Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Women's Studies

Major Professor

Dr. Marilyn Myerson.

Keywords

Beauty norm , Body image, Feminism, Homogenization, Patriarchy

Abstract

The popularity of cosmetic surgery in the U.S. has increased dramatically over the last ten years - particularly for women, who make up the largest group of cosmetic surgery consumers. Cosmetic surgery can include relatively simple procedures such as permanent hair removal or Botox to more complicated procedures like breast augmentations and face-lifts. The rise in popularity of cosmetic surgery exalts only one kind of beauty and excludes many women from ever attaining this ideal, so while women may feel empowered, surgery acts as a form of assimilation, because the act of cosmetic surgery reifies an exclusionary beauty norm. With cosmetic surgery, this hegemonic ideal is becoming more attainable, and in the process, some women modify their individual identities, which I argue are shaped by such things as ethnicity, age, body shape, wrinkles, etc., and instead tend to become one homogenized group.

I also argue that cosmetic surgery is a form of colonization of the body because most people who do fit with what is perceived as normal and beautiful experience pressure to assimilate. The body becomes colonized (via surgery) much as a country does in the sense that the colonizing group otherizes the colonized, and deems their way of life, or culture, as abhorrent and in need of assimilation to the dominant groups way of life. The colonizers (creators of the beauty myth) seek to modify womens identities in order to suit the beauty ideal. The modification of identity is a possibility because some of the most common procedures such as rhinoplasty, eyelid surgery, and Botox, seek to eliminate, or downplay, ethnic, or age associated traits in exchange for traits that adhere to the beauty ideal. External markers such as an ethnic nose, or even wrinkles, help define women and link them to their cultural origins or individual identity.

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