Wood, R (2023) From Aesthetic Labour to Affective Labour: feminine beauty and body work as self-care in UK ‘lockdown’. Gender, Place and Culture: a journal of feminist geography. ISSN 0966-369X

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This paper draws on qualitative survey and interview data with 72 participants focusing on feminine body and beauty work practices in the UK’s first Covid-19 ‘lockdown’ in 2020. The data suggest that the affective dimensions of beauty were intensified, accelerated, and expanded during this period. Feminine beauty and body work was deployed to produce desired affects: namely positivity, productivity, and the elimination of stress and anxiety.
I argue, therefore, that beauty practices became oriented less around aesthetic labour – the work of improving and maintaining appearance – and more explicitly and substantially a project of affective labour – the deep feeling work of generating and maintaining a disposition that aligns with the needs of capital. Using the lens of affective labour provides insight into the way that the affective harms of the pandemic crisis were individualised and managed by feminine selves through practices of beauty and body work.
Participants’ affective labour projects produced two interrelated sets of immaterial outcomes. First, they helped maintain a ‘market ready’ set of positive and productive dispositions that were particularly crucial for those subjects in heightened conditions of precarity, insecurity or isolation. Second, affective labour was key to the deeply gendered, racialised and classed moral formulation of the ‘good’ pandemic citizen who would, and could, follow the directive to ‘stay at home’ in order not only to care for themselves and others, but to use the ‘opportunity’ of lockdown to transform and improve the self.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2023 author(s). Published by Informa UK limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open access article distributed under the terms of the creative commons attribution-noncommercial-noderivatives license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and repro-duction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. the terms on which this article has been published allow the posting of the accepted Manuscript in a repository by the author(s) or with their consent
Uncontrolled Keywords: aesthetic labour; affective labour; beauty work; body work; self-care; lockdown; femininity
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman > HQ1101 Women. Feminism
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2023 09:46
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2023 07:54
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/12015

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