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Imploding the Racialized and Patriarchal Beauty Myth through the Critical Lens of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye



This contribution investigates and lays bare the ideological workings of racialized beauty myth as presented in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye by bringing together feminist theory and postcolonial theory of race. It demonstrates that racialized beauty norms are informed by both the constructs of gender and race, and that they serve as a tool of social positioning and social control in Western capitalist patriarchies. This kind of contextual understanding, which Morrison’s The Bluest Eye helps to foster on a number of structurally interlocked levels, is also of crucial importance for the understanding of the way beauty myth operates today in the context of globally exported Western beauty industry. Its basic tenets remain firmly rooted in the construction and perpetuation of racialized and gendered otherness, which is why The Bluest Eye remains an eye-opener and therefore a novel of lasting value for readers in general and, as this contribution demonstrates, for students of English literature in particular.
Lilijana Burcar
Filozofska fakulteta, Univerza v Ljubljani
Published in the aftermath of the American civil rights movement in 1970, The Bluest Eye
investigates the premises of whiteness as a social category and draws attention to the per󰏒dious
ways in which constructs of racialized (and gendered) otherness are reinforced and sustained
through the Western ideology of beauty. Told from the point of view of an informed narrator,
an African-American girl Claudia McTeer, it recounts the story of another African- American
girl, Pecola Breedlove, who yearns for blue eyes. She comes to believe that blue eyes would
make her visible and beautiful in the eyes of others, and therefore accepted and loved.
Pecola’s desire for blue eyes or a whitened self is based on racialized standards of normative
(feminine) beauty that saturate public and private space. These normative representations
stare (down) at her and the rest of African-American community from literally every ad and
hoarding, from cinema screens and magazine covers; they permeate school primers and toy
designs such as dolls, and are found imprinted on everyday consumer products including
milk cups and candy wrappings. Pecola’s yearning for blue eyes or for being white signi󰏒es a
displacement and erasure of her self, which inevitably leads to her descent into madness. As
the title suggests, the yearning for the bluest “eye” is a yearning for the bluest self or whitest
“I”. This yearning for a racially imposed version of self, which is based on self-depreciation
and disavowal, also turns the person thus a󰏑ected into another manifestation of the “bluest” I:
that is, the saddest or the bluest self, marked by a completely self-alienated and destroyed
inner I, and a dysfunctional and politically passivized outer I.
In the afterword to the 1993 edition, Morrison explains that The Bluest Eye is based on a
real life experience when, just upon starting primary school, an African-American classmate
of hers con󰏒ded in her that what she desired most was a pair of blue rather than brown eyes.
Horri󰏒ed by this demonstration of internalized “racial self-loathing”, Morrison as an adult
person decades later was “still wondering how one learns that” (1994: 210). The novel, as
Morrison goes on to explain, was written to “peck away at the gaze that condemned” the girl
and her community and “against the damaging internalization of assumptions of immutable
inferiority originating in [this] outside gaze” (1994: 210). She wrote her 󰏒rst novel to expose
the ideology behind the beauty myth and to annihilate the white gaze that declared the girl like
UDK 821.111(73).09Morrison T.
DOI: 10.4312/vestnik.9.139-158
generations of African-Americans before and after her “wanting” or de󰏒cient and therefore
“a [] small weight on the beauty scale” (1994: 210). The novel exposes racialized norms of
beauty as one of the governing mechanisms of white supremacy, dissecting and rejecting
them while alerting its readership to the psychologically devastating consequences that a
constant reproduction and reinforcement of racialized beauty standards has upon the minds
of those subjected to this kind of “education” (Morrison 1994: 122) about their own self-
worth. In the process of doing so, the novel does much more than just expose the gripping
power of racist ideology, of which the beauty industry along with Hollywood cinematic
gaze is its supportive subset. It also brings to the surface and deconstructs “scienti󰏒c racial
theory and […] the hegemonic linguistic codes that give expression to such [constructions
and] objecti󰏒cations of race” (Baillie 2003: 21). The novel is, to adopt Baillie’s expression,
also “a literary political project” (2003: 25) in another sense. It brings to critical attention not
only racialized but also gendered constructs of beauty, which mainstream literary criticism
usually omits or only super󰏒cially addresses when referring to Morrison’s 󰏒rst novel. This
contribution seeks to rectify these omissions. By showing the beauty myth to be socially
constructed and damaging, The Bluest Eye directly addresses not only racialized but also
gendered constructs of beauty with the latter leading to the construction and implantation
of a particular kind of insu󰏔ciency and consequently “woundability lodged in all girls”
(Morrison 1994: 210). It demonstrates that the two seemingly separable categories of
gender and race are structurally intertwined, hence also the novel’s focus exclusively on girl
protagonists. In addition, as this contribution also argues, the novel has a new and far-reaching
pedagogical and political resonance for students of English literature today. A signi󰏒cant
portion of the research presented in this article thus also brings to the fore the results of a
pedagogical practice pursued on my part in the seminar on feminist literary studies. This
is the kind of practice that seeks to combine the 󰏒ndings of feminist analysis of patriarchal
beauty myth and postcolonial theories of race into a single unit of analysis, which in turn, as
this contribution demonstrates, is also conducive to a highly informed reading of The Bluest
Eye on the students’ part. Such an integrated approach helps students to critically assess and
resist contemporary and expanding beauty culture of capitalist patriarchy premised upon
the sexualisation and objecti󰏒cation of women, and to recognize and deal with the ways in
which the discourse of Western racial superiority continues to be evoked and naturalized
in the context of neo-colonial globalization, its corporate multiculturalism and attendant
globalized beauty industry.
The Bluest Eye presents a critically insightful entry point for readers in general and for students
of English literature in particular to re󰏓ect on the issue of capitalist patriarchy and racism
on a level that requires complex thinking informed by a historically contextual and socially
engaged approach to literature. One of the primary concerns in the novel is the received
notion of beauty and its internalization, which Morrison shows to be constructed on multiple
and interlocked levels. Whether beauty is gendered or racialized, Western beauty standards
rest on the objecti󰏒cation and disempowerment of the people they are targeted at. Western
beauty regimes operate through the enforcement of impossible and carefully calculated ideals,
which in turn construct the appearance and bodies of those they are targeted at as lacking
and insu󰏔cient (Bordo 1993). In this sense, they breed not only unease with one’s body and
appearance in general but also insecurity and dissatisfaction with oneself. Beauty regimes
function as disciplinary practices that help to position individuals and groups of people thus
targeted as lesser. By keeping one’s focus on preoccupation with one’s appearances and
bodies that are always constructed as inadequate and faulty (and in need of constant makeover
or repair), beauty standards which are impossible to meet serve as a tool of control and
depolitization. By keeping people 󰏒xated on their bodies and their ever more vulnerable (and
super󰏒cially reconstructed) inner self, they not only drain their (already meagre) 󰏒nancial
resources but also channel their energy away from relevant social issues a󰏑ecting their lives
and from a much-needed political engagement. Or as Bordo puts it, Western beauty ideals lead
to pathologies and function as modes of producing docile subjects of late capitalist societies
also in the sense that they “render[…] them less socially oriented and more centripetally
focused on [continually failed projects of] self-modi󰏒cation” (1989: 14).
