Becoming ‘beautiful’: beauty practices and female beauty in contemporary China

Ma, Hua (2022) Becoming ‘beautiful’: beauty practices and female beauty in contemporary China. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis investigates young women’s motivations regarding beauty practices in contemporary China. It is based on 20 semi-structured interviews, 10 beauty diaries and 10 follow-up interviews with a sample of women aged 18–25. The research takes an interdisciplinary feminist approach to explore several themes in relation to the participants’ negotiations of female beauty, including reasons for engaging in beauty practices, daily beauty routines and their understanding of what constitutes female beauty.

In terms of the interventions of the thesis, a key issue is that most work regarding beauty practices has come from Western feminist scholars and is thus based on the experience of Western women. Therefore, to what extent these ideas and discussions translate to non-Western national contexts has not been examined. In doing so, this thesis seeks to address several gaps and omissions in feminist work on beauty culture. In particular, it intervenes in ways that question whether postfeminism is a transnational cultural discourse by examining how young Chinese women discuss their engagement in beauty practices.

This analysis reveals that participants utilise postfeminist discourse regarding choice and pleasure when explaining their motivations. Furthermore, this thesis illustrates the importance of discourses of cultural specificity in beauty practices in so far as participants negotiate constructs of inner and outer beauty in ways which are shaped by a Chinese social and political context. This finding foregrounds the issues of cultural specificity within beauty culture studies.

As such, this thesis argues that postfeminism can be seen as transnational discourse to understand Chinese women’s experience within a global context. However, postfeminism offers a particular conceptual lens emerging from the Western context. It is, therefore, useful to be coupled with other perspectives formed from local dominant discourse and concepts to facilitate a suitable framework for studying Chinese beauty culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2023 10:25
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2023 07:50

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