A Legal Approach to Beauty


My mother (and undoubtedly the biggest fan of my blog) alerted me to a book review in last weekend’s New York Times.  The subject of the review, The Beauty Bias: The Injustices of Appearance in Life and Law, by Deborah L. Rhode, investigates the legal issues surrounding appearance and the behaviors we all indulge in, e.g., diets, tight shoes and cosmetics, to maintain or perfect it.
I really look forward to reading the book whenever I get off my butt and head over to the nearest Borders.  It’s great that there is a voice for appearance discrimination. But midway through the review, the journalist references the perils we women subject ourselves to for beauty, like ruined backs from high heels or thinner wallets thanks to expensive wrinkle creams.  When I read this, I got a little annoyed.  Like most decisions in our lives, the desire to pursue that which enhances our beauty isn’t simple.  Women don’t beautify just because they are enslaved by cultural norms or men’s expectations.  For example, high heels may be in style or amplify our sexuality.  But I wear them because they make me feel powerful, strong and confident.  I enjoy how they look on and how they add a bit of zip to the typical black outfit I wear to work.  As Debra Gimlin states in Body Works, women negotiate the rules and expectations of beauty to create a meaningful solution for themselves.
After my initial reaction to the review, though, I was really inspired by Rhode’s efforts to focus on these issues simply because she’s taking the role of looks seriously.  So many women choose to stay away from this topic because it seems too girly.  But, as the sheer number of beauty blogs, magazines, TV shows and products indicates, beauty is serious business. It means a lot to people and, whether we like it now, it profoundly affects them – positively and negatively.  Kudos to Rhode for tackling the topic and making people seriously take notice of it.

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