1.1 Gendered beauty norms as a way of feminizing
and controlling women
Morrison captures the devastating e󰏑ects of Western beauty ideology through the
character of Pecola’s mother, Pauline. Sick and tired of her domestic con󰏒nement, she
󰏒nally extricates herself from the house, but with no other public place else to go to
except cinema she settles for the latter. Here, in the belly of the Hollywood industry and
its cinematic representations of feminine beauty and whiteness, Pauline is subjected to
what Morrison calls a life-time “education” (1994: 122):
“There in the dark … along with the idea of romantic love, she was introduced
to another - physical beauty. […]Probably the most destructive ideas in the
history of human thought. Both originated in envy, thrived in insecurity, and
ended in disillusion. In equating physical beauty with virtue, she stripped her
mind, bound it, and collected self-contempt by the heap.”
The fact that Morrison sends the mother rather than the father to the cinema is not
a coincidence. Nor is the fact that it is mostly female characters that populate her story,
with men appearing in side roles, and that it is women as central characters that are
subjected to similar education or indoctrination like Pecola’s mother. As pointed out
by a number of feminists and cultural theoreticians alike, in the capitalist and imperial
West, “the discourse and practices of beauty are [󰏒rst and foremost] integral both to the
production and regulation of femininity, and to asymmetrical relations of power between
[men and women] and among women” (Davis 2003: 54). In the West, beauty regimes
are targeted at women and function as disciplinary practices, the point of which is to
produce “a feminine body out of a female one” (Bartky 2003: 34). To be feminine is to
be associated with passivity, weakness and intuition rather than agency, reason, strength
and presence of mind (Lister 1997). These are projected characteristics on the basis of
which women have been realigned with nature and chaos and men with culture and order
(Ortner 1972). The reinforcement of this arti󰏒cial and hierarchical binary has been crucial
to the construction of women’s secondary status in Western capitalist societies. It has
served as an ideological tool, on the basis of which women’s con󰏒nement to the private
sphere – and along with it the privatization and individualization rather than socialization
of social reproductive work such as child care – continues to be naturalized and justi󰏒ed.
Beauty industry, with its focus on the prescription of appearances, has a direct role in
upholding the constructs of femininity and in reinforcing the gendered disequilibrium,
with women constructed and positioned as subordinate and submissive and men as
dominant and powerful (Bartky 2003). This is fundamental to capitalist patriarchies that
rest on modernized breadwinner models.
Reduced to mere bodies to be decorated and bodies to be looked at, women within
this economy of meaning are recon󰏒gured and turned into a super󰏒cial spectral presence,
a shadow presence, whose recognition depends on the assessing gaze of somebody else.
This results in the imposition of a dichotomy of passivity and activity, with passivity
reserved for the one reduced to the status of an object to be looked at, and activity for the
one who looks and thus de󰏒nes. Consequently, as put by John Berger (1998: 98), in this
economy of meaning
men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves
being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and
women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of the
woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an
object - and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.
Beauty regimes passivize women, reducing them to a surface appearance without
depth. Reduced to a mere body and to a status of “looked-at-ness” (Tate 2008: 24), women
must learn to perceive and see themselves as “things looked at and acted upon” (Leeds
Craig 2006: 162). Re-imagined and therefore positioned as being always and only body
speci󰏒c, women come to constitute the inner or outer margin of the social patriarchal
order whose core comes to be perceived as supposedly naturally fused with and one with
masculine reason and agency (Moi 1986).
In addition to passivizing and marginalizing women, beauty regimes act as
disciplinary practices that control and restrict women. Rather than just merely describing
and regulating women’s appearances, beauty ideals and beauty practices function as re-
enforcers of women’s secondary and subordinate (feminine) status. As pointed out by
Bartky, within the (Eurocentric) economy of meaning, determined by the patriarchal
gaze and internalized also by women in the beauty and fashion industry, ‘an aesthetic
of femininity mandates fragility’ (2003: 34-35). This feminine beauty ideal in turn rests
on the constant production of ‘a body of a certain size and general con󰏒gurations’ and
on ‘a speci󰏒c repertoire of gestures, postures and movements’ (2003: 27). The aim is to
produce and enforce the ideal of a tiny and frail, child-like female body, which in turn
can be cast as an ‘inferiorized body’ (2003: 37). Accordingly, beauty regimes of Western
capitalist patriarchies revolve around thinness verging on emaciation, infantilization
(and animalization), and sexualisation of women. As explained by Bartky (2003: 35), a
woman in contemporary Western patriarchy
must try to assume […] the body of early adolescence, slight and unformed,
a body lacking esh or substance, a body in whose very contours the image
of immaturity has been inscribed. The requirement that a woman maintain
a smooth and hairless skin carries further the theme of inexperience, for an
infantilized face must accompany her infantilized body. The face of the ideally
feminine woman must never display the marks of character, wisdom, and
experience that we so admire in men.
