If you watched the Oscars on ABC earlier this month, something rather important was missing from the broadcast. No, I’m not talking about a host. I’m talking about Frida Mom‘s ad elevating conversation around the realities of postpartum recovery, which was rejected from running during the Academy Awards because it was deemed “too graphic.”
Frida, which originated as a brand of care products to support parents and their little ones (known as Frida Baby), released their Frida Mom collection to offer women the “hospital bag” necessities they need to assuage as much labor and postpartum discomfort as possible. Their products include disposable postpartum underwear for perineal or c-section recovery, an upside down peri bottle to easily cleanse and relieve the perineum, witch hazel cooling pad liners and healing foam, and more. Chelsea Hirschhorn, CEO of Frida and dear Mama Glow friend, told us “This past summer, we launched Frida Mom to prepare women for the physical transformation that coincides with a delicate physical transition into motherhood. Our products help women navigate the otherwise daunting postpartum recovery process. In service of that mission, we created a raw and honest portrayal of what women can expect to experience.”
You only need to watch the 60-second commercial once to recognize its mission and appreciate that Frida Mom, in producing it, was seizing an opportunity to reach as many moms (past, present, and future) as possible to let them know that postpartum doesn’t have to be the isolating and overwhelming experience that so many continue to face. Hirschhorn said that they targeted the Oscar’s audience with their ad because “The spirit of the Oscars is to recognize storytelling at the highest level, and so we assumed that the raw authenticity and emotion of our ad would warrant distribution to its audience of 18 million women.”And yet, while the industry remains ever-willing to depict the sensuality of a woman’s body, the act of childbirth in film is almost always watered down and danced around, a choice undoubtedly made in favor of the male gaze rather than a female audience who could actually learn from and feel seen by a more honest and realistic representation.
When the ad was banned from airing on ABC during the Oscars broadcast, Hirschhorn said “We weren’t surprised it was ultimately flagged because it’s the unfortunate reality of the filtered world we live in. However, when the rejection was communicated via e-mail in the context of an analogy between feminine hygiene and ‘guns, ammunition’ and ‘lewd or sexual’ content, we began to explore alternative tactics to amplify the message.” Hirshhorn acknowledged that “this latest Oscars rejection feels like a small step backward from a channel that has the audience and reach to meaningfully further this progress,” but asserted that it did not deter the Frida Mom team from finding other channels to reach their intended audience and make a difference.
Frida Mom took to social media to share their message by uploading the video to their Instagram account, which currently boasts over 123,000 followers. Before the minute-long commercial begins, they have included a message explaining the rejection to anyone who isn’t already privy to the controversy. It reads:
“The ad you’re about to watch was rejected by ABC & the Oscars from airing during this year’s award show. It’s not ‘violent, political’ or sexual in nature. Our ad is not ‘religious or lewd’ and does not portray ‘guns or ammunition.’ ‘Feminine hygiene & hemorrhoid relief’ are also banned subjects. It’s just a new mom, home with her baby and her new body for the first time. Yet it was rejected. And we wonder why new moms feel unprepared. We make products that help women prepare for postpartum recovery. We’re Frida Mom.”
The video, which was shared on February 6, is already approaching 500,000 views on Instagram and almost 4 million views on YouTube. Its message has been shared by celebrities including Busy Phillipps and Ashley Graham, who became a mom earlier this month and has shared her experience using Frida Mom products for postpartum recovery on her own social media platform. Hirschhorn told us “The response has been unrivaled. We’ve mobilized a broader base of passionate brand evangelists than we could have ever imagined. We’ve had a seismic impact that has made waves, not only moms across the globe, but medical professionals in the obstetrics and gynecologic field, our retail partners like Target, Walgreens and CVS, celebrity brand ambassadors with no vested financial interest, and of course our Frida Fans – all of whom are committed to using their platforms, regardless of how big or small, to further our mission.”
The momentum of Frida Mom’s ad proves that while the Oscars did not allow it to run for their February 9 audience’s viewership, its message and intention have been anything but “rejected.” “Among the women who engage with our brand,” Hirschhorn says, “these issues are not taboo. It’s the antiquated policies espoused by the companies and organization that control what gets shown and what doesn’t are what feel taboo. They’re outdated and no longer reflect the candor people want from brands like ours. This is a welcome reminder that we still have a long way to go.” Together, we must continue to find and create spaces where women and their bodies can be celebrated and supported in the miraculous, life-bringing work that they do, never shamed or silenced.
We asked Hirschhorn what her hopes are for how mainstream media and advertising represent pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum recovery in the future. Her response? “Women should feel safe in sharing the realities of their experiences, totally free from judgment – knowledge is confidence and confidence during that delicate stage of new parenthood can mean the difference between a good experience and a debilitating and isolating experience. To that end, online and offline advertising platforms can think more liberally about what is an “acceptable” way to communicate regardless of the sensitive nature of the content or topic without such rigid censorship-like guardrails that incorporate outdated cultural norms and aren’t reflective of the progress we’ve made culturally.” And when they finally catch up, we know Frida Mom will be leading their way.
Check out Frida Mom’s postpartum ad below: