Lived Experiences of “Beautiful” Women : A Postmodern Feminist Exploration of Beauty Discourse and Identity Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/3b591d24s

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  • While a great deal is known about the benefits of being culturally identified as attractive, very little is known about the lived experiences of beautiful women. In this study, 21 adult women who are currently employed as models or represented by modeling agencies participated in open-ended interviews, and their responses were analyzed using a Foucauldian and postmodern feminist theoretical framework. Findings generally support and complicate the conclusions of extant research: Beautiful women are shown to have a complex definition of beauty, an awareness of being understood by society as beautiful, positive and negative experiences that are associated with being beautiful, feelings of confidence, and opportunities for creativity within modeling work. Interpretation of findings via a Foucauldian and postmodern feminist framework reveals ways in which power, knowledge, and subjectivation combine in participants’ lived experiences and problematizes beauty discourse and the identities of “beautiful” women subjects. Power deploys discourses of “beauty” and “modeling” and employs multiple strategies that conceal and simultaneously reinforce their existence. Knowledge is present in participants’ lives in several ways, and is applied by participants in service of power and to construct their identities as “beautiful” subjects. Subjectivation, or participants’ development of a relationship to themselves, occurs physically via beauty practices and mentally via the choices they make in how they view themselves and represent themselves to others. Participants’ experiences of becoming constituted as “beautiful,” feeling confident, and how others treat them are located at the confluences of power, knowledge, and subjectivation in their lives.
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