Facelifts, skin-peeling and botox help to temporary erase wrinkles and other sings
associated with longevity and experience otherwise desired in men, while liposuction and
dieting, anorexia and bulimia ensure that women, in subjecting themselves to the “tyranny
of slenderness” (Bartky 2003: 35), learn to approximate adolescently thin and unthreatening
bodies. This helps to shrink the actual size of their adult bodies, making them appear not
only small, narrow and harmless in taking up much less space in comparison to men,
but also weak, permanently infantile and therefore subordinate. Teenage youthfulness or
inexperience combined with sexually nubile but mentally not yet mature bodies contributes
to the reinforcement of feminine and masculine binary. The beauty ideal of thinness for
women has been accompanied by an increased sexualisation and objecti󰏒cation of women
(Murnen and Seabrok 2012). Within the heteronormative patriarchal matrix, women are
sexualized as passive bodies and trained to present themselves as an “object and prey for
the man” (Bartky 2003: 34). Cast as “bodies designed to please and excite” others, they
are expected to have no knowledge and demands of their own sexual pleasure (2003:
42). These are bodies that are always acted upon. Once positioned as sexualized bodies
or sex objects, women are objecti󰏒ed and treated as less competent, less quali󰏒ed and
deserving than they really are (Murnen and Seabrok 2012: 441). While beauty industry
touts women’s heteronormative objecti󰏒cation and passive sexualisation as their ultimate
power, it in fact serves as their ultimate disempowerment (McRobbie 2009). Women’s
emaciation, infantilization and sexualisation constitute the so-called “larger disciplines” of
contemporary capitalist patriarchy and its attendant beauty industry that a󰏑ect all women:
they “construct a ‘feminine body’ out of a female one” regardless of its skin colour or class
(Bartky 2003: 34). The target is all women for the aim is the same: this is the construction
and reinforcement of a homogenously feminine body, that is, a ‘subjected body … a body
on which inferior status has been inscribed” (Bartky 2003: 34). This is the kind of body that
Western capitalist patriarchies constantly produce and reproduce as de󰏒cient and faulty, as
inadequate and in need of change or makeover. The result is psychological insecurity and
self-alienation on the part of women. Or, as put by Bartky: “to live in an inferiorized body
is to be alienated from one’s body, hence from oneself.” (2002: 20).
The same mechanisms and e󰏑ects are also at work in the production and
maintenance of racialized, Eurocentric standards of beauty. In order to better explain
the structural fusion between gendered and racialized norms of Western beauty regimes
and the way this is captured in the novel, what follows 󰏒rst is a lengthier contextual
analysis of racialized beauty norms and their modalities that the novel addresses either
implicitly or explicitly. This integrated step-by-step approach, developed in my seminar
on Anglo-American feminist literary studies and in my seminar on American literature
at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana, has also turned out to be of crucial importance for
MA students of English literature. It has helped them to develop critical thinking and
a comprehensive understanding of the systemic nature and the workings of Western
racialized and patriarchal beauty myth. This has resulted in some stunning observations
and in-depth analyses on their part, which is why the remaining sections also include
some of their written responses.
1.2 Racialized constructs of beauty
Racism and racialized constructs of beauty have their origin in the rise and consolidation
of capitalist exploitative system in Europe and its imperial expansionism. Since its early
inception in the 16th century, this order has rested on the construction of inferiority and
imposition of object status upon the peoples the West was to dispossess and exterminate, or
preferably make use of and enslave, in order to subject them to its new mode of production
and social organization. Race as a social construct was invented and maintained also by
means of pseudoscience to arti󰏒cially re-categorize people into those that quali󰏒ed as
human and were seen as endowed with reason, and those that would be stripped of humanity
and constructed as the other, that is, as lacking in reason, and consequently, according to
this construction, in culture and beauty (Camp 2015: 680). This othering proceeded on
the basis of projecting imaginary insu󰏔ciencies and negative characteristics into selected
groups of people under the pretext of their skin colour. Racism has “historically functioned
to legitimize extreme oppression and inequality” (Wilson 1996: 125), that is, super-
exploitation of those constructed and denigrated as racialized others on the home turf of
Western capitalist powers and in their colonial outposts. American slavery was just one
of the epochs in the history of this system. That is why racism continues unabated today
in the form of institutionalized racism which has mutated in content, having gone from
biological to cultural racism (Burcar 2017). This is also something that the main narrator,
Claudia McTeer, understands very well. Through her informed point of view, we come
to share in her awareness and understanding of her peripheral status which is structurally
maintained and further entrenched by the way her family and community continue to be
de󰏒ned as the ultimate and therefore super-exploited racialized other:
Being a minority in both caste and class, we moved about anyway on the hem of
life, struggling to consolidate our weaknesses and hang on, or to creep singly
up into the major folds of the garment. Our peripheral existence, however, was
something we had learned to deal with. (Morrison 1994:19)
Racialized constructs of beauty have served as one of support mechanisms for
assigning and inscribing imaginary racialized di󰏑erences and de󰏒ciencies, and as one of
the methods on the basis of which selected groups of people continue to be objecti󰏒ed
and constructed as lesser and subordinate. In this sense, beauty binaries or “ideas
about beauty and ugliness were and continue to be entangled with the invention and
ongoing reinvention of race itself” (Camp 2015: 690). In the context of Western internal
colonialism and external imperialism, the task of Eurocentric beauty ideology has been to
uphold and naturalize the concept of white supremacy. For this purpose, beauty has been
linked to whiteness and ugliness to those constructed as others on the basis of discursive
operations known as binary operations. These have rested on the invention and division of
races as though they existed in a hierarchical “opposition to one another”: in this process,
“black people and blackness were [thus] de󰏒ned as barbaric, savage, heathen and ugly;
white people and whiteness were de󰏒ned as civilized, modern, Christian and beautiful”
(Hunter 2005: 20). Consequently, also selected “features associated with whites, such as
light skin, straight noses, and long, straight hair would take on meanings” that would link
what are in fact neutral physical characteristics to psychological and cultural meanings,
so that these selected features would also come to stand for one’s personal character,
that is, for “civility and rationality”, and hence “beauty” (Hunter 2005: 9). In this sense,
an early 20th-century pseudoscientist De Gobineau, whom Morrison also mentions in
the novel, came up with a racist doctrine that the “white race was superior to all others
in being”, claiming further that “the human groups were unequal in beauty, [with] this
inequality [being] rational, logical, permanent and indestructible” (qtd. in Baillie 2003:
27). Morrison confronts this doctrine head on by pointing to the way Americans of mixed
ancestry end up as cogs in the machinery of whiteness, wrongly believing themselves to
be closer to their white masters and above other members of their community while in
fact being in the same boat with those they help to denigrate on behalf of their masters:
With the condence born of a conviction of superiority, they performed well at
schools. They were industrious, orderly, and energetic, hoping to prove beyond
a doubt De Gobineau’s hypothesis that “all civilizations derive from the white
race, that none can exist without its help, and that a society is great and brilliant
only so far as it preserves the blood of the noble group that created it.” Thus,
they were seldom overlooked by schoolmasters who recommended promising
students for study abroad. (Morrison 1994: 68)
Morrison also goes on to show how this beauty doctrine has become an insidious
platform of the Hollywood industry. It is through her exposure to cinematic constructs of
whiteness and blackness that Pecola’s mother acquires a lifetime education, after which
she is “never able to look at a face and not assign it some category in the scale of absolute
beauty” (1994: 122), the absolute beauty being whiteness or approximation of whiteness
itself. At the same time, Morrison reminds us of the pernicious e󰏑ects the doctrine
of racialized beauty has on members of racialized groups, who by seeing themselves
constructed as lacking and therefore as less beautiful or less human absorb this ideology
in an environment that encourages their self-hatred rather than resistance. The result is a
depoliticized and disunited body of people:
You looked at them and wondered why they were so ugly; you looked closely
and could not nd the source. Then you realized that it came from conviction
[…]. It was as though some mysterious all-knowing master had given each one
a cloak of ugliness to wear, and they had each accepted it without question.
