Capital Embodiment: White Beauty and Bodies in Sally Rooney’s Debut Novel
Beauty standards that have long been understood by feminist theorists as sexist also have a history of being rooted in racism. By reproducing the white, slender representations of beauty uncritically, authors potentially perpetuate the racist, classist, and sexist hierarchies in which our cultural norms are rooted. Popular, contemporary author Sally Rooney consciously writes about the privileges of wealth but fails to write in the same way about the capital of beauty and slender bodies. My literary analysis focuses on the political power and implications of the white beauty and embodiment of Frances in her debut novel from 2017. Rooney’s representation of white women is detrimental, I argue, only insofar as the power of whiteness and thinness that is written into their bodies is unclaimed and uncriticized. The thin beauty ideals which oppress and empower women within what bell hooks calls ‘capitalist white supremacist patriarchy’ make embodiment political especially for women at the top like Rooney and her characters. Frances experiences white beauty and embodiment as inhumane perfection and punishment that prevents connection despite exciting desire.
Primary Advisor's Department
Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences
Institutional Learning Goals
Critical Evaluation of Our Times; Scholarship; Practical Wisdom
"Capital Embodiment: White Beauty and Bodies in Sally Rooney’s Debut Novel" (2023). Stander Symposium Projects. 2874.