INTACT: A defence of the unmodified body

 

My next book – Intact: The Unmodified Body – is now finished and will be published by Allen Lane (Penguin Books) in February 2022. You can pre-order it now here and from all good bookshops.

In an age of social media and selfies, of pixel-perfect pictures and surgically-enhanced celebrities, the pressure to change our bodies can often seem overwhelming. We are told we should conceal the signs of ageing and get our bodies back after pregnancy. We ought to perfect our complexions, build our biceps, trim our waistlines, cure our disabilities, conceal our quirks. More than ever before, we should contort our physical selves to prejudiced standards of beauty and acceptability.

In this thought-provoking work, acclaimed political philosopher Clare Chambers argues that the unmodified body is a key principle of equality. While defending the right of anyone to change their bodies, she argues that the social pressure to modify sends a powerful message: you are not good enough. The body becomes a site of political importance: a place where inequalities of sex, gender, race, disability, age, and class are reinforced.

Through a clear-sighted analysis of the power dynamics that structure our society, and with examples ranging widely from body-building to breast implants, makeup to male circumcision, Intact stresses that we must break away from the oppressive forces that demand we alter our bodies. Instead, it offers a vision of the human body that is equal without expectation: an unmodified body that is not an image of perfection or a goal to be attained, but a valued end in itself.

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241439043
Number of pages: 256
Dimensions: 240 x 156 mm

 

 

 

Medicalised Genital Cutting and the Limits of Choice

in Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery: Interdisciplinary Analysis and Solution, edited by Sarah Creighton and Lih-Mei Lao (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

In this chapter I challenge the idea that an appeal to choice exonerates Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery (FGCS). My argument proceeds in five stages. First, I consider the normative role that choice plays in liberal society and philosophy. Second, I note that UK law does not treat choice as adequate for accessing FGCS. Third, I consider the relationship between choice and the concept of normality. Fourth, I consider choice in the context of cosmetic surgery generally, and analyse the distinctive features of FGCS. Fifth, I consider the policy implications of my analysis.

You can find the book here.

Judging Women: 25 Years Further Toward a Feminist Theory of the State

Feminist Political Quarterly (Vol. 3 No. 2, 2017).

The title of this paper is “Judging Women”, a phrase that can be understood in three senses. First, when is it acceptable or necessary to make judgements about what women do? Feminists may be wary of subjecting women’s choices and actions to criticism, but the paper argues that such criticism is implied by a feminist perspective on patriarchy, a perspective which is necessarily critical. Second, when can women engage in the act of judging? The paper argues that being judgmental is popularly considered a vice, but only when done by women. Feminism should insist on women’s right to judge. Third, how are we to judge who counts as a woman? The paper investigates the commonalities and contrasts between feminism and trans issues, and discusses the concepts of essentialism and transphobia. The focus throughout is on MacKinnon’s work, which offers profound, sustained, rich analysis of these questions but does not fully resolve them.

You can read the paper here.

Genital Autonomy Conference

cir_genitalintegrity_internlsymbolI had a profoundly moving and informative time listening and speaking at the Genital Autonomy 14th Annual Symposium on Changing Global Perceptions: Child Protection & Bodily Autonomy. The Symposium was at Keele University on 14-16 September 2016. You can find details of the Symposium here. My talk was titled “Cultural v. Cosmetic v. Clinical Surgery: Challenging the Distinction.”

There is a general consensus in liberal theory, practice, and law that female genital mutilation (FGM) is a violation of rights and justice that should be banned. However, there is no such consensus about male circumcision or cosmetic surgery, including labiaplasty. These practices are legal in most liberal states and there is no general critique of them in mainstream liberal theory. This talk will consider the philosophical reasons in favour of distinguishing FGM from male circumcision and labiaplasty, and find them wanting. Both cosmetic and clinical surgeries are fundamentally cultural. I argue that male circumcision and cosmetic surgery should be regulated in the same way as FGM – which means, among other things, much stricter regulations on when such surgeries can be performed on children.

Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures

nuffieldI am a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics Working Party on Cosmetic Procedures. You can find more about the project, including the other members, here.

Invasive cosmetic procedures are becoming increasingly popular and accessible in the UK, prompting questions about potential risks to users and the lack of regulation and professional standards in this area.

This project will explore ethical issues in cosmetic procedures with a particular focus on the role and responsibilities of health and scientific professionals and others in responding to demand for invasive non-reconstructive procedures that aim to enhance or normalise appearance.