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Showing posts from October, 2015

Smaller nose? Bigger boobs? Flatter stomach? There’s an app for that!

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Kate Harvey, Senior Research Officer at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, explores the issues arising from the growing popularity of beauty apps for phones and tablets.
Two weeks ago, beautiful Birmingham was home to a two-day workshop on the globalisation of beauty.
The workshop – organised by the network BeautyDemands (more about the Nuffield Council’s involvement with the BeautyDemands here) – saw presentations from a wide range of contributors, but it was one issue in particular which led me to do a little further digging of my own.
A presentation by Professor Rosalind Gill focused on aesthetic entrepreneurship, which highlighted a body of work around beauty which she called, ‘The quantified self’. This session explored, for example, how self-tracking and self-monitoring materialise in digital technologies, and change the way we may relate to ourselves.
The application of self-tracking and monitoring is clearly very relevant to health contexts: for example, smartphones are optimised…

Alice el-Wakil on the Homogenisation & Globalisation of Beauty Norms

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Following the success of our third workshop on the homogenisation & globalisation of beauty norms, PhD student Alice el-Wakil discusses the idea that 'lookism' constitutes a form of social injustice.

Is it still the case that there are significant cultural differences in dominant beauty norms and ideals or are beauty norms becoming increasingly homogenised and global? If so what are the drivers of this? Is it a westernised norm?

Numerous empirical researchers who have studied the evolution of beauty standards have observed that beauty ideals and norms have much evolved over time. If some features appear to have been dominant through the ages (such as a relative thinness, harmony or youth of a body), both the place and the context seem to have influenced the development of specific norms. However, the scope for variety might have reduced in recent times. My intuition would be that new technologies as well as more widely accessible media – whose perspective has been playing a…

Beauty Ideals: An Emerging Global Norm?

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With our third workshop on the homogenisation and globalisation of beauty norms taking place next week, our project lead, Heather Widdows, considers whether beauty ideals constitute an emerging global norm.

I have argued previously that the current beauty ideal is becoming more dominant and narrower and that this makes it harder to resist and reject. This makes it difficult to regard the ‘choices’ we make with regard to beauty as ‘free choice’ (for further discussion, see here). To use just one example, the norms around body-hair have changed dramatically in the last few decades and what is required is more demanding in terms of time and money and pain (see here). Moreover, non-compliance is less possible, as expectations of conformity increase (refusing to remove body-hair becomes almost a political choice rather than a beauty preference). Taken together I argue that the norm demands more, it applies to more types of women, and it starts younger (as young as 3) and continues older (int…

Adina Covaci on the Homogenisation & Globalisation of Beauty Norms

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In advance of our 3rd Beauty Demands workshop, doctoral researcher Adina Covaci considers the homogenisation and globalisation of beauty norms and discusses the idea that the process which underlies the spread of these norms constitutes a form of propaganda.


Is it still the case that there are significant cultural differences in dominant beauty norms and ideals or are beauty norms becoming increasingly homogenised and global? If so what are the drivers of this? Is it a westernised norm? Are there key ethical, legal or practices issues which arise in this context?
As I see it, the first question doesn’t contain an exclusive disjunction, so I think it can be said that, at the same time, there still are some cultural differences in beauty norms across the world, but that these standards are indeed becoming increasingly globalised. However, I don’t know if I would call these differences “significant” though, as the concept in itself is a little vague.
For example, a study (Yan & Bissell,…