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The Right To Be Beautiful: Postfeminist Identity And Consumer Beauty Advertising

M. Lazar
Published 2011 · Sociology

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The relationship between beauty practices, femininity and feminism is well documented in the scholarly literature. In many societies, ‘doing’ beauty is a vital component of ‘doing’ femininity: being beautiful, as defined by the norms of a society — for example, in terms of skin type and complexion, and body shape, size and appearance — and working towards achieving those conventional standards are an accepted (and expected) part of what women do by virtue of being ‘women’. Some feminists (associated, especially, with the ‘second wave’) have criticized normative beauty practices, and the highly profitable commercialized beauty industry that drives those practices, as oppressive upon women generally. The beauty industry has been targeted for upholding narrow and restrictive definitions of beauty, for reinforcing the burden of ‘lookism’ upon women (namely, women are constantly judged by how they look), and for promoting unhealthy body image obsessions and potentially harmful beauty procedures (Bordo, 1995; Coward, 1984; Kilbourne, 1999). However, other feminists (identified with the ‘third wave’ and whose views quite easily fit within that of postfeminism), have reclaimed beauty practices as enjoyable, self-chosen and skilled feminine pursuits (e.g. Jervis and Zeisler, 2006).
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