Maneater or Penny-Pincher?:
Buying Beauty in Patriarchal Capitalism

by Isabelle Schwartz, Women’s Studies

Abstract: In a society where female subjugation is the goal of patriarchy past and present, the deep connection between physical beauty and perceived chance of survival is no accident. Particularly with the rise of social media, girls and women are inundated with relentless messaging pressuring them to be more beautiful and urging that this is the clearest path to personal liberation. In this piece, I examine the intersection of patriarchy and capitalism which curates, distributes, and perpetuates these harmful ideologies. Through this, I explore how the two oppressive structures plant insecurities and unrealistic standards in order to continually sell myths as facts, and retain power in the social status quo. With extensive analysis, I delve into many key facets defining the modern culture of pursuing beauty, such as the phenomena of influencers, Blackfishing, mass-consumerism, and subliminal associations of achieving physical attractiveness with securing situational salvation. In this research, I additionally incorporate and examine bell hooks’ theories on Sisterhood, utilizing her insight as a guide for presenting a solution to the capitalist and patriarchal manipulation of female beauty as a means of self-enforcing oppression. This piece identifies the problem, dissects the dynamics upholding it, and then ties in outside theories to present a possible solution.

feminism, patriarchy, capitalism, mass-consumerism, sisterhood, beauty

Throughout history, girls have been ingrained with the vision of beauty as a necessity. In both subjective socialization and formal education, girls serve as constant observers, witnessing invasive public responses to physical forms of their female ancestors and peers. Women established as beautiful are seen and remembered, their beauty granting them consideration and influence in exchange for pleasing the surrounding gaze. In a society where female depth and complexity is often ignored or rejected, possession of physical beauty translates to a safety net; a guarantee that it alone will provide protection from the oppressions of one’s environment. When a woman’s physical attractiveness affects her status, socioeconomic position, and legacy, the possession of beauty consequently manifests as a feeling of necessity for girls seeking recognition and stability in their lives. While this sentiment has prevailed in a wide historical context, it has taken on an increasingly obsessive twist in modern-day society. The rise of social media, specifically the culture of “influencing,” has made personal beauty negotiable, increasing pressure and the pursuit of pretty. In this paper, I examine the capitalist and patriarchal roots in the female urgency to obtain beauty, while also utilizing theories of feminist scholars, such as bell hooks, to offer possible paths for resistance to these intentionally-wounding social messages.

For many girls and women, the association of beauty with freedom begins in early childhood. Many forms of popular media for children, such as Disney movies or fairy tales, revolve around the plot of a young woman being saved from dire circumstances through her connection to a male love interest—who was initially lured into interaction by her immense physical beauty. This manifests in the internalization of two perceived truths for viewers, who are predominantly young girls. Firstly, the thematic alignment of ease in suffering with being chosen for heterosexual romantic interaction signals a cause-and-effect dynamic between the two. In other words, the implied message conveys that the young woman was able to escape her oppression and/or vulnerable situation because of her success in securing a romantic relationship with a man. This is often done through a framework of lack vs. abundance. Typically, in these scenarios, the woman is dependent on a relationship with the man, hoping he will compensate for her circumstantial lack by extending his abundance as a sign of affection: whether it be wealth, bravery, or even physical strength. Whichever the variation, it ultimately serves to send the message that women’s best chance for salvation from their circumstances is to be chosen by men, or alternatively continue to exist with a lack of options, resources, and protection.

Feminist scholar Roxane Gay, in her book Bad Feminist, also points out the danger in the nuanced gender inequity present in most fairy tales. She attests that one of the primary components of a fairy tale is that a “compromise is required for happily ever after” (Gay 193). In other words, before the romantic relationship centered at the fairy tale’s core can be achieved, the characters involved must amend their current state to fit into their new role within the relationship. More specifically, Gay stresses that in the bearing of this responsibility, “The woman in the fairy tale is generally the one who pays the price” (Gay 193), meaning it is almost always she alone who is having to shrink herself in order to be accepted into the status-rising relationship because of the gendered differences in autonomy.

