Sunday, 5 July 2015

That Yummy Mummy label...

As I state in my profile, I am not a big fan of people pigeon holing me. One of my least favourite of all the boxes I tend to get stuffed into is the one labelled 'Yummy Mummy' ('YM').

YM is a term that bugs me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s set up to sound complimentary, but is actually used primarily as a snide put down (particularly by other women – men seem to use it more at face value). Secondly, it judges women by their looks alone (Personality? Brains? Character? What are those?), and manages to be faintly patronising in doing so (you mean she’s yummy EVEN THOUGH she’s a Mummy? Blimey!). Thirdly, it creates an ‘ideal’ that more insecure women (and even those with a pretty robust self-image) spend unnecessary amounts of time worrying about – even if they don’t want to be a Yummy Mummy, they still want to be yummy. I know I do.  Fourthly, I really don’t identify with the type of woman it describes, which, a collation of Google results tells me, can be distilled to the following attributes:

Appearance: Slim with glossy hair, manicured nails and no under-eye bags in evidence (probably surgically removed)
Wears: Well-fitting designer wear and heels. Sunglasses, even in winter
Drives: Range Rover (or variations on the large, expensive 4x4 theme)
Pushchair: Bugaboo, or something similarly pricey
Drinks: Skinny soy latté (with hazelnut syrup, if feeling naughty)
Shops: Boutiques and Whole Foods or Waitrose and high-end high street if pushed
Children's names: Allegory, Flint, Campanula or other similarly outlandish concoctions
Childcare: Nanny and/or boarding school (though YM doesn't work herself)
Married to: Banker, or any other role that earns £££

I think in recent years, some people have expanded the definition to describe any middle-class mother who deigns to take an oversized buggy into a coffee shop at some point in her mothering career. This is the only reason I can think of that I might be included in the YM clique: I rarely leave the house with any make up on, I never dry my hair, and I don't think my nails have all been the same length since I was pregnant with Duckling. I don't actively go out of my way to look a frump (and I do make a bit of an effort for work), but my appearance is certainly no longer as high up my priority list as it once was, both because I lack the time to beautify (no nanny for me), but also because Duckling is my primary companion most of the time, and a) stopping him committing Hari Kari with a propelling pencil is more important than thinking about my lipstick and b) he wouldn't care if I were wearing a bin liner, as long as he could still get at the boobs. Also, it's worth noting, before you point out that my son has an outlandish name, that Duckling is a pseudonym (though I kind of wish it were real).

Beyond its aesthetic connotations though, the thing that really annoys me about being branded a YM, is just how meaningless is actually is. Yes, certainly, there are some mothers out there who tick every box on the attribute list above, simply because the world is a very big place and there’s always going to be someone who fits whatever crazy profile you invent (grumpy one-legged accountant named Jim? Yep, he lives in Kidderminster.). In fact, there are probably quite a lot of women who tick 75% or more, particularly in the celebrity / London and Home Counties set – stereotypes are after all based on some kind of general trend. Just because someone fits all the attributes however, doesn’t mean this defines their character: everybody adopts behaviours appropriate to the prevailing environment to some degree. The implication of YM is “beautiful but shallow and spoiled”. Sometimes this may be true, sometimes not. Maybe a ‘YM’ seems vacuous in one area, but shows tremendous depth in another, or seems snobby and entitled in comparison to one person, but not when put alongside another. We are complex beings, even the most apparently air-brained amongst us, and while stereotypes serve a purpose (humans need to categorise to make sense of the world), only the most dim-witted and prejudiced fail to see beyond them when faced with a real person.

So when I say “don’t call me a Yummy Mummy or I’ll hit you,” it’s in part because I don’t like the implication that I’m vain, but mostly because it tells me that you’ve not really bothered to get to know me at all.

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