This could’ve been a Mother’s Day ad for some pricey perfume or a new Victoria’s Secret collection, but it’s neither of those. Instead, it’s a marketing email from the University of Miami (UM) Health System, advertising plastic surgery services including a “Mommy Makeover” checklist of breast augmentation, tummy tucks, liposuction, and “more,” according to the university’s website.
When UM Health System patient Meagan Cyrus received the ad in her inbox last Monday after having seen her primary care physician, she was taken aback by a marketing ploy that she says preys on new mothers. When Cyrus, who is not a mother, shared the email with her friends who have children, their reactions were similar.
“I was kinda disgusted,” Cyrus tells New Times. “From hearing other women’s personal experiences, a lot of women have insecurities about their bodies after pregnancy. It’s hard to feel like your body is your own again.”
The fact that the advertisement came from a university health system was particularly grating to Cyrus.
“To have a healthcare provider feed off your insecurities like that is disappointing,” she says. “You’d think they’d be more sensitive to that. It could be sent to someone with body dysmorphia or an eating disorder who is trying to avoid those triggers.”
UM Health Systems did not respond to two emailed requests for comment last week.
Marketing that caters to women’s insecurities about their bodies is nothing new. According to Claire Queslati-Porter, interim director of UM’s Gender and Sexuality Studies department, it’s a common tactic to monetize women’s resentment toward their own bodies.
“The idea that motherhood or the process of being pregnant is messing up the ideal young, feminine body feeds into this kind of benevolent sexism in the medical industry — the message of, ‘We’re here to help you ladies with what’s wrong with your body,'” Queslati-Porter tells New Times.
The problem isn’t with cosmetic surgery, Queslati-Porter says, but with the targeted marketing at women’s and girls’ insecurities. This goes likewise for advertising and media that shames women whose bodies recover quickly and return to supposed “beach bodies” shortly after giving birth.
“The other side of that coin is to enact this kind of rage and disdain on women who, for genetic reasons, have the luck to be able to fit all the ideals in the culture,” she says. “All bodies should be celebrated, and a wide range of bodies should be seen as ‘beach bodies.'”
Queslati-Porter hopes the university community learns that the medical system is not above scrutiny and that they focus less on what women look like.
“We need better access to all the kinds of structural support after a baby is born,” she says, “and leave women’s bodily insecurities out of it.”