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31 Jan

This book explores what it’s wish to navigate beauty

Chloé Cooper Jones discusses her debut book Easy Beauty – an eye-opening exploration of beauty from someone who exists on the periphery of our cultural beauty ideals

“I’m in a bar in Brooklyn, listening to 2 men, my friends, discuss whether my life is price living.”

So begins Easy Beauty, the debut book and genre-bending memoir from philosophy professor and Pulitzer Prize-finalist author Chloé Cooper Jones. It’s not the primary time her body – its autonomy and inherent value – has been discussed in front of her. Not the primary time it’s been discussed as if separate from her, the person sat right there, listening as friends, colleagues or strangers evaluate her existence, dismissing her perspective within the name of “objectivity”. It also won’t be the last.

Weaving together aesthetic philosophy, art history, travel writing and private narrative, Easy Beauty is a confronting and eye-opening exploration of beauty from someone who exists on the periphery of our cultural beauty ideals. Born with a rare spinal condition called sacral agenesis, Cooper Jones has lived her life having to contend with not only her own physical limitations and chronic pain, but with the restrictions and definitions placed onto her body by others.

In an try to carve out an area in a conversation that has previously excluded her, Easy Beauty sees Cooper Jones embark on a quest to re-negotiate her perception of beauty – each the concept itself and the best way she’s forgotten in it. Ahead of the book’s release tomorrow (April 5), we discuss easy versus difficult beauty, reclaiming space, and navigating beauty culture in a body that appears different to most.

Did you set out with the intention of difficult our perception of beauty – how we see and are seen – or was that something that happened organically?

Chloé Cooper Jones: It was something that happened pretty organically. Throughout the book, I’m going and hunt down beauty wherever I’m, and I’m serious about how my very own body suits right into a discussion of beauty. The reply is that it just hasn’t been anywhere within the narrative. The concept of the disabled body being beautiful, there’s no narrative for that and there’s no history of that. Actually, the disabled body is all the time, stereotypically, seen as a scarcity or a deficit, something to pity or something that’s inherently inferior.

We’re on this moment where individuals are really expanding their conceptions of beauty increasingly… but I feel disability continues to be really far behind. Not totally absent, but still far behind.

I read Easy Beauty as a reappraisal of what beauty means, an try to remove that limited definition we hold around beauty in relation to our bodies.

Chloé Cooper Jones: That was very intentional, each chapter takes us to a distinct site of what could possibly be termed ‘beauty’ [from art galleries in Rome to a Beyoncé concert]. It’s such an interesting word because what can often occur once we apply it to so many things, is that it just starts to lose its meaning altogether. Then people say things like “beauty is in the attention of the beholder”, which I hate. Like, why can we deflate this really essential and weighty concept?

But at the identical time, the opposite side of that spectrum was really hard to seek out too – to pinpoint beauty as an objective state. I feel that’s great since it signifies that beauty is only a mysterious, shifting and complicated idea. My hope is that throughout every chapter and throughout the movement of the book, an individual’s relationship to that thorny idea of what we consider beauty to be, or what we recognise as beauty, is always shifting.

“No amount of exercise, no amount of product, is ever going to make me not a disabled woman. Conceptualising my very own beauty in that way just felt inconceivable” – Chloé Cooper Jones

I like what you only said, that we will consider beauty as a shifting state, something that comes and goes. As an alternative of a goal or a singular point that we aim for, beauty may be moments that come to us throughout life in various guises, and it’s something we should always just embrace when it appears. There’s a notion that nobody is ever secure inside our culture’s rigid and yet fluctuating beauty trends. They’re always cycling at an ever-faster rate – but surely there comes some extent when we want to only stop partaking on this culture?

Chloé Cooper Jones: If you happen to’re chasing those trends they’re going to always make you’re feeling inadequate, but in the event you just let those things swirl around you, you’ve gotten a possibility to face within the centre and take into consideration them critically. You get to form your personal core, fairly than getting caught up in ephemeral things.