Due to the power dynamics, such as those previously discussed, between the leading male and female characters, young women in these stories are often portrayed in a position of vulnerability which urges them to compete for and earn the benefits accompanying the affection of the young men. In this relationship structure, male characters are motivated by freedom of choice, while female characters are motivated by the lack thereof. As a result, female characters resort to self-sacrifice in order to improve their odds of being selected (and saved) by more resource-equipped male characters. Young female audiences of such fairy tales internalize the message that they must betray themselves (their desires, authentic expression of self, etc.) in order to “be loved by their Prince Charming” (Gay 204), and, consequently, be granted survival.

The second perceived truth stemming from these examples of media lies in the detail of the young woman’s extraordinary beauty, as it begins the promotion of pursuing exceptionalism as means for peer-group separation. As noted earlier, a romantic relationship usually starts when a man notices the woman’s beauty. This implies that if the woman was without beauty sufficient enough to grab the man’s attention, she would also be without the relationship that, as outlined in the first perceived truth, could be her circumstantial salvation. Another key element of this implication is the significance of being extraordinarily beautiful as opposed to just beautiful. In these storylines, there is no insinuation that the young woman was chosen because she was the only young woman the man had ever seen (surely the often-times Prince had seen many beautiful women). Rather, she was distinguished by being the most beautiful he had ever seen. This differentiation of immense beauty leads to pursuit of a romantic relationship, and eventually upward mobility for the woman. Therefore, girls receiving these messages walk away with the understanding that achieving beauty is the prerequisite for achieving change. In order to break free from their current environment (poverty, isolation, etc.), they must first be wanted by boys/men, and in order to be wanted, they must be exceptionally more beautiful than other women. Their female peers morph from friends and sisters, into threats and competition. All vie, one survives.

A specific example for this message comes in the form of the world-famous fairy tale of (and later Disney hit) Cinderella. After a family tragedy, young Cinderella finds herself living as a pauper and servant to her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. As a young girl without means of her own, Cinderella is stuck following the commands and absorbing the abuses of her stepfamily. Tides change, however, when a fairy godmother grants Cinderella the glitz and glamor necessary to make an impression at the Prince’s ball. At the ball, her beauty stuns the Prince and leads to the development of their romantic relationship. The fateful first impression at the ball ultimately culminates in the wedding of Cinderella and her Prince (Cinderella). This matrimony gives Cinderella not only a rise in status as a new princess, but also the means to be finally freed from her abusive stepfamily. For Cinderella (as in the case of countless other examples), her level of beauty directly determines her access to safety. Cinderella’s story exemplifies the ways my concept of the two perceived truths are subtly permeated on a mass scale. Understanding this is crucial, as it establishes the pattern of women competing with each other in hopes of rising past the threshold of being beautiful enough to be the one chosen for circumstantial salvation.

While I have used observation of subliminal gender messaging within popular media, such as Cinderella, to formulate the two perceived truths previously discussed, bell hooks analyzes similar gender dynamics in a wider contextual lens. In “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Among Women”, hooks asserts that, “Male supremacist ideology encourages women to believe we are valueless and obtain value only by relating to or bonding with men” (hooks 43). Similar to the first perceived truth I examined, this statement by hooks highlights how the societal coaxing of women to view themselves as generally under-resourced and ill-equipped is a strategy to constrain them to the notion of depending on men. Furthermore, hooks makes it clear that this is no accidental cycle, but instead the deliberate action and result of patriarchy– collaborating to preserve their own position within the social hierarchy. In her assessment of patriarchal social structures, hooks continues by elaborating on how the male supremacist agenda affects women’s relationships with other women: “We are taught that our relationships with one another diminish rather than enrich our experience. We are taught that women are ‘natural’ enemies, that solidarity will never exist between us because we cannot, should not, and do not bond with one another” (hooks 43). Here, we see corroboration for the second perceived truth I previously discussed, as hooks reinforces the intentionality in the messaging which seeks to pit women against each other. This convinces individual women that their best chance at survival (or at least social renegotiation) is to successfully surpass their sisters. Both of these dynamics highlighted in this quotation by hooks serve to identify the patriarchal roots in the widespread behavior impeding Sisterhood today, and therefore fueling disempowerment of women and girls. This articulation of the conditional background by hooks is essential in critically analyzing, as well as critically challenging, the oppressive patterns we see cyclically repeating in the female pursuit of beauty, particularly through the perspective of likening beauty with social agency.

