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Body, beauty and fashion

Offer semester
1st semester

Lecture time
Wednesday 14:30 – 16:20

Lecture venue

Course description

This course takes students on an exploration of the links between body, beauty and fashion from a variety of perspectives ranging from sociology, social policy, economics, psychology and medicine. These various perspectives together offer students a way of seeing how individual level issues (like self esteem, stigma and identity) shape and are shaped by community level issues (mass media), societal level issues (gender) and global level issues (globalization and westernization). The course examines these issues in a variety of formats using mass media analysis, video clips, problem solving activities and discussion. The course also focuses on cultural representations and understandings of the human body and ideals of beauty. Although the emphasis is primarily on contemporary Hong Kong society, lectures will also include in-depth analyses of how beauty is culturally constructed and historically situated around the world. To this end, the course is gender inclusive and presents both the female and male perspectives on beauty and body image. In this context, how human bodies and standards of beauty are increasingly influenced by a global media, which promotes a progressively narrow concept of beauty, will be critically discussed. Aside from the media influence on an increasingly globalized interpretation of beauty standards, the course also explores how diet and fashion industries are gaining momentum in shaping beauty ideals. Lectures address other globally and socially constructed aspects of beauty and identity, such as: race, class, culture, ethnicity, sexual identity, age, and ability/disability.



Course learning outcomes

On completing the course, students should be able to:

  1. Describe, explain and differentiate the sociological, psychological, anthropological and biological theories and ideas related to body, beauty and fashion.
  2. Extrapolate key elements of various theories regarding beauty, body image, fashion and gender and apply to their everyday experiences.
  3. Assess and critique messages regarding beauty, body image and fashion and place these messages in both a local and global context.
  4. Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the complex relationship between gender and beauty and how culture and history impact this relationship.
  5. Critically assess social messages regarding body, beauty and fashion and discuss the social responsibility of accepting, not judging beauty as they explore alternative concepts of beauty that question conventional definitions.

*PLO: Programme Learning Outcome – Common Core


Tutorial participation and presentation30%
Reflective journal50%

Required reading

Cheung, F. & E. Holroyd eds. 2009. Mainstreaming Gender in Hong Kong Society. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.

Goffman, E. 1959. “Introduction” from the presentation of self in everyday life, in C. Malacrida & J. Low eds., Sociology of The Body: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

World Health Organization on Gender, Women and Health


Course co-ordinator and teachers

Office opening hours adjustment