Objective Ageing?

We are interested in ageing in material objects and in people. Norms of beauty are relevant here; beauty is persistently associated with youth and newness and this has affected our relationship with our own ageing (particularly in the West) and also with objects. These associations are important because aesthetic obsolescence of objects leads to dissatisfaction, detachment, and early disposal which has significant environmental and societal impacts. Whilst entrenched Western norms, which perpetuate unattainable youthful perfection, reinforce ‘skin deep’ attitudes to ageing resulting in poor self-esteem and an increasingly ‘invisible’ older population.In this article, we start to tease out and connect strands of thought, drawing on transdisciplinary constructs of ageing within the contexts of people and objects.Although the relationship between people’s attitudes to the appearance of their own physical ageing and their possessions has yet to be extensively explored (Scarre, 2016), exis…

Face-ism in 21st Century Visual Culture needs to be Eliminated

We were very sad to hear the news of the death of James Partridge on the 16th August 2020 ( James was an amazing man, a true trail-blazer in his campaigning for appearance diversity and face equality, who helped change public perceptions of and attitudes towards facial disfigurement. His death is a sad loss to all, although of course most of all his family. His post below (first published in 2018) shows how he made his arguments with reason, charm and humour, but also with passion. For further tributes to James, see:

I remember being absolutely staggered at the time. It was the mid-1980s, 15+ years since I’d acquired my imperfect and unique looks. Nightmare on Elm Street had broken box office records and spawned a new genre of horror movies. I was minding my own business walking down a street in London when a wag on a scaffolding rig shouted: “Hi, Freddy, you nasty piece of work” to mu…

Sweatshops and Shame

With claims that the recent rise in coronavirus cases in Leicester was partly due to 'sweatshop' working conditions in some textile factories, we revisit Maeve McKeown's post from 2017 on this issue: 
Should we feel shame about participation in sweatshop labour?  Most people know that clothes are produced under appalling conditions and that garment workers are paid poverty wages.  And yet consumption continues at a fast rate.
The liberal philosopher argues that individuals can act rationally and do what duty requires, that ‘our goodness (or badness) is entirely up to us’[1]. If we believe this story, it is easy to paint people who frequently purchase clothes as greedy and materialistic, leeching off the suffering of sweatshop workers. But feminist philosophers have long pointed out that people’s actions are constrained by oppressive social norms.
Clothes are loaded with meaning and many people (especially women) are crippled with anxiety about what to wear.  Type ‘deciding…

Beauty without the Beast: Can we learn from Lockdown?

As lockdown eases in the UK, we are returning to the hairdresser and beauty salon in droves. In our visual and virtual culture, beauty matters. So desperate were we to cover our roots or change our styles that some hair salons opened at midnight on July 4th! Doing beauty again is a pleasure for many and provides a sense that we are getting our normal lives back.[1]Some of us rethought our beauty regimes in lockdown. Felt it didn’t matter, given the magnitude of the pandemic. Others felt less pressure – wearing less makeup, taking less time on hair-styling, and wearing pyjama bottoms all day. Take Lily Allen and Una Healy embracing their grey hair on Instagram. But, as we’ve discussed previously, the pressure to be perfect didn’t go away, and for some it intensified. By the third week of March, video conferencing apps had been downloaded 62 million times. Video conferencing has transformed our work and social lives, and their effect on body image was almost instant. Looking at ourselve…

Cosmetic Procedures and COVID-19: “Trivial” or “Essential Services”?

The current COVID 19 crisis has had a serious effect on society in the UK and elsewhere with the threat to life of a contagious disease.  It has led to individuals having their movements and habits severely curtailed by ‘Lockdown’ and orders to stay at home.  As a result, businesses have closed down, schools have shut, and many employees have been furloughed. Relative to the loss of life and livelihoods, some might argue that the impact this has had on individual appearance and the beauty industry in general is a much more “trivial” side of COVID-19.  This “Keeping up Appearances” might be seen as a necessity in professional life, but lockdown has challenged what could be seen as standard and necessary “maintenance”.  Are cosmetic procedures such as hairdressing, eyebrow plucking and Botox injections really trivial, or are they, rather, more akin to “essential services” or “moral imperatives”? [1]

The lack of access to hairdressers, for example, has been seen by many during this crisis…

Ten Reasons Why Skin Whitening Products Are Shady AF

Following recent reports that some cosmetic companies are removing the word "whitening" from their skin products, we republish Nadia Craddock's excellent 2017 critique of this market.
Skin whitening is a global phenomenon and according to market research, is one of the fastest growing segments of the global beauty industry, expected to be worth $31.2 billion by 2024. Notably, the practice of skin whitening is most prevalent across the Global South in places where slavery, colonialism, racism and colourism are deeply imbedded in societal values and beliefs. For example, in India, Japan, and Thailand, skin whitening products account for more than 60% of each country’s respective skin care market. According to the World Health Organisation, more than one-quarter (and up to 77%) of women in Japan, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, China, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and India report to regularly using skin whitening products.
Skin whitening products and their associated marketing …

“Girls who wear make-up are fake”: #everydaylookism stories tell us you’ll never get it right.

Putting on your face is something that very many of us do on a daily basis. On average, women will spend “29 minutes putting on make-up to achieve a 'natural look'”, and a third of us “never go out without make-up”. And, over a lifetime women on average spend 136 days (3276 hours) “getting ready for a night out”.Once upon a time respectable women didn’t wear make-up. Only ‘painted ladies’, sex workers, wore make-up; made-up eyes, lips and cheeks were how they advertised their trade. Gradually make-up became OK, so much so that in the Second World War, lipstick was believed to be vital to morale - it was not rationed and was imported across blockades with other ‘necessary’ supplies (Dyhouse, 2011, p.82).Wearing make-up is now routine; required for work, special occasions, or to ‘face the day’. Make-up is such a part of who we are that we can raise money by not wearing it! The 2015 ‘bare faced’ selfie campaign raised £8,000,000 in six days for cancer research. The non-made up fa…