The problem with makeup

Since my last day at my soul-sucking job two weeks ago at the morally bankrupt financial institution where I was employed for three years, I have yet to put on any makeup. I’ve written about the topic before, and gone into great detail about the more malicious and/or deceptive practices of marketers for cosmetic companies and why they piss me off, but I’d like to approach the topic from a slightly different angle this time around.

A blogger by the name of Rachel Rabbit White started what ended up being a pretty far-reaching movement called No Make-Up Week this past September. I thought about going along with it, but ended up forgetting or realizing I’d put on mascara or something and figured I’d sit it out, but it’s a great idea, nonetheless. As Rachel says,

The philosophy is this. Make-up is great. It is a powerful tool, a way to express yourself, your mood and interior life. But, when you can’t go without something, it loses it’s spark.

A study online claims that 8 out of 10 women prefer their female colleagues to wear makeup and the same number of women said they would rather employ a woman who wore makeup than one who didn’t. Because of these expectations, I think it’s hard for any woman to have a good relationship to make-up.

Makeup and other cosmetics are great, fun ways to be creative with one’s appearance. My problems with makeup are easily summed up in two ways:

1. Makeup is not marketed as a fun way to be creative with one’s appearance; it’s marketed as a necessity to cover, hide, or otherwise correct a woman’s appearance. Implicit in this marketing is the assumption that there is always something wrong with the way that women look. This is perpetuated by douchey magazines like Cosmo and even teen rags like YM and others who give incessant “tips” about how to apply makeup to “problem areas” and from which cosmetic company to purchase them.

2. Makeup is only marketed to women. If makeup is to be used to cover “problem areas” or improve the appearance of the person wearing it, one would assume that men would also want these products, too, no? Apparently not; men are apparently believed to either have perfect appearances, or they’re not expected to look attractive at all times. Either way you look at it, the assumptions are sexist in nature, and contribute not only to misogyny, but also to deliberately manipulative marketing schemes that are deceptive to the targeted audience and irresponsible to the environment and their customers’ health.

Eliminating my use of makeup isn’t a huge change for me, really; the only thing I need to eliminate from my daily makeup routine is mascara. Mascara is hard for me, though, because I feel like I look like a completely different person without it on. With foundation cream, undereye concealer, etc., I feel like the way I actually look isn’t changed too drastically, but mascara lengthens and darkens eyelashes, which makes my eyes look like a different shape. Without mascara on, I feel like my eyes disappear into my face.

But see, not only is the idea that mascara changes the shape of my eyes probably not even true, but that is an insecurity that makeup causes. I didn’t feel like I needed mascara until after I got into the habit of putting on mascara and other cosmetics every day, and as a result, wasn’t used to the way my own face looked without it on. I also foolishly never washed it off until morning, just before I reapplied it, giving me even less time to see my actual face.

I don’t think make-up needs to be a contentious issue, or something that a woman has to swear off in order to be a “good feminist.” I’d like to see make-up sold as a creative tool, and marketed to both women and men. Unfortunately, exploiting women’s socialized fear of being physically imperfect sells more products, and nothing short of a complete overhaul is likely to change this behavior.

With swearing off makeup, at least temporarily, I hope to be able to recognize my face again and not feel like it needs to be altered, which will allow me to see makeup exactly the way I want to, as an occasional way to be creative with my appearance.

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56 Responses to The problem with makeup

  1. andie says:

    Hrm.. interesting post in light of a debate I’ve been into on another blog regarding reconciling feminism with sexiness and how make-up contributes and detracts from all this

    I actually took part in the ‘No Make-up’ week challenge as a way to challenge myself – I am an avid make-up wearer, but of the sort that I don’t feel I HAVE to.. prefer to, but can easily go without

    No Make Up Week Part One

    Part Two

    I hadn’t actually thought of the way it’s marketed, as you have here and I think it’s an excellent point.. many more woman would have a healthier relationship with make-up (or could do away with it altogether) if it was seen as a fun way to adorn yourself rather than FIX yourself.

    And yeah, the same should go for men and women – with men (unless they work in show business) any make-up wearing (emo eyeliner for example) seems to be for adornment or costume than as a way to fix faults.

  2. Cessen says:

    Apparently not; men are apparently believed to either have perfect appearances, or they’re not expected to look attractive at all times.

    I don’t know if this is really the proper analysis. As a guy, I’ve basically grown up feeling like I’m either attractive or not, and there’s nothing I can do about it if I’m not. Like, you’re supposed to be “naturally” attractive. And trying to change that through artificial means is frowned upon.

