The feminine beauty ideal

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I would like my oral history project to look at the feminine beauty ideal of the 1960’s, a time where I believe showed the highest contrast in what was deemed beautiful. I would like to interview both black and white women who were preferably teenagers during this period, and enquire on the pressures of having to look a certain way. This project will specify on black women and how they were treated. The segregation of black women for how they looked has always been a part of black history as even slave narratives mention the harsh treatment that black people were subdued to for looking different to white people.

When doing my interviews, I would like to ask about the women’s feelings with beauty during the 1960’s. The questions that I would be asking would revolve around how they were treated and if they were made to feel inferior or if they felt ugly because their looks were not being deemed as beautiful by society. It would also be interesting to see if black women had the same cosmetic opportunities that white women had during this time. In today’s market there is still limited opportunities for different coloured girls to match their skin tones with the products on offer and so it can only be imagined what black women during the 1960s had to go through when wanting to make beauty purchases. Along with interviewing black women I think it is important to also interview white women and discuss their thoughts on what the idea of beauty was when they were growing up. Why did they think that something was more beautiful than something else? And if they were aware of the black struggle when it came to looking a certain way.

I think this topic would be a very important oral history project on the basis that the idea of beauty is still very confusing. Even though this project will be delving into the emotional troubles of race and segregation, I do believe that with the amount of time that has past I will be able to find some participants who would be willing to discuss their treatment on these issues. It would also be interesting to see if there were any lasting effects on both the black and white women on what they thought beauty was. I believe that this project could create a better insight into 1960’s society, an insight that has not been looked at to this extent before.

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One Comment on “The feminine beauty ideal”

  1. Graham Smith says:

    What a great idea for a project. I think having a more focused group with an interest in beauty would be the way to go with this. There are people working on oral histories of how ageing athletes view their body and its changes and a PhD is nearing completion that has interviewed workers in the pornography industry which concentrates on the 1960s and ideas of sexual attraction. Unsure if anyone has interviewed ‘beauty queens’ (I did hear about a planned project but I don’t think it happened). Beauty in History: Society, Politics and Personal Appearance c. 1500 to the Present by Arthur Marwick would be worth a look. See Angela Carter’s rview here http://www.lrb.co.uk/v11/n04/angela-carter/i-could-have-fancied-her. (You might add a category to the post please).


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