SOC 105 – “You’re Beautiful, No Matter What They Say”


Words may not bring you down, but your looks may bring you to far places.How do you know you’re beautiful? If it is a social construction, where does this all come from? Beauty is a rich and powerful phenomenon and we all participate in this process. Good looks allow you to be upwardly mobile. Carving out a particular aesthetic is part of a culture built on consumerism and superficial ideas about human bodies. We have to challenge this and break it down, of course. So come join us in this week’s episode about beauty–in every single way!


Beauty, body, fashion, consumerism, consumer culture


  1. The beauty industry is valued at $445 billion
  2. Historical notion of beauty: “A Look Back at Beauty Through History”
  3. Scientific notion of beauty: How symmetry indicates good health from The Economist (2012), “On The Face Of It”
  4. Sociological notion of beauty from Anthony Synnott’s (1989) “Truth and Goodness, Mirrors and Masks”

    Beauty is… a rich and powerful phenomenon, with many meanings at different levels or in different dimensions at different frequencies… The significance [of beauty] is immense, psychological and sociological, economic and literary, philosophical and even theological; they are entwined with non-verbal communication, mood and character assessment, social mobility, helping behavior of all sorts, sexuality and a wide range of personal and moral qualities; furthermore beauty may be seen as physical or spiritual, inner or outer, natural or artificial, subjective or objective, positive or even negative (p. 610-611).

  5. “Beautiful People Make More Money”
  6. On the halo effect from W. Gerrod Parrott’s (2014) The Positive Side of Negative Emotions 

    People judge a good looking person as having a more desirable personality, or perhaps infer that a young unorthodox-looking female is less likely to be a competent philosopher than a middle-aged male.

  7. How women were convinced they needed to shave their legs (Vox) 
  8. Hugh Hefner’s obituary
  9. If you’re interested in the notion of Beauty as a Status, here’s a good journal article by James Driskell
  10. “Skin Bleaching: Why Black Women in a Predominately Black Culture Are Still Bleaching Their Skin” (Marie Claire)

    Skin bleaching is “deeply rooted in a history of slavery and colonialism. Historically, “brown” Jamaicans were the product of relationships between black Jamaicans and white slave-owners or colonial rulers, and often received greater access to land and resources as a result of their white ancestry. Today, lighter brown skin is still read as a marker of privilege and access—class is often divided among racial lines, with wealthier and more powerful Jamaicans generally being white and brown, while poor Jamaicans are mostly black. In this context, Charles says, skin bleaching becomes a strategic choice.”

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