chapter  I
Beauty as Structural Inequality
Beauty, Feminist Protests, Nationalism, Neoliberal Femininity
Pages 18

This chapter begins with a historical discussion of the second-wave feminist protest of the Women's Liberation Movement, at the Miss America pageant. It provides an overview of different forms of feminist debates on sexism, gendered nationalism, neoliberal capitalism, multiculturalism, and racism related to the issue of beauty. The chapter shows that while beauty is an embodied social privilege for some, for others it remains a site of inequality, oppression, suffering and disadvantage. Media consumer culture has appropriated liberal feminist ideas of choice and empowerment as well as anti-feminist ideologies. The chapter focuses on ideas of beauty as capital, to demonstrate why beauty is a commodity that is exchanged for class mobility, thereby influencing women's life chances and opportunities. It investigates feminist and sociological debates on structural power relations and individual agency in order to problematize notions of choice, freedom, and empowerment.