It might sound like Foucault, Obama, and postpartum have no connection, but they do. Hear me out.
Foucault studies power dynamics and how certain social and political structures can dictate the lives of individuals. For example, isolating women and not allowing them time to heal and bond with their offspring by not having a proper paid maternity leave policy in place, accrues a weight that impacts every aspect of women’s lives. Aesthetic is important in this context because it can be used as an alienating tool. Images of women who just gave birth dieting and working out to “bounce back” are hammered into everyday narratives creating unrealistic expectations.
Because of the path we’ve trailed this far, women were led to believe pain is normal, anxiety is normal, depression is normal, exhaustion is normal, being separated from their newborn is normal. This is where understanding Foucault really helps. Normal is a social construct. If we don’t stop to look at what is going on and stop accepting it as “normal,” we will carry on with a system that disenfranchises women and parents.
This loss of agency through the pivotal events of birth and postpartum is an issue we are repeatedly failing to address. That’s why podcasts like the one Michelle Obama created are undeniably important. Being an international icon, the former First Lady is able to reach millions of people: she chose to use her voice to give power back to our relationships with each other and with ourselves. In her talk with Dr. Malone, she goes through how women are expected to be accommodating, about the unsustainable juggle between motherhood, career, and marriage – to finally conclude that menopause is a liberating event. She concludes with: let’s not go back to normal, let’s do better.