Is Beauty Anti-feminist?


Feminist discourse in favour of the enhancement of the female body mainly revolves around the argument that it need not be inherently anti-feminist for a woman to conform herself to a conventional beauty ideal.

Common justifications for this view include “as long as you do it for you,” or “as long as it makes you feel good” – observe that these arguments seem to revolve around the thought that the artificial enhancement of femininity is a matter of choice for the female in question. It also makes the rather bold assumption that this choice exists outside the influences of society – that is to say, make-up, high heels and g-string apologists argue as long as a woman has convinced herself that her conformity is “her choice”, there can be nothing demeaning or anti-feminist about her behaviour.

“I am a feminist, and I wear make-up and dress in a distinctly feminine manner (which sometimes means a distinctly uncomfortable manner, as with high heels), and try as I might I cannot fully reconcile the two.”
– Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

The main problem with the apologist argument seems to be it completely disregards the fact we exist ‘in relation to each other’, a view held by the 20th century French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard. This relation not only makes the conventional beauty ideals difficult to forsake, it also points out that a total independence of the patriarchal turning-women-into-vacuous-playthings culture will be hard to achieve.

3 thoughts on “Is Beauty Anti-feminist?

  1. It is completely valid to be a feminine feminist. The whole point of feminism is the belief that women deserve the same opportunities, choices, pay, etc. as their male counterparts. Great post, and I love your blog! Care to check out mine?(: Downwiththenorm.com

  2. A fascinating topic that could fill volumes, can hardly be adequately discussed in a comment, but possibly there’s sufficient room to ask questions that could lead to further study.

    A male-dominated society is NOT the “natural order of things” – one need only look at the myriad of species in which it is the female which dominates their society. The female elephant, for example, is the matriarch of her herd. While not a societal animal, the female mantis certainly qualifies as the ultimate feminist, often biting off the head of her male partner during sexual activity, while the male, exhibiting stereotypically male dedication to purpose where sex is involved, continues to bring his initiated sex act to its intended conclusion, thereby proving that among males of any species, when it comes to sex, the brain is usually the organ least often involved in the process.

    Questions immediately rise to mind in such a discussion of the human species, such as, what is beauty? In one sense, illustrated best by the phrase, “beauty is but in the eye of the beholder,” beauty is purely subjective. But there are standards of beauty as well, that appear to vary from culture to culture – the Western world inherited its standard from the early Iron Age Greeks, and the statuary they left behind. However these standards are subject to change, not only cross-culturally, but across time, as the illustration below demonstrates, as beauty, in the time of Rubens (1600’s) favored, shall we say, a more full-figured lady —

    Another question might be, what is feminism? In my recent ancestors’ day, the men worked outside the house, while the women made the house a home. Then came World War II, and the men went off to war. Women were then needed to perform at least the vital jobs that the men had left behind, and for better or for worse, nothing would ever be the same. Women discovered from experience that with proper training, they could do most jobs as well as
    men. So is feminism defined by equal rights between the sexes? Equal opportunity? Is it about eliminating sexual objectification? IS there a definition upon which all can agree? What cannot be defined, cannot be achieved, at least not for all.

    A relatively recent BBC documentary, Planet of the Apemen – Battle for Earth, Part 2 0f 2, suggests that one of the reasons for the extinction of the Neanderthal, who arrived in Europe millennia before our own species, was that they lived a rather solitary, tribal existence, rarely associating with others of its species. Our own species was more gregarious on the other hand, and any discovery that arose within a particular tribe, any innovation, quickly spread among the other tribes, through association and imitation. The documentary suggests that the choice, to divide labor between males and females, with women staying home, caring for the children, collecting roots and berries and other staples while the men hunted for the tribe’s protein, was largely responsible for our survival over the fate of the Neanderthal – that not only did the work of the women on the homefront mean that the tribe ate at least SOMEthing when the men came back empty-handed, but the very concept of bartering – services for services – began with that simple division of labor, which in turn, evolved into the monetary system that we have today. Yes, times have changed, but a hundred millennia of custom and tradition is not so easily overcome as merely wishing it so.

    Then too, it must be considered that sexuality is hardwired into us as a species – in fact, into the entire animal kingdom, of which our species is merely an infinitesimal part. We are following an ancient directive when we dress to attract members of the opposite sex, a directive far older than humankind itself. Of course, women can dress in ways that are not in the least provocative —

    — but would they want to?

  3. According to research conducted by the Daily Mail, British women spend 474 days putting on their make-up; this translates as three hours, 19 minutes each week in front of the mirror. The power of make-up is so strong that 27 per cent admit feeling ‘vulnerable’ without it. It also found losing expensive cosmetics now costs the typical British woman £248 a year. In fact, women mislay so much make-up they spend a staggering £15,872 replacing it during their lifetime.

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