As I become older, I’m really serious about what it means for me to think about myself as beautiful. And that’s not likely an idea I had for a very long time, because, especially after I was very young and reading magazines, all you do is have a look at these women and see a deficit. No amount of exercise, no amount of product, is ever going to make me not a disabled woman. Conceptualising my very own beauty in that way just felt inconceivable. But then these women just kept changing, and it’s like, wait a minute, it’s actually not me that’s the deficit, the usual is just always shifting. Irrespective of what I do, I might all the time be a bit of bit out of step or out of time, or doing something after which reversing it.

In Easy Beauty, you very much consider yourself (no less than initially) as not a component of the conversation on beauty. The book feels to me like a reclamation of that space and of that word. Was it an empowering process? 

Chloé Cooper Jones: Certainly one of the core experiences of being disabled is being aware that there’s no space made for you or your body. People have little or no imagination for what the disabled body is, the way it takes up space or what it needs. The inaccessibility of the world is just in all places. And so to speak concerning the disabled body moving in space is a really explicit, political and intentional thing to do. I like this concept of it being a reclamation, and I feel it very much is, on numerous different levels. 

It wasn’t a process during which every thing got fixed, but a process during which my awareness increased, and that all the time seems like power. The forces of capitalism, misogyny, racism, ableism, have numerous power because for essentially the most part, they will operate quite invisibly. They’re working on us in such profound and subtle ways. We’re not going to eliminate these items overnight, but we will just lessen their ability to affect us subconsciously by increasing our awareness.

“The goal of this book is to shift your perspective so that you simply’ll see beauty in another way” – Chloé Cooper Jones

How did you land on Easy Beauty because the title? What does it mean to you?

Chloé Cooper Jones: The concept comes from the philosopher Bernard Bosanquet, who talks about how there’s easy beauty on the earth that hits you instantly – like a rose. Then there’s difficult beauty, which requires a capability to take a seat with complexity and intention. Bosanquet says you could discover difficult beauty if you’re more thoughtful, in the event you spend more time with something. I made a decision that I only take care of difficult beauty, that, as a disabled woman, I am difficult beauty. 

Bosanquet says that to be really good at recognising beauty, sometimes you’ve gotten to permit the dissolution of your conventional world. You may have to give you the chance to reimagine your personal ideas, and you’ve gotten to permit yourself to be very mistaken. I feel numerous the journey of the book is me pondering I’m doing that, but I’m in no way, as an alternative I’m actually keeping myself at a really secure distance to maintain that protection in place.

You speak throughout the book about beauty as a type of currency, but in addition you speak about utilising your disability as a type of currency. It’s something you consciously took advantage of at one point?

Chloé Cooper Jones: It may possibly be a source of power to govern any individual’s stereotypes of you, especially when it feels oppressive, cruel or reductive. However the flip side of that’s, by doing that I’m – in some ways – reinforcing that stereotype. I do that within the Beyoncé chapter where I play on my disability to get into the VIP area, and I get what I need. But then I say to myself, my son can never see me do that. I’m never going to do that again. I’m never going to bolster that negative association, or play on people’s infantilising tendencies towards disabled people. It’s a cruel thing to do. After which in the subsequent chapter, I do it again. Those things are ingrained in us so deeply, it’s really easy to revert to that behaviour.

I’d like to know what your foremost hope for the book is? 

Chloé Cooper Jones: The goal of this book is to shift your perspective so that you simply’ll see beauty in another way. My biggest hope is that individuals feel like this book is about them and for them. I need people to feel like I’m engaging with them on an equal footing, there’s no judging or prescribing. It is a real invitation to a conversation that shouldn’t be nearly disability but is… as relevant to your life because it does to mine.

Easy Beauty: A Memoir by Chloé Cooper Jones is out on April 5 and is accessible to pre-order now.

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