The XX Factor

Placenta-Eating a Step Too Far

January Jones.
Count Mad Men’s January Jones among the modern placenta-eating mothers?

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

When I was a wee lass of around 7 years old, my cat gave birth under my bed, and I, being a curious sort, crawled under there with her to watch the whole glorious event. I distinctly remember the placenta-eating portion of the event, because it was cool to see my cat chew through this disgusting bag of viscera only to reveal the cute but wet kitten inside. But while I appreciated her efforts, it never occurred to me to view my little striped friend as a role model. After all, she ate off the floor and pooped in the garden. Which is why I’m concerned to see placenta-eating getting added to the list of things new mothers must absolutely do, on pain of being judged forevermore as bad mothers by the ever-vigilant crunchy-mom mafia. Even January Jones is doing it! If this becomes a thing, what next will women have to do to prove they are communing properly with their maternal side? Will the mothers of Park Slope soon be copping squats in the garden while the rest of the non-mother population continues to enjoy the benefits of indoor plumbing?

Many to most members of crunchy-mom mafia tend to identify as “feminist,” which has proven to be a remarkable shield that largely prevents observers from noticing that each new item on the must-do list increases the burdens and demands on mothers, who already have a full plate living in a sexist society that doesn’t really do much to make it easier for women raising small children. It started with the shaming of women who use pain relievers during childbirth, and then expanded into painting women who don’t breast feed as monsters, no matter how difficult or inconvenient it is for them to do it. Now with the whole “attachment parenting” trend, we’re veering into territory where women are being made to feel that if they return to work or want time to themselves, they’re going to raise sociopaths. And now placenta-eating, i.e. the consumption of human organs by actual humans. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like the crunchy-mom movement has graduated from putting women into the kitchen to easing them into animal status. 

Look, I love organic produce as much as the next middle class hipster liberal in her mid-30s, but there has to be a limit to this stuff. Because something is animalistic or natural doesn’t make it good, which is why I’m a fan of everything from the invention of the building to the iPhone. Even in cultures where there was a legitimate calorie shortage that might have justified placenta-eating, people have refrained, because frankly, ew. That the burdens of getting “natural” fall nearly exclusively on the shoulders of women—especially when babies come—is reason enough to take a step back and wonder if this isn’t the same old oppression of women repackaged in shiny new organic wrapping.