In Quest of Global Beauty: Gender –Technology Interface through Body Beautification

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:05
Location: Hörsaal I (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Piyali SUR, Jadavpur University (Department of Sociology), India
The consumer culture of late modernity has brought the body and the beauty industry to the centre stage where there is a growing obsession with the appearance of the body. Today products, images and ideas of beauty industry reach every corner of the world, including a developing country like India. This presentation focuses on how adolescent girls and boys of Kolkata within the age group of fifteen to eighteen are preoccupied with beautifying their bodies. Though both boys and girls invest in the body, beautification is gendered as boys invest less time, energy and resources on beautification. The majority of teens, especially girls choose internet technology, over any other medium, as a source of information on beautification. Traditional popular media is replaced by fashion blogs, cosmetic products’ official networks that are feminized, primarily geared towards women, disseminating first world beauty images, ideas and practices of beautification which have power effects on adolescent subjectivities. The websites on beauty reflect the understanding or construction of girls as sexual, and reinforce narrow and stereotypical meanings of girlhood, beauty and consumption. A tween culture of the net generation has emerged oriented towards fashion and beauty through the net, includes those who participate as peers and treats the non-participators as the ‘other’. The influence of first worlds’ ideals of beautification is visible in the girls’ dressing style, skin care and body comportment though girls creatively assimilate elements of local beauty culture, stalling homogenization of beauty. This paper critically interrogates whether globalized images of beauty reaching a segment of the youth through the digital world creates a distinction between “us” and “them”. The latter are those who due to their structural locale find themselves excluded from an access to globalized images and products of beauty.