Plastic mommies

The New York Times asks whether women need a postpartum nip 'n' tuck.

By Carol Lloyd

Published October 4, 2007 10:05PM (EDT)

A New York Times piece today delved into yet another slash-and-suck attempt to exploit women's vulnerabilities. Apparently plastic surgeons are now packaging a bunch of procedures that seek to remedy those tubby tummies and droopy boobs characteristic of some postpartum bodies. Marketed as "mommy jobs" or "mommy makeovers," the bundle of procedures involves some combination of liposuction, tummy tucks, breast lifts and perhaps implants. Although offering plenty of free advertising to participating plastic surgeons, the Times' Natasha Singer rightly focuses on the larger issues implied by the phenomenon: how narrowing definitions of beauty are "recasting the transformations of motherhood as stigma."

It's also, according to some participating cosmetic surgeons, a damn shrewd way to make an extra buck off extra procedures. Singer quotes the Web site of a father-and-son team that criticizes the "mommy makeover" packages as "clever marketing" in which "a woman seeking a tummy tuck, although not particularly concerned about the appearance of her breasts, may be influenced to have breast surgery just because it is part of 'the package.'"

Of course, those making a pretty penny off carving up women's bodies frame the mommy makeover as a happy alternative for unhappy women. "Twenty years ago, a woman did not think she could do something about it and she covered up with discreet clothing," David A. Stoker said. "But now women don't have to go on feeling self-conscious or resentful about their appearance."

As someone whose postpartum curves would make a prime scalpel target for this sort of barbarity, let me just say I resent such comments about self-consciousness and resentment. I'd rather have another C-section or two (to fully comprehend the gruesome meaning of this, one need only imagine a pony keg filling with blood from a tube in my guts, not that you asked!). For me, the advent of the mommy makeover is dismaying because motherhood has offered many of us an escape hatch from self-consciousness. Suddenly your body, after decades of experiencing its value as societal eye candy, transcends culture. It becomes food, furniture; it makes a life. That women are now paying to cut those vestiges from their bodies -- to erase that history -- seems not only self-loathing but misanthropic as well.

Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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