Through this, we see that in many ways our standards of beauty reflect the physical forms that are attained through wealth. At this point many of the signs of health that use to be signs of wealth are caricatured. They are poses, performances of health. EG teeth whitening is horrible for your teeth; brilliant white teeth are a caricature of healthy teeth which are a sign of wealth. Thus, teeth whitening becomes a performance of health that announces to the world: I am healthy because I’m wealthy.
Given that most our bodies don’t conform to the hegemonic standard of beauty, most of our bodies are pathologized … considered sick, shameful, and wrong. Because “ritualized subordination” is the hegemonic standard of beauty, the fact that 95% of us don’t fit the mold seems natural and normal to us. When in fact it is quite ludicrus.
For most of us , we simply cannot conform to the dominant standards of beauty therefore we will never be successful.Chernic too connects our recent obsession with the particular form of female beauty we’ve seen rise in the last 40 years or so. She says on p. 602 “For the first time in history, young women have the opportunity to create a world in our image. But many of us concentrate instead on re-creating the shape of our thighs.”
Also overpopulation causes continental drift and the decline in the pirate populations is responsible for global warming!
Like the women in The Pill, many of us find that our doctors are unconsciously invested in systems of oppression, even as they pledge to do no harm.
Dr. Sara Diaz
WGST 280: Gender, Sex, & Popular Culture
Health, Wealth, Beauty
• In addition to infusing subordination into
our standards of beauty, we have also
• This is long standing and can be seen by
comparing the standards of beauty across
• In addition, health has become a major
marker of both wealth and beauty
Health, Wealth, Beauty
• Long hair (good nutrition)
• Long nails (no need to work)
• Soft skin (no need to work)
• White teeth (access to dental care)
• Skin Color
• For non-white women: Fair skin (no need to work in the sun)
• For white women: Tan skin (leisure time)
• old: access to lots of food;
• new: access only to industrial food, too busy working to exercise
• old: no access to food;
• new: access to whole food, time to exercise
Women’s Bodies Pathologized
• Body types that can perform the gendered ritual of
subordination are preferred. Other body types are
shamed and some are even pathologized.
• Some bodies that cannot conform are considered “sick”
bodies in need of medical intervention.
• Too Fat
• Too Short
• Physically impaired
• Differently formed
• Fat is relatively new to this list. In the past it was considered a
healthy body type because it signified wealth.
Naomi Wolf - The Beauty Myth
• The Beauty Myth is this:
• A woman’s worth comes from her
beauty. She may make meaningful
contributions to society. She may have
all manner of interesting opinions. She
maybe extremely intelligent. But none
of that matters, none of it is really
valuable, unless she conforms to white,
upper-class heterosexual norms of
beauty and sexuality.
• The development of the modern version of the
beauty myth is a direct response to the feminist
• Wolf argues we have traded “liberation” for a
new form oppression:
• Internalized impulse to find our worth not in our
external achievements or in our internal beauty
but only in our external appearance.
• Under post-feminism, women may achieve any
number of successes in our lives, but we don’t
feel “successful” unless we are “beautiful.”
The dystopic future is now!
• Women are increasingly encouraged to make radical bodily
interventions to attain “beauty.”
• Radical Weight loss (Diet/Surgery)
• Plastic Surgery
• Interventions are described as “for our health” (mental or
physical) but often negatively affect health.
• Reality TV creates an ideological narrative that transposes
health and beauty and shames fat bodies.
• Extreme Makeover
• Biggest Looser
• Eating disorders are on the rise amongst younger and younger
Fat is ugly?
• This is a relatively new idea, but it is stubbornly
• However, body shaming affects women of all
sizes (though not to the same degree or in the
• Thin women live under the threat loss of
worth IF they gain weight.
• Thin women’s worth is also based on their
conformance to gendered and racialized
standards of beauty.
Political Economy of Thin Beauty
• Diet Industry: $50 billion/year
• BAD NEWS:
• Longitudinal Studies show that 95% of dieters regain weight after
2 years, EVEN WHEN THEY STAY ON THE DIET.
• Similar studies show that exercise does not lead to long term
weight loss, EVEN WHEN YOU KEEP EXERCISING.
• GOOD NEWS:
• Eating well and getting regular exercise DO improve your overall
health with respect to cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
They do not lead to long term weight loss for the vast majority of
• Health at Every Size movement
• Obesity is not causally connected to negative health
• Negative Health Outcomes have been causally connected to:
• Poor Nutrition
• Lack of access (time/space) to exercise
• Increased stress due to social stigma (race, class, sexuality) –
Elevates stress hormones
• Lack of access to adequate health care
• Environmental Pollution (interferes with endocrine function)
• Household Toxins (endocrine disruptors, obesogens)
• Industrialization of Food
• Weight Cycling
• Many of these factors that have been causally
connected to health have been show to cause
• We MAY have the causality flipped!!
Increasingly, evidence indicates that obesity
might be a symptom of poor health and social
inequality rather than a cause.
Be an information connoisseur
• Be careful as you consume information about
health to look for correlation causation errors.
• This often requires doing a little research on your
own to find original study results that become
distorted in the media.
To reiterate ….
• Post-Feminist is the idea that the goals of the feminist
movement have been achieved and are no longer necessary.
• Post-Race/Enlightened Racism is the idea that racism is no
longer a barrier for people of color.
• Under these two ideologies, group goals for women and
people of color are no longer necessary, thus we can focus on
• In this way Post-Feminism and Post-Race ideologies are
related to neo-liberalism which asks us to shift focus from the
collective/community to the individual.
Reality TV & The Body
• Focus on the individual rather than the group has led to an
increased focus on our individual bodies.
• The post feminist retreat has allowed for the development of
unattainable and harmful beauty standards that are imposed
on individual bodies.
• Celebrities, especially women and girls, are critiqued for being
too fat AND too thin. For having plastic surgery AND for having
wrinkles. NO WIN.
Moments of Resistance
• Ruptures in the Post-Race, Post-Feminist, neoliberal
• While critiques of radical body intervention (Tyra, Nip/Tuck)
are limited, they do exist and offer us insight into the
ideological narratives in which we are immersed.