Meeta Jha’s The Global Beauty Industry is an “interdisciplinary text” that runs about 100 pages, and can be purchased from amazon for $24.99, or downloaded as an e-text for $15 flat.  The Global Beauty Industry was published in 2016 by The Routledge Group.  This book is an informative piece of literature that dives into the depths of the origins of beauty in different cultures, and incorporates different views of beauties relevance in today’s society.

Jha is able to provide an in depth analysis of how colorism, class, and nationalism impact beauties definition on the local, as well as global levels.  Jha moves between the US, China and India in her analysis, in order to satisfy the global reach aspect of the text.  In this book, skin tone is determined to have a certain value to it.  In the US for example, darker skin tones are correlated with lower wages, which means that, if we look at beauty on an economic plain, it can be seen as a resource.  This book pushes the reader to view beauty as a form of capital.  It also contains strong feminist messages of how beauty standards are used to regulate women’s lives by way of beauty pageants, and consumer cultures.  It then ends with about a 20 page glossary, which I referenced quite a bit throughout the reading.

This book does a fantastic job with tying into this week’s readings.  In Mohanty: Under Western Eyes the author refers to what binds women together is a “Sameness of oppression”(1988).  What this text tries to get across is the idea that all countries women are undeniably oppressed.  Despite the dominance of western feminism struggles, and goals of what they want to achieve, the feminist struggle has global implications.  It also ties in the notion of nation building that was a focus in The Global Beauty Industry when it identifies beauty pageants as a form of “nation building”(2016, 7) undertaken by third world elites, as well as many western countries.  Jha integrates many different materials from a multitude of cultural and geographic locations to illuminate the connectedness of women’s struggle throughout the ages.  Not only did it touch on this week’s reading, but it also pulled topics from every unit, with discussion on radical, liberal, and marxist feminism, as well as second and third wave feminism.  Furthermore, it provided many different perspectives on feminism on a global level, which played beautifully with the transnational topic of this week’s readings.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the overwhelming truth of beauty being one of the largest oppressors of women.  Growing up in an era where beauty has a hand in what we are exposed to everyday (i.e. watching the news, going to lunch, scrolling through social media) we are truly a society governed by appearance.  The interesting thing is, no one is quite sure where these norms come from.  Why do we try to make ourselves look a certain way? Why do we classify some people as beautiful, and others as unattractive?  When you really start to think about these questions, it can be overwhelming, but The Global Beauty Industry does a great job of analyzing these probing questions.  Jha describes beauty as this “structural inequality” and determines that the impact of beauty has been around since the beginning of time – it is something that we are conditioned to take part in since birth.

I can’t fail to mention Jha’s analysis of Beyonce’s  version of Black feminism.  Bell hook, who is a celebrated black feminist, labeled Beyonce as an “Antifeminist”(2016, 45), which was generated after she played a slave in her music video of partition.  This came as a shock as Beyonce is a self proclaimed feminist, and views her works as “empowering.”  It is an electrifying debate, going back and forth between hypersexuality, and sexual empowerment.  In the end, hip-hop feminism is seen to provide a basis of discussion for the youth, who would otherwise glaze over these topics of black feminism, and racial inequalities.  This was just a small portion of the discussion on “light-skin privilege”(2016) within the text, however there is a multitude of different discussion topics throughout this book.

If you are captivated by discussions similar to the one on Beyonce’s contribution to black feminism, this book is for you.  I would also recommend this book to anyone who is interested in feminism, specifically third world, and feminism in non-western countries.  It successfully digs deep into the history of feminism, and provides a great analysis about feminism in the modern day.  Although it sounds very technical, it isn’t written like a textbook.  The book is easy to follow, with key terms bolded and the addition of many relevant subheadings to break up the text and make it more readable.  It is also short, so if you are the type of person to learn about a broad subject in a day, this is the book for you.  It was an exceptional read, and I’m certainly looking at reading others in the Framing 21st Century Issues series.

Works Cited:

Jha, M. R. (2016). The global beauty industry: Colorism, racism, and the national body.
Mohanty, C. T. (1988). Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses. Feminist Review, (30), 61. doi:10.2307/1395054