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One is not born a beauty, one becomes one: maternal responsibility and the transmission of the care for beauty in Taiwan

Amélie Keyser-Verreault

Research Framework: In Taiwan, parents are increasingly concerned about their childen’s future and deliberately invest in their future competitiveness. In a highly competitive environment where female beauty can bring many material and immaterial benefits, mothers are encouraged to transmit some aesthetic values and behaviors to their daughters.

ObjectiveThis paper aims to analyze the little-studied phenomenon of the transmission of beauty care by mothers to their daughters in the Taiwanese neoliberal context.

Methodology: To do so, we mobilized a qualitative methodology based upon 70 semi-structured interviews and participant observation in Taiwan between 2014 and 2017. 

ResultsOur research showed that, in order to maximize their chances of success in their personal, marital, professional and social life, beauty is seen by women as a decisive asset. Mothers are then held accountable to teach their daughters to take care of their physical appearance. Three dominant themes emerged from the participants’ comments regarding this aesthetic training: moderating or reducing the appetite, having white skin, having a cute behavior and appearance.

Conclusions: The skills necessary for aesthetic work are learned from deliberate investment. Mothers have the responsability for this aesthetic training. This gendered and generational dimension of the training of future « aesthetic entrepreneurs » is decisive, but often invisibilized in discussions of neoliberal individualism.   

Contributions: Our research allows us to understand the new gendered modalities of parenting in a context where the children are considered as human capital in the making.