While doing this week’s reading assignment in Celia Lury’s “Consumer Culture” text, I came across a passage that really resonated with me, mainly because it was something I had never really thought about before.  On page 82 of the text, Lury writes, “long-term transformations in gender relations are seen to be one element in the development of consumer culture, involving no only relations between men and women but also self-reflexive relation in relation to themselves, including, for example, changes in conceptions of beauty and femininity.” In this blog post, I am going to be focusing mainly on the last part of the passage, as that is the part that particularly struck me.

 

If you really think about it, modern-day beauty and femininity aren’t seen as inherent traits – they have to be bought. We as a society have constructed definitions of these terms that are based in consumption, not character. Let’s first look at contemporary conceptions of beauty, which posit it as something women must “attain” as opposed to something they are born with. Beauty is defined as a standard to which women must live up, a standard that has been created by producers of material and ideological goods and then marketed to women as a part of a lifestyle. In other words, we as consumers are led to believe that in order to live a full, happy life we must look a certain way, and that we can buy our way to that kind of life.

 

This got me thinking about some of the media through which this standard of beauty is presented. I think that the most pervasive images can be found in women’s magazines. Not only are these publications filled with hundreds of advertisements, but the editorial pieces themselves are marketing a standard of beauty. For instance, most women’s magazines feature a cover story about a female celebrity, who is presented as an example of this beauty standard. The reader is then encouraged to follow in this cover girl’s footsteps by reading about the kinds of clothes she likes to wear, or the makeup brands she trusts. When a magazine boasts about “the best beauty secrets”, it’s not just something you can read about and automatically inherit. You must buy into it, both ideologically and literally.

 

-Madeline

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