Accounting for Cosmetic Surgery in the USA and Great Britain: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Women's Narratives

Debra Lynne Gimlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The concept of ‘accounts’ (Scott and Lyman, 1968) – or linguistic strategies for neutralizing the negative social meanings of norm violation – has a long history in sociology. This work examines British and American women's accounts of cosmetic surgery. In the medical literature, feminist writings and the popular press, aesthetic plastic surgery has been associated with narcissism, psychological instability and self-hatred. Given these negative connotations, cosmetic surgery remains a practice requiring justification even as its popularity increases. Drawing on interview data, I argue that respondents' efforts to account for cosmetic surgery vary according to the ‘repertoires of evaluation’ (Lamont and Thévenot, 2000) made available by their own nation and, particularly, by its healthcare culture. In the market-based US healthcare system, women justify cosmetic surgery by referring to their personal and financial ‘investments’ in physical attractiveness and well-being. Such explanations are less legitimate in Britain, where healthcare is considered a social right rather than a consumer good. In the latter context, women employ narratives that medicalize the pre-surgical body by stressing the physical pain and emotional distress that it caused.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-60
Number of pages20
JournalBody & Society
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007

Fingerprint

cultural analysis
cosmetics
Plastic Surgery
surgery
narrative
Delivery of Health Care
norm violation
financial investment
narcissism
popular press
social rights
Narcissism
social attraction
Sociology
popularity
Linguistics
pain
aesthetics
sociology
well-being

Keywords

  • beauty
  • body modification
  • cosmetic surgery
  • female body
  • narrative

Cite this

Accounting for Cosmetic Surgery in the USA and Great Britain : A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Women's Narratives. / Gimlin, Debra Lynne.

In: Body & Society, Vol. 13, No. 1, 03.2007, p. 41-60.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{f07eff5b23b64849bc85495a8092dd13,
title = "Accounting for Cosmetic Surgery in the USA and Great Britain: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Women's Narratives",
abstract = "The concept of ‘accounts’ (Scott and Lyman, 1968) – or linguistic strategies for neutralizing the negative social meanings of norm violation – has a long history in sociology. This work examines British and American women's accounts of cosmetic surgery. In the medical literature, feminist writings and the popular press, aesthetic plastic surgery has been associated with narcissism, psychological instability and self-hatred. Given these negative connotations, cosmetic surgery remains a practice requiring justification even as its popularity increases. Drawing on interview data, I argue that respondents' efforts to account for cosmetic surgery vary according to the ‘repertoires of evaluation’ (Lamont and Th{\'e}venot, 2000) made available by their own nation and, particularly, by its healthcare culture. In the market-based US healthcare system, women justify cosmetic surgery by referring to their personal and financial ‘investments’ in physical attractiveness and well-being. Such explanations are less legitimate in Britain, where healthcare is considered a social right rather than a consumer good. In the latter context, women employ narratives that medicalize the pre-surgical body by stressing the physical pain and emotional distress that it caused.",
keywords = "beauty, body modification, cosmetic surgery, female body, narrative",
author = "Gimlin, {Debra Lynne}",
year = "2007",
month = "3",
doi = "10.1177/1357034X07074778",
language = "English",
volume = "13",
pages = "41--60",
journal = "Body & Society",
issn = "1357-034X",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Ltd",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Accounting for Cosmetic Surgery in the USA and Great Britain

T2 - A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Women's Narratives

AU - Gimlin, Debra Lynne

PY - 2007/3

Y1 - 2007/3

N2 - The concept of ‘accounts’ (Scott and Lyman, 1968) – or linguistic strategies for neutralizing the negative social meanings of norm violation – has a long history in sociology. This work examines British and American women's accounts of cosmetic surgery. In the medical literature, feminist writings and the popular press, aesthetic plastic surgery has been associated with narcissism, psychological instability and self-hatred. Given these negative connotations, cosmetic surgery remains a practice requiring justification even as its popularity increases. Drawing on interview data, I argue that respondents' efforts to account for cosmetic surgery vary according to the ‘repertoires of evaluation’ (Lamont and Thévenot, 2000) made available by their own nation and, particularly, by its healthcare culture. In the market-based US healthcare system, women justify cosmetic surgery by referring to their personal and financial ‘investments’ in physical attractiveness and well-being. Such explanations are less legitimate in Britain, where healthcare is considered a social right rather than a consumer good. In the latter context, women employ narratives that medicalize the pre-surgical body by stressing the physical pain and emotional distress that it caused.

AB - The concept of ‘accounts’ (Scott and Lyman, 1968) – or linguistic strategies for neutralizing the negative social meanings of norm violation – has a long history in sociology. This work examines British and American women's accounts of cosmetic surgery. In the medical literature, feminist writings and the popular press, aesthetic plastic surgery has been associated with narcissism, psychological instability and self-hatred. Given these negative connotations, cosmetic surgery remains a practice requiring justification even as its popularity increases. Drawing on interview data, I argue that respondents' efforts to account for cosmetic surgery vary according to the ‘repertoires of evaluation’ (Lamont and Thévenot, 2000) made available by their own nation and, particularly, by its healthcare culture. In the market-based US healthcare system, women justify cosmetic surgery by referring to their personal and financial ‘investments’ in physical attractiveness and well-being. Such explanations are less legitimate in Britain, where healthcare is considered a social right rather than a consumer good. In the latter context, women employ narratives that medicalize the pre-surgical body by stressing the physical pain and emotional distress that it caused.

KW - beauty

KW - body modification

KW - cosmetic surgery

KW - female body

KW - narrative

U2 - 10.1177/1357034X07074778

DO - 10.1177/1357034X07074778

M3 - Article

VL - 13

SP - 41

EP - 60

JO - Body & Society

JF - Body & Society

SN - 1357-034X

IS - 1

ER -