right after giving birth to my second child a little over six months ago, a nurse asked me what my last recorded weight was and I was ashamed to say it out loud with my husband in the room.

This despite the fact that I have become a rather vocal critic of fat-shaming and am constantly striving to let go of what I now see as the fat phobia that surrounded me during my childhood and adolescence. And yet, I was still embarrassed by that number on the scale because it began with the number "2." I never imagined Beyoncé's number did, too.

I felt a similar sense of relief a month ago when, before becoming a finalist at Wimbledon just 10 months after giving birth, Serena Williams revealed that she struggled to lose weight while breastfeeding, despite observing a strict diet and exercise regimen. She said, "You hear when you breastfeed you lose weight and you're so thin, and it wasn't happening to me. ... For my body, it didn't work, no matter how much I worked out, no matter how much I did."

In fact, Serena said she quickly lost 10 pounds once she stopped breastfeeding. This statement exploded the common assumption that breastfeeding and weight loss go hand in hand, and resonated strongly with me and, I'm quite sure, thousands of other mothers for whom breastfeeding did not result in weight loss.

While I would never argue this is a myth, the notion that breastfeeding will automatically lead to weight loss -- which is reinforced by virtually all medical professionals, lactation consultants, and parenting websites a woman encounters during and after pregnancy -- is a generalization that doesn't account for the diversity of body types among women. It directly contributes to further unrealistic expectations for women during the postpartum period, namely that women should "bounce back" (return to their pre-pregnancy weight) as quickly as possible.

It's also not lost on me that Beyoncé and Serena are two black women putting forth a different narrative about the ways women's bodies change during and after pregnancy. This is particularly significant because black women suffer from disproportionately high maternal mortality rates, partly because they are too often not believed or taken seriously by medical professionals.

According to her interview in Vogue earlier this year, had Serena not advocated for herself and been so familiar with her medical history, her post-birth complications could have been even more serious. It's possible that Beyoncé's pregnancy complications were also affected by her race, as black women are 50% more likely than women of other races to have pre-eclampsia or eclampsia (seizures that can develop in women with pre-eclampsia).

Not only do black women have to fight harder to advocate for themselves during and after pregnancy — which sometimes means refusing a doctor's suggestions — but they also have a long history of challenging mainstream beauty standards that privilege thinness and whiteness. Serena and Beyoncé are the most public examples of the myriad ways black women are modeling self-care and self-love in a society that regularly denigrates them as too loud, too arrogant (see the petty reactions by some white women to Beyoncé's pregnancy announcement), or too aggressive/"mannish" (see the trolling Serena has received throughout her entire career).

Taken together, these statements by the greatest performer and the greatest female athlete of our time, respectively, are challenges to the toxic body-shaming of women during and after pregnancy that our society urgently needs to hear. Anyone remember Kim Kardashian's first pregnancy, during which she was compared to a whale?

I am grateful for these public statements by celebrity mothers of color -- which also include the blunt and hugely relatable Instagram and Twitter feeds of model Chrissy Teigen -- that destigmatize pregnancy-related weight gain and encourage women to accept that their postpartum bodies will never mirror their previous ones, even if they breastfeed their babies.

As women who have not historically seen themselves on the cover of magazines, mothers of color — particularly black women — have a lot to teach us, not because they can save us from ourselves (painting them as saviors only strips their humanity and freedom to mess up like the rest of us, and it's not their job to carry us on their backs!) but because they have had to advocate for and love themselves against all odds for centuries.

This is the kind of strength and self-acceptance I want my own daughter to see as she grows up.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 36578

Reported Deaths: 2258
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion10188604
Lake3876207
Allen181071
Cass15919
Elkhart158528
St. Joseph135838
Hendricks120478
Hamilton119194
Johnson1125113
Madison60061
Porter56233
Clark53942
Bartholomew53139
LaPorte44824
Howard44236
Tippecanoe4344
Jackson4012
Delaware39741
Shelby39722
Hancock35427
Boone32436
Floyd31941
Vanderburgh2913
Morgan28626
Noble27821
Montgomery24917
Clinton2471
White2399
Decatur23132
Grant22923
Dubois2113
Kosciusko2052
Harrison19622
Marshall1872
Henry18512
Vigo1828
Greene17226
Dearborn17122
Monroe17113
Lawrence17124
Warrick16729
Miami1461
Putnam1427
Jennings1324
Orange13122
LaGrange1282
Scott1263
Franklin1168
Ripley1086
Daviess10416
Carroll952
Wayne906
Steuben902
Wabash812
Newton8010
Fayette797
Jasper741
Jay580
Clay533
Randolph523
Rush513
Fulton511
Washington501
Pulaski500
Jefferson491
Whitley453
DeKalb451
Starke423
Perry390
Huntington382
Sullivan371
Wells350
Owen341
Brown331
Benton320
Knox310
Blackford272
Tipton261
Crawford250
Adams231
Switzerland220
Spencer221
Fountain222
Gibson202
Parke180
Posey160
Martin140
Warren131
Ohio130
Vermillion100
Union100
Pike60
Unassigned0180

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 37758

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin6323295
Cuyahoga4789265
Hamilton2811171
Marion268832
Lucas2329263
Pickaway209938
Summit1529181
Mahoning1486191
Butler97532
Columbiana89453
Stark803102
Montgomery73417
Lorain73061
Trumbull60052
Belmont44915
Warren40721
Medina37624
Tuscarawas3714
Ashtabula36938
Miami36730
Delaware36014
Portage33557
Lake32512
Clark3237
Fairfield3188
Wood30649
Geauga30334
Wayne29651
Licking27110
Mercer2278
Richland2224
Allen22133
Clermont2195
Darke19023
Erie18416
Madison1647
Washington11819
Crawford1184
Morrow1081
Ottawa10717
Greene1065
Putnam9514
Sandusky9112
Monroe8015
Auglaize773
Hardin730
Ross732
Hocking705
Jefferson672
Huron611
Williams581
Holmes573
Union561
Muskingum561
Hancock531
Coshocton480
Wyandot482
Clinton471
Shelby473
Fulton450
Logan430
Fayette410
Preble391
Guernsey382
Carroll353
Defiance342
Brown311
Lawrence301
Highland291
Champaign281
Seneca262
Knox251
Ashland230
Vinton212
Perry191
Athens181
Scioto180
Henry170
Jackson150
Paulding140
Adams111
Harrison100
Pike90
Gallia81
Van Wert70
Meigs60
Noble60
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 64°
Angola
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 64°
Huntington
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 64°
Decatur
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 68°
Van Wert
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 68°
Sunny Sunday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events