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Reading suggestion: Beauty and Misogyny

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book, Beauty and Misogyny, harmful, culrural practices, in the west, book, labiaplasty, porn, Or to give it its full title: Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West.

Should western beauty practices, ranging from lipstick to labiaplasty, be included in the United Nations understandings of harmful traditional/cultural practices?

By examining the role of common beauty practices in damaging the health of women, creating sexual difference, and enforcing female deference, this book argues that they should.

In the 1970s feminists criticised pervasive beauty regimes such as dieting and depilation, but some ‘new’ feminists argue that beauty practices are no longer oppressive now that women can ‘choose’ them.

However, in the last two decades the brutality of western beauty practices seems to have become much more severe, requiring the breaking of skin, the spilling of blood and the rearrangement or amputation of body parts.

Sheila Jeffreys’ book Beauty and Misogyny seeks to make sense of why beauty practices are not only just as persistent, but in many ways more extreme.

It examines the pervasive use of makeup, the misogyny of fashion and high-heeled shoes, and looks at the role of pornography in the creation of increasingly popular beauty practices such as breast implants, genital waxing and surgical alteration of the labia.

It looks at the cosmetic surgery and body piercing/cutting industries as being forms of self-mutilation by proxy, in which the surgeons and piercers serve as proxies to harm women’s bodies, and concludes by considering how a culture of resistance to these practices can be created.

The 2014 edition of Beauty and Misogyny revisited and updated the first edition’s uncompromising 2005 critique of Western beauty practice and the industries and ideologies behind it.

And Jeffreys argues that beauty practices are not related to individual female choice or creative expression, but represent instead an important aspect of women’s oppression.

For these practices have become increasingly brutal and pervasive, and the need to scrutinise – and dismantle – them is if anything more urgent now as it was in 2005 when the book was first published.

Sheila Jeffreys taught sexual politics and international feminist politicsat the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne until retiring in 2015. Before moving to Melbourne in 1991, she was active in the Women’s Liberation Movement in the UK from 1973, campaigning against pornography and violence against women, and in lesbian feminist politics.

She has written ten books on the history and politics of sexuality.

She is currently involved in the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

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