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Surgery Junkies

Surgery Junkies: Wellness and Pathology in Cosmetic Culture

Victoria Pitts-Taylor
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Surgery Junkies
    Book Description:

    "Surgery Junkies is an innovative, fast-paced mix of theory and empirical research that advances our understanding of contemporary bodies, lifestyle medicine, and the making of the embodied, self-fashioned self. Scholars and teachers of cultural and media studies, sociology of the body, and health and society will value its contributions to both their research and their teaching."-Arthur W. Frank, author of The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics and The Renewal of Generosity: Illness, Medicine, and How to Live "Whether analyzing Extreme Makeover, 'Body Dismorphic Disorder,' or her own rhinoplasty, Pitts-Taylor makes difficult theoretical concepts clear-and clearly relevant to our lives."-Susan Bordo, author of Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body Despite the increasing prevalence of cosmetic surgery, there are still those who identify individuals who opt for bodily modifications as dupes of beauty culture, as being in conflict with feminist ideals, or as having some form of psychological weakness. In this ground-breaking book, Victoria Pitts-Taylor examines why we consider some cosmetic surgeries to be acceptable or even beneficial and others to be unacceptable and possibly harmful. Drawing on years of research, in-depth interviews with surgeons and psychiatrists, analysis of newspaper articles, legal documents, and television shows, and her own personal experience with cosmetic surgery, Pitts-Taylor brings new perspectives to the promotion of "extreme" makeovers on television, the medicalization of "surgery addiction," the moral and political interrogation that many patients face, and feminist debates on the topic. Pitts-Taylor makes a compelling argument that the experience, meanings, and motivations for cosmetic surgery are highly social and, in doing so, provides a much needed "makeover" of our cultural understanding of cosmetic surgery. Victoria Pitts-Taylor is associate professor of sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the author of In the Flesh: The Cultural Politics of Body Modification.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4162-4
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    Dr. James McCullen, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in New England, believes that Lydia Manderson, one of his former patients, is a “cosmetic surgery junkie.” Dr. McCullen is a well-regarded, board-certified plastic surgeon who once specialized in reconstructive surgery of the limbs, and now devotes much of his practice to body contouring, which includes body lifts, breast implants, and liposuction. His patient Lydia is an affluent widow who is very enthusiastic about cosmetic surgery.¹ Over several years, Dr. McCullen performed multiple surgeries on her face and body. But he has come to believe that Lydia is never satisfied; she is...

  5. 1 Visible Pathology and Cosmetic Wellness
    (pp. 16-38)

    Cosmetic surgery transforms the outer, physical body, and this very fact renders it controversial. But I want to argue that the cultural, medical, and political relations of cosmetic surgery reach a great deal further than the physical, to what we think of as the self’s interior, to the identity and psyche of the subject. In this chapter, I outline a range of treatments of cosmetic surgery, emerging from psychiatry, feminism, cosmetic medicine, and television, which are explored in this book. My project is to examine the ways in which they discursively establish the subjects of cosmetic surgery. Drawing from insights...

  6. 2 Normal Extremes: Cosmetic Surgery Television
    (pp. 39-72)

    When three people in their twenties and thirties, Luke, Stephanie, and Stacey, collectively underwent over twenty-five hours of cosmetic surgery, documented in a two-hour special episode of network television, we were witnessing the beginning of a significant shift in the public discourse about cosmetic surgery. Before then, the idea that ordinary people would willingly expose their cosmetic surgeries, allowing millions of viewers to examine their “before” and “after” bodies in such detail, seemed unlikely. But more incredible was the very premise of popularizing an extreme surgical makeover, in which people would undergo not just one but numerous cosmetic surgeries to...

  7. 3 Miss World, Ms. Ugly: Feminist Debates
    (pp. 73-99)

    WhileExtreme Makeoverpresents the possibility of whole-body surgical overhauls without a trace of addiction or pathology, many feminists have had difficulty imagining any cosmetic surgery, however major or minor, that is not both pathological and addictive. Most feminist critics of cosmetic surgery have described women’s decisions to have cosmetic surgery as instances of patriarchal coercion, and some have argued that all women who get cosmetic surgery are at risk for surgery addiction. Alternative accounts in feminist scholarship, to varying degrees, defend women’s choices to get cosmetic surgery as rational expressions of women’s agency, and address the narrative work that...

  8. 4 The Medicalization of Surgery Addiction
    (pp. 100-127)

    Many critics of cosmetic surgery have expressed worries that people who undergo it will become hooked, wanting more and more procedures and aiming to look ever more beautiful and young. But what it means to be hooked, and how people get that way, is becoming a matter of public debate. While feminism has identified all cosmetic surgery as problematic and potentially addictive, medical experts—both psychiatrists and cosmetic surgeons—have focused on sorting normal from pathological cosmetic surgery patients. For psychiatrists, the boom in cosmetic surgery represents a new population at risk for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. For cosmetic surgeons, the...

  9. 5 The Surgery Junkie as Legal Subject
    (pp. 128-157)

    When cosmetic surgery is linked to mental disorder, it becomes a social problem, raising a significant set of worries for medical decision making and the public. Possible scenarios of surgical excess and addicted or obsessed patients trouble cosmetic surgeons, psychiatrists, critics of cosmetic surgery, and others. Given the frequency of malpractice suits in American medicine, one of the social institutions where such scenarios will inevitably play out is the courtroom. Such a story unfolded in the New York State courts in recent years. A woman named Lynn G. underwent surgeries of the face, neck, breasts, abdomen, and legs, seeing her...

  10. 6 The Self and the Limits of Interiority
    (pp. 158-186)

    The analysis I have presented here challenges various attempts to understand and identify the subjectivity of the cosmetic surgery patient. I argue that the hermeneutics of the self around which cosmetic surgery culture turns are themselves expressions of power relations. In this chapter, I address the implications of this view for thinking about agency and the self in cosmetic surgery. I take up the problem of how we can know the self at all in the wake of the poststructural critique of subjectivity that I have applied here. I argue that we must decenter the subject of cosmetic surgery, without...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 187-194)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 195-200)
  13. Index
    (pp. 201-204)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-205)