    • imnotme says:

      That’s how they get us to buy expensive cigars, scotch, cars, yachts… etc. I’m sure the strategies will change with our new income structures which are growing less sex-oriented almost every day. Anyhow, I thought you raised a good point here, Cessen. I’m sure if millions of men were in on this discussion, the vast majority would be in consensus on this. If a woman is naturally heavy, or just has the habits to cause a heavier weight than would be medically or socially “normal” for her height, dieting to shed the pounds and exercise to maintain a healthier figure would never be frowned upon (unless their methods were particularly harmful, of course), but men who are naturally thin (like myself, I could eat most people under the table and still never see a pound added to my body) who choose to increase protein intake and work out to gain muscle mass are seen as posers.

    • April says:

      If a woman is naturally heavy, or just has the habits to cause a heavier weight than would be medically or socially “normal” for her height, dieting to shed the pounds and exercise to maintain a healthier figure would never be frowned upon (unless their methods were particularly harmful, of course), but men who are naturally thin (like myself, I could eat most people under the table and still never see a pound added to my body) who choose to increase protein intake and work out to gain muscle mass are seen as posers.

      Interesting point, but I take issue with one of the examples. A woman who is overweight due to unhealthy habits can’t really be compared to a naturally thin male. For the unhealthy woman to change her diet for the better or become more physically active would be a benefit to her health, not an attempt to conform to beauty norms.

      A woman who is “naturally heavy,” emphasis on the “naturally,” is not likely to need to lose weight in order to be healthy. She probably already is healthy, assuming she eats well and is physically active. A naturally heavy woman altering her diet and physical activity to change the shape of her body would be doing so only to conform to cultural beauty ideals, though, which is a good equivalent for the naturally thin men who try to bulk up.

      You’re right, though; it’s more frowned upon for men to make those changes for aesthetic reasons only than it is for women to. Although I’d theorize that this has a lot to do with women being more expected to conform to these ideals than men are. Not that that’s the cause of men being perceived as posers for changing their bodies for aesthetic reasons, but that it’s not necessarily a good thing that no one reacts skeptically to a perfectly healthy woman changing her eating and exercise habits without a medical need.

    • imnotme says:

      Your second paragraph is exactly why I chose to include natural vs. unnatural. Our modern diet allows for people who would normally be thin (pre-food processing I suppose, I don’t know really where that mark would lie) but who choose to eat food that is heavy in sugar and fat and lacking nutrients will gain. Even I would gain wait if I ate that way. Much the same way a person can be naturally or unnaturally thin. Meth or herion are known to make people sickly and thin. The healthy women you describe in paragraph three are not even in consideration here, just like those middle-road (healthy) males; both of which would probably be bored with the discussion.

      There’s some other point hiding in there somewhere that is better than my original. I’m sure someone else reading is already on to it.

    • April says:

      I see. Yeah, I was attaching an “and healthy” to the “naturally”‘s.

    • imnotme says:

      Pardon my atrocious grammar and spelling, btw. It in no way reflects my esteem of this blog.

  3. elementary_watson says:

    Re makeup for men: Possibly the makeup industry hasn’t found out ways to make products which enhance (traditional) masculinity. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think most makeup softens the edginess of your face, which is great if you want to look more feminine, but men are supposed to look rather more edgy than less.

    That said, it always saddens me when I meet a woman who doesn’t think she’s attractive without putting on makeup first. Someone really has messed with those women’s minds.

    • Jim says:

      I think this is right. Men are supposed to look craggy. Too bad if you don’t. Then you’re a “pretty boy”.

      Scars look good on men. Go out and get some, or else your just a little girl.

    • Melissa says:

      There are tons of ways to use make-up to look more “edgy” and defined. Eye makeup, for one thing. There are also shading tricks you can use to get the “chiseled jaw” look, and certain blush techniques too that’ll make the whole face more defined. So no, that’s definitely not the reason.

    • Just Say No to Makeup says:

      I suspect that with most men using make up to give oneself a more rugged or bad-ass appearance would warrant greater disdain and humiliation from other men than simply not looking “rugged” enough.

    • Melissa says:

      In our current climate, yes, that’s absolutely true.

      But making the argument that men aren’t required to wear makeup because it could undermine attempts to look “masculine” doesn’t prove anything, since makeup could easily increase stereotypically masculine features. It’s just that our culture has dubbed makeup (the concept, not the result) “feminine.” So no, the fact that makeup is not marketed to men has nothing to do with masculinity.

