Feminism and Beauty: Little Connection

By Chelsea Durgin

For my research, I entered the online space of Lauren Conrad. Lauren Conrad’s blog/ fan page, Laurenconrad.com, is a social network that allows not only Lauren to blog inspirations but for the members of her website to blog their own inspirations. I choose Lauren’s website for this reason, the community. The questions that I wanted to solve in this space was whether the members of the website were drawing beauty tips from Lauren as a motive of self improvement. I wanted to see if beauty and feminism were connected in today’s society. In other words, were people viewing or even creating these beauty websites for inspiration to empower women and other ideals of feminism or  for self improvement?

Although I believe the website dictates its values and motivations, the people on the website choose what to make of it.  I already determined that Lauren’s website is not a feminist space, however, it is a female friendly one. Lauren’s website does not address or deny the ideals or conversation of feminism, therefore the community would be open were I determined to find feminist data for this research.

I first tried posting. I celebrated feminism, while trying to speak to the demographic of the website,  by using celebrity feminist, cute quotes, and exclamation marks. Although my posts were plentiful, there seemed to be an over-looking of my post. I decided to change gears and message people asking them to complete a survey about beauty and feminism. By doing this, I was scared that I would be disconnecting myself from the community but to my surprise, people were intrigued by my study and were more than willing to take the questionnaire.

I asked questions about Lauren’s website (i.e How often do you visit? Why Lauren? What’s your favorite part?) I asked questions about beauty and self confidence (i.e. What does beauty mean to you? How does beauty make you feel? On a scale of one to ten how confident do you see yourself?) And I asked questions about feminism (i.e. On a scale of one to ten do you consider yourself a feminist? What does feminism mean to you?)

From my collective data of six people, it was clear that the majority of subjects found little connection between the ideas of feminism and the beauty inspirations of Lauren Conrad. There were some commonalities between subject, they are logged in everyday and they are felt that beauty made them confident. However, I achieved differentials while asking about feminism. Most of the subjects viewed themselves as a 5 on  a one to ten scale: do you consider yourself a feminist (ten= absolutely).

However, one said 10 with three exclamation points.  This subject, let’s call her L, also had strong opinions and thoughts about the last two questions on the survey regarding whether beauty and feminism were expressed today and whether she uses beauty as a way to express feminism. L goes through a historical recollection on how the beauty of women was seen as a sign and sometimes even a threat of strength and power. I quote L in her explanation “Its our beauty that makes us a target of men and society’s ills.” While L helped me believe beauty and feminism were relevant on Lauren’s website, another subject made me “shake my head.” While asking one subject, let’s call her A, why do you love Lauren’s website, A’s response was “From beauty tips to cooking ideas; It’s all things girls want to learn about.”Not that this was a bad response but for a feminist questionnaire I found it bizarre and clearly not a feminist thought.

L was the only subject that used beauty as a tool of female empowerment and shows the world her feminism through her beauty. The other subjects did not reflect feminism through their beauty nor did they value the ideas of feminism. My findings showed that Lauren Conrad’s website was being used as a tool of self improvement. I’m happy that my subjects said that beauty made them feel confident and comfortable in their own skin because that is part of being a feminist even if they do not consider themselves as one. My data has showed me that the motive of Lauren’s website is for self improvement because of the lack of feminist ideas linked with beauty and because of the members of the website. I appreciate everyone that participated in my questionnaire and I hope I inspired someone to think differently about their beauty.

7 Comments on “Feminism and Beauty: Little Connection”

  1. I think that the questionnaire ended up being a good idea because people are drawn to forums for talking about themselves. Although sometimes you can’t get as much detail from them, I think it was a good choice. It was also a good idea to not tell the peoples names…Woops, I did that. So I guess Lauren Conrad’s site is being used for self-empowerment in a post-feminist framework?

  2. Chelsea,

    I think yours and Giselle’s findings on Cosmo are very similar in that they’re both about a space in which post feminist ideology is circulating. It is obvious that many traditionally feminine women look to these resources as areas of self-improvement framed in a hegemonic, patriarchally-centered, and heteronormative way. However, like “L,” women also find empowerment through this and it’s hard to say whether it truly is an evil or a good.

  3. It was great that you took a different approach to talk to the users on your site. I definitely agree with you thinking beauty for self-improvement has elements of feminism. Conrad’s site may not be intended for feminism and the site does not emphasize heavily on the perspectives of feminism. This could be the reason that the users and the site possibly don’t seem like they are feminists. However, I wondered if the users just wanted to deny the fact that they could be potential feminists.

  4. It’d be interesting to see what their take on Lauren Conrad would be, since they all have agreed to use her site. Do the users consider her to be feminist? Why did they choose her site over other fashion/make-up blogs?

  5. Hey Chelsea, this is great. I’m curious about race in your space. Was there any place to bring up race in a way that you didn’t see in your space?

    1. I was wondering the same thing as Zoe. Also, I feel like your space (loosely) connects to the ideas in Gisele’s space (Cosmo), because they both deal with ideas of beauty.

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