As the Oscars continued to receive backlash for the lack of diversity in this year's nominees, moms like actor Busy Philipps spoke out about an ad that wouldn't air during the show. The commercial shows a mom shortly after giving birth — mesh underwear and all — as she struggles to use the bathroom, replace her pad, and then attend to the crying newborn you can hear in the background. Frida Mom, the company behind the ad, wrote on Instagram that the ad was rejected by ABC and the Oscars even though it's not violent, political, or sexual. Moms tell Bustle that they're angry the ad wasn't shown because it's exactly the kind of accurate depiction of new parenthood that they wish they had seen more of.
Frida Mom, which specializes in creating postpartum care products for new parents, wrote on YouTube that the ad "is not 'religious or lewd' and does not portray 'guns or ammunition,'" which Frida Mom claimed are two of ABC's criteria for rejecting ads. The company also claimed that feminine hygiene and hemorrhoid relief are banned subjects. (Neither ABC nor the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has issued a public statement about its ad criteria. ABC declined to comment on the record for this story. Bustle has reached out to the Academy for comment, and we will update this post when we hear back.)
The ad is "just a new mom, home with her baby and her new body for the first time," Frida Mom wrote. "Yet it was rejected. And we wonder why new moms feel unprepared."
Marie Southard Ospina, a mom of two, tells Bustle that she's not surprised the ad didn't air. "I can’t remember ever seeing honest portrayals of the postpartum experience depicted in ads or in mainstream media when I was expecting (or before or after having children)," she says. "We talk about childbirth being one of the worst types of pain the human body can go through — but I had zero awareness of what might come after. The tearing, the stitches, the blood — so much damn blood — the fear of having a pee or a poo because of all of the above."
Ospina also notes that if you have an epidural or a C-section, you might not be able to sit or walk comfortably for weeks. Yet new parents have to push through the pain because they have newborns who need them. "We don’t talk about this stuff," Opsina says. "Unfortunately, this means so many parents, and especially first-time parents, end up being wholly unprepared for what their bodies and minds are going to face." The controversy over the Frida Mom ad "feels like an extension of the belief that childbirth and postpartum recovery are 'dirty' or 'gross,'" she says.
Dana Mieszala, who recently had her first child, says childbirth should be normalized by now. "Postpartum bodies should be as celebrated as battle wounds or an athlete who just completed a significant event," she says. Not airing ads that show a postpartum mom or hygiene products make people feel ashamed of their bodies. "It sends the message that a postpartum woman needs to be hidden and that it is shameful."
Danielle Campoamor, also a mom of two kids, says the controversy is another example of "how everything we do in life, especially as a person who can get pregnant, is political." (Both Campoamor and Southard Ospina are former staff members of Bustle Digital Group.)
Campoamor gave birth to her youngest child a little more than a year ago, and is still coming to terms with how pregnancy and birth changed her body and her mental health. "It would have been helpful to see a part of that story represented, even if it was in a quick commercial," she says. "But the Academy sent a very clear message last night — you can't be a nominee for Best Director, and you can't be an authentic postpartum mom. Both, apparently, are unsightly."