    • Jim says:

      “Edgy” makes you look Goth or like a stage actor – either is a no go. Edgy is not craggy.

    • Jim says:

      “since makeup could easily increase stereotypically masculine features. ‘

      It doesn’t increase these features, it subverts them. And in any case it’s not the features that make the look, but more the texture of the face.

      If it were actual features that make or don’t make men look masculine, no man would shave. Shaving is the makle equivalent of make up. Most jobs require it – all corporate jobs do – you’re generally considered some kind of rebel or outsider, even if a glamorous outsider, if you wear a beard.

    • April says:

      I’ve noticed that full beards have become something of a trend among young adults lately. My husband usually has one, and is frustrated by most employers’ requirement that he be clean-shaven. The job he just got doesn’t require that, which is pretty great.

      Requiring the removal of facial hair is a strange phenomenon, when you consider that facial hair adds to the masculine appearance usually preferred by society. Add to that the fact that most women I know prefer men to be clean-shaven, and I just don’t really understand the cultural requirement of men getting rid of facial hair for jobs that don’t have anything to do with food or other cleanliness-requirements. It seems very much at odds with expecting men to maintain a specific type of masculinity.

    • Melissa says:

      That was bad wording on my part. I didn’t mean “edgy” in the sense of like edgy/stylish, I meant “edgy” as in having defined physical edges. Which is not really a good use of the word “edgy” on my part. Sorry.

    • Melissa says:

      Interesting theory, April. But there’s also the factor that the stigma about facial hair lessens with the age of the man in question. You’re right that there’s stigma for young men with beards, but for anyone over the age of 40ish it’s equally acceptable to employers and society at large to choose to shave or not to shave. Why d’you think that is?

    • April says:

      I used to know guys in metal bands who wore eyeliner on a daily basis. I actually thought it looked really cool. I still do, even though I think the music usually associated with it is obnoxious 😉

  4. Dave says:

    In the UK I’ve seen a lot more adverts for makeup-like products for men recently. For example Matthew Fox advertising “Loreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Eye Roll-On” that supposedly gets rid of the bags under your eyes. Of course those adverts aimed at men avoid the using the word “makeup” at all costs.

    Then there are all the baldness/grey hair treatments aimed at men. Some adverts are pretty emotionally manipulative, trying to make any man with grey hair and a bald spot feel like an ugly old failure, who’ll never get a date or a decent job. That’s one case were products are definitely being sold to men to fix faults, with men being told that they won’t be attractive if they don’t.

    I’m sure those companies would be pushing all kinds of makeup for men if they could find a way of getting around its “girly” image in their marketing.

    • Jim says:

      We have a men’s hair dye in the US that has adverts like those you mention – a guy with grey hair siting next to a younger apprently interviewing for a job, wondering if his grey hair will signal experience aginst the energy the younger guy’s dark hair signals. But I think this is prety reasonable.

      That’s not what’s going with women’s make-up though. for one thing, it’s much more entrenched in the culture and in the psyches of girls gorwing upin the culture. It is treated like a real grooming necesity, on par with being decently dressed.

      I grew up in a period where women made a point of avoiding make-up. It was considered a form of selling out, and signaled that you were a less than serious person. Look how long that lasted.

    • imnotme says:

      We may see some interesting social trends, indeed, if the equaling of the sexes continues.

  5. Danny says:

    Apparently not; men are apparently believed to either have perfect appearances, or they’re not expected to look attractive at all times.
    I have to disagree with this. Men are believed to be sexy when they look rugged, harsh, rough, and damaged. Unlike a 50 year old woman that is pressured to get plastic surgery in order to look a 20 year old woman a 50 year old man is supposed to look 50 complete with scars and wounds to show that he isn’t a 20 year old punk that hasn’t lived yet. Its not that men aren’t expected to be attractive. Its that men are have different expectations of attractiveness.

    On specific example from my own life was years ago I had some women question me about why my hands look and felt so soft. Complete with the implications that I had never done any hard work and reminders that a man’s hands are supposed to be rough.

    Think about these two things. Why do men who put care into their skin so they won’t have rough looking skin have their sexuality and manliness called into question? Why is it that with the care products that have been targetting men still try to hold onto the idea that a man is supposed to be rugged and rough?

    • Melissa says:

      How do you reconcile the stereotype that women supposedly want a man who “brings home the bacon” with the soft hands thing? A man in a high-paying job would surely have soft, smooth hands. Those involved in manual labor are typically not well-paid.