Currently, social media has become a notorious stage for both displaying and encouraging these patterns. One of the most prominent ways this is illustrated is through the recently popularized phrase, “you’re not ugly, you’re just poor”. Especially used on the social media platform TikTok, this saying pops up in a slew of videos, including make-up/physical maintenance tutorials, celebrity appearance speculation, and personal plastic surgery reveals. One example of this is a video made by @princesspaiya, with the caption “You’re not ugly you’re just poor…” followed by a handful of hashtags including “#nosejobcheck” (@princesspaiya). The video begins with the creator, a young blonde woman, holding three fingers in front of her nose (so that you cannot see it), while mouthing along to an audio that says “Ayo, nose job check” (@princesspaiya). The video then turns into a collection of photos of the creator before her nose job. Once the song progresses to the lyrics “ain’t really fuck with me way back then but how ’bout now?”, the images immediately shift to photos of the creator after her nose job (@princesspaiya), with the implied message that the creator believes the nose job has increased her attractiveness making people want to “fuck with” (be associated/ have a relationship with) her now.

Here, among many other videos that contain either the same or very similar sentiments, there is again a clear connection between gaining beauty and gaining power as young women. Through the context clues, such as the juxtaposing of certain pictures with specific lyrics, it is apparent that the creator has gleaned a level of confidence from her (perceived as) increased beauty as she envisions it the entryway to increasing her own social selectivity. Since this change, given the way it was presented, was focused on increasing physical beauty as an attempt at self-improvement, the desire for social selectivity likely centers around romantic social selectivity more specifically. Beyond the tie between seeking beauty and perceived influence/autonomy, the content of this video also introduces the immense role patriarchal capitalism plays in this cycle. The combination of the caption, hashtag choice, and the previously dissected motivations/response to getting cosmetic plastic surgery serves to illuminate the belief that beauty can (and should be) bought. The entire ideology behind “you’re not ugly, you’re just poor” lies in an assumed shared desirability that all women want to be as beautiful as possible, making the only separator between those who are “ugly” and “beautiful” an absence of means, which determines who is allowed to achieve beauty.

With this connection to beauty as both a necessity and an expense, it is essential not to overlook a primary proponent of this logic: social media influencers. On TikTok, it feels almost impossible to escape the rhetoric of the perceived truths and gender dynamics discussed throughout this paper. This social media application hosts a digital omnipresence carefully curated by both capitalism and patriarchy, banking on selling beauty to women predisposed to the messaging around them. This intention is clearly modeled in a TikTok by Salwa, a TikTok influencer. In this video, the creator (who is a young woman) walks viewers through a tutorial for a “Maneater Makeup” look (@sweetnsalwa). The video begins with the creator showing off her finished makeup look while the words “Maneater Makeup” and “#UrbanDecayPartner” appear around her face. The caption of the video begins “#UrbanDecayPartner Maneater Makeup makes for the perfect date night look @urban decay” (before listing a few other hashtags) (@sweetnsalwa). After showing the finished makeup look, the video features the creator with (presumably) no makeup on as she begins to take viewers through the routine of how she achieved that makeup look. She names each specific product she uses before demonstrating how she applies them. The video concludes similarly to the way it started: with the creator showing her finished makeup and then finally ending by blowing a kiss to viewers (@sweetnsalwa).

Over the course of her 55-second video, the creator uses eleven makeup products (not including the tools she uses to apply them), eight of which are Urban Decay products (@sweetnsalwa). The estimated total cost of these Urban Decay products alone is $227 (determined after finding the products on their website). Keeping in mind that this total does not include funds spent on shipping or gas to go to the store to buy these products, the cost of the tools used, or the cost of the few unnamed products referenced, we know that the price of this one look significantly exceeds $227.

