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A glamorous feminism by design?

journal contribution
posted on 27.11.2018 by Sarah Baker

Glamour is often understood as a capitalist technology of allure and as a device with which women are objectified. The consumption glamour has also been theorized as representing a refusal to be imprisoned by the norms of gender, class, and race, as well as a form of escape from everyday life. In this article, I explore the attractiveness of glamour both as a technique of feminine performance and as a technique of capitalism. By defining and historicizing the aesthetic, I consider if, and how, glamour could be utilized to strengthen a feminist politics. I argue that glamour has become more salient in a contemporary context in which the myth of natural beauty has generally been debunked, and in which the performance of femininity constantly refers to its own artifice. Through analysis of examples of the material practices of glamour, such as putting on lipstick, wearing high-heel shoes, and drinking cocktails, I suggest that glamour works as an imaginative resource by both triggering a sense of the already enjoyed and provoking idealized visions of the future. I document how everyday experiences of glamour involve the acknowledgement of artifice, fantasies of ‘the good life’, and inevitable failure. I argue that these qualities make glamour a powerful existing resource that can be used to explore how femininity functions and to speculate about the future of feminism. Just as feminist discourses have been incorporated and reterritorialized by capitalism, I suggest that feminism could incorporate and reterritorialize the material practices of glamour in order to counter capitalist neoliberal imperatives. I explore how speculative design could allow feminists to use existing optimistic attachments, such as glamour, to think beyond capitalism.


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