The master had said, “You are ugly people.” They had looked about themselves
and saw nothing to contradict the statement; saw, in fact, support for it leaning
at them from every billboard, every movie, every glance. “Yes,” they had said.
“You are right.” And they took the ugliness in their hands, threw it as a mantle
over them, and went about the world with it. Dealing with it each according to
his way. (1994: 39)
Morrison demonstrates that racialized beauty myth is all pervasive because it is
institutionally maintained. It has to do with categorical devaluation of people: once
labelled as de󰏒cient and lacking in beauty, which the West equates with humanity, the
people thus targeted come to be homogenized as the ultimate other.
Racialized beauty myth propped up by its attendant pseudoscienti󰏒c discourses in
the past and the “beauty-industrial complex” today functions as a tool of domination
and social control (Robinson-Moore 2008: 67). Far from just having to do with the
prescription and devaluation of appearances, racialized beauty norms play a direct role
in the naturalization and maintenance of hierarchical social strati󰏒cation. They help to
“de󰏒ne who will qualify as a subject of recognition” (Tate 2008: 4), that is, who will
and can qualify as human. Racialized beauty paradigms and practices therefore serve as
a way of positioning people and as a way of symbolically reinforcing and maintaining
inequality: they are used as powerful tools by means of which human presence is either
bestowed or withheld. By rendering those de󰏒ned as others invisible or less than nothing,
they also help to implant a feeling of insu󰏔ciency, a feeling of human lack in the people
thus de󰏒ned. Their point is to make those targeted see themselves as less worthy, that is,
to “see and experience themselves as Other” (hooks 1992: 3). In this sense, racialized
beauty norms function as a means of social control. They “sediment […] our structures of
feeling” (Tate 2008: 4) and govern forms of perception and self-perception among those
targeted as others as less deserving, as less human and therefore supposedly justi󰏒ably
marginalized and exploited.
These complex processes, which have to do with the granting or denying of one’s
personhood, are best captured in what is one of the most memorable and evocative
sections of The Bluest Eye. It pivots on Pecola’s encounter with a white immigrant store-
owner and the interaction or rather lack of it that ensues thereafter:
The gray head of Mr. Yacobowski looms up over the counter. He urges his
eyes out of his thoughts to encounter her. […]At some xed point in time and
space he senses that he need not waste the eort of a glance. He does not see
her, because for him there is nothing to see. […]She looks up at him and sees
the vacuum where curiosity ought to lodge. And something more. The total
absence of human recognition—the glazed separateness. […]It has an edge;
somewhere in the bottom lid is the distaste. She has seen it lurking in the eyes
of all white people. So. The distaste must be for her, her blackness. […] And it
is the blackness that accounts for, that creates, the vacuum edged with distaste
in white eyes. […] Outside, Pecola feels the inexplicable shame ebb. [… and]
well[] up again, its muddy rivulets seeping into her eyes.
This is also a pivotal section and a breaking point for the novel’s readership and,
even more so, for students of English literature. Equipped by now with the contextual
understanding of patriarchal and racialized norms of beauty, students at this point are
󰏒nally able to recognize and grasp the extent of the social power that Western constructs
of beauty are invested with, and the ways they are deployed in order to exercise control
upon those constructed and targeted as the other. This is one of the most powerful sections
in the novel which allows students to gain a comprehensive insight into the operating
mechanisms of Western beauty myth and to see how and why these normative constructs
of beauty homogenize and “symbolically and functionally disempower” groups of people
they are targeted at (Murnen and Seabrok 2012: 440).
This newly gained understanding is also clearly re󰏓ected in a representative selection
of some of the observations presented by MA students in their 2016/2017 seminar on
Anglo-American feminist literary studies, with the last two also bringing together the
understanding of how gender and racialized constraints fall together into a single, uni󰏒ed
Morrison describes how someone can be completely dehumanized just because
they do not conform to particular beauty standards. Pecola is black and because
of that she is not just ugly in the eyes of Mr. Yacobowski, she is not even worth
his glance. He does not want to look at her. It seems as if he is looking through
her as if she were invisible. This invisibility is even worse than just hatred or
disgust, because even if you are hated at least you are perceived as a person.
But the “vacuum” in the man’s eyes indicates that she is not worthy to be called
a person, just because of the colour of her skin. […] And all of this just because
of a completely subjective, irrational perception of beauty that was articially
created by a society that is based on white supremacy.
Mr. Yacobowski denies Pecola the status of a person based solely on Pecola’s
looks (more specically, the fact that she is black). […] Morrison clearly
shows that this isn’t an isolated event. It’s not just Mr. Yacobowski who looks
at Pecola that way; she has seen it “in the eyes of all white people”. This type
of domination is systemic, not individual. […]When people strip Pecola of her
personhood, they are immediately put into a dominant position, because even if
they’re an immigrant like Mr. Yacobowski, at least they’re still a person.
As soon as the storekeeper perceives Pecola’s blackness, it triggers a
detachment which categorizes her as the Other, someone who is marked by the
color of her skin as not worth engaging on an equal basis. The narrator points
out that his inability to perceive a black girl as a fellow human being stems not
only from their diverse backgrounds, but specically from the fact that his mind
has been “honed on the doe-eyed Virgin Mary”, a religiously-imbued, white
ideal of beauty.
Morrison shows us that the shopkeeper is unable to see Pecola, not because
he personally has anything against her as a person, but because she does not
have the characteristics that, in his mind, constitute a person at all. His gaze is
not lled with hatred against her, but a “total absence of human recognition”.
That is because he has been conditioned to recognize a person in relation to
a certain standard, his mind is “honed on the doe-eyed Virgin Mary,” who
looks nothing like little black Pecola. Because she is so dierent from the ideal
against which he evaluates women, he fails to register her as a subject at all.
