Most viewers of commercial television or consumers of popular magazines have seen striking images of women whose appearance has been dramatically altered. Many of these “made-over” women changed their body image through diet and exercise regimes, skillfully applied makeup, or elective cosmetic surgery. Possessed of higher education, prestigious careers, and families, these successful women often report that they felt some aspect of their appearance prevented them from reaching their goals. Responding to criticism from feminists, they defend the choice to enhance their appearance as a tactical effort to win power in normative society. Drawing on popular media interpretations of third wave feminism, women compelled to politicize a personal decision to “improve” their image have wrapped this act in ideological jargon.
Makeover Feminism is a cheeky new slogan meant to express the idea that conformity to cultural norms of physical beauty achieved through artificial and sometimes extreme means asserts female power. These women deny submission to patriarchal fantasies of the feminine ideal, claiming agency in the choice to alter their faces and/or bodies. Significant numbers of females submit to costly and dangerous, deforming, and potentially lethal procedures in an effort to claim power through beauty. This trend is visible in the annals of medical journal statistics that demonstrate an increase in the number of elective surgeries undergone by women in the last ten years.
Year Total Annual Procedures
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...ted, feminism is basically a shift from woman as eternal Other—always defined from outside—to woman as Self. Makeover Feminism, despite its sincere discourse within the tradition, cannot accomplish the goal of female liberation.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “National Clearinghouse of Plastic Surgery Statistics.” 2004. 12 Aug. 2004. <http://www.plasticsurgery.org/public_education/Statistical-Trends.cfm>.
Donovan, Josephine. Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions of American Feminism. New York: Continuum, 1992.
Franzoi, Stephen L. Social Psychology. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Laing, R.D. The Politics of Experience. New York: Ballantine, 1973.
Lotz, Amanda D. “Communicating Third-Wave Feminism and New Social Movements: Challenges for the Next Century of Feminist Endeavor.” Women and Language 26.1 (2003): 2-9.
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