Pressures to be Perfect and Addressing Lookism

"We need to take this form of bullying very seriously or the epidemic of body image anxiety will spiral out of control. Lookism is discrimination, and in a world where appearance increasingly matters, a particularly devastating form of discrimination"
Professor Heather Widdows

Professor Heather Widdows’ work explores the increasing demands of beauty, which she examines in her latest book Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal (Princeton University Press). Perfect Me is changing the debate in philosophy but is also making a difference to how we think about beauty more generally. It was one of Atlanta Magazine's Books of the Year for 2018, and Vogue has described as “groundbreaking”. Heather works with policy-makers, NGOs and influencers to help us recognise the prevalence and seriousness of body image anxiety and lookism (appearance discrimination).

The #EverydayLookism campaign is a way everyone can get involved. The campaign calls out body shaming and names it. This is important as naming it is the first step to addressing it. By collecting personal, anonymous stories from hundreds of people about their experiences of lookism and body shaming, we show the prevalence and the harm of lookism. Just as naming sexist comments helped us call it out, so does naming lookist comments. Just because its normal, doesn’t mean we have to put up with it; we challenge sexism, racism, and ableism – we need to do the same with lookism. No matter who says them or why, negative comments about appearance are never ok. Share your story, show it’s not ok, together we can make a change.

Heather has contributed to the Mental Health Foundation’s report on Image Editing Apps and Mental Health, and the 2019 Annual Bullying Survey by global youth charity Ditch the Label.

To speak to Heather about her work in beauty, including for media work or consultancy, please contact her at

Also in 'A duty to be beautiful'