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

Diana Tietjens Meyers

in Gender in the Mirror

Published in print March 2002 | ISBN: 9780195140415
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199871476 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

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

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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

Chapter.  17827 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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