It isn’t what you might think. As the NY Times reports today, the post-pregnancy body is being pathologized. It is “deformed.” Of course, there is a cure, albeit one that’s very expensive. But it comes as a package, priced up to $30K or even move, that takes care of all the sagging and/or bulging spots. Hence, the “mom job” or the “mommy makeover.” As the Times says,
In 1970, “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” the seminal guide to women’s health, described the cosmetic changes that can happen during and after pregnancy simply as phenomena. But now narrowing beauty norms are recasting the transformations of motherhood as stigma.
Norms and savy commercial interests, that is.
“The message is that, after having children, women’s bodies change for the worse,” said Diana Zuckerman, the president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, a nonprofit group in Washington. If marketing could turn the postpregnancy body “into a socially unacceptable thing, think of how big your audience would be and how many surgeries you could sell them,” she said.
The procedures (in the US) last year numbered 325,000 up 11% from the year before. Why do mommies go through potentially life-threatening procedures? Perhaps norms, perhaps advertising, perhaps, as one woman interviewed put it, it used to be that men loved their wives no matter what. And so we have a different picture of the Madonna and child.
(Click on the tag “appearance” to see more of Feminist Philosophers on plastic surgery.)
Reader Cassandra sent us this article, on the rise of single-sex state education in the US, particularly in the early teen years. I expected my reaction to be wholly negative, and there’s plenty there to trigger a negative response: Throwing balls to boys when they’re called on to keep their attention! Having girls analyse makeup in chemistry classes! I mean, Stereotypes R US, right? But… one girl who chose single sex classes (over her parents’ protests) talks about how it gave her the confidence boost she needed to be more assertive when she returned to mixed-sex classes. This is just the kind of argument we hear for keeping all-women’s colleges, and feminists are often receptive to these arguments. And: think about the age range we’re discussing. At a very early age, it would look like simply gender indoctrination, and we’ve already got too much of that. But by the early teen years, these forces have already done much of their work and pressure to conform is at its highest. Is it so crazy to suppose that the result of these pressures *could* be boys and girls benefiting from different kinds of classes? And think again about the makeup analysis. Is it really clearly mistaken to use the undeniably widespread teenage girl interest in makeup to get teenage girls interested in chemistry? If pressure to think about makeup could make chemistry cool, wouldn’t this be a good thing? (Similar thoughts apply to the ball-throwing, arguably.) Sure, it would be better to get rid of all the gender-conformity pressure. But since it *is* there right now, we should also try to do the best we can for the kids who are already its victims. Still, of course huge and troubling issues remain: is this just enhancing the gender-conformity pressure? Will boys who don’t like balls and girls who don’t like makeup just find life even harder? I know I myself would have hated the idea. And what about trans-kids? I’m certainly not convinced that this is the right approach– a part of me still hates it quite viscerally, and on balance I still probably oppose it. But I’m surprised to find myself not just dismissing it out of hand.