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International beauty pageants and the construction of hegemonic images of female beauty

Authors:

H. I. G. C. Kumara ,

Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Ruhuna, Matara, LK
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R. A. W. D. Jayawardhana

Department of Geography, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Ruhuna, Matara, LK
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Abstract

Binaries like ‘beauty/ugliness’ or ‘fair/dark’ are ideological images driving the world market for beauty products. How are these images created? How far is the process of construction of these images influenced by socio-political and economic hegemonies? This paper addresses these research questions by deploying a qualitative dominant ‘Mixed Research Methodology’ and ‘Inductive Research Approach’. The paper is based on secondary data on titleholders of a major beauty pageant held during the 50 year period from 1967 to 2017. The data was analyzed using the Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) method. The research discovered that 68% of titleholders are from peripheral/semi-peripheral countries such as India and Venezuela. Further, the researchers found that the physical features of these non-European titleholders from the peripheral states closely resemble western Caucasian ‘white’ woman, conforming to ideal standards of western feminine beauty. On the other hand, ironically, 95% of branded beauty products are manufactured and distributed by multinational companies with headquarters in developed countries. Accordingly, the research concludes that the women chosen as the world’s most beautiful females display core characteristics of ‘stereotypical western feminine beauty standards’ and thereby, resemble a ‘fantasy model of feminine beauty’ conceptualized by a regime of ‘white men’, projecting its economic and political influence on the world stage. The fact that most titleholders are chosen from peripheral/semi-peripheral countries may be driven by a capitalist commercial project in which economies in the world dominant core countries have created a lucrative market for their beauty products in peripheral countries. Thus, this paper argues that the ideology and practice of international beauty pageants are shaped by the twin processes of global capitalism and world cultural-political hegemony.

How to Cite: Kumara, H.I.G.C. and Jayawardhana, R.A.W.D., 2018. International beauty pageants and the construction of hegemonic images of female beauty. Sri Lanka Journal of Social Sciences, 41(2), pp.123–136. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljss.v41i2.7699
Published on 31 Dec 2018.
Peer Reviewed

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