Yummy Mummies: if the term fails to send a chill down your spine, that’s impressive. It refers to mums, who have been able to maintain a perfect figure, grooming or sense of style, all while being a mother. Summed up: they have managed to stay attractive despite the depredations of maternity!
The term, often equated with wealthy mums pushing prams while in yoga pants, has been thrown about for the last few years. Well, the inevitable has finally happened, and there is now a reality TV show of the same name. The Australian show aired late 2018 on Channel 7 and landed on Netflix this month.
If your first question is ‘should I watch this show?’ the immediate and obvious answer is, No! It is as vapid and trite as it is a celebration of wealth and bickering. As someone who has done everything they can to avoid all of the Desperate Housewives series and Keeping Up With the Kardashians I am appalled at myself for watching all 10 episodes of the show’s first season.
All reviews of the show are just as damning. It is a critical flop, and one that performed so badly with the ratings that it is astounding it was ever renewed for a series two. And yet here we are discussing it. But that is because underneath the shows of wealth and trite conversations the programme provides an interesting glimpse into the Australian class system.
Australians will happily tell you that they have no class system. At first glance this may seem accurate. Certainly, compared to the systematic, traditional ways that class in Britain manifests itself in everything from the education system to your supermarket of choice, Australia’s class divisions are much less apparent.
The show centres around four women, or four ‘Yummy mummies’ all at various stages of their pregnancy. Three, the Melbourne mums, Jane Scandizzo, Rachel Watts, and Lorinska Merrington, already know each other and are close friends. Adelaide mother, Maria Di Geronimo, is the outsider, and sometimes painted as the villain of the show. It is here we see the class divide in full.
There is no difference between the mothers in wealth. The ability to afford luxury brand clothing is a shared trait amongst these women. Utterances of Dior and Chanel are frequent. Push presents, a present you received for giving birth to the baby are an expected luxury. They come in the form of diamond rings (for two of the mothers,) a Range Rover, and two Rolex watches.
The Melbourne mums happily show off their wealth, proud of the attention they garner as they walk down the street. “All eyes are on us,” they merrily tell the camera, free of any qualms.
But Maria, the interloper from Adelaide, is too much. She already shocks the audience with her wardrobe filled with designer clothes. Unabashedly flaunting the Armani, Prada, Gucci, and Versace, her greatest love is Versace. The other mothers gawk at this show of wealth, mocking it openly. The message is clear, they are superior to Maria and her vulgar displays. Yet they are guilty of exactly the same obscenities.
It’s an obvious rift: old money versus the nouveau riches. It suggests that some displays of wealth are valid and to be aspired to, while others are crass and tacky. That old money has culture and tradition behind it, while new money is a simply a spectacle of wealth and desire for status. That the nouveau riches do not deserve this fortune is the message being conveyed.
It’s an age-old divide but one that has everything to do with Australia’s class structure. A structure not only obvious within the show, but in the discourse surrounding it. The Melbourne mothers are described as affluent, while Maria is simply cashed-up; a term suggesting wealth is not her natural state. They are the upper class, Maria is lower class.
The differentiation between Melbourne and Adelaide is also a strong one. Melbourne is widely considered the culture capital of Australia while Adelaide remains a small backwater city at the bottom of the continent.
Thus Australia’s class system is summed up. It is new money versus old money. Australia is a country of great affluence. A boom in the oil ad gas industry saw a widespread growth of wealth for all. Trade positions, from carpentry to work as an electrician are considered just as viable a career option as law. Small businesses thrive, and teachers are well paid. The wealth gap within cities is much smaller than elsewhere in the world. City to country is a different matter entirely.
As a result, the class system within Australia is not so much defined by whether your school was state run or private, but which privately-run school you attended. It isn’t a question of wealth but how that wealth is spent.
It is perhaps best summed up by the Australian term ‘bogan.’ A bogan is akin to an American redneck or a British chav, but with a uniquely Australian spin, of course. Bogans are loud, bogans have no understanding of the subtlety of style or an appreciation for the old and traditional. Maria, herself refers to the other mums as ‘bogan’, because of a countryside inspired baby shower.
But the show is clear in its portrayal. The Melbourne mums have class and style, and their demands for push presents and expectation to look stylish are universal, understandable, and acceptable. Appearing at a friend’s baby shower, showing off your brand-new Range Rover, well that’s fun. Maria’s demands are those of a spoilt child, looking to garishly show off her possessions. Appearing at your own baby shower in a horse drawn cart, well that’s just tacky.
The message is clear, there is a right way and a wrong way to be wealthy. Even if those ways are exactly the same.