Here, I propose, there is a (somewhat subtle) display of three large realities within the matrix of patriarchal capitalism and the modern female relationship with beauty. All of these reveal mechanisms of the Business of Beauty. Through the partnership between an influencer and a makeup brand (as evidenced by hashtags and an excessive representation of their products used), we first see a clear collaboration in the commercialization of beauty. The influencer (per relational norms) likely received these products for free (and also likely was paid) in exchange for creating a video which makes the products look desirable and necessary to viewers, mostly young women. They achieve the feeling of desirability and necessity in a number of ways, such as intentionally choosing an extremely and conventionally attractive woman as the product spokesperson, as well as calling upon language like “maneater” and “perfect date night look” to appeal to those early-internalized foundations of associating beauty/propensity for attraction with freedom/increased opportunity.

This commercialization collaboration leads to the second reality—an intentional design for mass-consumerism in the pursuit of beauty. The entire purpose of videos like these is to sell, sell, sell. In their article, “Young Adults’ Motivations for Following Social Influencers and Their Relationship to Identification and Buying Behavior”, Croes and Bartels highlight the unique appeal influencers hold within capitalism. Influencers’ immense ability to gain and maintain a substantial audience is particularly attractive to brand-sponsors and capitalist partners as they, when utilized skillfully, become “highly effective advertisers” (Croes and Bartels 1), blending the products they market with the personality they’ve curated. Part of this ability to influence such a large quantity of people digitally comes from “the unique intimacy of their platform”, which results in their followers considering them to be “more familiar and accessible than other celebrities” (Croes and Bartels 2). As a result of this, influencers are met with a certain level of trust by their followers, and therefore have a greater chance of getting their fans to spend upon their recommendation. Followers feel like they are listening to a friend, not an outsider with a corporate contract.

Scholar Aditi Bhatia further examines the complexities of this faux intimacy between influencer-fan relationships in her book, Digital Influencers and Online Expertise: The Linguistic Power of Beauty Vloggers. Bhatia stresses that the chosen personas influencers display to their followers are a key proponent in how they successfully encourage consumption. She calls attention to the intentionality behind influencers presenting themselves as “confidant,” “big sister” types (Bhatia 14) as a way of simulating connection with followers. By harnessing the perception of intimacy and closeness, influencers are able to have a direct impact on their followers’ choices, including their buying behaviors. Beyond the illusion of intimacy, influencers also stand as socio-cultural role models, advertising to followers “aspirational lifestyle choices” (Bhatia 10) which render “representations of desirable types of reality” (Bhatia 11). Through this process, we see the ways influencers, specifically female influencers creating beauty-related content, reproduce the gendered-disempowerment fueled by the capitalist-patriarchal nexus. By assuming the position of an online “big sister”, whose platform revolves around the pre-possession of a desirable lifestyle, influencers are able to sell (both products and ideas) as the prerequisites for rising to their level. Though highly different in format, this functions similarly to the previous Cinderella example, as both media types use cause-and-effect narration to tightly tie the possession of beauty with the possibility for progression. Beauty-focused influencers participate with capitalist and patriarchal structures in marketing “desirable types of reality” to sell the ideals that keep them in power.

Returning to the specific video example from TikTok creator Salwa, it is clear how this content demonstrates the dynamics which make influencer-capitalism partnerships both extremely successful and immensely harmful. By using such a large number of products in a single makeup look, the creator (and the corporation partnering with them) is able to urge not only the purchasing of one product, but multiple at a time, insinuating that each one is essential to achieving the final featured result. In this case, viewers attempting the makeup look at home would not be able to obtain the appearance of a “Maneater” without each of the products incorporated into the routine, therefore being less attractive than their peers financially capable of replicating every step. The frequent pressure to buy multiple products on a whim, especially when compounded by the reality that beauty trends and products replace each other almost constantly, results in disempowering mass-consumerism among women. This occurs because, as evidenced through the trends of social media, part of achieving beauty is the requirement of being able to keep up with the changing qualifications of it. It is never guaranteed and always a fight. With these trends of mass-consumerism, women are urged to burn through their money for the opportunity of performing the labor necessary to hold onto qualifications of beauty. Forget financial stability, learn how to do eyeliner like a Maneater.

