This article considers matters of narration and intersubjectivity in cosmetic surgery by drawing from interviews with 80 British and American women who have had an aesthetic procedure and 16 British and American cosmetic surgeons. It explores constructions of the ‘surgical other’ — that is, the woman who has cosmetic surgery with little consideration of its risks, is motivated by vanity rather than need, has unreasonable expectations regarding its outcome and/or is obsessively concerned with her appearance. It shows that constructions of surgical otherness are deeply contextual and interactive. They involve the production of narratives that reflect individual experience, are shaped by cultural imagery and incorporate narratives provided by other people. They also function as a form of identity work, as patients and surgeons draw upon them (and assist in reproducing them) in their performances of self. As part of that process, physicians not only confirm the patient’s self-presentation as a ‘good surgical candidate’, but also aid in producing her as such. Practitioners too engage in their own presentations of self; their negative commentary on surgical others implies a criticism of — and thus an effort to differentiate themselves from — the surgeons responsible for their production.
- comparative sociology
- cosmetic surgery