The Mom Job

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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.

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(Click on the tag “appearance” to see more of Feminist Philosophers on plastic surgery.)

6 thoughts on “The Mom Job

  1. What’s also interesting about this phenomenon is that it is occurring at a time when fewer and fewer women in the West are having children at all, and most of those who do are having only one or two. If that is a matter of choice, then it is all to the good. But if women are encouraged to think that pregnancy and breastfeeding are deforming, then they may choose not to have children as the result of a commercially-generated abhorrence of maternity. Meanwhile, where does that leave women who DO have children, and either cannot afford or do not want to have their bodies surgically transformed? Talk about the abjected body ….

  2. Yes, I was quite struck by the standard Times focus on the rather, um, unusual among women. That is, those who can afford to and have time to hire a personal trainer while raising two kids; those who spend thousands on these surgeries. It would be interesting to see an article on the impact of these pressures on those without such resources. It’s also interesting, quite separately, to see both maternity being fetishized (celebrity bump mania, etc) at the same time that it’s being pathologized. And both, as Introvertica notes, at a time when actual maternity is declining in the West.

  3. It is interesting that it is occurring at a time when women are having fewer children. I’m a bit less clear on what this says. My memory of being around mommies and mommy groups stems pretty far back to the late 40’s (yikes!), and I can’t remember any time when women were pleased or even accepting of the effects of pregnancy, at least in the States. I’m thinking, for example, of girdles, of covering up bare skin, crises over stretch marks going way back, and so on. All the oils spent, special french soap inside rubber things one could roll over one’s body. Doesn’t Scarlet O’Hara moan about the effects of childbirth on her waiste?

    It is, still, interesting that the pressures and the techniques for solving ‘the problems’ are increasing hand-in-hand. Is necessity the mother of invention? Or invention the mother of need?

    Most unfortunately, in the US I think that the only resource you need is a credit card or, if you go all out, a couple of credit cards. And doctors may offer payment plans.

  4. When I read this story in the NY Times, I found it odd how the quote from Our Bodies Ourselves was used. The author of the article made it sound like the standard view used to be that maternal bodies–and post-maternal bodies–used to be fine and perfectly acceptable. As JJ points out, that really hasn’t been the case (at least not for quite a long time!).

    While I’m very disturbed by this pathologization of pregnancy and motherhood–and by the proliferation of plastic surgery more generally–this article seemed to erase the positive effects that the feminist movement had on women’s ideas and attitudes about their bodies. The ideas in Our Bodies Ourselves were radical at the time; they didn’t just offer a description of how things were. And now there’s even more need for feminist voices, and yet we don’t seem to be the ones featured in mainstream press…

  5. helensch,

    Your comment made me aware that there’s been a progression from the unhappiness I describe to current pathologizing. I think that if we ask why/how that’s happened, then it’s clear that a good explanation will draw on a number of factors.

    I really like your observation that in a genuine sense “Our bodies ourselves” didn’t just describe the facts. Describing the facts was a radical thing to do!

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