“Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged”
We are all familiar with the sacred edict issued from ‘above’. And, why such an ominous warning? Well, let’s face it, casting out moral judgment isn’t humanity’s typical outlet, for demonstrating kindness and compassion to one another (See: the Salem Witch Trials, the Inquisition, hate crimes, declarations of eternal damnation; you catch my drift.)
In the modern climate of political correctness, the notion of issuing judgment, or appearing “judgy,” has become utterly taboo. Nonetheless, we obviously haven’t lost the need for exercising a little judgment, now and again. Throughout our evolution we’ve had to judge the world around us, for sheer survival’s sake. From locating fertile land to being aware of potential poisons; from establishing effective building materials, to determining the locations on which to build our cities; we’ve long had to utilize our judgment, as a means to an end.
Of course, we’ve also had to judge one another.
Our entire modern, criminal- justice system is based on the concept of judgment. When an individual, (in most societies) commits certain acts, society, represented by a judge and/or jury, maintains the right to hold a trial, exercise judgment and, if guilt has been determined, enforce a penalty. Much of the world depends on this system, for maintaining order.
Arguably, we place faith in this arrangement, based on some universally, accepted notions of right and wrong. The fact that virtually all of the world’s major governments and religions, pretty much agree on a core standard of conduct, (killing is wrong, stealing is wrong, raping is wrong) indicates, on some general level, the existence of an “essence” for human morality.
It makes me nervous, that I am implying there is any real legitimacy to religions, especially, judging what is right and moral. After all, religious judgment has been at the root of tremendous slaughter and persecution, and a driving force for, women’s and homosexual’s, inequality, throughout most of the world and human history.
Of course, even as many major religions offer guidance in how to judge, they also warn us not to. Understandably so, casting judgment can be dangerous water to tread in. One may easily be swept away, by the currents of moral, self-righteousness.
But, that doesn’t mean we should be erasing morals, all together. We still have to maintain some kind of order, and respect for one another. Group morality is still vital for functioning co-existence, especially as our numbers swell to nearly 7billion, of the same species, sharing a planet.
Currently, there has arisen the need for a reexamination of social mores. This necessity has been greatly amplified, with the advent of the information technology age. We now have access to other humans on a massive, previously, unimaginable scale, via social media.
We don’t yet know the full ramifications of all this exposure, and insight into the finite details of one another’s thoughts, images and lives, that sites like, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, now afford us. But, one thing is abundantly clear. These days, we have monumental freedom to broadcast ourselves to the world.
With great freedom, comes great responsibility.
Sadly, despite such a wondrous opportunity for communication, in a brand, new dimension, we regularly see more, narrow minded, self-centeredness, than ever before. Images and words are pumped forth, relentlessly, into social media. Often with little regard for how they may impact, or be interpreted by, others.
The internet and social media are first and foremost, tools. And, like many of the tools created by human hands, irresponsible or reckless use, can lead to injury. If someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol hops into a car and mows someone down, they are culpable and face judgment.
Maybe we need to consider adopting a similar attitude, when it comes to the interwebs.
Media hype surrounding the so-called “mommy wars,” defined by the inclination to judge others’ parenting choices, is certainly contributing to the back lash against being considered “judgy”.
What lies at the root of the ‘mommy wars,’ is, virtually, every parent’s insecurity, that we are not doing exactly the best thing for our child(ren). It’s logical that parents will be prone to judging each other, when they’re confronted with differing parenting techniques. It stands to reason, we all want to believe we are doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time, for our kids.
To accept that there are other ways doing things, forces us to question whether our own methods are the preferred ones, for ensuring happy, healthy, successful children. (That is still the goal of parenting right? Sometimes, TV shows like “Toddlers & Tiaras” make me question even that. But, I digress.)
Self critique and introspection may be uncomfortable. So, we express our insecurities outwardly in the ways our judgment manifests, often in a negative, even destructive manner. Nowadays, the resounding message is, that we must never, ever judge one another. We are repeatedly being told, that social judgment is harmful, and used only for tearing others down.
Underneath it all, (go on, you can admit it) as much as we may try and idealize, we continue to make judgments against things we disagree with, or find morally reprehensible. We just can’t help ourselves.
We will, most-likely, continue to always judge, and be judged by, what we dislike about one another. It’s unavoidable. Vegetarian vs meat-eater, pro choice vs pro life, ‘punk’ vs ‘prep’, liberal vs conservative, whatever our perspective, someone is bound to disapprove and judge. (I am deliberately excluding any kind of judgment based on racial, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or faith based, prejudice or stereotyping. That’s just plain, inexcusable ignorance.)