[… and] once the white gaze is internalized as a way of evaluating the world,
it also becomes a way of evaluating one’s self-worth. [Hence also Pecola’s
resurgent feeling of shame].
While Western prescribed standards of beauty are taken for granted and appear
to be self-generating, they have their origin and continue to be “embedded in political
economic systems of capital accumulation” (Taylor et. al. 2016: 128). They are primarily
used as a means of social control and social positioning, with patriarchal and racialized
paradigms functioning as two sides of the same coin. Capitalism itself rests on di󰏑erent
forms and degrees of women’s domestication and submission (or dependency) as well as
on the othering and super-exploitation of those de󰏒ned as racialized others. Racialized
and gendered beauty norms constitute a complementary system of mutually reinforced
discourses and practices. That is why, to adapt Naomi Wolf’s observation, the beauty
myth in the West is essentially not just about the prescription of appearances: “it is always
actually prescribing behaviour” (1992: 14) and (self-)perception on the part of those that
de󰏒ne and those that are de󰏒ned. Those caught in the assessing and de󰏒ning gaze of the
de󰏒ner are objecti󰏒ed and dehumanized, as well as manipulated with, precisely through
the instalment of a feeling of inadequacy and self-worthlessness, which in turn leads to
one’s complete incapacitation.
In Western capitalist patriarchies, beauty norms 󰏒rst and foremost help to enforce and
sustain the ideology of feminine inferiority and women’s secondariness with the emphasis
on the production of infantile, sexualized and emaciated bodies as being one with all
female bodies (Davis 2003). Within capitalist patriarchies, beauty regimes in general
are geared speci󰏒cally towards women as they position them as passive objects of gaze,
as a surface to be gazed at and acted upon. Consequently, in this economy of meanings
it is also African-American women that bear the brunt of racialized beauty standards.
Racialized beauty standards dehumanize and oppress those cast as racialized others in
general, but because beauty norms are primarily gendered, racialized or “Eurocentric
beauty paradigms” and practices are “more salient for black females than for black males”
( Robinson-Moore 2008: 67). That is, in the patriarchal economy of gaze, racialized beauty
norms are transposed onto women and act as a yardstick by means of which the femininity
of African-American women, and by extension their acceptability and desirability, is itself
measured and assessed in terms of their approximation to the ideals of whiteness, and
thereby to white femininity by white and black men alike. Men, while appearing in the
masculine role of de󰏒ners or assessors, are exempted from these coercive beauty practices,
which demand that women subject themselves to ongoing modi󰏒cations in order to make
their bodies and faces appear closer to prescribed standards of whiteness. Consequently,
if in Western capitalist patriarchies the “feminine subject is [universally] de󰏒ned as lack,
as absence, then the black woman is doubly lacking, for she must simulate or feign her
femininity as she dissimulates or conceals her blackness” (Grewal qtd. in Azouz, N. pg.).
Racialized de󰏒nitions of beauty rest on the promulgation of light skin and straight hair,
and for African- American women to pass as beautiful or feminine enough, it has been
a prerequisite for them not only to use bleaching creams to lighten or “prettify” their
skin but to straighten their hair. While African-American men in the past would wear
their hair unstraightened and trimmed close to their head or simply shaven to the skull
today, African-American women to this day, in order to pass as acceptable or feminine,
have been subjected to the regime of having their hair straightened by means of harmful
chemicals (also known as relaxers) or through the painful application of hot metal combs
and curling irons, which, while uncoiling and stretching the hair, also burn and damage
it (Tate 2008: 43). Today, as pointed out by Tate (2008: 43, 44), “black hair stylization
technologies”, which have been always targeted speci󰏒cally at African-American women,
have expanded and serve either to “remove the frizz or hide it”, thus “socializ[ing]” the
hair of African-American women to make it appear closer to the white feminine ideal
of long and 󰏓owing straight hair. It is for this reason that Pecola’s mother is also looked
down upon and devalued as a woman by her own peers. When she moves to Chicago, she
“fe[els] uncomfortable with the few black women she met”: all of them are “amused by
her” because [at the time] “she did not [yet] straighten her hair” (Morrison 1994: 118).
Eurocentric constructs of normative beauty are targeted at all racialized people
in general, but in the patriarchal system, based upon “specular-driven conceptions of
beauty” (Munafo 1995: 6) that reduce women to the body and surface, they are applied to
racialized women in particular. To pass as masculine, patriarchal white gaze is adopted and
replicated by African-American men in relation to women, and internalized by African-
American women who, gendered and homogenized as feminine, are encumbered with
the burdensome task to live up to the prescribed normative standards of beauty, de󰏒ned
as white feminine beauty. This conception of beauty is not only set up “in terms of the
physical features that the people we consider white are more likely to have” (Taylor 2000:
667), but is subjected to further internal selection and hierarchical re-organization. Or as put
by Munafo, the conception of white feminine (physical) beauty “derives from a [further]
distillation of ‘white’ physical characteristics,” so that they become subsumed under the
label of “the Aryan ideal” (1995: 6), that is, an Anglo-Saxon or Nordic construct. A blue-
eyed and blonde-haired beauty icon is something that is very di󰏔cult to approximate
already by a large number of women of European descent, and impossible to meet by
African-American (and other racialized) women in general. Within this frame, gendered
and racialized constructs of femininity coalesce. Eurocentric normative standards of
feminine beauty “idealize fair skin, small noses and lips, and long 󰏓owing hair,” and in
turn de󰏒ne “black women’s dark skin colour, facial features, and tightly curled, short hair
as ugly” (Leeds Craig 2006: 163), thus also de󰏒ning African-American women as “less
female, and less human” (Jha 2016: 33). Because hair in addition to skin colour has been
“historically devalued as the most visible stigmata of blackness” (Mercer qtd. in Tate
2008: 48), what is at stake in the eulogization of long, 󰏓owing and preferably blonde hair
has to do with a simultaneous reinforcement of the constructs of gender and race. The
coiled or nappy hair is both very dry (unless oiled it breaks easily all the time) and slow to
grow, but if straightened it will grow much faster (Robinson-Moore 2008: 363). Long and
󰏓owing hair unlike short hair in the Western beauty paradigm is also a feminine attribute:
silky and light to the touch (LaVon Walther 1990: 780), it suggests softness and yieldiness
on the part of its wearer, rather than harshness, sturdiness and resistance, characteristics
associated with masculinity. Thus the idealization of “straight 󰏓owing locks of whiteness”
(Tate 2008: 19) carries the inscription of both feminine and racialized beauty standards
that are structurally intertwined and doubly disempowering for African-American women
and girls. These are the norms that prescribe impossible standards of beauty or “physical
reductionism” for women (Pinder 2015: 119), against which a feminine subject, immersed
into a racialized and patriarchal environment, is continually called upon to “measure,
judge, discipline and correct itself” (Bordo 1993: 25).
