Introducing the Weekly WTF
A safe place for feelings of rage, bafflement, wonder, and disbelief.
I consider myself a serious cultural critic. I pride myself on my ability to view Instagram posts, ads, and stories as texts worthy of careful, intellectual interrogation, and I enjoy the work of searching for meaning in bits of media that typically grab my attention because they trigger amorphous, nebulous, sometimes messy emotional responses. And that’s the thing. I’m not a robot, so as much as I can explain to myself and to readers that this example of momfluencer culture is a product of toxic white feminism or this example of momfluencer culture illustrates the death grip of consumerism and capitalism, at the end of the day, sometimes I crave the human release of a full-throated what the actual fuck. So every week, I’ll use this space for my WTFs.
PLEASE email me your own WTF nominations! The mamasphere is vast and I’m but one solitary soul bobbing about in a turbulent sea of terracotta colored onesies, beachy blonde waves, and cute bump pics.
So. Without further ado, here’s my Weekly WTF.
The first thing that sets my teeth on edge is the the Fond Maternal Smile because almost as soon as I gave birth, I realized that Fond Maternal Smiles were a myth just like unicorns and my mouth’s inability to form itself into the right kind of Fond Maternal Smile caused me significant emotional turmoil in the first few months of motherhood.
And while I will fight anyone who dares to tell me this brand of Fond Maternal Smile is real, I will fight even harder if someone thinks a Fond Maternal Smile of this caliber could exist in this particular setting. There are 1, 2, 3 fragile, breakable, delicate objects on the table. Look how close the kid’s elbow is to two of those breakable objects! Plus there’s the silk dress! There’s the upholstered chair! So many stain-able materials. I can only speak for myself, but were I in a similar situation, my jaw would likely be clenched, making a Fond Maternal Smile physiologically impossible.
The next photo in the carousel makes me realize that my initial critique about childproof settings was all wrong because I think this is a Nescafe ad.
The last photo confirms that this is indeed a Nescafe ad.
Let’s peruse the caption: “glimpses of life, silk dresses and hot coffee, gilded doors and painted vases 🌹”
I see a silk dress, I see gilded doors, and I see a cup of Nescafe coffee (although whether or not it’s actually hot is debatable given the time this photo shoot must’ve taken). But I do not see a “glimpse of life.”
First of all, it’s not a glimpse. It’s a deliberately posed and deliberately captured image. It’s a full-on stare. Or ogle. Or gaze. But it’s NOT a glimpse.
And then there’s “life.” Does this photo reflect “life?”
Or is this a painstakingly posed photograph meant to evoke a way of life that was entirely upheld by other people’s labor? A way of life in which a wealthy, white mother might be served hot beverages by someone else in rooms cleaned by someone else next to flower vases filled by someone else. And then relish a brief maternal exchange with her offspring before handing said offspring off to someone else. It’s weird to think that these images, celebrated in so many old pictures painted by men and memorialized in so many poems written by men, have so little to do with the subject herself, and so much more to do with the sweat and toil of others.
In this case, I guess, the sweat and toil might all be Gretchen’s: searching for the right silk gown, purchasing the right silk gown, choosing the right silk gown from her closet which surely must contain other silk gowns. Steaming the silk gown? Styling her hair, applying her makeup, testing the light in this corner, then in this corner. Experimenting with photo composition, resetting the camera timer. Coaxing the kid to cooperate. Deciding her pensive expression is all wrong and she should aim for wistfulness instead.
In short, nostalgic images like this might be someone’s cup of tea which is great and fine! But for me, all I see is work and effort and I feel weary. My brain launches into a tiresome monologue about how none of this is real and it’s all just performance and what’s the point and sooner or later I’m annoyed at myself for consuming such content in the first place.
I’d rather just watch Bridgerton.