Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal by Heather Widdows - book launch and reception

Barber Institute - foyer
Friday 1 June 2018 (17:30-19:00)

Please contact George Dibble at if you have any queries about the event.

Perfect me cover

Book launch and reception for: Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal by Heather Widdows, with Clare Chambers and Alison Jaggar.

The demand to be beautiful is increasingly important in today’s visual and virtual culture. Rightly or wrongly, being perfect has become an ethical ideal to live by, and according to which we judge ourselves good or bad, a success or failure. Perfect Me explores the moral nature of the beauty ideal, showing how it is more dominant, more demanding, and more global than ever before.

Heather Widdows argues that our perception of self is changing. More and more, we locate the self in the body. Not just our actual, flawed bodies, but our transforming and imagined ones. As this happens, we further embrace the beauty ideal. Nobody is firm enough, thin enough, smooth enough, or buff enough—not without significant effort and cosmetic intervention. And as more demanding practices become the norm, more will be required of us, and the beauty ideal will be harder and harder to resist.

If you have ever felt the urge to “make the best of yourself,” or worried that you were “letting yourself go,” this book explains why. Perfect Me examines how the beauty ideal has come to define how we see ourselves and others, how we structure our daily practices, and how it enthrals us with promises of the good life that are dubious at best. It demonstrates how, if we are ever to address its harms, we must begin by recognising its ethical nature.

Heather Widdows is the John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. Her books include Global Ethics: An Introduction, The Connected Self: The Ethics and Governance of the Genetic Individual, and The Moral Vision of Iris Murdoch.

How to get to the Barber Institute of Fine Arts

The Barber Institute is just three miles from the centre of Birmingham and is easily accessible by car, bus and train.

By Car:

Take the A38 (Bristol Road), turning onto Edgbaston Park Road, where you will see the Barber Institute at the top of the hill on the left, at the main East Gate of the University and facing the road  (for all other routes click here). Parking is available in the University’s North-East Car Park, accessed via Pritchatts Road (first road off Edgbaston Park Road to the left, after the Barber Institute – sat-nav postcode B15 2SA) – a five-minute walk away.

By Bus:

There are frequent buses from the city centre past the bottom of Edgbaston Park Road (61 & 63 operated by National Express West Midlands).

By Train:

University station is a 10-minute walk from the Barber Institute across the main University campus – turn left on exiting the station and follow signs. Cross-City Line trains leave New Street station regularly (direction Longbridge/Redditch) and take approximately 10 minutes to travel the two stops. Check train times and buy tickets at

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