Recovering a Self-Confident Body: Pregnancy and Childbirth under Aesthetic Entrepreneurship
Amélie Keyser-Verreault(Department of Anthropology Laval University, Canada)
This article analyzes the discourse concerning the quest for beauty in Taiwan’s two most popular maternity magazines, Mommy and Baby and Mother and Baby. We show that this discourse focuses on ‘recovering the body as it was before pregnancy’ and we believe that a theoretical approach using the concept of aesthetic entrepreneurship is helpful in analyzing this phenomenon. This theoretical framework allows us to shed a new light on feminist beauty studies rather than discussing the problem in terms of structure or agency. The beauty quest discourse can be understood as a ‘care for beauty,’ and this depicts recovering the body shape of a young woman as something new mothers are now, more than ever, responsible for. It seems that the beauty quest is incrementally influencing the choices women make while pregnant. We argue that the care for beauty implies a reinterpretation of the customary postpartum month of recuperation (yuezi) and breastfeeding, amongst others. Finally, this paper analyzes the care for beauty on two levels: the body and the psychological dimension. All the body changes that come with pregnancy are seen as negative; therefore, women need to do a significant amount of aesthetic labor in order to get back in shape. On the psychological level, the discourse in these maternity magazines implies an equivalence among beauty, self-confidence and identity. In this logic, getting back in shape also means getting back women’s self-confidence.
maternity magazine, neoliberalism, human capital, aesthetic entrepreneurship, self confidence