The final reality revealed centers around the dynamic between buying-power and competition. As evidenced above, the ability to “keep up” with beauty expectations and remain competitive requires substantial funds. This creates an inherent separation among women as they, with each new trend, face a hierarchy of those who can afford to be beautiful enough to garner social privileges and those who cannot, believing their socioeconomic circumstances are to blame for paling in comparison– for feeling “ugly”. Since beauty, as outlined in the previous examples and discussions of this paper, is increasingly seen as something that is more bought than born with, women with greater financial means are more adept to maintaining their perceived beauty. Thus, making them more likely to be “chosen” by a male romantic partner. Already ingrained with assumptions that superior beauty results in greater freedom, women of lower means are spurred into participating irresponsibly in mass-consumerism as an attempt to remain competitive against their sisters with higher buying-power.

This competitiveness fueled by social media has also opened the door to extremely disturbing beauty trends such as Blackfishing. Similar to the behavior of a Culture Vulture, some influencers partake in trying to mimic or fake the physical appearances of ethnicities outside of their own in an effort to stand out from the female peers they believe they are competing with. While there are several trends that seek to recreate the “aesthetic” of other races (like mimicking the physical attributes of Asian or Latina ethnicities), I chose to focus on Blackfishing because of its tendency to be a whole body alteration, as opposed to one or two features at a time. Blackfishing, as defined by the brand Preenph, describes when a non-Black individual alters their physical appearance (hair, skin color, body, etc.) in order to achieve the visuality of being Black (@preenph). Contrary to traditional displays of Blackface, this is done primarily among (especially White) women who recreate Black-associated physical attributes as a way to exotify their look from their White peers. A common critique of this practice, besides its blatant racism and audacity to simulate an alternative racial appearance for sexual desirability, is that this demonstrates a double entendre of privilege as those who are stealing these attributes are often both using their status as a non-Black person to get away with it (e.g. building a social media following) and using this status to “steal” the beauty and/or culture of the ethnicity without dealing with any of their discrimination and oppression. It is essentially playing dress-up with ethnicities until finding one that garners the most positive attention, differentiation, and notability.

The modern-day complexities and implications of women who partake in Blackfishing as a tool for catering to a (highly-sexualized) male gaze, can be better emphasized when considering the historical prejudices which both previously formed and currently perpetuate social hierarchies of gender and race. In her novel, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and The New Racism, gender and race scholar Patricia Hill Collins provides a masterful analysis of how the oppressive systems of the past have paved the path for the stereotyping structures in place today. Within this examination of gender, race, and the large intersection between, Collins puts special focus on perceptions of Black female sexuality. Collins explains that colonial powers often used degrading and othering narratives in characterizing an outside group’s sexuality as a means of fueling “unjust power relations” between them and those they sought to conquer (Collins 87). It was through this intention that early European colonizers began to dehumanize people of African descent by categorizing them as “beasts” whose sexuality was “wild” (Collins 100) in comparison to the norms of the colonizers.

This practice of connecting Black, especially Black female, sexuality with a near animalistic nature gradually became woven into the mainstream, ultimately giving rise to the persevering perceptions of Black female sexuality and “its reliance on the idea of Black promiscuity” (Collins 98). This pervasive message regarding an outside interpretation of Black female sexuality reveals a complex dichotomy of response among White men and women. Generally speaking, this rhetoric historically succeeded in making White Americans “repulsed by a Black sexuality that they redefined as uncivilized ‘fucking’” (Collins 101). However, in the midst of this described disgust, a fetishization was born as, “the actions of White men demonstrated that they simultaneously were fascinated with the Black women who they thought engaged in it” (Collins 101). Collins also stresses that popular culture and media, building from its historical roots previously discussed, has often tried to overlook the injustice of the oversexualized image of Black sexuality, attempting to present Black men and women as “icons of sexual freedom as an antidote to American sexual repression” (Collins 43).