The key is to prevent ourselves from deciding that a person is bad, simply because, we believe, they’ve made a bad choice.
This is a particularly big challenge, as it requires practicing considerable empathy. However, that’s something we should continually strive for. To understand each other, without having to blindly accept everything, everyone else does, as ok.
The real issue with discouraging judgment all together, is that we are stopping the conversation too soon. The sentiment has become: “Judge not.” Period. We’ve forgotten the other piece to the puzzle.
Judgment has a destination.
We judge in court to get to a suitable penalty. We judge many aspects of the world around us, in order to better interact with, and make use of it. We are supposed to judge. It’s part of human nature. But then we are supposed to do something with that judgment.
Even in the social sphere, none of us believing, that there is ever a time to pronounce judgment, would mean people were generally free to do whatever the hell they want, at whatever the cost to anyone, and everyone else. (which is, pretty much, where we are headed now)
This ultimately won’t work, for all the same reasons anarchy doesn’t. Even in the freest of societies, there is nothing wrong with a little conscientiousness. In fact, the success of a free society depends upon it.
The information age is revolutionizing social interaction and thus dictates that we need to reexamine social mores. Judgment has long been, and will remain, a tool for human interaction, with each other, and with the world around us. It should be embraced for its potential, to aid, in self and group improvement.
An existence totally free of judgment is impossible. Pursuing it, a pointless ruse.
Our goal shouldn’t be a world free of all judgment. It should be a world full of responsible, informed, empathetic, compassionate and most importantly productive judgment. It’s not about having no judgement, it’s about exercising good judgment.
Let me put it this way, how often are we told to, and must, “use our best judgment”?
As a parent how often does one have to make a judgment for their child?
90% of parenting is love. The other 10% is, patience and judgment. That is our charge as parents, to exercise good judgment in the choices we make for our children, and to teach them to do the same.
I am not meaning to suggest, that we should all be steered towards being judgmental. Merely, that when we are inevitably faced with our natural inclination towards judging, we should embrace it as an opportunity to explore what we can do to better interact with, and improve upon, our world. After all, we have to live up to our own ideals don’t we?
We mustn’t forget, judgment is supposed to get us somewhere.
We need to begin to differentiate, between productive and counterproductive judgment. What we dislike we should improve upon. The exercise becomes: how to turn our judgment inwardly.
If I make a judgment, that I think someone is doing something wrong, then I must simultaneously ask myself, “How can I take some type of positive action, that works to right that wrong?” I can’t simply condemn what I disapprove of, and shuffle along, shaking my head on the way out.
Shake my head and judge, is exactly what I did, when I saw a picture* recently making its rounds via various broadcast, and social media, outlets.
The image, initially posted to a personal following of 300,000 people on Instagram, before it went viral, featured a gorgeous woman.
She was posed in front of a full length mirror, phone in hand. She stood partially perched on tip toe, as if ready to take flight. Her long hair wafted, like an ebony cloud, behind her. A black, push up bra and matching, lacy panties, were the singular items of clothing, outlining her supermodel physique.
The eyebrows on her lovely visage were arced, in a pleasant way. Her mouth, though partially obstructed by her phone, was smiling with a hint of smirk. Her right arm was akimbo, hand resting, lightly on hip. The fingers of that hand, swept gracefully upwards, leading to the periphery of her belly, tan and taut. She was a vision of feminine beauty.
The caption beneath her image** read:
“I feel so empty… 4 days after [giving] birth,”
*SCCCCRRRRRRREEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIKKKKKKKKKK* (that’s the sound of record the stopping)
Say whaaaaaaaaa??? Hunh?!??!!!
As the mother of 3 children, the youngest of whom was only 16 weeks at the time I saw this photo, to say this image, and it’s accompanying caption, left me with an intense, emotional reaction and many, many questions, is to be quite genteel about it.
“What’s the point of posing in her underwear, to 300,000 people, just to advertise the ‘emptiness’ she feels, immediately after birthing her baby?” I wondered.
Moreso, “Does she realize how her passive, aggressive gloating to the rest of the world has, at the same time, exposed her own shocking, self-absorption?”
Ok, so let’s put aside my immediate, visceral reaction to this woman’s, (we’ll call her “4 days post partum mom” or ‘4dpp’) image and message, and just examine the facts. She is 96 hours post partum, from a presumably vaginal birth (we’ll go ahead and make that assumption, since she has no c-section scar, and she didn’t sneeze a baby out). Women bleed for, hmmmmm…about 6 weeks after a vaginal delivery.