This is also the fate of all female characters in the novel. The complex workings
of this ideology and the way it also arti󰏒cially divides and hierarchisizes women is best
captured in the section where a light-skinned African-American girl of mixed descent
with “sloe green eyes” and “with long brown hair braided into two lynch ropes [hanging]
down her back” (Morrison 1994: 62) denigrates other African-American girls for not
coming anywhere near the patriarchally and white-de󰏒ned feminine ideal:
We passed the Dreamland Theater, and Betty Grable smiled down at us. “Don’t
you just love her?” Maureen asked. “Uh-huh,” said Pecola. I diered. “Hedy
Lamarr is better.” Maureen agreed. “Ooooo yes. My mother told me that a girl
named Audrey, she went to the beauty parlor where we lived before, and asked
the lady to x her hair like Hedy Lamarr’s, and the lady said, ‘Yeah, when you
grow some hair like Hedy Lamarr’s.’ ” She laughed long and sweet. (1994: 69-70)
As a light-skinned girl or what Morrison calls “a high-yellow dream child” with the
hair type and length closer to the “destilled” markers of whiteness, Maureen Peal believes
herself to be better and higher ranking than the rest of African-American girls in her
classroom. Here Morrison subtly draws attention to the way both the structure and the
length of the hair permeate every day discourse, featuring as one of the de󰏒ning although
in fact arbitrarily selected markers of one’s closeness to “whiteness”, and therefore also
to desired femininity. This in turn translates into an acquired sense of either worthiness
or worthlessness among the girls with the internalized white patriarchal male gaze now
de󰏒ning the way girls come to relate to each other. The result is the so-called internalized
racism that breeds intra-racial prejudice, wreaking havoc on mutual love and respect
among members within the community. Racialized beauty myth drives a wedge between
members of the structurally marginalized community, eroding their solidarity and thus
weakening their position even further. In this sense, it serves as an ultimate means of
social control.
Reduced to spectral presence and entrapped by patriarchal white gaze, women, as
Morrison demonstrates, learn to self-depreciate and to categorize and evaluate other
women and girls in terms of their proximity to or distance from the imposed ideal of
white patriarchal beauty paradigm. Signi󰏒cantly, Morrison removes men from the scene
to show that this paradigm is structurally embedded and institutionally maintained rather
than dependent on racial and sexist prejudice emanating from individual men, as liberal
feminism would have it. Even though men are nowhere in sight, the patriarchal white
gaze is not gone. Embedded into a broader social framework, it hovers in the background
and it is all-pervasive. This controlling gaze stares down at African-American and white
women alike from every billboard and school primer, regulating their perception of
their own sense of self-worth which they also learn to accord to each other. The white
patriarchal gaze regulates relationships between white and racialized women, creating an
arti󰏒cial divide between them too. Although African-American women are called upon
to emulate white female icons of beauty, Claudia understands it is not white women
that are the enemy. With both white and African-American women reduced to spectral
presence, the controlling gaze is not that of an idealized white woman, against whom
black women are called upon to compare and measure themselves. The female icons
of white and feminine beauty are only conduits for the patriarchal white gaze, which
in fact also determines the way these icons themselves continue to be positioned and
circumscribed as feminine other. This is a crucial insight the main narrator of The Bluest
Eye has to o󰏑er to the readership. Claudia observes: “And all the time we knew that
Maureen Peal was not the enemy” (1994: 74) nor were the Shirley Temples and Mary
Janes or for that matter African-American black girls whose eyes, in the presence of
lighter-skinned and possibly sloe green-eyed African-American girls like Maureen Peal,
would always genu󰏓ect[] under sliding lids” (1994: 62). Maureen Peals of this world
are not the enemy and “not worthy of intense hatred”. Instead, “[t]he thing to fear was
the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us.” (Morrison 1994: 74). The “Thing” is of
course the racist (and gendered patriarchal) ideology and its mechanisms of othering
and dehumanization, which are a building block of exploitative social relations. It is this
seemingly impalpable and indecipherable but in reality a very concrete and institutionally
maintained ideology with its mechanisms of othering that is the real enemy.
Claudia as the informed narrator is the only one who resists the Western standards
of white patriarchal beauty paradigm and it is through her informed point of view that the
novel also strikes back at the root of racialized beauty myth, smashing it to smithereens.
After 󰏒rst demonstrating the per󰏒dious workings of the racialized and gendered beauty
myth and the psychological damage left in its wake, the novel leads us to the central
epiphanic moment when through Claudia we come face to face with the Thing itself.
This is the moment of the exposure and the undoing of the ideology itself. When Claudia
refers to her desire to “dis-member” white dolls in order to see and understand what
they are made of, she symbolically talks of her desire to deconstruct and challenge the
racist ideology. The idea is to strike at the heart of it: this means dismantling it piece by
piece, revealing in the process its ungroundedness. By taking it apart, Claudia reveals
that constructs of racialized beauty and otherness run on thin air, that behind racialized
beauty myth and constructs of otherness there is no substance or truth. To deconstruct the
racialized beauty myth is to demystify it, which is why Claudia must take the white dolls
of this world apart:
I had only one desire: to dismember it. To see of what it was made, to discover
the dearness, to nd the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but
apparently only me. Adults, older girls, shops, magazines, newspapers, window
signs—all the world had agreed that a blue-eyed, yellow-haired, pink-skinned
doll was what every girl child treasured. […] I could not love it. But I could
examine it to see what it was that all the world said was lovable. Break o
the tiny ngers, […] Remove the cold and stupid eyeball, it would bleat still,
Ahhhhhh,” take o the head, shake out the sawdust, crack the back against
the brass bed rail, it would bleat still. The gauze back would split, and I could
see the disk with six holes, the secret of the sound. A mere metal roundness.
By dismantling the doll and deconstructing the racist ideology, Claudia can 󰏒nally
also get at the heart of social structures that maintain her secondary status. To see what
this ideology is made of is to expose its hollowness and insubstantiality, which is also a
way of imploding it. To trace the workings of the racist ideology and to dismantle it in
the process of doing so results in a form of empowerment. Only by dismantling it can
one also rise against this ideology and claim a di󰏑erent self, a self no longer shackled by
the imposed constraints of gendered and racialized otherness. The task of the avant-garde
eye/I is therefore not only to see through but also beyond these mechanisms of othering
precisely by helping to undo them. This is also a message well grasped by students who
at this point come to understand that whiteness is in fact a political category.
