Cosmetic surgery, gender and culture

Cosmetic Surgery, Gender and CultureFraser, S. (2003).
Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

Women’s magazines teem with its promises and horror stories. Feminists ardently debate its status as harmful or heroic. Surgeons and regulators compete to define which procedures can be offered and how. Through its representation, cosmetic surgery impacts on us all, not just those who go ‘under the knife’. This book argues that gender and cosmetic surgery are engaged in a complex process of mutual constitution. It traces three major themes in cosmetic surgery discourse; nature, agency and vanity, across four important discursive areas: women’s magazines; feminist scholarship; medical sources and regulatory debate, to map the effects of this process of constitution. In conducting this enquiry, Cosmetic Surgery, Gender and Culture also questions contemporary cultural studies assumptions about how we read the media, offering new perspectives on issues such as the active reader and the polysemous properties of text.

Review: There is huge public interest in cosmetic surgery and it is clearly of intense relevance for feminists, yet there are still only a handful of feminist texts dedicated to the subject. Suzanne Fraser’s book is a welcome addition to what should be a blossoming field … It is a painstaking piece of feminist scholarship but questions earlier feminist work on the body and cosmetic surgery, showing how it often casts the female body in the same conventional terms that popular, medical and regulatory cultures do. Simultaneously these discourses are shown to have their own intertwined effects. A side effect of this meticulous study is that it offers a sample or template for research into discourse.
Meredith Jones, University of Western Sydney, Australia