Aesthetic surgery as false beauty

Feminist Theory 7 (2):179-195 (2006)


This article identifies a prevalent strand of feminist writing on beauty and aesthetic surgery and explores some of the contradictions and inconsistencies inscribed within it. In particular, we concentrate on three central feminist claims: that living in a misogynist culture produces aesthetic surgery as an issue predominantly concerning women; that pain - both physical and psychic - is a central conceptual frame through which aesthetic surgery should be viewed; and that aesthetic surgery is inherently a normalizing technology. Engaging with these ‘myths’, we explore the tensions uncovered through a historical analysis of the practices of aesthetic surgery as well as the challenges to feminist claims offered by post-feminism. In particular we seek to destabilize the connection in feminist writing between beauty and passivity. We argue that through aesthetic references to denigrated black and working-class bodies, young women may mobilize aesthetic surgeries to reinscribe active sexuality on the feminine body.

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