      Also, if you meet a woman who’s into scars, makeup could only help. With makeup, scars are easy to fake.

    • Paul says:

      “How do you reconcile the stereotype that women supposedly want a man who “brings home the bacon” with the soft hands thing? A man in a high-paying job would surely have soft, smooth hands. Those involved in manual labor are typically not well-paid”

      The answer is: You don’t reconcile them.
      You’re assuming that what attracts people will make logical sense. It often does not.

    • Melissa says:

      And this is really easier for you to believe than the radical concept that maybe those stereotypes are just that: stereotypes?

    • Jim says:

      They are indeed stereotypes; that hardly means they are not operative and authoritative.

      Peopel think broad shoulders and hard muscles look masculine, and even high-paid executives strive for that look, who do manual labor at all. They take the time to achieve that look because it fits a general stereotype; however illogical the stereotype may be, people either conform to expectations or get marginalized.

    • Melissa says:

      Jim:

      I meant stereotypes of women. Clearly Danny has encountered at least one woman who is, for whatever reason, attracted to rough hands. (And, Danny, my sympathies. She sounds like a jerk.) What I took issue with was expanding that to something that “women” as a monolithic whole supposedly want or find attractive.
      Yes, it’s true that if a martian were to look for the one primary standard of male attractiveness, then yes, it would probably come to the conclusion of “rugged.” But that doesn’t change the fact that the majority of men can, regardless of age or body shape, and with very little effort, fall into the general category of “acceptably attractive.” This is not the case for women. If men were held to the same standards, then they’d have to spend inflated prices and hours and hours roughing up their hands in order to be considered acceptable and respectable human beings.

    • April says:

      Most heterosexual women I know prefer the aesthetic of a shaved face, not a hairy one. I’m beginning to wonder if US society, at least, just doesn’t like body hair all that much on anyone.

    • Jim says:

      Maybe so. A woman who doesn’t like facial hair on a man should just get honest with herself and get a girlfriend. It’s about on the order of a man who doesn’t like breasts on women. (And no, it’s not analogous to armpit hair or whatever.)

    • April says:

      I don’t know; I know a lot of the reasons why many women aren’t fond of beards have to do with practical concerns, like razorburn after a particularly lengthy makeout session, for example. And a man without facial hair isn’t really comparable to a woman in terms of who hetero women are attracted to. A hetero woman not into facial hair probably isn’t into vaginas, either.

    • Amanda says:

      I’m not a huge fan of facial hair, but that doesn’t mean I’d be happier with a woman– we don’t have penises, we do have boobs, and the whole body shape is different!

  6. I refuse. On strike, for years (decades) now. I much prefer the way I look without it.

    I sell (natural and organic type) makeup in the store where I work, and from time to time I play around with it. I like putting it on for photos (rather like a costume), or when I am extremely tired (good camouflage). Otherwise, I consider it a blight and a sexist scourge.

    Rather than admit the real reasons and get on a feminist soapbox, I usually tell women who ask me, that I am blond and pale and it just looks awful on me, which incidentally, I believe happens to be the truth. Blond eyelashes (with blond eyebrows) are not meant to be painted black or brown; looks totally shitty, IMHO. Ohhhh, but I just need to learn how to do it!–they bubble enthusiastically. They instantly demand that I let them put it on me or “teach” me how to choose the “right” kind. I end up finally admitting that, no, I just really don’t want to. Women (far more than men) act like I am just some kind of unregenerate hippie or worse. (I think hippies are more acceptable than feminists, actually.)

    I also find it bizarre that women “dress down”–wearing jeans and workout clothes and overalls and such, and still have perfect makeup. I’ve seen women going barefoot and yet have fully-made-up faces… it’s just phony, manipulative and utterly gross to me.

    Danny, true enough, but men are out in the world anyway, undeterred. Men don’t decline to leave their homes without their ruggedness. I don’t know a single man who won’t leave his house without ______. (whatever). And I know LOTS of women who won’t leave their houses or go to work without applying the face they keep in a jar by door (who is it for?)… not to mention that the overall appearance standards for women are far more expensive and time-consuming than those for men. And that’s the whole point. Men (mostly) profit off of women’s insecurity over our appearance. It isn’t women who profit. That’s typically called exploitation.

    • elementary_watson says:

      Men (mostly) profit off of women’s insecurity over our appearance. It isn’t women who profit. That’s typically called exploitation.

