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 ...view middle of the document...
Total Number of Procedures 43,117,711.00
Research has shown that attractive people are hired and promoted more frequently, and earn more income. Attractive women are perceived as friendlier and more competent than their non-attractive peers (Franzoi 374). Women, valued culturally for their sexual and reproductive role in the lives of men, uniquely suffer this association of virtue with beauty. Feminism traditionally attempts to deconstruct these cultural attributions by questioning the enshrinement of idealized feminine imagery in art, literature, theology, and law (for instance, iconic images of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or popular images perfect mothers such as Donna Read or June Cleaver). Feminists argue that women must be taken seriously as human beings that contribute to the community and the larger culture. Women should not to be valued solely as objects of male sexual gratification, or the surrogate means through which he may own his progeny. If women conform to the pressure to be beautiful, thin, and glamorous just so they can have equal opportunities, they capitulate to an oppressive patriarchal paradigm. Supporters of Makeover Feminism argue that positioning beauty and feminine sex appeal within dominant power structures—coupled with the skills, credentials, and authority to support those positions—undermines stereotypes of sexually attractive women as stupid and/or incapable. Although women obtain cultural power through beauty, and have every right to do so, it is nonetheless a contradiction in terms to call such tactics feminist. Makeover Feminism fails to construct political meaning or power for women, either psycho-socially or semantically.
The core ideologies of feminism are stood on their heads by apologists for the multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry, at the expense of a rich and valid feminist intellectual canon. I do not believe that women who choose cosmetic procedures make themselves enemies of feminism. The personal ethics of choosing to alter one’s appearance is not at issue, but whether adaptation to an oppressive system in an attempt to gain power can be considered subversive. Beauty serves the individual in negotiating subtle (or not so subtle) dynamics of attraction and preference in the social competition for resources. However, this fails as a collective tool for political and socio-economic revision of women’s status. Women who gain power through cosmetically or surgically enhanced beauty do not create a stable base of power for all women. Further, by referring to their alterations as feminist actions, Makeover Feminists move the discourse of female meaning and power back into the realm of woman-as-object. This clearly violates the intention and agenda of...