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Abstract

This qualitative ethnographic paper analyzes women’s perceptions of whether their beauty is utilized to achieve certain ends in Pakistani society. It highlights the objectification of the female body particularly in the field of academia and various job sectors. Female participants were both students and professionals. The age range of study participants included late adolescents (aged 18-24) and early adults (24-34) from the area of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan. In-depth, semi-structured interviews (17 interviewees) and focus group discussions (8 respondents, age 20-24) were used, and a thematic analysis was conducted. Results showed that women whose bodies reflect the commodified and sexualized beauty standard are preferred over women whose bodies do not fit into this category. A significant percent of the population believes that women’s bodies are seen in terms of ornamental value; their bodies exist for the visual gratification of others and, in some cases, the ‘self.’ Generally perceived, the ‘beautiful body or attractive person’ also allows women to attain good marriage proposals, secure job positions, good grades in academia, and be hired by companies and media for generating revenues. Veiled women are not only perceived in terms of modesty but as easily available sexual objects. In this society, people largely expect that good-looking women will be hired over those who do not meet accepted beauty standards. Beautiful women reap social benefits, while women whose bodies are not socially approved may not achieve any positive outcome. Men in this society also understand that they have the power to tell women how their bodies ought to be and behave. Future studies might examine men’s perspectives when it comes to identifying socio-cultural roles pertaining to their attractiveness and body marketing in a society known for being patriarchal.

Note on the Author

Dr. Subaita Zubair received a Ph.D. in Anthropology in February 2021 from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. She has a M.Sc. in Psychology and M.Phil. in Anthropology from the same institution. She has four and a half years of teaching experience in anthropology, psychology, and sociology. She also spent six months at the University of Southern California, USA, in August 2017 through an International Research Support Initiative Programme (IRSIP). Her research interests include body image, beauty, and gender.

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