Written by guest blogger George Dibble
Research Development Officer, Departments of Philosophy and Theology & Religion
It’s not surprising that the way we look matters in an increasingly visual and virtual world. Whether you get ‘likes’ or make a good first impression matters and the pressure to be perfect is something which young men and women increasingly feel.
Following the release of her on-topic book Perfect Me, Professor Heather Widdows closed the University’s annual Book to the Future festival on Saturday 20th October to a packed house in the Bramall building.
Heather’s talk explored the ethical nature of the beauty ideal, the idea that looking beautiful has become a moral imperative in today’s world, whereby individuals increasingly judge themselves and others according to whether they measure up in the beauty stakes, and feel like failures if they do not. In part, it is believing that success in beauty will give us success in life (employment, relationship success and above all happiness) that makes beauty an ethical ideal.
By way of example, Heather explained that increasingly long term goals are about appearance (how many of your New Year’s resolutions were about the body?) and on a daily basis we are ‘good’ when we say not to cake or carbs and ‘bad’ – naughty – when we say yes.
Heather also explored the pressures on people to be ‘perfect’, arguing that beauty practices are being recast as hygiene practices, necessary to be ‘normal’ or ‘just good enough’ (think the daily application of lotions and potions, to hair dye, body hair removal, and for some to cosmetic surgery). Indeed, Heather states that “over a very short period of time, what is considered normal and required practice in terms of ‘routine maintenance’ has changed dramatically…Botox, for example, is now being seen as routine, and that’s a very different scenario from 10 years ago.”
You can find out more about Heather’s research into beauty here: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/strategic-framework/Research/perfect-me.aspx