WSQ, Call for Papers: Special Issue
Jillian Báez, Assistant Professor of Media Culture, College of Staten Island, CUNY
Natalie Havlin, Assistant Professor of English, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
The politics of beauty have been heavily debated within feminist studies and LGBTQ studies. While some feminists critiqued beauty as an extension of patriarchal gender regimes (beauty as a site of systemic oppression), other feminists reconceptualized beauty as a form of play and expression of identity. At the same time, women of color feminists, particularly black and Chicana/Latina feminists, such as bell hooks, Amalia Mesa-Bains, and Maria Elena Cepeda, acknowledge the significance of beauty—not only as personal adornment but as a mode of survival. Moving away from white second wave feminists that dismissed beauty as mere compliance with patriarchal expectations, some women of color feminists embrace beauty as a site of agency. At the same time, LGBTQ studies and critical disability studies critique heteronormative beauty regimes and explore the potentials of non-gender-normative stylizations and more inclusive modes of recognition. This issue places new interventions in gender and sexuality studies in conversation with these debates.
We are seeking papers that take a critical and transgressive approach to gendered and sexualized conceptions of beauty. What is gendered beauty? How can we know that something is beautiful? Is the pursuit of beauty a fruitful endeavor in gender and sexuality studies? How is beauty being redefined, especially in light of race, disability, class, gender, sexuality and economics? How are dominant beauty regimes steeped in racism, gender binaries, sexism, able-bodiedness, homophobia, colonialism, and capitalism? How do marginalized communities engage in beauty practices as forms of survival and resistance? How does beauty undergird countercultural movements? What is the relationship between beauty and aesthetics?
Early feminist scholarship dismisses beauty as a form of patriarchal subjugation. For example, in her classic text The Beauty Myth (1990), Naomi Wolf calls attention to the unrealistic beauty standards expected of women in our male-dominated society. In Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (1993), Susan Bordo builds on Wolf’s critique and links popular culture representations of beauty to female pathology, particularly eating disorders. Bordo also notes that women’s beauty regimes are not only sexist but also largely Eurocentric. Black feminists also note the Eurocentrism in dominant beauty regimes, but at the same time note that beauty politics are complicated in black communities. For example, Maxine Leeds Craig in her book Ain’t I A Beauty Queen?: Black Women, Beauty, and the Politics of Race (2002), and Shirley Tate in her book Black Beauty: Aesthetics, Stylization, Politics (2009) illustrate the importance of affirming beauty amongst black women given white supremacy in the dominant culture. In Fresh Lipstick: Redressing Fashion and Feminism (2006) Linda Scott challenges Wolf’s and Bordo’s assumptions by providing a historical account of the ways that stylization has been important for women as a form of personal expression. In doing so, Scott decouples beauty and objectification in mainstream feminist ideals.
Recent scholarship in queer, feminist and critical disability studies has resituated the problem and production of beauty in relation to taste-making, the global political economy, the stylistics of social space, colonial and racial violence, and the politics of personal stylization. Isabel Molina-Guzmán’s Dangerous Curves (2010), Lan P. Duong’s Treacherous Subjects (2012), and Alexis Shotwell’s “Open Normativities” (2012), for example, have tracked the various ways that Latina, Vietnamese American, and queer artists of color continue to navigate and transform racial, heteronormative, transnational, classed and ableist notions of beauty. Bobby Benedicto, in the article “The Queer Afterlife of the Postcolonial City” (2015), and Tobias Raun, in the book Out Online: Trans Self-Representation and Community Building on YouTube (2016), have foregrounded queer and trans interventions in re-defining urban beautification schemes and beauty regimes in Manilla, Philippines, and the digital space of YouTube beauty vlogs. Recent creative aesthetic interventions such as the performance project Sins Invalid, organized with a mission to make “an unashamed claim to beauty in the face of invisibility,” and the anthology Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability (2011) also critically engage the continuing influence of beauty in late-capitalist commodifications of the body by seeking to re-imagine and re-vision modes and forms of recognition inclusive of diverse capacities, corporealities, genders, sexualities, and desires.
Considering this newer scholarship on beauty as it pertains to Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, we invite paper submissions that explore new theories of beauty to help us to understand the production, performances, practices and critiques of beauty today. Also, the issue seeks to explore the tensions in how Women’s Studies, Gender Studies, and LGBTQ Studies view beauty. How do these areas of intellectual inquiry overlap and diverge?
We welcome submissions that are interdisciplinary and span the humanities and social sciences. We solicit papers that are theoretical, conceptual and/or empirical on a wide range of topics relating to beauty, including but not limited to the following:
- approaches from disability studies
- fat studies
- queer aesthetics
- women of color feminist takes on beauty (i.e., womanist and intersectional perspectives)
- transfeminist / trans feminist analyses of beauty (historical and contemporary)
- Latinx takes on beauty
- transnational feminist analyses of beauty (historical and contemporary)
- countercultural women’s stylization (i.e., chonga, chola, ratchet, rasquache, etc.)
- the grotesque/monstrous bodies
- the profane and abjection in relation to notions of beauty
- exoticism and colonial representational schemas of beauty
- transgendered notions of beauty
- anti-beauty ideologies
- body positivity (and negativity)
- beauty and performance
- sensations, feelings, and emotional constructions of beauty
- desire and subjectivity
- power and politics of beauty
- beauty and performance
- butch and femme aesthetics
- aesthetics of CIS and trans masculinities and femininities
- gender non-conforming and queer approaches to beauty
- geographies of beauty (Global South, North, and other scales)
- design and the built environment (the body and architectural politics)
- non-visual aspects of beauty (sound/voice, tactile)
- visual aspects of beauty (complexion, hair, eyes, etc.)
- technology and beauty (i.e., cyborg body, plastic surgery, hormone therapy)
- economic production and costs of beauty
Scholarly articles and inquiries should be sent to guest issue editors Jillian Báez and Natalie Havlin at WSQBeautyissue [at] gmail.com. We will give priority consideration to submissions received by March 15, 2017. Please send complete articles, not abstracts. Submissions should not exceed 6,360 words (including un-embedded notes and works cited) and should comply with the formatting guidelines at http://www.feministpress.org/submission-guidelines/.
Poetry submissions should be sent to WSQ’s poetry editor Patricia Smith at WSQpoetry [at] gmail.com by March 15, 2017. Please review previous issues of WSQ to see what type of submissions we prefer before submitting poems. Please note that poetry submissions may be held for six months or longer. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if the poetry editor is notified immediately of acceptance elsewhere. We do not accept work that has been previously published. Please paste poetry submissions into the body of the e-mail along with all contact information.
Fiction, essay, and memoir submissions should be sent to WSQ’s fiction/nonfiction editor, Asali Solomon, at WSQCreativeProse [at] gmail.com by March 15, 2017. Please review previous issues of WSQ to see what type of submissions we prefer before submitting prose. Please note that prose submissions may be held for six months or longer. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable if the prose editor is notified immediately of acceptance elsewhere. We do not accept work that has been previously published. Please provide all contact information in the body of the e-mail.