Beauty Practices As Harmful Cultural Practices? Study of Female University Students in Iran

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Ladan RAHBARI, Centre for Research on Culture and Gender, Ghent University, Belgium
Chia LONGMAN, Centre for Research on Culture and Gender, Ghent University, Belgium
This research, drawing on a conceptual framework including notions such as harmful cultural/traditional practices (HCP) and beauty, and based on semi-structured interviews with young female university students in Iran, investigates the perceptions and experiences on beauty practices and cosmetic surgery. We explore how these notions are perceived, articulated, practiced and potentially resisted. The data suggests that despite existing criticism of the gendered aspects of beauty practices among women who practice them, they are still practiced on a large scale. In Iran, the female body as a contested space for expression of identity and social capital, is under influence by the globalized beauty ideals that rely on predominantly Western beauty ideals, and local accounts of appropriate and optimal appearance. Despite the popularity of particular forms of beauty practices in Iran, especially facial surgeries, beauty is not perceived as a common good but as a necessary evil by young university students targeted by this research. We discuss the harmful aspects of beauty and how it could be defined as HCP, as well as agentic aspects of performing beauty and body management practices.