Brush, Pippa. “Metaphors of Inscription: Discipline, Plasticity and the Rhetoric of Choice.” Feminist Review 58 (1998): 22-43. Print.



Brush is responding to tensions in feminist theory produced by theorists who conceive the body as natural and biologically determined or who conceive of the body as textual, constructed, and inscribable. She draws on Foucault’s discussion of disciplinary regimes as well as Foucault and Elizabeth Grosz’s discussions of the body as inscribed as a lens for understanding the normalizing function of cosmetic surgery. Using cosmetic surgery as a literal example of the concept of inscription and the idea of the body as plastic, Brush argues that cosmetic surgery “constructs an illusory ‘rhetoric of choice'” whereby willing individuals “choose” to construct themselves according to bodily ideals. Brush shows that cosmetic surgery also posits a natural body that is always treated as insufficient, defective and in need of alteration. According to Brush, the example of cosmetic surgery shows that claims about the natural body and the body as plastic can both be deployed to discipline bodies into narrowing norms of embodiment.

Additional Comments:

Brush’s work raises the same question raised by so many other scholars dealing with the implications of a postmodern body: how do we theorize the body as feminists when “the postmodern notion of plasticity reinforces (however unintentionally) many of the same assumptions as the disciplinary regimes and normalizing judgments of the ideologies which control and contain female bodies”? (41)

Key Quotes:

“By effacing the materiality of the process and the informing ideologies, to claim the body as plastic and to celebrate bodily change as the corporeal embodiment of a postmodern subjectivity is to ignore the ideologies which exploit that plastiity by moulding it to their own purposes.” (35)