Cosmetic surgery
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Cosmetic surgery. Technologies of the Gendered Body Week 12. What is cosmetic surgery?. (Healthcare Commission 2004: 12)

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Cosmetic surgery

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Cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery

Technologies of the Gendered Body

Week 12


What is cosmetic surgery

What is cosmetic surgery?

  • (Healthcare Commission 2004: 12)

  • “[…] operations and other procedures that revise or change the appearance, colour, texture, structure or position of bodily features, which most would consider otherwise to be within the broad range of ‘normal’ for that person.”


Statistics 2009

Statistics (2009)

  • British Association of Plastic Surgeons (www.baaps.org.uk)

  • 36,482 procedures (up 6.7% from 2008)

  • 90% of procedures carried out on women

  • Procedures on men up 21% (to 3623)

  • Male breast reduction up from 323 to 581 (81% increase)

  • Facelifts for women down by 8%


Statistics 2006

Statistics (2006)

  • Top five procedures for men:

  • Top 5 procedures for women:


Rajiv grover consultant plastic surgeon

Rajiv Grover (consultant plastic surgeon)

  • “This year, we have recorded a dramatic rise in a number of male surgical procedures, probably due to heightened media attention, which has allowed men to realise the positive outcomes that can be achieved. The continued popularity of brow lifts and eyelid surgery may mean that patients still keen to have rejuvenating treatments despite the recession, are choosing more cost-effective measures such as targeting one particular feature, rather than having a whole facelift.”


Douglas mcgeorge consultant plastic surgeon

Douglas McGeorge(Consultant plastic surgeon)

  • “Those considering an aesthetic surgery should always be aware that no procedure is without risk. When performed under the right circumstances, cosmetic surgery can have a positive psychological impact and improve quality of life.”


Representations of cosmetic surgery

Representations of cosmetic surgery

  • Spectacle – “extreme cosmetic surgery”

  • Excess – the “scalpel slave” / “surgery junkie”

    • See www.awfulplasticsurgery.com


Representations of cosmetic surgery1

Representations of cosmetic surgery

  • Spectacle – “extreme cosmetic surgery

  • Excess – the “scalpel slave” / “surgery junkie”

    • See www.awfulplasticsurgery.com

  • Celebrity

  • The seeking of perfection / youth


Representations of cosmetic surgery2

Representations of cosmetic surgery

  • Spectacle – “extreme cosmetic surgery

  • Excess – the “scalpel slave” / “surgery junkie”

    • See www.awfulplasticsurgery.com

  • Celebrity

  • The seeking of perfection / youth

  • The “quick fix”; “nips and tucks”


Representations of cosmetic surgery3

Representations of cosmetic surgery

  • Spectacle – “extreme cosmetic surgery

  • Excess – the “scalpel slave” / “surgery junkie”

    • See www.awfulplasticsurgery.com

  • Celebrity

  • The seeking of perfection / youth

  • The “quick fix”; “nips and tucks”

  • Normalised form of consumption – “reveal parties”; Botox parties; gifts; treats


Feminist resistance to cosmetic surgery

Feminist resistance to cosmetic surgery


Rethinking cosmetic surgery

Rethinking cosmetic surgery

  • Cosmetic surgery as a “dilemma rather than a form of self-inflicted subordination” (Kathy Davis 1995: 180) - Surgery is both desirable and problematic

  • Women are seeking normal bodies, rather than beautiful ones – women are negotiating “the differences between their own bodies and ideal female beauty” (Gimlin 2002: 7)

  • Women do not return for repeated surgeries (focussed body project)


Rethinking cosmetic surgery1

Rethinking cosmetic surgery

  • “Cosmetic surgery transforms more than a woman’s appearance; it transforms her identity as well” (Davis 2003: 75)

  • But – places women in a double bind – the “taint of inauthenticity” (Gimlin 2002: 104); the problem of passing.

  • Surgery always requires a defence: (a) that they deserve surgery; and (b) convincing themselves that the revised appearance is connected to the self.


Rethinking cosmetic surgery2

Rethinking cosmetic surgery

  • Decisions are undoubtedly shaped by ideas about what constitutes beauty / the measuring of women’s value by their appearance. But…

  • “[…] to portray the women I talked to as cultural dupes, as passively submitting to the demands of beauty, is to misrepresent them badly. A more appropriate image, I would suggest, is to present them as savvy cultural negotiators, attempting to make out as best they can within a culture that limits their options.” (Gimlin 2002: 106)


Cosmetic surgery as the eradication of difference

Cosmetic surgery as the eradication of difference

  • Racial / ethnic surgeries – makes us uneasy socially / culturally in a way that other surgeries do not.

  • Surgery on people with Down’s Syndrome (see Davis 2003: Epilogue):

  • “This particular case made me stop thinking about the people who have cosmetic surgery or the practitioners who perform it or even the media that promote it and, instead, to start wondering why the world I live in prefers to disguise difference rather than confront it.” (Davis 2003: 143)


Feminist utopias

Feminist utopias?

  • Kathryn Pauly Morgan – “Ms Ugly” competitions

  • Orlan

  • “Utopian models privilege the flamboyant, public spectacle as feminist intervention and deprivilege the interventions which are part of living in a gendered social order” (Davis 2003)


Conclusions

Conclusions

  • Surgery is growing in popularity, but remains controversial.

  • Feminists such as Debra Gimlin and Kathy Davis have argued against outright rejection of cosmetic surgery, however problematic it is. Instead, they suggest that we should see surgery as a dilemma for women, and as a means of negotiating identity.

  • Those undergoing surgery are aiming to be “normal”, not beautiful.

  • Surgery can be understood as the attempt to eradicate difference – this reflects (and potentially problematises) the ways we conceptualise “others”


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