STUDENT A: Claudia as the narrator shows us how the beauty myth is
imposed, how whiteness is gloried and blackness sneered at. Her anger,
frustration and hopelessness also makes the reader see these constructs as
articial designs and makes them see racism for what it really is - a bogus
ideological apparatus that wants to create a hierarchy based on non-existing
dierences and myths.
STUDENT E: Claudia refuses to conform to the racialized and gendered
constructs of beauty, even though she understands they exist. With her
dismembering of the dolls, she symbolically tries to unmask the white notion
of beauty and discover how it operates. By doing so, she also disallows this
ideology to inuence her in a profound way.
STUDENT F: Claudia hasn’t internalized the white gaze’s aesthetic standards
and is free to examine them critically. The excerpt encourages a shift in
perception. The reader has to change their perception form the “default versus
the Other” so that they can deconstruct their vision of whiteness as the invisible
default to which everything else is contrasted. The approach to dealing with
racism shouldn’t be colourblindness but rather seeing colour …
STUDENT G: She does not take cuteness at face value … she wants to
know what makes the white doll desirable. Through this, she questions the
constructs of whiteness as the centre against which beauty is evaluated. Thus
she removes “the cloak of invisibility draped over” whiteness as a central
category and examines it critically. This invites the reader to do the same
By “dismembering” whiteness we are able to see how it is constructed and to
recognize why this is done.”
The Bluest Eye implodes the racialized beauty myth by exposing the gendered and racialized
constructs it is based upon and which it helps to perpetuate and naturalize. The Bluest Eye
provides its readership with an in-depth understanding of the workings and the trappings
of racialized beauty norms and o󰏑ers a durable critical awareness, which in turn can help
one to recognize and address the ways in which racialized beauty myth, and along with it
white supremacy, continues to be naturalized today. Today, coercive beauty practices are
“formed and reproduced in a political context of globalization, colonialism, and capitalism”
(Jha 2016: 1). West-based beauty and fashion multi-million industries, music and 󰏒lm-
industries are all part and parcel of commodity capitalism. They have a direct stake not only
in the commodi󰏒cation and sexualisation of women worldwide but also in the exportation
and imposition of “a global Eurocentric beauty aesthetics” (2016: 1) to the parts of the
world newly annexed or re-annexed to the Western imperial interests. The imposition of
the globalized and racialized ideal of femininity “continues to be de󰏒ned primarily by
lighter skin colour and Anglo-looking faces, bodies and straight and blond hair” (2016:
5). In its shaping of the globalized racial ideals of femininity, this industry propagates and
homogenizes the image of the West as the seat of modernity and progress. Corporations
like Nivea and Unilever have sought to increase their marketing share by selling whitening
or bleaching creams to women in Asia, Latin America and Africa. In their marketing
campaigns, they link the use of skin-lightening creams to professional success and upward
mobility supposedly enjoyed by all Western women and which other women can achieve
by making their skin more “beautiful” (2016: 53). Similarly, in addition to liposuction and
breast implants, cosmetic industry promotes Eurocentric standards of beauty on a global
scale. The most frequent procedures include “eyelid surgeries [among Asian and Asian
American women] that add a crease to their eyelids to give them a more rounded appearance
– more Western”, and among women of African and Hispanic descent the most common
surgeries are those “that make their noses longer or narrower – more Anglo” (Hunter 2005:
56). And last but not least, the institutionalization of Eurocentric beauty norms today takes
place under the veneer of multicultural inclusion and promotion of diversity. What is at
stake in this discourse is a token inclusion and an illusion of diversity that continues to
revolve around the construction of whiteness as a seemingly neutral but in fact the de󰏒ning
centre and everything else as a cultural deviation. To be included into the hall of what is
touted as hybridized or multicultural beauty, its icons must emulate whiteness. This goes
true for Disney princesses like Jasmine and Pocahontas and for ethnicized Barbie dolls.
Except for their di󰏑erence in the dye of their plastic or celluloid skin colour, they are all
carbon copies of “the same mythically thin, long-legged, luxuriously haired, buxom beauty”
originally encapsulated in the “prototypical white Barbie” (Ducille 1994: 50). And this
emulation of whiteness (or Caucasian features as the designers of Pocahontas themselves
emphasize) under the façade of cultural diversity goes true for real people in the music and
󰏒lm industry, who in turn act as powerful idols for generations of teenagers and adults alike
worldwide. In this sense, African-American pop icons like Beyoncé groom their appearance
by making it look closer to the distilled features of whiteness: her “lighter skin and blond
(dyed) hair reinforce whiteness” for her audience and for herself “as a site of [acceptable]
femininity and beauty” (Jha 2016: 47). The Bluest Eye thus remains a contemporary piece
of political writing: it has the power to make us aware of contemporary forms of racialized
beauty constructs and the need to extricate ourselves from their grip by taking our own turn
in dismantling and imploding them altogether.
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The author acknowledges the 󰏒nancial support of the Slovenian Research Agency (re-
search core funding No. P6-0265).
Razgradnja rasnega in patriarhalnega mita lepote skozi kritični pogled romana Toni Morri-
son Najbolj modre oči (The Bluest Eye)”
Prispevek razkriva in razčlenjuje ideološke podmene rasističnega mita lepote, kot jih raziskuje
Toni Morrison v svojem romanu The Bluest Eye (Najbolj modre oči), pri čemer medsebojno struk-
turno preplete feministično teorijo in postkolonialno teorijo. Izpostavlja, da evrocentrične in torej
rasistično zastavljene norme lepote temeljijo tako na konstruktih spola kot rase, in da služijo kot
oblika družbenega pozicioniranja in družbene kontrole v zahodnih kapitalističnih patriarhalnih
družbah. Tovrstno kontekstualno umeščeno razumevanje mita lepote, ki ga vzpodbuja tudi roman,
je ključnega pomena tudi za razumevanje načina, na katerega mit lepote deluje danes v kontekstu
globalne zahodnoevropske lepotne industrije. Osnovne podmene tega mita ostajajo globoko vpete
v procese konstruiranja in vpisovanja družbenospolne in rasne drugosti, zavoljo česar roman ohra-
nja trajno vrednost v svoji ozaveščevalni vlogi tako med bralstvom na splošno, in še prav posebej,
kot dokazuje prispevek, med mladimi generacijami študentk in študentov angleške literature.
