‘Kill Me but Make Me Beautiful’: Harm and Agency in Female Beauty Practices in Contemporary Iran

In: Iran and the Caucasus
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  • 1 Centre for Research on Culture and Gender (CRCG), Ghent University
  • | 2 Centre of Expertise on Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality (RHEA), Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • | 3 Centre for Research on Culture and Gender (CRCG), Ghent University
  • | 4 Centre of Expertise on Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality (RHEA), Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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In this paper, drawing on notions, such as harmful cultural practices and beauty, and based on semi-structured interviews with young female university students in Iran, perceptions and experiences on beauty practices and cosmetic surgery are studied. We show how despite existing criticism of the gendered aspects of beauty practices among Iranian women who practice them, they are still practiced on a large scale. In contemporary Iran, the female body as a contested space for expression of social capital is under influence by the globalized beauty standards that predominantly rely on Western beauty ideals. This article explores beauty practices and positions them in the religious and political discourses of body and corporality in contemporary Iran. This empirical study reveal that despite the popularity of particular practices in Iran, especially nose jobs, beauty is not perceived as a common good but as a necessary evil by young Iranian women. We discuss how beauty is perceived, articulated, practiced and potentially resisted by young women in Iran.

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