      Which men are you talking about? As far as I see, it’s mostly men in the makeup industry (and are there so many there?) who profit from women’s insecurities about their appearances. What profit has the typical guy from women spending hours in the bathroom to apply their makeup to cover flaws existing mostly in their imagination?

      I honsestly don’t get it (without an explanation); for me it looks like lose-lose (women are made paranoid about their appearances, the men who share a bathroom with these women often have to wait a long time before they can go there; yes, the women lose more, but that doesn’t mean the men are the winners in this scenario).

    • Max Factor, inventor of the term, was a real (male) person:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Factor,_Sr.

      Until Mary Kay and Avon, there were extremely few women running major cosmetic companies. (I think the exceptions were Estee Lauder and Helena Rubinstein?) Revlon, Maybelline, Cover Girl, all of that, owned by the guys.

      Lose-lose, except that women actually lose real money. And it can even affect getting hired–wearing makeup is listed in some interview guides as a sign that a prospective employee “cares” more and will do a better job.

    • Jim says:

      It definitely affects hiring and success on the job. High heels are in this category in some places. But not here in Seattle! – hell no – the only women who were heels here do it on their off time when they wnat to play at looking hookerish. Serious people don’t wear high heels here, or wear business suits either. That’s for the lawyers and other support types. The power hitters all dress out of REI and North Face.

    • Jim says:

      ‘Blond eyelashes (with blond eyebrows) are not meant to be painted black or brown; looks totally shitty, IMHO. Ohhhh, but I just need to learn how to do it!–”

      It looks pathetic. It’s the thin edge of the wedge for eye-widening and lip-thikening and skin-lightening.

      “I don’t know a single man who won’t leave his house without ______. (whatever). ”

      Shaving. There are still lots who won’t. Thank God that’s dying. Three days of stubble looks hot, hot, hot.

      “not to mention that the overall appearance standards for women are far more expensive and time-consuming than those for men. And that’s the whole point. Men (mostly) profit off of women’s insecurity over our appearance. It isn’t women who profit. That’s typically called exploitation.’

      And that applies to shoes and the whole rest of it. When it comes to shoes women might as well be on a chain gang. But it’s sexual competition. Try to manipulate men’s desire and get exploited in the process. The most extreme example of this kind of sexual competiution was foot-binding. Thank God that’s dead.

    • I totally forgot about shaving since my man doesn’t! 😉

      We’re such old hippies, its rather embarrassing. I don’t cut my hair either! (he cuts his from time to time!)

  7. Melissa says:

    Once upon a time I swore I would never become one of those women who wore so much makeup so regularly that she wasn’t recognizable without it. One time in high school, a girl I knew relatively well walked up to me and started talking to me on one of the two days I EVER saw her not wearing makeup. I literally didn’t know who she was. I was wondering to myself…who is this strange person? Do I know her? It was only when she made a reference to a couple classes we were both in that I was able to, by process of elimination, figure out who I was talking to. Granted, it probably took me longer to figure it out than most, since recognizing faces is a particular weakness of mine…but even so. I’d known her for a year, seen her most every day, talked to her regularly…and yet I literally could not figure out who she was without makeup. The makeup she wore didn’t even look “unnatural”–I’d only been wearing makeup myself for a few years by that point, so I wasn’t as attuned to all the tricks and it didn’t even occur to me that she wore a lot until that day.

    Anyway, despite having experiences like that to make me think how sad it is to have to make yourself look like a different person to step out of the house…I have certainly gone through phases when I wore as much makeup as she did. And probably elicited similar reactions.

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  9. Just Say No to Makeup says:

    I suspect that the only way this phenomenon might change is a grass roots movement on the part of women. As April pointed out women exert great social pressure on one another in regards to make up. I do not cognitively in anyway encourage women to “fix” themselves. In fact, I think I generally do a pretty good job of affirming people for who they are. Beyond actively seeking to mitigate my own socialized harmful tendancies I don’t know what else I or any other “average guy” could do.

    The beauty market exists because its consumers continute to be willing to leverage their own physical appearances against each other. The way forward, like with everything, is together.

    • April says:

      The beauty market exists because its consumers continute to be willing to leverage their own physical appearances against each other. The way forward, like with everything, is together.

      Now, if we could just get everyone to work together without all the in-fighting that has come to be expected among lefty groups of any kind, we might be able to get something done!

    • Jim says:

      “Now, if we could just get everyone to work together without all the in-fighting that has come to be expected among lefty groups of any kind, we might be able to get something done!”
      Leftists and Mennonites, both sem to love to split into tinier and tinier groupuscules. They split over points of principle.