Ključne besede: mit lepote, lasje, rasni konstrukti, spolni konstrukti, družbena kontrola, kritična
zavest, feministična teorija, The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
This contribution investigates and lays bare the ideological workings of racialized beauty myth as
presented in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye by bringing together feminist theory and postcolonial
theory of race. It demonstrates that racialized beauty norms are informed by both the constructs of
gender and race, and that they serve as a tool of social positioning and social control in Western
capitalist patriarchies. This kind of contextual understanding, which Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
helps to foster on a number of structurally interlocked levels, is also of crucial importance for
the understanding of the way beauty myth operates today in the context of globally exported
Western beauty industry. Its basic tenets remain 󰏒rmly rooted in the construction and perpetuation
of racialized and gendered otherness, which is why The Bluest Eye remains an eye-opener and
therefore a novel of lasting value for readers in general and, as this contribution demonstrates, for
students of English literature in particular.
Key words: beauty myth, hair, racialized constructs, gendered constructs, social control, critical
awareness, feminist theory, The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
... In this case, commercial influence on social media stands as social standards of beauty (Burcar, 2017). For example, women in the past used to paint their face using many kinds of traditional and natural cosmetics, such as clay, leaves, mud. ...
Full-text available
English as a lingua franca for academia and academic literacy practices in English for academic purposes (EAP) were investigated in this study. This study used a qualitative approach and applied content analysis as the research design. The study was conducted in Surakarta between March and June in 2018, analyzing 12 EAP syllabi and engaging with 40 participants from three State Islamic Institute (IAIN) Surakarta, the Sebelas Maret University (UNS), and the Veteran Bangun Nusantara University Sukoharjo (VUS). The 40 participants were 6 EAP lecturers, 4 heads of study programs, and 30 EAP students of EAP class. The primary data for this study were the results of the interviews and checklists, while the secondary data included the features of the EAP syllabi and their instructional design, teaching materials, and learning objectives. Data were collected through documents, interviews, and checklists. The thematic analysis was used to arrive at findings. Results show that (1) English courses in this study included four states: a 2–4 credit English course, an EAP Certificate, an ESP course, and EAP for the public; (2) to be literate, EAP involves a basic knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, as well as basic speaking and listening skills. A mastery of a general 3,000-word vocabulary and a 750-word academic vocabulary were found to be the foremost objective to include in academic literacy accomplishment. Academic writing and academic reading should also be prioritized in literacy for academic purposes
... In this case, commercial influence on social media stands as social standards of beauty (Burcar, 2017). For example, women in the past used to paint their face using many kinds of traditional and natural cosmetics, such as clay, leaves, mud. ...
Full-text available
The conjunctive ''and'' and its Arabic counterpart ''و'' are discourse markers that express certain meanings and presuppose the presence of other elements in discourse. They are indispensable aids to both the text writers and readers. The present study aims to show that such cohesive ties help the writer to organize his main argument and communicate his ideas vividly and smoothly. They also serve as explicit signals that help readers unfold text and follow its threads as realized in the progression of context. The researcher has utilized the Quirk Model of Semantic Implication for data analysis. A total of 42 (22 for English and 20 for Arabic) political texts selected from different elite newspapers in both Arabic and English for the analysis. The results of data analysis revealed that ''and'' and و [wa ] are necessary discourse markers that provide surface clues for the interpretation of text and the absence of such clues may cause ambiguity and result in incoherent discourse. In conclusion it was confirmed that the approach of semantic implications of ''and '' adopted by Quirk, et, al. suits the characteristics of Arabic text.
... In this case, commercial influence on social media stands as social standards of beauty (Burcar, 2017). For example, women in the past used to paint their face using many kinds of traditional and natural cosmetics, such as clay, leaves, mud. ...
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The article foregrounds the importance of honing critical literacy through socially engaged literature. Dealing with literature in an engaged and critical way can help students to develop critical thinking skills and a systemic understanding of burning social issues that inform their own living realities. Critical literary pedagogy and socially engaged literature play a key role in developing students’ understanding of why and how institutional racism and institutional patriarchy constitute key operating mechanisms of capitalist social relations, which is why constructs of race and gender should never be looked upon as mere add-ons, let alone as a matter of mere culture and hence individual prejudice. In this sense, the article directly challenges the prevailing postmodernist approach in mainstream studies and teachings of literature. It calls instead for the restoration of socially engaged literature to school curricula and for a return to the contextually analytical and systemic (materialist) approach towards literature.
The second edition of this classic text substantially revises and extends the original, so as to take account of theoretical and policy developments and to enhance its international scope. Drawing on a range of disciplines and literatures, the book provides an unusually broad account of citizenship. It recasts traditional thinking about the concept so as to pinpoint important theoretical issues and their political and policy implications for women in their diversity. Themes of inclusion and exclusion (at national and international level), rights and participation, inequality and difference are thus all brought to the fore in the development of a woman-friendly, gender-inclusive theory and praxis of citizenship.
Congratulations to Dr. McRobbie! This book has been named to the list of books for the 2009 Critics Choice Book Award of the American Educational Studies Association (AESA).These essays show Angela McRobbie reflecting on a range of issues which have political consequence for women, particularly young women, in a context where it is frequently assumed that progress has been made in the last 30 years, and that with gender issues now 'mainstreamed' in cultural and social life, the moment of feminism per se is now passed. McRobbie trenchantly argues that it is precisely on these grounds that invidious forms of gender -re-stabilisation are able to be re-established. Consumer culture, she argues, encroaches on the terrain of so called female freedom, appears supportive of female success only to tie women into new post-feminist neurotic dependencies. These nine essays span a wide range of topics, including - the UK government's 'new sexual contract' to young women, - popular TV makeover programmes, - feminist theories of backlash and the 'undoing' of sexual politics, - feminism in a global frame- the 'illegible rage' underlying contemporary femininities.
Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone tackles the hidden yet painful issue of colorism in the African American and Mexican American communities. Beginning with a historical discussion of slavery and colonization in the Americas, the book quickly moves forward to a contemporary analysis of how skin tone continues to plague people of color today. This is the first book to explore this well-known, yet rarely discussed phenomenon.
The Global Beauty Industry is an interdisciplinary text that uses beauty to explore topics of gender, race, class, colorism, nation, bodies, multiculturalism, transnationalism, and intersectionality. Integrating materials from a wide range of cultural and geo-political contexts, it coalesces with initiatives to produce more internationally relevant curricula in fields such as sociology, as well as cultural, women's/gender, media, and globalization studies.