Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful cultural practices in the West, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Beauty and Misogyny

Harmful cultural practices in the West, 2nd Edition

By Sheila Jeffreys


190 pages

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pub: 2014-12-03
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The new edition of Beauty and Misogyny revisits and updates Sheila Jeffreys' uncompromising critique of Western beauty practice and the industries and ideologies behind it. Jeffreys argues that beauty practices are not related to individual female choice or creative expression, but represent instead an important aspect of women's oppression. As these practices have become increasingly brutal and pervasive, the need to scrutinize and dismantle them is if anything more urgent now as it was in 2005 when the first edition of the book was published.


The United Nations concept of "harmful traditional/cultural practices" provides a useful lens for the author to advance her critique. She makes the case for including Western beauty practices within this definition, examining their role in damaging women's health, creating sexual difference and enforcing female deference.


First-wave feminists of the 1970s criticized pervasive beauty regimes such as dieting and depilation, but a later argument took hold that beauty practices were no longer oppressive now that women could "choose" them. In recent years the reality of Western beauty practices has become much more bloody and severe, requiring the breaking of skin and the rearrangement or amputation of body parts. Beauty and Misogyny seeks to make sense of why beauty practices have not only persisted but become more extreme. It examines the pervasive use of makeup, the misogyny of fashion and high-heeled shoes, and looks at the role of pornography in the creation of increasingly popular beauty practices such as breast implants, genital waxing, surgical alteration of the labia and other forms of self-mutilation. The book concludes by considering how a culture of resistance to these practices can be created.


A new and thoroughly updated edition of this essential work will appeal to all levels of students and teachers of gender studies, cultural studies and feminist psychology, and to anyone with an interest in feminism, women and beauty, and women's health.


"This is without doubt the most sophisticated, well-researched, and compelling book ever written about the ways the ‘beauty’ industry produces and reproduces misogyny. Written from an unapologetically radical feminist perspective, students describe Beauty and Misogyny as transformative and life-changing." Gail Dines, Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies, Wheelock College, Boston, USA

Praise for the first edition

"Beauty and Misogyny belongs in women's studies and public health classes and on the shelves of academics, clinicians, and parents of daughters. It would benefit any woman who was considering plastic surgery or buying a new tube of lipstick." – Michele Hoffnung, Quinnipiac University, USA in PsycCRITIQUES

"Jeffreys’ mission is to shift women out of their collective complacency. The book’s central theme is an exploration of the use of sexuality by men to dominate women. Jeffreys offers no comfort zone for her readers. Unlike some feminist theorists, she refuses to couch her arguments in inaccessible, academic language, or to accept that feminism has achieved its aims." Julie Bindel, The Guardian

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. The ‘grip of culture on the body’: beauty practices as women’s agency or women’s subordination 2. Harmful beauty practices and western culture 3. Transfemininity: ‘Dressed’ men reveal the naked reality of male power 4. Pornochic: prostitution constructs beauty 5. Fashion and Misogyny 6. Making up is hard to do 7. Men’s foot and shoe fetishism and the disabling of women 8. Cutting Up Women: beauty practices as self-mutilation by proxy Conclusion: A culture of resistance

About the Author/Editor

Sheila Jeffreys is Professor in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, where she teaches sexual politics and international feminist politics. Before coming to Melbourne in 1991, she was active in the Women’s Liberation Movement in the UK from 1973, campaigning against pornography and violence against women, and in lesbian feminist politics. In Australia she is involved in the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. She has written nine books on the history and politics of sexuality.

About the Series

Women and Psychology

This series brings together current theory and research on women and psychology. Drawing on scholarship from a number of different areas of psychology, it bridges the gap between abstract research and the reality of women's lives by integrating theory and practice, research and policy.

Each book addresses a 'cutting edge' issue of research, covering topics such as postnatal depression and eating disorders, and addressing a wide range of theories and methodologies.

The series provides accessible and concise accounts of key issues in the study of women and psychology, and clearly demonstrates the centrality of psychology debates within women's studies or feminism.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Social Psychology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies