Negotiating beauty: exploring beauty narratives of Chinese women in different life stages

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Under the one-child policy in China, post-80s women have experienced dramatic social, economic, and political changes that differ from previous generations. This article explores post-80s women’s experiences of beautification in their different life stages from a feminist perspective, drawing upon 14 in-depth interviews with post-80s women to examine their perception of beauty and beauty practices in different life stages. Three main themes emerged that were intricately associated with two distinct life stages. During their transition from schoolgirls to young women, (1) participants perceive their younger selves as naïve, passive receivers of the beauty culture. When transitioning from young women towards becoming wives and mothers, (2) their values regarding beauty shift from emphasizing outer beauty to emphasizing inner beauty. (3) They also transition to embracing natural beauty standards. This paper argues that these women’s perceptions of beauty and beauty practices are fluid and change across different life stages. ‘Trivialised’ everyday beauty discourse exists to enable them to negotiate beauty practices and gender roles. This research suggests that young Chinese women, especially those leaving high school and entering university, would benefit from readily accessible academic feminist knowledge and debate regarding beauty culture to facilitate critical thinking and informed decision making.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Early online date29 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 May 2024

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