6 weeks of hardcore bleeding, worse than any period (hey, just keepin’ it real, y’all). During this time we wear specialized maxi-pads, which are, roughly, the length and width of a cereal box.
Did I mention this goes on for 6 weeks?? I can’t be sure what kind of camera trickery one might utilize, to create such a perfect illusion of ‘unaffectedness,’ as what ‘4dpp’ achieves in the image. But, in any case, mission accomplished. Moving on….
Unless she had been quite underweight to start, this woman’s svelte form shows virtually no signs of having gained the recommended 25-35 lbs, which most women are typically advised to gain, while pregnant. Combined with a complete absence of any visible stretch marks, this makes her look as though she’s never been pregnant, at all. As incredible as that is, and congratulations to her, that is far from the normal result, which the majority of mothers experience immediately after pregnancy and childbirth.
This woman obviously works out, and probably did throughout her pregnancy. However, it’s important to keep in mind, that although moderate exercise can be enjoyed not long after giving birth, working out too hard, inside of the first couple of weeks to months after delivering, a woman can not only increase her bleeding, she stands greater risk of injury due to the loose ligaments and joints, caused by the relaxin hormone released during pregnancy. (Relaxin allows joints in knees and feet to expand, to accommodate the weight of the baby and allows hips to open and flex during birth).
Do you see what I’m getting at here? ‘4dpp,’ in her zeal to show the world how ‘empty’ she feels, and with apparent obliviousness to her own genetic good fortune, has taken a totally unrealistic, fantastical and dangerous message, and broadcast it to the world. A message which will be, most likely, internalized by throngs of women and girls. That: “You too, can (and probably should), look like this 4 days after having a baby.”
Moreover, “You should want to.”
That’s pretty terrifying.
We inhabit a day and age where women have become so dangerously obsessed with losing post partum weight, that terms like “pregorexia” are finding their way into mainstream usage. *yikes*
No little girl should ever see the picture, of a woman, 4 days post partum, posed in her bra and panties, baby nowhere in sight, looking like a supermodel, and be left with the impression that this is a facade she should preoccupy herself with replicating, immediately after having a baby.
Yet, our world is inundated with images like these. They are spewed forth into mainstream media by scores of celebrity mothers and wannabes who, under the insane pressures of the show business aesthetic, and thanks to weight loss resources not always accessible to the average jane, have lost the baby weight incredibly fast. Or, simply never gain it to begin with.
These moms, sometimes by default of their celebrity status and having their lives continuously documented, but just as often from simply gloating, are then spreading the message that all moms, normal everyday women, should also be making this their goal.
Let health be the goal. Let happiness be the goal. Let simply reveling in motherhood be the goal.
One side of the feminist in me says of ‘4dpp’s picture, “It’s her body, she can do what she wants with it.” The other side of that same feminist voice says, “She is, consciously or not, contributing to a message, that encourages women and mothers to rip each other and themselves apart, on an even darker scale than ever before.” She’s broadcasting the twisted ideal, that a woman’s first and foremost priority, no matter the magnitude of her accomplishments (in this case, creating life) should continue to always be, her appearance.
All the while the mother in me is screaming, “Womb-an!! Where is your BABY?!?!!? If you feel so ‘empty,’ how about filling your arms with that wonder of nature and infinite potential, you’ve just created!?!”
The mother in me laments, “Lady, it would appear, that you have completely missed the point. It’s not about you anymore. Its about your child”.
Some may say this is an unfair sentiment to make, because her child is, hopefully, in the next room happily sleeping and well cared for and loved. But here’s where I take issue with what this image is really saying.
Part of becoming a parent is embracing the view, that every action you take, is an act of parenting your child. Every act becomes an accountable act. Everything you do, helps determine the children you end up putting out into the world, and just as important, helps shape the world that you create for your children.
What ‘4dpp’ mom, and many celebrities like her, appear to be manifesting, is a great loss in the battle for advancing woman and mother-kind. Her one quick “selfie’ embodied a great defeat for the little girls of today, who will one day become the mothers of tomorrow. I shudder to think that the suffragettes of the late 19th and early 20th century, and later the feminists of the 60’s 70’s & 80’s, fought the battles they did, so that one genetic anomaly can tout her supermodel physique, across the internet, under the guise of “feeling empty,” 4 days after giving birth, and everyone is expected to be utterly blasé about the whole thing.
This woman has, intentionally or not, basically hammered another nail into the coffin of confused priorities, that has buried the true essence of empowered motherhood and feminism.
