‘Because it is beautiful’: new feminist perspectives on beauty

by Rita Felski


Feminist approaches to beauty have often taken the form of a calculus – variable in its details, uncompromising in its ambitions – that converts manifest signs of pleasure into irrefutable evidence of female pain. The rationale for this negative hermeneutics is to expose the deep structures that underlie captivating surfaces, to show that fleeting experiences of enchantment and delight spring from long-standing histories of suffering and subordination. The history and philosophy of art contains countless testimonies to the ineffable nature of beauty, as a quality that eludes our cognitive frameworks and resists conceptual framing. Feminists have been eager to debunk such claims, to reveal the worldliness of the otherworldly, the politics of the ostensibly apolitical, and thereby to expose the ugly underside of beauty.

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