In 1929, in A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf maintained that every woman needed to consider “what is your relation to the everchanging and turning world of gloves and shoes . . . .” Since then, that world has grown ever more complicated. In today’s universe of escalating opportunities for cosmetic enhancement, the issues surrounding beauty have posed increasingly complex challenges. For some women, our cultural preoccupation with appearance is a source of wasted effort and expense, a threat to physical and psychological well-being, and a trigger for workplace discrimination. For other women, the pursuit of beauty is a source of pleasure and agency, and a showcase for cultural identity. The question for the women’s movement is whether it is possible to find some common ground, and to develop a concept of beauty that is a source of pleasure rather than shame, and that enhances, rather than dictates self-worth.
Deborah L. Rhode, Appearance as a Feminist Issue, 69 SMU L. Rev. 697 (2016)