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Title: Making bodies : the role of the Web on women's engagement with aesthetic surgery
Author: Nash, Rebecca Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 6500 757X
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2017
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Aesthetic surgery encompasses elective procedures that alter appearance for the purposes of enhancement. In the UK, 10,700 aesthetic surgery procedures were carried out in 2003, rising to 51,141 in 2015. Of the latter, 46,526 surgeries were performed on women. As surgery numbers have grown, there has been a huge increase in information, services and discussion of aesthetic surgery online. However, how women engage with such content remains under-researched. Aesthetic surgery has been a perpetual source of controversy in feminist literature. It has been viewed by some as an oppressive symbol of control over women’s bodies, but by others as a potentially empowering body project. I therefore sought to examine implications of the Web for aesthetic surgery in feminist theory and practice. The Web has been transformative; set apart from ‘traditional’ offline media in offering almost instant access to diverse spaces that users can engage with as consumers and producers (Ritzer & Jurgenson 2010). Consideration of Web spaces as complementary, competing and contradictory in portrayals of aesthetic surgery has been underplayed. For this research, I used multimodal critical discourse analysis (MMCDA) to analyse four types of online space, exploring intersecting visual media and text to examine representations of aesthetic surgery. I then used data from twenty semi-structured interviews with women to understand how they have engaged with aesthetic surgery online. There were four findings. Firstly, the Web offers volume (array of relevant spaces), variety (traditional media alongside user-generated content), and velocity (content is constantly replaced, as well as offering new navigability) of content related to aesthetic surgery. Secondly, women’s bodies – altered and unaltered - were consistently presented as aesthetically deficient across the Web spaces explored. Thirdly, women embarked on conflicted online journeys across Web spaces tempered by contradictory feelings towards aesthetic surgery and notions of beauty. I argue that women presented reflexively critical attitudes towards aesthetic surgery – employing the ‘cosmetic gaze’ (Wegenstein & Ruck 2011). Finally, I propose the concept of ‘hypertextual feminism’ that can enable researchers to understand and interpret how women engage with aesthetic surgery content online.
Supervisor: Pope, Catherine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available