Raising the Hemline: Towards a Feminist Anthropology of Beauty Practices

Trieneke Leah Gastmeier



This paper is an examination of feminist theory and its articulation with contemporary beauty practices and hyper-sexual forms of femininity. Using an ethnographic methodology and feminist understandings, it critiques former analyses—which often deny women agency and preclude their voices—and broadens the discussion by viewing beauty practices, forms of hyper-sexuality, and feminism from the perspectives of women involved in such conventions. Those interviewed included a pole dancer, a burlesque dancer, a makeup artist, and one of the co-founders of the Toronto SlutWalks. The diversity, and yet also similarity, of viewpoints offered is significant. These women utilize the language of 'control' to describe the benefits of their practices, noting the embodied and figurative sense of power they feel they achieve. Moreover, while feminist ideals are advocated, for the most part these women perceive an overall sense of isolation from the movement. In part this is because of the stringent anti-feminist backlash that has cast the movement in a negative light. In part, however, it is also because they feel their perspectives have been denied by feminism, and that it has in turn existed as another force patrolling their bodies.


feminism; femininity; beauty culture

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