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Badvertising: “Mommy Makeover” Surgeries in Dubai

One of my closest friends has been living in the United Arab Emirates for five years now. She moved there after a long stay in Lebanon and she often travels to nearby countries like Oman and Qatar. In short, she is my eyes and ears when it comes to the beauty myth in the Arab world.

My friend recently sent me a photo of an ad she found in a Dubai newspaper; it advertises cosmetic surgery procedures in a way that reaffirms one of the effects of globalization: namely, the homogenization of commercial messages around the world.

Here are some close-ups of the ad, in case you are having troubles reading it:

The big header says: “Motherhood is beautiful. Here’s a makeover that takes care of mother’s beauty too.”

Superimposed over the body of the woman/mother are a plethora of colored dots that highlight “problem areas” that could be improved:

And below the photo, there is a list of procedures that the cosmetic surgery practice offers:

– hair loss treatment
– breast surgery
– fraxel laser (whatever that means)
– liposuction
– thermage (equally puzzling)
– tummy tuck
– laser “vien” removal (read: vein)
– arm & thigh lifts (I didn’t know arms and thighs could be lifted!)
– weight managment (I think they meant to say “management”)
– bladder incontinence

Below, the copy is even more precious:

“At [name of plastic surgeon’s practice] we understand and truly believe that mother can and should look good. Which is why we bring you a special Mommy Makeover package.” (emphasis mine)

The promotion of “Mommy surgeries” in our mass media is a relatively recent phenomenon, that goes hand in hand with the severe scrutiny over pregnant celebrities’ bodies and the celebration in tabloid culture of how fast those celebrities lose weight after giving birth. The first time I found the term “Mommy Surgeries” in a mainstream publication was 2008, in this Newsweek article about the release of the book “My Beautiful Mommy.” The Newsweek journalist explained:

“My Beautiful Mommy” is aimed at kids ages four to seven and features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants. Before her surgery the mom explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: “You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn’t fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better.” Mom comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist.

In a globalized world, the notion of a perfect, “beautiful” body as an imperative for every new mom has spread from the Western world to the Middle East. The ad features a white woman with blond hair: not exactly your idea of a typical Emirati woman, I suppose, but the truth is, 80% of inhabitants of the United Arab Emirates are expatriates.

What I find particularly crass is the stress over the physical perfection of new mothers – mothers! Physical appearance should be the least of their worries: they have so much to do with a newborn baby. Telling them that they must spend large sums of money to adhere to the One and Only Beauty Standard – young, thin, with perky breasts – is simply… despicable!

If you have other examples of “badvertisements” from foreign countries, please send them to us at[at]yahoo[dot]com

Thank you Leotie for these photos!