Consumer fetishism

I am generally not a squeamish person. I am not grossed out by things people eat that seem strange to my American sensibilities (I may or may not try them, but I certainly wouldn’t call them weird; all of this is just stuff we’re trained to think about as normal and it varies by culture.) I think the rise of insect cuisine is interesting (and probably necessary in the future for us all, if we want to support billions of humans on a strained planet with a changing climate).

In short, I’m not someone who looks at unfamiliar food practices and says “Ooh, gross!”

But when this eat-your-placenta thing popped up as a popular thing for privileged Americans, I thought, “That’s kind of odd.”

Some will tell you it’s common in other cultures (no, not really, although there are rituals in some cultures about burying the placenta in a special place). Yes, we have observed animals eating placentas after giving birth; this may be an instinct to not waste a source of nutrition, it may be an instinct to hide the evidence of vulnerable offspring being around from predators, we really don’t know.

So – whatever makes you happy.

But “what should I do with my placenta” seems like a problem that arises only for the most privileged among us… and it’s broadened beyond food options, as this mommy-blog post shows us. (And no, I don’t know why a “top ten” list starts with something labeled as the first of nine items. Math is hard.)

It starts with edibles – making placenta capsules, and a lasagna recipe – and then moves on to a placenta bag, which is “suitable as a placenta cover while your Lotus Baby is transitioning, and is lovely to keep the preserved placenta in once your baby has been Lotus Born.” I don’t know what that means, sorry.

You can also buy placenta-based nutritional supplements and skin care products, which don’t even require you to have your own placenta – thanks you, sheep and cows! So now placenta-based wellness is available to all us, even those who forgot to save their placenta (oops!) or are biologically incapable of having one (Hi!).

But the oddest of these is the placenta teddy bear.

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The placenta is treated with sea salt, tannin and egg yolk before it can be made all cuddly and cute.

Just don’t let the family dog get a whiff of it, I think.

So we’ve gone from “some cultures have placenta rituals” to “maybe I would like to do something like that” to “hey, let’s market placenta products to people!” Which is, I suppose, how things go in our consumer-oriented society.

But at this risk of feeling judgmental, this feels like something from a culture that’s staring intensely at its own navel, searching for a way to make every little thing meaningful because meaning is somehow absent. I’m not a parent, so maybe i just don’t understand. But it seems to me that the meaningful thing in all this is that you have just brought a new human being into the world, which is an incredibly meaningful sign of hope in a world that currently doesn’t have much of that on offer, a little package of unknown potential, and a huge responsibility for the next two decades of your life.

That’s pretty amazing. Does anybody need placenta jewelry to make it more so?

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