Contemporary Representations of the Female Body: Consumerism and the Normative Discourse of Beauty (pages 505–514)

Venera Dimulescu

ABSTRACT: In the context of the perpetual reproduction of consumerism in contemporary western societies, the varied and often contradictory principles of third wave feminism have been misunderstood or redefined by the dominant economic discourse of the markets. The lack of homogeneity in the theoretical debates of the third wave feminism seems to be a vulnerable point in the appropriation of its emancipatory ideals by the post-modern consumerist narratives. The beauty norm, particularly, brings the most problematic questions forth in the contemporary feminist dialogues. In this paper I will examine the validity of the concept of empowerment through practices of the body, practices that constitute the socially legitimized identity of women in a consumerist western society. My thesis is that the beauty norm is constructed as a socio-political instrument in order to preserve the old, patriarchal regulation of women’s bodies. Due to the power of invisibility of the new mechanisms of social control and subjection, the consumerist discourse offers the most effective political tool for gender inequality and a complex discussion about free will and emancipation in third wave feminism debates. This delicate theoretical issues question not only the existent social order, but the very political purposes of contemporary feminism.

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