A duty to be beautiful? Professor Heather Widdows to speak at Imagine: Festival of Ideas & Politics, Belfast

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On 16 March 2018, Heather Widdows, John Ferguson Professor of Global Ethics, will speak at Imagine: Festival of Ideas & Politics on ‘A duty to be beautiful?’

Heather is currently working on a project exploring the extent to which beauty norms are changing: The Beauty Demands Network. Heather argues that beauty image is becoming ever more demanding and defining of women, and increasingly men. For example, procedures which were once regarded as 'exceptional', such as cosmetic surgery, are now regarded as 'normal' or even 'required' in certain contexts.

In her festival talk, Heather explore the idea of beauty as an ethical ideal, a shared value framework against which individuals judge themselves and others. This framework sets aspirational standards that we are required to work towards. Meeting, or striving to meet, such standards has the character of a (moral) duty, where failure to conform is a moral vice, engendering shame and disgust, whilst being beautiful is seen as a sign of virtue.

Heather is currently coordinating the Beauty Demands Network with Fiona MacCallum (University of Warwick). The network brings together scholars, practitioners and policy-makers from across a range of disciplines (law, history, gender studies, medicine, philosophy, psychology and sociology) to explore the demands of beauty.