Whether being offered as an “icon” of liberated sexuality, or as a shameless “jezebel”, the “controlling image” (Collins 56) of Black women upheld by White men has created a nasty nexus in which the former is both desired and demeaned by the latter. Furthermore, it is the pre-existing power dynamics in place, as contextualized by historical background, which propel the men to feel entitled to act on their desire as justified by their ability to denigrate the object of that desire. When non-Black women participate in Blackfishing to garner the attraction of (typically White) men, they are drawing on the prejudices and objectifications projected onto Black women in larger culture. Women who Blackfish are able to evoke the “intriguing and interesting” (Collins 43) elements of Black female sexuality (from the outside male gaze), while also using their true racial privilege to avoid the societal oppressions put on the Black female identity. This is the heinous underbelly of Blackfishing, as well as how the in-gender competition among women propagated by capitalist and patriarchal structures is connected to it.

An infamous creator who has been accused of Blackfishing is Emma Hallberg, a Swedish White woman who has been suspected of altering her appearance for different racial aesthetics on social media for years. If only looking at one of Hallberg’s social media accounts, one isn’t likely to guess she is a White person. She has carefully curated her content to only feature images of her with Black-associated physical attributes likely in an attempt to insinuate that she is Black or mixed-race. However, several social media users have voiced concerns about the truth of Hallberg’s ethnicity after photos of her before and after the suspected Blackfishing resurfaced online. These direct comparison images demonstrate that in her efforts to adopt the aesthetics of a Black woman, she has seemingly darkened her skin (using probably either makeup or tanning products), altered the texture appearance of her hair, changed the style of her clothing and accessories, and possibly physically modified her body (such as enlarging her lips and waist-training for greater appearance of curves) (@uglythey). Despite this convincing evidence, Emma Hallberg still has close to 840,000 followers on TikTok, and several brand/influencing partnership deals. It is clear her suspected Blackfishing is still aiding her pursuit of beauty and desire for competition among other women.

The extremely disturbing trends of trying to steal racial “aesthetics” brings up another crucial perspective from hooks’ Sisterhood theories: the barriers to and the importance of genuine intersectionality within Sisterhood. hooks first identifies the current roadblocks to achieving Sisterhood by stating, “Racism is another barrier to solidarity between women” (hooks 50). She then goes on to explain that the failure of many contemporary feminists is their lack of addressing “that racist discrimination, exploitation, and oppression of multi-ethnic women by White women had made it impossible for the two groups to feel they shared common interests or political concerns” (hooks 50). Even though the examples and phenomena discussed throughout this paper pertain to influencers and social media users rather than activists, the same principles ring true.

The hierarchical selectivity and in-gender exploitation experienced within feminist circles is fueled by the same systems of class and racial separation, making them inherently predisposed to reproduce the same inequalities and patterns of oppression in the pursuit of beauty among women using “suspicious, defensive, competitive behavior” (hooks 48). Since these hierarchies lend racial privilege to White women, it is often White women (as demonstrated by the Blackfishing example) who use this systemic stratification as a means to leverage their social status to enhance the exploitation of marginalized women for personal gain. In the context of beauty, this manifests as stealing the cultures and features of their sisters from other ethnic groups to exotify their appearance in same-racial group circles.

These patterns clearly demonstrate the barriers to achieving genuine, intersectional sisterhood, as White women often perpetuate cycles that contribute to making women of color feel unsafe, unheard, and unaccounted for in relationships with them. As hooks points out, until these foundational inequalities are resolved through deep work on the part of White women, “there can be no bonding between them and multi-ethnic groups of women” (hooks 56), as without this systematic shift, any attempt at Sisterhood will be superficial and unsustainable due to its existence in the same environment of in-gender oppressions at the convenience of White women. Here, as framed by hooks, lies the solution to defeating the issues examined throughout this paper.

