Issued by Jillian Baez (College of Staten Island, CUNY) and Natalie Havlin (LaGuardia Community College, CUNY), to be published as a special edition of WSQ.
The politics of beauty have been heavily debated with feminist studies and LGBTQ studies. While some feminists critiqued beauty as an extension of patriarchal gender regimes (beauty as a site of systemic oppression), other feminists reconceptualized beauty as a form of play and expression of identity. At the same time, women of color feminists, particularly black and Chicana feminists, such as bell hooks, Amalia Mesa-Bains, and Maria Elena Cepeda, acknowledge the significance of beauty—not only as personal adornment, but as a mode of survival. Moving away from white second wave feminists that dismissed beauty as mere compliance with patriarchal expectations, some women of color feminists embraced beauty as a site of agency. At the same time, LGBTQ studies and critical disability studies critique heteronormative beauty regimes and explore the potentials of non-gender-normative stylizations and more inclusive modes of recognition. This issue places new interventions in gender and sexuality studies in conversation with these debates.
We are seeking papers that take a critical and transgressive approach to gendered and sexualized conceptions of beauty. What is gendered beauty? How can we know that something is beautiful? Is the pursuit of beauty a fruitful endeavor in gender and sexuality studies? How is beauty being redefined, especially in light of race, disability, class, gender, sexuality and economics? How are dominant beauty regimes steeped in racism, gender binaries, sexism, able-bodiedness, homophobia, colonialism, and capitalism? How do marginalized communities engage in beauty practices as forms of survival and resistance? How does beauty undergird countercultural movements? What is the relationship between beauty and aesthetics?
Early germinal feminist scholarship dismisses beauty as a form of patriarchal subjugation. For example, in her classic text The Beauty Myth (1990), Naomi Wolf calls attention to the unrealistic beauty standards expected of women in our male-dominated society. In Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (1993), Susan Bordo builds on Wolf’s critique and links popular culture representations of beauty to female pathology, particularly eating disorders. Bordo also notes that women’s beauty regimes are not only sexist, but also largely Eurocentric. Black feminists also note the Eurocentrism in dominant beauty regimes, but at the same time note that beauty politics are complicated in black communities. For example, Maxine Leeds Craig in her book Ain’t I A Beauty Queen?: Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race (2002), and Shirley Tate in her book Black Beauty: Aesthetics, Stylization, Politics (2009) illustrate the importance of affirming beauty amongst black women given white supremacy in the dominant culture. In Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism (2006) Linda Scott challenges Wolf’s and Bordo’s assumptions by providing a historical account of the ways that stylization have been important for women as a form of personal expression. In doing so, Scott decouples beauty and objectification in mainstream feminist ideals.
Scholarly articles and inquiries should be sent to guest issue editors Jillian Báez and Natalie Havlin at WSQBeautyissue@gmail.com. We will give priority consideration to submissions received by March 15, 2017. Please send complete articles, not abstracts. Submissions should not exceed 6,360 words (including un-embedded notes and works cited) and should comply with the formatting guidelines at http://www.feministpress.org/wsq/submission-guidelines.
Poetry, fiction, essay, and memoir submissions will also be considered. Please contact WSQpoetry@gmail.com or WSQCreativeProse@gmail.com for further information.