Women who’ve just had a baby, and those newborn infants, are among the last truly sacred things we have in this world. Those first few weeks post partum, are a spectacular time when we get to bask in the magic of what our bodies can do, what they can create.
Beyond being sexual beings, women are creators. That is something, truly worthy of awe and wonder. Sex is the means to the mystical end. Life.
We worship a variety of versions of invisible God(s) in the sky, and yet, women happen to share that God-like power, of genesis and creation, right there in our little bellies.
Not to be gettin’ all metaphysical and shit, but…….To be pregnant, is to literally be at one with the life forces of the Universe. It’s a brand-new, human life, created from simply the combination of 23 chromosome pairs, and the food the mother eats over 9 months. It is an unbelievably ‘trippy’ and magnificent process.
To send the message that the very second a woman is no longer pregnant, and even during her pregnancy, she should be totally preoccupied with “how good she looks,” is neglecting the true wonder and power of pregnancy and motherhood. It’s doing a great disservice, to the very purpose of that sexy, female body and its incredible capabilities. To send such a message is basically a form of bullying.
“Great! Good for you girlfriend! You look amazing! You are truly a wondrous physical specimen! That’s one hell of a body you are lucky enough to inhabit! I’m going to totally ignore the fact, that a live human just popped out of it 96 hours ago!”
Is that the reaction we are supposed to have?
We have an old tactic, taking on a new manifestation of violence against women; this new psychological, one might even say, spiritual violence, we are allowing against the sanctity of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. If new moms want to parade their ‘hotness’ instead of cuddling their baby 4 days after giving birth, then that is 100% their prerogative.
However, once that choice is taken into the public domain of a 300,000 person internet following (and by default, through social media, on to millions), there is a factor of culpability to one’s larger community of fellow humans.
This mom, ‘4dpp’, and many others like her, who feel so compelled to boast of how quickly they’ve shed the baby weight, have committed a criminal act against all women, mothers, and daughters of the world; ‘The Crime of Petty Distraction.’
This crime should be judged, as reckless, self centered and short-sighted to start.
The world continues to judge us, as women and mothers. And, we continue to put ourselves out there to be judged (see: ‘The Bachelor,’ every courtroom drama show on TV, every women’s magazine cover, ever, and of course people like our friend ‘4dpp’).
Even as we shun the notion of being “judgy”, we are judging each other, for our perceived lack of, or overabundance of judging…and round and round we go, where we stop nobody knows.
Well, I personally refuse, to be blindly supportive of every decision, every person makes, in the name of “non-judgment”.
I think potentially, just as great as the damage done from negative judgment, is the loss of a sense of community by a complete absence of judgment. If only ‘4dpp’ mom had stopped to think that perhaps, her community of fellow women, mothers, humans, weren’t going to all be impressed by her instantly “hot” post partum physique. Or, more importantly, if she had but briefly considered, the dangerous message she was perpetuating. In other words, if she, and others with her same mentality, had exercised better judgment, we wouldn’t have the necessity for a word which describes pregnant women starving themselves, and thus their fetus, in the name of “beauty.”
These days, we’ve adopted a “laissez-faire” attitude. We totally embrace, even applaud, the self-absorbed, braggart (see: ‘Cribs’ ‘My super sweet 16′ and pretty much all of MTV’s other programming). The end result is that for every person who, like myself, finds fault with images like the one of ‘4dpp’, there are just as many people who are jealous, even impressed, or instantly made to feel insecure. In other words, we’ve all been “affected.”
So….Did that come across as ‘Judgy’?
It should. I am judging. I’m judging that what ‘4dpp’ mom, did was thoughtless, egomaniacal, an act of aggression against her own kind. I make no apologies for judging that her action was, in my opinion, morally wrong.
But, that doesn’t mean I think she is bad.
(Here, is where empathy really comes into play)
What if, the reason ‘4dpp’ seems to have, I believe, so glaringly missed the point of what it meant for her to become a mother just 4 days prior, is that her own self-worth and perceptions have been badly warped by negative messages?
She may have been a victim of bullying or abuse. She may have been made to feel terribly insecure, and now needs acceptance and acclaim constantly, and from everyone. She may have felt undue pressure to maintain her appearance, by the media or other influences. I can imagine any number of scenarios, that would lead to this type of attention seeking behavior. Now as a result, she knows no other way, than to project her own subconscious need for praise and affirmation onto the masses.
Then, I cannot judge her. I can only judge her action, and the possible circumstances which led up to that action.
Though someone may have “their own prerogative” doesn’t mean their decision making is coming from a good and true place.
I can empathize. But I will not sympathize. I will judge, and I will judge without reservation.