To truly achieve Sisterhood, women must progress past the socio-economic and racial hierarchies which lend themselves to in-group separation and exploitation. This is not to advocate for colorblindness, as erasure of culture for the sake of social simplicity is certainly not the answer, but to advocate for the end of stereotyping and systemic place-holding that maintains oppression orders. This means it is absolutely necessary for women (especially White women) to entirely abandon playing on prejudices that raise their own status at the expense of their sisters, as well as beginning to utilize their unique social placements as spaces to progress the freedoms of their oppressed sisters. While internal work and change is, of course, essential to creating a more just and equal community, it is extremely important that this is paired with social action to ensure that the community as well as the individuals are moving forward. Without sufficient work to reorganize base structures in feminist circles, the trust necessary for building Sisterhood will never develop and survive because they will be structurally prone to replicating the same abuses they critique.

Once true inclusivity and intersectionality is sustainably incorporated among all of the different racial and socio-economic groups of women, and mutual trust is achieved in Sisterhood, women can then effectively resist (as a united front) the patriarchal capitalist structures that originally feed the in-gender competition for survival narrative. No longer feeding into lies that their worth, future, and means of existence depend on maintaining male interest, women will be free to seek support from their sisters rather than products promising beauty and opportunity. Furthermore, the pressure to compete for this attention will dissolve as women will no longer be subjected to the conditions and fetishes of male desire that led them to betraying the experiences of their sisters. Women will cease to see opportunity as a gift allowed to a select few, but instead as a state meant to be shared with one another. hooks is clear in her asserting of this necessity, as she emphasizes that “When we show our concern for the collective, we strengthen our solidarity” (hooks 64). The key to this, as outlined above, is to first be enlightened as to how freedom and progress is only gained if gained by all, replacing tendencies of competition in divided groups with instincts of protection in Sisterhood.

Right now, we are taught that beauty is the answer to female liberation. This is the result of carefully curated lies designed by patriarchal and capitalist structures that see the opportunity to delay feminist advancement through in-gender division and competition. They belittle women, demanding constantly changing standards of beauty in the name of extending social and material resources as a salve to the oppressions and conditions they designed. They are the sole benefactors of women swirling in a disempowered state and are well aware that the bonding together of women would surely threaten the systems that have protected their own abuses. They know the rising of women, as a collective, would spark their fall. It is through this veracity and bell hooks’ theories that we see Sisterhood as the true answer to female liberation.

Works Cited

Bhatia, Aditi. Digital Influencers and Online Expertise: The Linguistic Power of Beauty Vloggers. Routledge, 2023.

Cinderella. Directed by Geronimi, Clyde, et al., RKO Pictures, 1950.

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and The New Racism. Routledge, 2004.

Croes, Emmelyn, and Jos Bartels. “Young Adults’ Motivations for Following Social Influencers and Their Relationship to Identification and Buying Behavior.” Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 124, Nov. 2021, pp. 1–10,

Gay, Roxane. Bad Feminist. Harper Perennial, 2014.

hooks, bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Among Women.” Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, Routledge, 2014, pp. 43–67.

Preenph, @preenph. “Blackfishing is an erasure of dark skin— period. Read more in the link #blackfishing #colorism #preenph.” TikTok, 28 March 2022,

Princesspaiya, @princesspaiya. “You’re not ugly you’re just poor… #nosejobcheck #fyp #foryoupage #australia.” TikTok, 26 Dec. 2019,

Salwa, @sweetnsalwa. “#UrbanDecayPartner Maneater Makeup makes for the perfect date night look @urban decay #UDAllNighter #UrbanDecay #maneatermakeup #makeuptutorial #grwm #datenightmakeup.” TikTok, 10 Aug. 2023,

UGLYTHEY, @uglythey. “but she’s not blackfishing, right?” TikTok, 01 Oct. 2021,

Acknowledgements: The author would like to thank the Institute of Women’s Studies and The Classic faculty members and graduate students who helped guide her through the editing process, and who dedicated their time to giving insightful feedback on how to make the piece stronger. The author would also like to thank her family and friends, who listened to the many ramblings which sparked the research of this piece.

Citation Style: MLA