      Why isn’t success one of their principles? Because it doesn’t really matter to them. What matters is belonging and that requires that for some to be in, everyone else has to be out, and they use theoretical squabbles like country clubs use references. They must actually be pretty comfortable as they are, whatever they say; if their lives actually depended on the changes they clamor so loudly for, they would suck up a lot of heresy to make common cause with any ally that came along.

  10. Danny says:

    Melissa:
    If men were held to the same standards, then they’d have to spend inflated prices and hours and hours roughing up their hands in order to be considered acceptable and respectable human beings.
    I can give you that because of the different standards that the genders are held to. Women are expected to be beautiful physically to attract men while men are expected to be successful in order to attract women.

    How do you reconcile the stereotype that women supposedly want a man who “brings home the bacon” with the soft hands thing? A man in a high-paying job would surely have soft, smooth hands. Those involved in manual labor are typically not well-paid.
    The same way guys are supposedly so horny they can’t help but always want pussy from any source while at the same time so picky we hold women to impossible standards (in short men supposedly want to have sex with every woman and a select few at the same time). There’s more than one valid stereotype at work.

  11. Danny says:

    Daisy:
    Men don’t decline to leave their homes without their ruggedness. I don’t know a single man who won’t leave his house without ______. (whatever). And I know LOTS of women who won’t leave their houses or go to work without applying the face they keep in a jar by door (who is it for?)…
    I may be having a bit of confusion here but are you saying that men choose to keep their ruggedness on them at all times of their own will but women only do it for the sake of men?

    Men (mostly) profit off of women’s insecurity over our appearance. It isn’t women who profit. That’s typically called exploitation.
    Are you sure its men who profit or it is men in the makeup industry that profit? I mean if I’m supposedly profitting then where is my cut?

    I’m not trying to argue the effects of this on women I’m doubting the supposed benefits for men.

    • April says:

      If I may jump in here, I see no benefits to anyone but the corporations and shareholders of said corporations. Most men I know from virtually all walks of life vocally oppose the excessive use of makeup by women, & most don’t even seem to notice when we show up without it on.

    • I see no benefits to anyone but the corporations and shareholders of said corporations

      And they are largely composed of men or women? Where is most of the money concentrated? As I said above, these corporations are owned/operated by men, except for the exceptions I named.

      It would be especially interesting to analyze the differences between Mary Kay, Avon, and the others… but that involves a heavy class differential as well, so don’t know how accurate any analysis might be.

      The “having parties” thing jumps right out at you though. (Both companies have “parties” and sell products through friendships networks, like Tupperware.)

  12. Danny says:

    And they are largely composed of men or women? Where is most of the money concentrated? As I said above, these corporations are owned/operated by men, except for the exceptions I named.
    While that might make you feel good on the inside (via having an easy way to assign blame) exactly how do those few men being at the top of those companies translate into benefits for the rest of us?

    You can point this out until I’m blue in the face but sharing gender with them doesn’t benefit us as much as many would like to think.

    • April says:

      While all men don’t benefit, the majority who benefit are men.

    • April says:

      Also, men are privileged over women in the general business world, making it easier for them to achieve power and influence in any company, including the cosmetic industry, than it is for women. Business currently speaks and caters to men, and business exploiting women’s interests rather than men’s aren’t any different.

      But, yeah. I get what you’re saying. You and most men don’t benefit, so it’s inaccurate to say that “men benefit,” but in a general sense, it’s more accurate to say that “men benefit” than it is to say that “women benefit.”

      Here’s the thing that’s a little fucked up, in my opinion. The majority of major cosmetics companies and other companies who sell products catered toward women are owned by men. How many companied that sell male-oriented products and services are run by women? As soon as you realize that it’s pretty much men who own and operate all of it, you can start to see how the business world and the privilege it continues to bestow upon men is clearly real.

    • Danny says:

      As soon as you realize that it’s pretty much men who own and operate all of it, you can start to see how the business world and the privilege it continues to bestow upon men is clearly real.
      And being one of the many men who don’t share in this privilege is a surefire way to realize that blanket statements like declaring men as privileged are very false especially when you look at the real numbers. In a strict numerical sense how of them (men who actually benefit in the ways we speak of here) are there and how many of us (men who don’t benefit in the ways we speak of here) are there? Yet time and time again those privileged few get held up as the representation of men in order to support those blanket “men are privileged” declarations.

