Designing Women: Cultural Hegemony and the Exercise of Power

The article written by Particia Gagne and Deana McGaughey (2002) is aimed at examining the attitudes of women who underwent elective mammoplasty. The authors argue that women can achieve great empowerment when they reach the standards set for feminine beauty. It is their main motive for having mammoplasty. Nevertheless, at the same time, these women reinforce the male ideals of physical attractiveness (Gagne & McGaughey 2002, p. 835). It is the main thesis that the scholars put forward.

Several examples are used as evidence to support the scholars’ hypothesis. First of all, they rely on the results of the interviews carried out with females who decided to have cosmetic surgery. The respondents said that in this way, they prompted other “people to treat them in the way they perceived themselves“ (Gagne & McGaughey 2002, p. 822). In other words, this surgery helped them increase their self-confidence. It is one of the main issues that the scholars pay attention to. However, the interviewees also admitted that many of them chose to undergo mammoplasty because, in many cases, they had to meet certain standards of physical attractiveness, for instance, at the time when they searched for employment (Gagne & McGaughey 2002, p. 824). In this way, the authors show that cosmetic surgery can raise women’s self-esteem. However, their efforts can be driven by the male conceptions of physical beauty. Therefore, scholars demonstrate that different motives can prompt people to have cosmetic surgery.

On the whole, the researchers present their findings logically and consistently. They clearly describe the theoretical assumptions underlying this study. Furthermore, they examine empirical data that can be used to substantiate the main argument. To some degree, Patricia Gagne and Deana McGaughey support the idea that body modification can be viewed as the quest for the idealized version of a person’s physical appearance. Overall, this article can be of great value to people who examine the behavior of people who are willing to modify their bodies. It is the main issue that can be identified. Nevertheless, Patricia Gagne and Deana McGaughey do not mention that the modification of one’s body can be an indicator of a person’s emotional or mental problems (Sullivan 2010, p. 2). It is the main limitation that should be taken into account.


Gagne, P & McGaughey, D 2002, ‘Designing Women: Cultural Hegemony and the Exercise of Power Among Women Who Have Undergone Elective Mammoplasty’, Gender & Society, vol. 16. no.6, pp. 814-838.

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