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'Too graphic'? The Oscars axed this ad about the realities of postpartum motherhood

“I think anything that debunks myths about what it’s like to be a woman is a good thing,” said Mika Brzezinski, in a conversation with The New York Times' Hannah Seligson and Francesca Donner.
A screenshot of the Frida Mom ad that was nixed by The Oscars.
A screenshot of the Frida Mom ad that was nixed by The Oscars.Frida Mom

Frida Mom, a company that makes products to help women prepare for postpartum recovery, submitted an ad to the Oscars that showed a mother home with her baby, wearing mesh underwear and experiencing the painful aftermath of giving birth. The Oscars rejected the ad.

Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski explained in a new interview that the ad showed postpartum recovery “in unsparing detail” and invited commentary about the wider implications that followed the Oscars nixing the ad because it was “too graphic.”

The controversial commercial begins by showing a woman wearing mesh underwear struggling to get to the bathroom, with a newborn baby crying in the background. “It was not a particularly glamorous or pretty scene,” said New York Times contributor Hannah Seligson, who recently wrote about the rejected ad.

The ad sparked questions including, what exactly are advertising standards today? And who draws the line?

As Brzezinski pointed out, the Super Bowl didn’t shy away from airing Shakira and Jennifer Lopez's risque half-time show, which some critics said objectified women.

MSNBC anchor and Know Your Value contributor Yasmin Vossoughian added that “it seems as if advertisers are more comfortable with showing sexuality than showing something as graphic as postpartum or after you give birth or giving birth.”

“When I looked at the ad, I thought, ‘oh my goodness, that’s exactly my life.’ I’ve had three babies. I’ve been through that,” said Francesca Donner, director of the Gender Initiative at The New York Times. She explained that what really surprised her was that when an article on this topic was published in The New York Times, an influx of emails that really came down on either side followed. While some women wrote in encouraging more companies to display the realities of motherhood, many other women expressed that this is a private domain and a line should be drawn.

“Is J.Lo’s crotch and a shot up toward her backside, which is barely covered… Is that too personal?,” Brzezinski asked. “Some would say that’s over the line.”

In a nutshell, it (unfortunately) might just come down to the fact that sex sells. Bodily functions after giving birth? Not so much.

“Sexuality is OK, but bodily functions, we still have to sugarcoat,” Seligson said.

As the Frida CEO mentioned, if the ad featured a beautiful mother nursing her baby—with a bottle, of course—with a lovely husband in the background, that probably would have passed, Donner explained.

“We are in a time in which we see the #MeToo movement, Harvey Weinstein, women are coming to terms and being honest about what we are dealing with in this society and the demands that we have every single day, from the way that we have to look to the way we sound to the things we are dealing with after giving birth,” Vossoughian said.

The rejected ad shows that we still have a ways to go. To share the realities of motherhood with the rest of the world, we must start somewhere.

“I think anything that debunks myths about what it’s like to be a woman is a good thing,” Brzezinski said.