The feminist philosopher Sandra Bartky shows a sensitive awareness of why it can be difficult for women in general to criticize western beauty practices. She explains that women become locked into dependence on what she calls ‘the fashion-beauty complex’ because it instills in them a sense of their own deficiencies, like ‘the church in previous times’ and then ‘presents itself as the only instrument able, through expiation, to take away the very guilt and shame it has itself produced’. It offers ‘body care rituals’ which are like sacraments. The effect is that women so locked into the fashion-beauty complex see feminism as both threatening ‘profound sources of gratification and self-esteem’ and attacking ‘those rituals, procedures, and institutions upon which many women depend to lessen their sense of bodily deficiency’.
Sheila Jeffreys, Beauty and Misogyny