      The divide between the “haves” and “have nots” is a massive one among women too and I’ve seen quite a few feminists/womanists point this out. They make it clear that mainstream feminism seems to mean “upper class white woman” feminism. Yet when that same distinction is pointed out in regards to men its reason to call foul?

    • elementary_watson says:

      Unsurprisingly, I’m with Danny on this one. Men *in general* do *not* benefit from women feeling anxious about their looks, au contraire, many see it as annoying; male CEOs of makeup companies do.

      There are a *very few* men who profit from annoying quite a lot of men quite a bit and damaging a lot of women’s self esteem, and I don’t think you can say that on average, men benefit from it and that “men as a class” are in this case the oppressor class. This isn’t a simple stick where women get the shorter end and men the larger one; it is a Y-formed branch, where a few men hold the tall end, women the shortest and the vast majority of men an end that, while being longer than the women’s end, is short enough to suck.

  13. Sunset says:

    Another interesting makeup trend I’ve noticed is that obvious makeup – makeup that is clearly intended to adorn rather than conceal – is considered juvenile. I enjoy gothic makeup that has heavy dark colors and intricate designs. Sometimes I also enjoy bright jewel colors on my eyes or lips. It’s a fun way to decorate yourself. But such makeup is portrayed as exclusively the province of young people. It’s assumed I am less mature and attention-seeking for wearing such a thing. Really, how is it different from wearing an interesting shirt, or putting on a bright necklace? The only reason I’ve been able to get is that my makeup “doesn’t look natural.” Well duh – but clothing and jewelry and hairstyles aren’t natural either.

  14. Melissa says:

    No, men as a class don’t necessarily benefit from women feeling anxious about their looks, but (hetero) men as a class do benefit from women looking better. And those men who are abusers benefit doubly, because the anxiety gives them an in to begin the grooming process. PUAs benefit as well. While good men benefit the least, they do still, as a minimum, benefit from women’s improved appearance. The only men who really don’t benefit are ones who are not attracted to women. But…even then…all of the beauty expectations help keep women as a class down (due to the time and money required to maintain it), and so even though this is not a direct/specific benefit to gay men, it is an indirect one. Keeping women down raises men up by comparison.

  15. Schala says:

    “Of course those adverts aimed at men avoid the using the word “makeup” at all costs.”

    Like adverts aimed at older incontinent people, and even those for older-than-toddlers are not called diapers…they’re absorbent briefs or “training briefs” in the case of the latter. The packages are no different either, all marked as absorbent briefs (it isn’t just the ads).

    It’s like the idea of make-up is so linked to feminine in society’s mind, and diapers to babies that the words can’t be used for the same kind of product catering to different demographics.

    “How do you reconcile the stereotype that women supposedly want a man who “brings home the bacon” with the soft hands thing? ”

    I have another explanation for this:

    Women feel make-up, soft hands, long and/or decorated nails and most jewelry is their province. It’s almost female-exclusive (barring certain exceptions).

    So much like skirts and dresses are a “sign of feminity” that would disqualify a man of being considered masculine, those women are probably feeling weird that soft hands don’t disqualify him, and want it to disqualify him. It is perceived as cheapening their own feminity, and is a result of their own insecurity in how they perceive their femaleness (not feminity itself).

    Consider the similarity with toddler clothes, all pink with frills, unicorns and ponies and glittery letters and princesses – or all blue or bright red with tonka trucks, Bob the builder or male superheroes, all in blocky letters (nothing cursive). It’s the insecurity of parents about their child being “correctly” identified, which flows into those children later being about as insecure because other parents and their peers once in school are just as invested in making really clear-cut differences for children according to sex (since they don’t have breasts or facial hair yet).

    Consider how my mother let me have longish hair up til about 3½, but then cut it because “it was too girly”. I had no strong opinion about girlyness by then, wether it was good or bad or anything. She took the decision, and it’s not out of a preference for short hair (she always had long hair since my birth up to now).

    To parents, and later children, it’s an arms race to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are a certain sex, which probably stems from putting way too much emphasis on sex differences from the getgo.

    It’s like a “OMG my daughter/I don’t have breasts yet! Quick, pinkify and make her up or else they might think she’s one of the boys!” or “OMG my son/I don’t have a 5 O’clock shadow yet! Quick, dress him up in the most drab stuff ever, with nothing even remotely associated with feminity or else they might think he’s one of the girls!”

