More than perfect: Cosmetic surgery and ageing single women in contemporary China

Yiu Fai Chow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, I want to connect my inquiry into cosmetic surgery not only to a general category of women, but to its intersections with ageing, singlehood and China. Facilitating dialogues between cultural studies, feminist studies and ageing studies, I argue for the need to be less normative, but more inquisitive, for the need to heed specificities, to hear what the women themselves have to say. Departing from the dominant feminist and neoliberal critique against beautification practices in general and cosmetic surgery in particular, I argue for alternative ways to connect with, and the concomitant refusal to flatten, women’s experience. In other words, I am less interested in how they are used by the beauty industries, but how they use beautification practices – under their specific circumstances. I draw from intersectional perspectives to re-examine the dominant critique against beauty work through this group of single, ageing, Chinese women. What motivates them to agree to acid filling, Botox injection, facial manipulation and other bodily interventions? How do they choose what to do? What factors are involved? How does the surgery impact on their personal and professional life? To answer these questions, I recruited 12 women, born between 1970 and 1989, who have undergone a diversity of interventions. Far from the type or stereotype of women who desire perfection, they articulate their experiences using four repertoires: to demonstrate they are more thoughtful, knowledgeable and mature; to underline their single sisterhood; to distance themselves from the perfectionist longing; and to experience themselves better as single women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1448-1466
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Cultural Studies
Issue number5
Early online date14 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Ageing
  • beauty
  • China
  • cosmetic surgery
  • perfect
  • single women


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