Bioethics Blogs

The demands of beauty

This blog post was written following the first Beauty Demands workshop. The second workshop will focus on the role of medical professionals in developing, offering and carrying out cosmetic procedures. We are currently calling for papers from graduate students to present at the workshop (deadline 17 April).

Before I went to the first Beauty Demands workshop in Warwick earlier this month, I hadn’t really given much thought to why I feel the need to shave my underarms. But when you think about it, it is an odd thing to do. And on that note, why do I spend large amounts of money and time on other (sometimes painful) beauty procedures? I haven’t taken things to the more extreme end of the spectrum and undergone any surgical procedures to improve my appearance (yet) but more and more people are. Over 50,000 people in 2013 according to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons in fact. Why?

Beauty Demands is an AHRC-funded project that aims to bring together academics, practitioners and policy-makers to consider the changing requirements of beauty. The project will explore whether beauty image is becoming ever more demanding of women, and whether cosmetic procedures such as surgery which were once regarded as exceptional are now regarded as normal or even required in some contexts. There will be three more workshops taking place over the next year or so, alongside virtual debate and sharing of ideas and research.

But back to the first workshop and underarms. Clare Chambers, a philosopher from the University of Cambridge, showed how our feelings of being under the gaze of society can exert power over us; power that the advertising industry uses to its advantage.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.