Beauty work

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Beauty work is defined as various beauty “practices individuals perform on themselves or others to elicit certain benefits from a specific social hierarchy.”[1] Being “beautiful” has individual, social and institutional rewards.[1]

In developed Western societies, women tend to be judged for their physical appearance over their other qualities and the pressure to engage in beauty work is much higher for women than men. Although marketers have started to target the “metro-sexual” male and produce hygiene and beauty products geared towards men, the expectations placed on them is less than women[2] The time and money required for a man to achieve the same well-groomed appearance is much lower. Even in areas that men also face pressure to perform beauty work, such a haircuts/styling, the prices discrepancy for products and services are skewed. This phenomenon is called the “pink tax."[3][4]

This social norm is often relied upon in a form of gendered marketing where equivalent personal care products – with the same ingredients and cost of production – such as shampoos and razors, are marketed separately for women and men. Such products are often priced higher when marketed to women, who are willing to pay more due to the social pressure to appear physically attractive.[5]

Eating disorders resulted in about 7,000 deaths a year as of 2010, making them the mental illnesses with the highest mortality rate.[6] The psychopathology of eating disorders centers around body image disturbance, such as concerns with weight and shape.[7]

Radical feminist Sheila Jeffreys contends that women suffering pain in pursuit of beauty is a form of submission to patriarchal sadism. In 2005 she published a book on the subject, entitled Beauty and Misogyny, which she introduces as follows:

In the 1970s feminists criticized pervasive beauty regimes such as dieting and depilation, but in the last two decades the brutality of western beauty practices has become much more severe. Today's practices can require the breaking of skin, spilling of blood and rearrangement or amputation of body parts.[8]

See also[edit]

  • Beautification
  • Body image
  • Personal care
  • Personal grooming
  • Reproductive labor
  • Sexual objectification


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kwan, Samantha, and Mary Nell Trautner. "Beauty Work: Individual and Institutional Rewards, the Reproduction of Gender, and Questions of Agency." 3.1 (2009): 49-71. Sociology Compass. Blackwell Publishing. Web. 28 Mar. 2016
  2. A. Saltzberg, Elayne, and Joan C. Chrisler. "Beauty Is the Beast: Psychological Effects of the Pursuit of the Perfect Female Body." Women: A Feminist Perspective. 5 (1995): 306-15. Mayfield Publishing Company. Web. 25 Mar. 2016. page 6
  3. Ivana Kottasova for CNN Money. February 3, 2016 'Pink tax' angers women from New York to London
  4. Charlotte Alter for Time Magazine. Dec. 23, 2015 Women Pay More for Everything From Birth to Death, Report Finds
  5. Dearden, Lizzie. "Women paying more than men for everyday product thanks to 'unacceptable' gender price gap". The Independent. Published 19 January, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  6. Lozano, R; Naghavi, M; Foreman, K; Lim, S; Shibuya, K; Aboyans, V; Abraham, J; Adair, T; et al. (Dec 15, 2012). "Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010". Lancet. 380 (9859): 2095–128. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61728-0. PMID 23245604.
  7. Treasure, J; Claudino, AM; Zucker, N (2010). "Eating disorders". The Lancet. 375 (9714): 583–93. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61748-7. PMID 19931176.
  8. Jeffreys, Sheila (2005). Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West. London and New York: Routledge. p. 163. ISBN 9780415351829. Search this book on Logo.png

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