The Ideology of Feminine Beauty in Twenty-first Century China

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This thesis focuses on the mediation of Chinese females with ideals of feminine beauty in twenty-first century China, including cosmetics, cosmetic surgeries and beauty cameras. Through analyzing the generalized social phenomena of feminine beauty, the TV series Hear Her (tingjian tashuo, 2020), the film The Truth About Beauty (zhengrong riji, 2014), and the documentary Mirror, Mirror on the Wall (zhengxing yisheng, 2020), I examine how consumer culture facilitates the attempts of Chinese females to attain ideals of feminine beauty in cosmetic and medical aesthetics markets and how Chinese women endeavor to match beauty standards through the posting of edited lifestyle photographs, particularly selfies, on social media. I argue that the ideology of feminine beauty becomes unconsciously acceptable because of the desires of consumption stimulated by strategies of fragmentation, comparison, and inadequacy and the transformation of the relationship between the object and the subject. Yet women, as the subject of power, are still free beings who can resist the power to some extent, even if new ideals of feminine beauty are created in this process. These unrealistic feminine beauty ideals might also be recognized as a form of cruel optimism, in which women are driven to achieve the idealized beauty by the hope provided both consciously and unconsciously through cosmetics and medical aesthetics, believing in the fantasy of feminine beauty in the future tense. Beauty cameras, another form of technology, function in a more unconscious manner, in which a mixed reality of photography and ultimately simulation is entailed to users’ serial repetition of usage. The ideology of feminine beauty hence becomes even more inescapable.






Huang, Xiaoxu (2021). The Ideology of Feminine Beauty in Twenty-first Century China. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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