And, as I judge, what I perceive to be a wrong in the world, I ask myself how I might counteract it.
If I believe ‘4dpp’s’ actions may be, in part, due to a lack of positive messages, then what can I do about that?
The beauty of a free society and all this digitized, social media access, is, that I am equally free, to thwart, what I judge to be wrong, with my own message. That is part of why I am writing these words. This is my way of fighting back.
My judgment against the actions of ‘4dpp’ and her compatriots, has led me to want to balance the equation, with a message of my own.
My message is, #momsbeauty.
A shout out and a call to action, to the mothers of the world: To show us, via all the various tools of social media available to them, the moments of real beauty in motherhood. Beauty, as defined by motherhood, not the “hollywood” aesthetic. I’m asking moms everywhere to open up and let the world see them in some of their most incredibly personal, but also proudest, most powerful moments. Moments in which no matter what mainstream media might tell us motherhood is supposed to look like, they felt beautiful.
Accompanying this essay are some of the initial submissions to this “photo-moming” effort. Alongside the pictures, are brief captions, written by the moms themselves, describing the moment depicted. These images, and their sentiments, are quite resonating to me. I cried with each new one I received, both for their beauty, and out of gratitude for the openness these mamas have shown me, and you. What amazed me the most as they filtered in, was how unique each mother’s interpretation of #momsbeauty is. A fact that should not be casually overlooked, in a day when, homogenous, beauty ideals remain all the rage.
Maybe I don’t have a 300,000 person following, or even a 100 person following. It is simply my hope, that just by virtue of creating this message and putting it out into the world, I have made a positive contribution, in some way, to contesting what I disagree with.
My challenge in facing ‘4dpp’s message, and the other ones like it, is to manage my judgment from an empathetic and productive stand point. It is our duty, if we are going to make a judgment, to counteract what we dislike with an opposition, based in empathy. Not counteraction through negativity, physical or penalizing force; but by that of our own, constructive energy.
When I judge the actions of an individual such as ‘4dpp’, I am judging that she has done something irresponsible and self centered, with rippling negative consequences. I am not judging her as a bad person, or a bad mother.
What I am judging, is that she has not acted in the best interest of her community, of women and mothers. I am also allowing my judgment to be guided by empathy, and following it up with, I believe, positive counteraction.
Being free of judgment is not a realistic end. Being able to use our judgment, as a tool to motivate us in productive ways, is perhaps a more reasonable goal.
I am all for withholding judgment, against the decisions people make, which, for the most part, impact themselves and their families alone (like, whom you choose to love or where you choose to live, what you do for work, what you choose to eat, or when, where, how and with whom you choose to raise your children). But, when you take an action and broadcast it to an audience of 300,000+, compounded into millions, by virtue of social media, there should be some awareness and sense of responsibility. This applies to all of us.
We all have to share this planet, no man, woman or, perhaps most importantly, child, is an island. We are interconnected because, we are built to be.
With social-media technology rapidly advancing, we need to be encouraging a sense accountability, and an appreciation for how our messages can impact the greater human community at large. I do believe judgment is an important tool for accomplishing that.
We are more in touch with, and aware of, the most finite personal details of each other’s lives, even as we remain strangers to one another. We will vulgarly insult and viciously argue to the teeth, behind the glow of a screen. Yet, we’re hardly able to articulate an “excuse me” when someone bumps us along the street. There is an unsustainability in the way we are communicating and interacting with one another these days, which must be dealt with.
Additionally, we must learn to follow through on our judgment, by turning it inwardly. As we judge, we must simultaneously hold ourselves to a higher standard.
I don’t want my daughter receiving messages like the ones ‘4dpp’, and others, have sent. But no doubt she will, to some degree, just by virtue of them being out there.
But hey, now #momsbeauty is out there, too. And I believe, that really does count for something.
No matter how #momsbeauty is received, and regardless of what kind of judgment my message may face, at least, my personal judgment, has found its destination.
*There are so many images out there that could’ve been inserted here, but this one struck a particularly personal and resonating chord, and so I chose to focus on it alone.
**I have chosen not to include the actual image I am describing in the interest of not giving its negative message more attention, than I already have. If you care that much, and haven’t already seen it, you could go find it, but my description is pretty accurate. :)
If you would like your own image of #momsbeauty included on Takes A Village, please email it to email@example.com. When do you feel most beautiful?
Do you judge? Do you find fault with others judging? Have you experienced being judged? How do you interpret ‘productive’ judgment?
Let us know your thoughts on this issue, in the comments section below!