    In the 1900s and before, children ALL wore dresses until about 3-4, maybe older. It was easier to change them, and hand me downs were less an issue. Frills were the mark of aristocracy, not feminity per se. Long hair was a sign of status, to the point where men who had bad, bald or short hair would buy expensive wigs to cover it up and appear to have long hair. Jewelry was again the sign of status, wealth and aristocratic, not feminine. And many men wore make-up for evenings out. Tights were initially made for men (to show their muscled calves, even up to padding them) as women couldn’t even show ankles. Pink used to be a boy color, strong like red….while blue was the color of virtue and like Mary.

    And until a while ago, baptism dresses were unisex. I wore one. It was long as heck (but you’re not expected to walk in it, thankfully – I was 26 days old). There were no baptism suits. It just didn’t exist.

    Something in the second half of the 20th century suddenly made all of this exclusively (or almost) the province of females. Dance and gymnastic and singing (ie choirs) are seen as feminine activities singling you up for derision, even when it was male-only before. Johnny Weir wouldn’t even appear feminine by 1800s standards. At worst he’d appear eccentric like Edward Scissorhands (he was well loved and thought of as attractive, until he got framed for that burglary).

    I’m wondering what caused this, and I can’t really put the blame on feminism either. It might have had a part to play because it affected the social climate, but it only became popular after many of those changes too, so it’s not the cause.

    I’m more enclined to blame the 2 world wars. Pink became feminine after the 2nd. Long hair became unmasculine after the 1st.

  16. Schala says:

    “No, men as a class don’t necessarily benefit from women feeling anxious about their looks, but (hetero) men as a class do benefit from women looking better.”

    One has to wonder if women who never go out with make-up really DO look better. I’d be more enclined to go with no make-up and find a guy who likes me that way, than feel forced to wear make-up every single day.

    My boyfriend says I look better with eyeliner and mascara. He doesn’t even notice the concealer or blush. That’s all I ever use. And I only use them for events I feel like wearing it for, or at his request…meaning at most every 2-3 weeks. He might like the look better, but he’s never said I was ugly, unfeminine etc for NOT wearing any.

    So to me, it’s a “special thing” I do once in a while. It keeps its special status by being rare. If it was everyday occurrence it would start becoming a burden and an obligation. Not something I’m aiming for. Also, most of my clothes cater to my own style. I might wear sexy clothes sometimes that I don’t like (the style of), for his benefit, but I don’t buy them, I don’t seek them, and my wardrobe is way more full with stuff I actually like the style of.

    So even my “dressing sexy” is a special thing I mainly do for him (though sometimes my own styles are the same as his preferences), it keeps the specialness of it. Oh and well, he does stuff for me too, it’s not just one-sided – except for him what I want is less about looks, but stuff he might not like himself. He also keeps it special, not an everyday thing.

    The specialness is about the same as say, the occurrence of wearing really formal attire for the average person. You don’t wear prom-dresses everyday. I don’t wear make-up everyday. Employer doesn’t like it, screw the employer, I don’t want to work for assholes. I’ll vote with my work-power (I’m especially efficient, so I’d be seen as a ‘keeper’ to the discerning employer…but only once they hired me).

  17. Schala says:

    “But…even then…all of the beauty expectations help keep women as a class down (due to the time and money required to maintain it), and so even though this is not a direct/specific benefit to gay men, it is an indirect one. Keeping women down raises men up by comparison.”

    My “grooming” is to take a bath/shower (a thing men do), and maybe brush my hair (rarely enough). My bf seems to wash his hair as often as I brush mine. I wash mine about three times less often. But he spends more time on his hair than I do (he does have long hair, but mine is longer).

    If I’m going to apply make-up, it will take…let’s say 5 to 10 minutes. And that’s because I’m not too experienced with eyeliner yet. Concealer 2 minutes, blush 30 seconds, mascara 30 seconds, eyeliner 5 minutes or so…and I’m set.

    Brushing my hair, when its really tangled (a sign I’m not brushing it too often) takes about 20 minutes with a boar bristle brush (no ripping hair off!). Washing, drying and styling his hair with mousse and then tying it up, takes him about 30 minutes.

    Am I keeping my boyfriend down?

    I spend yearly…maybe 100$ on care products (shampoo, conditioner, all make-up, and a hydrating cream because shaving my face hurts skin, a razor for everything). I think that’s dozens of time lower than the average. And lower than my boyfriend’s who also buys deodorizer and aftershave.

    Maybe people are a bit too consumerizing? Living simply without looking homeless, by Schala… I really should write a book.

    I do shave my legs, takes 3 minutes. No armpit hair (never had any, apparently that’s rare), 0 minutes. Face 30 seconds.

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