Researching for a new beauty project

Plastic Roses project

Reflective Journal

12 December 2018

The project is currently developing into a film and immersive exhibition that makes commentary on society’s attitudes and behaviours towards feminine beauty ideals.  I am particularly interested in female identity and women’s history. I also wanted to move from historical narratives and explore contemporary themes. Previously I looked at beauty during my MA creating a short video Ain’t She Sweet using archival footage and contemporary magazines and referring to female objectivity in my film, Hysterical Females. I also proposed a smaller version of the project in a residency application last September.

I notice more people especially women are objectifying themselves, being very self conscious and focusing solely on their appearances such as posing and taking selfies. I wanted to understand the line between looking good  and becoming an object. Firstly I questioned what is beauty and what is attraction. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy beauty has been connected to goodness, truth and justice. I also looked at female beauty and came across the definition of feminine beauty ideals – ‘the socially constructed notion that physical attractiveness is one of women’s most important assets and something all women should strive to achieve and maintain’. This belief is still heavily rooted in our society in which women are pressured to conform to a certain definition of beauty.

I also wanted to question why do I want to make myself beautiful and what is going through my mind when I am doing this.

Who cares what I look like?
Who am I doing this for?
Is it for myself?
Is it for my peers, culture, attract a mate, sexual partner?
Is it going to make me feel better?
Am I trying to please someone?
Am I trying to be a better person?
Am I trying to be a different person?
Or just having fun, being creative, using my body as a canvas to experiment and explore?
Do I want to express myself?
Am I a living doll?
Do I want to be an individual?
Do I want to fit in with society?
Will I be laughed at or made fun of if I don’t do this?

I also looked at Making the Body Beautiful by Saunder L. Gilmam (1999). He says ‘the belief that we can change out appearance is liberating. We are what we seem to be and we seem to be what we are. As we see the world, the world is also seeing us, judging us by our appearance. To become someone else or to become a better version of ourselves in the eyes of the world is something we all want. Whether to do it with ornaments such as jewellery or through the wide range of physical alterations from hairdressing to tattoos to body piercing, we respond to the demands of seeing and being seen’. This is an interesting perspective that I would like to use in the film and show an eye representing the seeing and being seen.

Sign of vanity is associated with the feminine. Aesthetic surgery the social construction of female beauty. Invidious effect of the patriarchal institutions of medicine on women who have been made insecure about their bodies and who seek to ‘cure’ their ‘unhappiness’ through surgery. Society makes women ‘unhappy’ about their bodies and then supplies the ‘cure’ through the hand of the surgeon. The cure could be a variety of things such as face cream, lipstick, hair extensions.

‘The belief that we can change out appearance is liberating. We are what we seem to be and we seem to be what we are. As we see the world, the world is also seeing us, judging us by our appearance. To become someone else or to become a better version of ourselves in the eyes of the world is something we all want’.

Making the Body Beautiful by Saunder L. Gilmam (1999)

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