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Beauty Through the Prism of Feminism

Some researchers consider beauty as a social construct, while others claim that it is rooted in human nature itself. The standard of female beauty in the modern world appears as social capital and a means of achieving certain resources. Advertising and the beauty pageant industry have a huge impact on women and their self-perception. The internalization of modern standards of female beauty as an image of a young good-looking girl leads to the degradation of women’s status, deterioration in psychosomatic health, and disintegration, which generates deep-seated contradictions (Wright, 2017). The paper aims to analyze modern standards of female beauty through the prism of liberal and Marxist feminism and the psychological consequences of internalizing these standards.

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Beauty is put on a market dominated by capitalism and patriarchy, which takes women out of power structures, returning them to where men prefer to see them. In the patriarchal world, with the dominant role of men and the subordinate position of women, men earn money on female beauty and use it to maintain their social status (Guizzo & Cadinu, 2017). Beauty is not only an aesthetic value but also social capital, which serves a huge industry. Women are ready to go through the most painful and risky procedures, promising to return or keep their youth (Radzi & Musa, 2017). This cult promotes control over women who choose beauty mainly because of the need for meeting the established standards for successful social functioning.

The negative influence of the beauty pageant industry on women resonates with liberal and Marxist feminism. If anything can unite feminists who hold very different views, this is the topic of the cultural representation of the female body. Almost unanimously, all branches of feminism criticize how this representation contributes to the deterioration of the status of women. The internalization of modern standards of beauty as an image of a young girl impedes the psychological development of women (Jaggar, 2018). Sexuality and reproductive abilities are recognized as the reasons for positioning a woman as an object bound by her body.

To abuse power, men objectify women based on their sex. Sex is a set of biological and physiological characteristics, while gender is a person’s behavior, roles, and actions in society. While sex is the result of evolution, gender is a product of socialization. These aspects lead to gender socialization, or social expectations towards the individual’s behavior in accordance with a particular sex phenotype (Tuana, 2018). These stereotypes cause inequality, which is a matter of power even in the modern world. Liberal feminism tries to combat gender inequality, arguing that women are as intelligent as men, so they must have equal rights. Marxist feminists, in turn, argue that in a society divided into antagonistic classes, only representatives of the middle class can exercise these rights.

Liberal feminism suggests that women can use their rationality to make informed and completely free decisions about participating in beauty practices. However, in reality, the cultural environment can provide women with only limited choices. In the patriarchal system, women act as accomplices in the objectification of women (McKay et al., 2018). Cultural standards of beauty have arisen based on the ideology that women are less valuable. According to the liberal-feminist position, women must be free from the influence of the beauty myth and have the choice to use their face and body simply as one of the forms of self-expression (Tuana, 2018). The decontextualization of choice involves improving the body’s perception by localizing power in the head of an individual woman, and not in social and political structures.

Marxist feminism reveals the historically established mechanisms of oppression of women associated with private property institutions. This branch of feminism distinguishes men as a ruling class that exploits and oppresses women. The dominance of men is associated with the development of a class society based on private property (Mikorski & Szymanski, 2017). The most important mechanism of male domination is the control of women through the control of their sexuality and body. According to this type of feminism, gender inequality cannot disappear without the disappearance of capitalism.

The market economy turns women’s sexuality into a commodity, thus playing on the rooted patriarchal stereotypes. Many commercials use sexist stereotypes, turning the female body into an object created to attract the attention of potential consumers. Similar images are borrowed from popular culture and art and are deliberately sexualized to sell a particular product (Wright, 2017). Such phenomena lead to the dehumanization of women and teach society to treat them as an object, and the roots of this phenomenon lie in the capitalist system. One of the consequences of this is the beauty industry, which profits from patriarchal ideas about how a woman should look to meet certain expectations of society.

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Disputes over beauty have become a new popular way of interacting with culture preoccupied with female weight and nutrition. The purpose of these disputes is to try to diversify the images of women in the media, allowing them to choose the ideal they like, to form a positive image of the body. That is, instead of thinking about ending the sexual objectification of the female body, it is proposed to solve the problem by providing a wider range of bodies for objectification (Jaggar, 2018). The excessive attention to weight and shape indirectly supports the desire for self-control and food restrictions among women, regardless of how realistic the standards of the proposed images are.

It is important to recognize that beauty standards are adaptive preferences imposed by the patriarchal society. Thus, advertising and the beauty industry have a huge impact on women and their self-image. Unrealistic images of women lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, self-doubt, and rejection of the body if it does not match the imposed standards. The impact of visual media depicting idealized faces leads to the distortion of the real image. The emphasis on this ideal is accompanied by an increased level of dissatisfaction with the body among women, which entails dysfunctional eating behavior, distress, and depression. This destructive beauty cult must be combated with the help of collective actions for female equality and against the evaluation of women by their appearance.


Guizzo, F., & Cadinu, M. (2017). Effects of objectifying gaze on female cognitive performance: The role of flow experience and internalization of beauty ideals. British Journal of Social Psychology, 56(2), 281-292.

Jaggar, A. M. (2018). Living with contradictions: Controversies in feminist social ethics. Routledge.

McKay, A., Moore, S., & Kubik, W. (2018). Western beauty pressures and their impact on young university women. International Journal of Gender and Women’s Studies, 6(2), 1-11.

Mikorski, R., & Szymanski, D. M. (2017). Masculine norms, peer group, pornography, Facebook, and men’s sexual objectification of women. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 18(4), 257.

Radzi, N. S. M., & Musa, M. (2017). Beauty ideals, myths and sexisms: A feminist stylistic analysis of female representations in cosmetic names. GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies, 17(1), 21-38.

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Tuana, N. (2018). Feminism and philosophy: Essential readings in theory, reinterpretation, and application. Routledge.

Wright, K. (2017). Sexual objectification of female bodies in beauty pageants, pornography, and media. Dissenting Voices, 6(1), 124-146.

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