A young feminist finds herself questioning why "hotness" has become necessary for female empowerment—and looks for alternatives.
Looking good feels good. But in a society where looking good is posited as being strong, while negotiating for better pay is statistically proven to damage our careers, is it fair to say that wicked eyeliner, weekly blowouts, and a polished Instagram feed are the keys to our liberation? If so—if "hot" really is a good enough synonym for "empowered"—why do so many of us feel, deep in our bones, that the sexy-as-strong model is a distraction? Is "pretty" still the closest to power women can get? Why is looking fierce an acceptable substitute for living in a world where women are safe?
Inspired in seminary by American Muslimahs who wear the hijab for feminist reasons, Lauren Shields took off what she calls the Beauty Suit—the "done" hair, the tasteful and carefully applied makeup, the tight clothes and foot-binding shoes—for nine months. She'd really only wanted to do an experiment. Instead, her life—especially her views on what constitutes "liberation"—changed forever.
Rooted in feminist theory and religious history, and guided by a snappy personal narrative, The Beauty Suit unpacks modern American womanhood: a landscape where the female body is still so often the battleground for male ideals, and where we struggle with our rights as human beings to define and exercise our freedom.
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