Heyes, Cressida J. and Meredith Jones. “Chapter 1: Cosmetic Surgery in the Age of Gender”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Cressida J. Heyes is Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality, departments of Philosophy and Political Science, at the University of Alberta, Canada, where she writes and teaches in feminist and political philosophy, queer theory, and theories of embodiment. Meredith Jones is Senior Lecture at the University of Technology, Sydney, where she specializes in media and cultural studies.
Heyes and Jones’ chapter sheds light on the new age of cosmetic surgery, in which patients are now being transformed into consumers. With that said, they ultimately explain that cosmetic surgery, as it is becoming more public, must be approached in various different perspectives encompassing social trends such as the body, gender, psyche, medical practice, ethics, and globalization.
Davis, Kathy. “Chapter 3: Revisiting Feminist Debates on Cosmetic Surgery: Some Reflections on Suffering, Agency, and Embodied Difference”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Kathy Davis is Senior Researcher at the Institute of History and Culture at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
Davis’ work critiques a feminist perspective of cosmetic surgery, in which it view women that engage in cosmetic surgery practices as frivolous, mistaken, or manipulated. She begins with the assumption that the specific particularities of women’s embodied experiences should be the starting point for understanding why women alter their bodies surgically.
Bordo, Susan. “Chapter 2: Twenty Years in the Twilight Zone”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Susan Bordo holds the Otis A. Singletary Endowed Chair in the Humanities and is a professor of English and Gender Studies at the University of Kentucky.
Bordo’s chapter in Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer confronts the different ideologies of individualism in relation to cosmetic surgery and the choice behind it. She explains that although consumerism attempts to give individuals power in that they can “just do it” based on individual desire, it also subtly reaffirms the message that we are defective and essentially need cosmetic surgery.
Morgan, Kathryn Pauly. “Chapter 4: Women and the Knife: Cosmetic Surgery and the Colonization of Women's Bodies”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Kathryn Pauly Morgan received her philosophy Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. She is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto where she is cross-appointed to the Women and Gender Studies Institute.
In this piece Morgan uses a feminist analysis to understand why women have reduced and reduce themselves to “potential women.” In relation to that assumption, she also contributes to the idea of the response of refusal, in which women as a collective, and most importantly as consumers, have power to affect market conditions and demand in the cosmetic surgery industry at large.
Sobchack, Vivian. “Chapter 5: Scary Women: Cinema, Surgery, and Special Effects”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Vivian Sobchack is Professor Emerita in the Department of Film, Television, and Digital Media at UCLA.
Sobchack’s writing encompasses the influence that the cinema has in relation to cosmetic surgery practices. She explains that cinematic effects and plastic surgery become reversible representational operations ultimately literalizing desire and promising instant and effortless transformation.
Fraser, Suzanne. “Chapter 6: Agency Made Over? Cosmetic Surgery and Femininity in Women's Magazines and Makeover Television”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Suzanne Fraser is Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Women’s Studies and Gender Research, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Arts, Monash University. Her research focuses on intersections between the body, technology, and gender, and explores areas as diverse and connected as drug use, obesity, gambling, and blood-borne viruses.
This chapter explores the relationship between cosmetic alteration and women’s agency. Fraser explores not only the assumption that women are participating in these transformations for others, but for their own self-respect and happiness.
Braun, Virginia. “Chapter 8: Selling the "Perfect" Vulva”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Virginia Braun is a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at The University of Auckland. Her research is located within feminist and critical psychology, and focuses on topics related to sex, sexual health, and female genital cosmetic surgery.
Virginia Braun contributes to the topic of sociocultural norms surrounding women’s sexuality and genitalia. She includes the growing phenomena of medicalization in regards to sexuality, as women desire a more “perfect” anatomy in response to surgical discourse.
Edmonds, Alexander. “Chapter 9: "Engineering the Erotic": Aesthetic Medicine and Modernization in Brazil”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Alexander Edmonds is a cultural and medical anthropologist specializing in urban Brazil. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, his current research focuses on beauty and body culture in capitalist peripheries.
Edmonds approaches the world of cosmetic surgery through a case study of Brazil’s public health system and its claim to free cosmetic surgery practices for all. He argues that in the case of Brazil, there is a specific context in which family relations, and female sexual and reproductive health are being “modernized.”
Heyes, Cressida J. “Chapter 11: All Cosmetic Surgery is "Ethic": Asian Eyelids, Feminist Indignation, and the Politics of Whiteness”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Cressida J. Heyes is Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Alberta, Canada, where she writes and teaches in feminist and political philosophy, queer theory, and theories of embodiment.
Heyes explores the topic of Asian eyelid surgery and the social and racial context in which cosmetic surgery operates. She writes about the racialized standards into which cosmetic surgery utilizes to unequally project itself onto people of color, as it simultaneously dictates what is aesthetically “desirable” in this culture.
Naugler, Diane. “Chapter 13: Crossing the Cosmetic/Reconstructive Divide: The Instructive Situation of Breast Reduction Surgery”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd. Permission to reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Diane Naugler has a Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from York University in Toronto.She currently teaches in the Sociology Department at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, British Columbia.
This piece approaches the practice of breast reduction surgery as it has become popularly accepted and reasonable for women seeking to alleviate pain. Naugler’s work approaches cosmetic surgery in a different light in which individuals are compelled to view reduction surgery as different from cosmetic and reconstructive. It ultimately challenges prior assumptions regarding cosmetic surgery and proposes new feminist analysis on this specifically situated practice.
Sweeney, Diane. “Chapter 14: Farewell My Lovelies”. Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer. Ashgate Publishing Ltd: 2009. Permission reprint granted by Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Diane Sweeney is Professor of Philosophy in the English and Humanities Department at York College of Pennsylvania.
Sweeney’s piece comments on the issue of authenticity throughout the practice of transformation and surgery, as told through her own narrative. She explores the experience of ownership, as it is challenged by virtuality and reality.
Photographer Zed Nelson traveled the world documenting how body improvement has practically become a new religion.
For his new book, Love Me, photographer Zed Nelson traveled to 18 countries over five years, documenting extreme measures undertaken in the quest for cosmetic perfection. Nelson’s unsettling images of plastic surgeons, beauty queens and bodybuilders underscore the seduction of narcissistic compulsion. “Beauty is a $160 billion-a-year global industry,” he says. “Body improvement has become a new religion.”
(Smithsonian Magazine and Zed Nelson/Institute(
Why an entire issue on feminist critiques of cosmetic surgery? How about feminist takes on other marketing phenomena targeting the gendered body, for example the medical heaven promised to middle-age women by pharmaceutical companies in terms of “positive” effects of taking a pill a day in order to have a more predictable bladder or a more satisfying sexual life? Or how about critical views on gendered construction of “perfect body” through a fashionization of sports in the print and digital media? Today power is exercised in pleasantly insidious ways: enhancement is the new name of the game of power in contrast to its harsh, repulsive and often ineffective predecessor, obedience. While it is facile to find sites and strategies to resist obedience (at least in theory), it is less clear where to locate and how to engage with the power of enhancement. The present collection of essays, originally published in the edited volume Cosmetic Surgery, A Feminist Primer, benefits from a shared affect of malaise over surgical transformation of human body for the sake of beauty. Such an affective and conceptual focus on cosmetic surgery enables the authors to create, sustain and apply an intellectual incision into the Pandora box of enhancement particularly in its gendered and embodied forms and via feminist critiques.