Title

Aching for the altered body: Beauty economy and Chinese women's consumption of cosmetic surgery

Author(s)

Wei LuoFollow

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Spring 3-1-2013

Publication Source

Women's Studies International Forum

Volume

38

Inclusive pages

1-10

DOI

doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2013.01.013

Publisher

Elsevier

Place of Publication

U.K.

Peer Reviewed

yes

Abstract

This study looks into China's beauty economy through the women who are consumers of cosmetic surgery. My qualitative inquiry is based upon multiple and in-depth interviews with ten research informants who hail from various regions of mainland China. The findings reveal that Chinese women's engagement with cosmetic surgery has been shaped by both the specificities of local contexts and the market imperatives of globalization. Cosmetic surgery, according to the informants' personal accounts, has been reinvested with new, complex meanings: as a way of adapting to redefined gender norms, a gesture toward national modernity, a strategy of asserting self-control in personal lives, and an emblem of seeking upward class mobility. Ultimately, the Chinese case of cosmetic surgery consumption provides a tension-ridden microcosm of the beauty economy, where bodies, postsocialist gender politics, class aspiration, and consumerism intersect. Furthermore, the interview texts reveal the sophisticated ways beauty discourses have become entrenched in economic and transnational trends, which fuel the rapid growth of the local beauty industry.

Keywords

cosmetic surgery, Chinese women, beauty economy, postsocialist gender politics, consumerism

Disciplines

Communication