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Gender in the MirrorCultural Imagery and Women's Agency$
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Diana Tietjens Meyers

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195140415

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195140419.001.0001

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Lure and Allure: Mirrors, Fugitive Agency, and Exiled Sexuality

Lure and Allure: Mirrors, Fugitive Agency, and Exiled Sexuality

(p.99) Chapter Five Lure and Allure: Mirrors, Fugitive Agency, and Exiled Sexuality
Gender in the Mirror

Diana Tietjens Meyers (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Although Narcissus was a man, narcissism is commonly considered a feminine vice. Over the centuries, several symbolic systems mediate this transfer: the myth of Narcissus evolves to reassign narcissism to women; the image of a woman gazing into her mirror becomes a staple motif of western art; and psychoanalytic theory solidifies the bond between women and narcissism and extends it to gay men. Meanwhile, to satisfy its appetite for expanding markets, consumer capitalism manufactures unattainable, ever‐changing beauty ideals that keep women hooked on self‐beautification products and services. This symbolic and economic legacy encodes a no‐win “feminine” psycho‐corporeal dynamic of eroticized estrangement from self – a subjectivity of self‐doubt, perplexity, and frustration, which I term the psychic‐psyché economy. In contrast, a number of contemporary feminist artists ironically appropriate and critically repudiate conventional woman‐with‐mirror imagery, and five of their self‐visionary projects are explored.

Keywords:   art, beauty, consumer capitalism, feminist art, mirror, narcissism, Narcissus, Venus

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