The Women’s Center has officially kicked off our roundtable series for the fall semester! We call this series Our Bodies, Ourselves, specifically focusing on personal embodiment and the intersections of identity that come along with existing as a body. This event, specifically called Beauty Embodied, introduced the semester-long discussion of diverse embodied experiences.
Beginning this ongoing series, The Women’s Center invited three panelists to open up the conversation of embodied beauty. Alumnus Crystal Ogar, Dr. Medulene Shomali of the Gender and Women’s Studies department, and our very own assistant director Megan Tagle Adams served as our panelists!
We spent the next hour complicating the notions of beauty, femininity and privileges associated with who gets to embrace ideals of beauty. All panelists spoke about the privilege and racialization of specific beauty standards and stereotypes. We discussed at great length who has access to conventional beauty. Women of color specifically have a lot of challenges associating with conventional beauty, as the hegemonic view of westernized beauty is white, thin and able-bodied. All panelists identified as women of color, and were able to draw upon their various identities to share their experiences with racially exclusionary beauty.
Crystal encouraged us to find the beauty within everyone, to notice the little things that make a person beautiful, and to complicate beauty further by understanding that looks are not the complete picture of a person, as there are so many factors that go into being a beautiful human outside of external appearance.
Both Megan and Dr. Shomali allowed the group time to deconstruct our definitions of beauty. Beauty and femme identity isn’t inherently a feminist stance to take, and shaving your legs or putting on makeup in the morning doesn’t necessarily have to be a feminist act. No one is more or less of a feminist for the way that they present their bodies. Megan said it best- instead of the feminist manifesto being written in red lipstick, she suggested that it could be written while wearing red lipstick. The act of wearing lipstick is not what makes or breaks a feminist, and the most important thing is to allow personal expression to be encompassed in ideals of beauty.
Dr. Shomali took it even further, proposing the radical notion that beauty isn’t actually necessary. Instead of trying to broaden the term of “beauty” to include all walks of people, we could decide to throw out beauty as an important concept to begin with. Both Crystal and Dr. Shomali posed that ‘ugly’ should not equal “bad”, and that it is perfectly fine to not be beautiful- it does not take away of a person’s humanness to not have access to or even care about beauty.
Overall, Beauty Embodied was a great success, with lots of dynamic discussion from the panelists and the women’s center communities. We questioned and unpacked our notions of beauty and femininity, engaging with our own experiences of living in an aesthetic world.
Want to read more? Below are some links further discussing beauty through a feminist lens:
- What Is Feminism Without The Femme? On Why Are We Scared To Embrace Our Feminine Styles
- Living With Contradiction: Beauty Work and Feminism
- Pretty Unnecessary: Taking Beauty Out of Body Positivity (Bitch Media)
Don’t miss out! The Women’s Center’s next roundtable, Queer (De)Coded, on October 20th!