In this chapter, we leave “the Cultural Study” in the contemporary researches on beauty, claiming economico-political matters in our self-acceptance and image projection. Rather than studying the standard set for the middle class, we examine the middle-class dream in the self-acceptance of contemporary Chinese female migrant workers. We take “The Sundress”, a poem written by Wuxia, a migrant worker in Shenzhen, as an example, arguing that it is mainly the political and economic ideologies that function in the overdetermination of the contemporary working class’ projection of beauty in China. In the poem, the “I” speaker, a steam press operator working late in the night, (mis)identifies herself with a middle-class girl who buys and puts on the dress that she irons. She takes great pleasure and tranquillity in picturing the beauty and the leisure time that the idealized “you-I” in the dress enjoys. What’s more, our linguistic study testifies that she, as the speaker in the poem, is subjectified by the (mis)identification. Her self-acceptance, activeness and sense of control arise when she overlaps herself with that idealized body image. A great loss, however, is engendered by her having to leave that body and the fantasy world.
Part of the book: Beauty