Friday, January 20, 2012

Beauty Blogosphere 1.20.12

What's going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.

From Head...

Theodent: the chocoholic equivalent of using bourbon as mouthwash

Theodent and forget it: Startup dental care company Theodent replaces fluoride with chocolate, which apparently has antimicrobial properties? It's currently mint-flavored, but never fear: A chocolate-flavored version is in the works. ("I understand chocolate bacon, Bill, but this is ridiculous!")

...To Toe...
Mukluk: Artist-activist Louie Gong will be collaborating with Manitobah Mukluks to do some designer kicks. Manitobah Mukluks is a Native-themed company actually—yes, it's true!—owned by Native people! I've never worn them myself, but Beyond Buckskin's tipoff is enough for me.

...And Everything In Between:
Blonde battle: Starbucks is taking a firm line: No employee is to make "blonde jokes" in reference to the company's new Blonde Roast coffee. Which, you know, yay and all—no, seriously, I was worried they were going to try some gross blonde-chick marketing thing and it's good to know they're taking a firm line on not exploiting the flaxen-haired just to make a buck. But if they're so concerned about people making blonde jokes why didn't they, I don't know, name the coffee something else? (Edit: K raises some great points in the comments section: "What's more troubling than calling the coffee 'blonde' is the associations they're making with it: 'It is subtle, mellow, lighter-bodied, full of flavor, and delicious.' (from the Starbucks website). The implied message here is that the ideal blonde (coffee or woman), is subtle. She's mellow and easy to deal with, but interesting. She's lighter-bodied... which can be interpreted both as skin colour and as body type." Sing it, sister!)

A wrinkle in the plan: The National Advertising Division is asking Neutrogena to reword its claims about a certain anti-wrinkle cream the company says will reduce wrinkles in under a week. Criminy, they coulda talked to me first.

Iron lady: The makeover of Margaret Thatcher.

Pushing it: Feminist Philosophers looks at "Push Girls," a new reality show featuring, well, hot chicks in wheelchairs. I mean, it's great that the show isn't treating women with disabilities as desexed or unattractive, but when "four gorgeous ladies" is a part of the show's description, I've gotta wonder.

A bit of surgical history: The first breast implant patient in the U.S. didn't really want implants. In 1962, when Timmie Jean Lindsey went to a "charity hospital" to have a tattoo removed, "They asked me if I wanted implants, and I said, 'Well, I don't really know.'" !

Can't figure out whether this is the fashionista's Diet Coke or the romantic's. DECISIONS.

"Fashion can": Which aspect of this marketing scheme is more bad-awesome? The special edition Diet Cokes in "fashion cans" or the tie-in videos with Benefit that "show the rock chick, fashionista and romantic enjoying a Diet Coke while they are shown how to achieve their desired look using products from Benefit Cosmetics"? You decide.

More marketing: The co-opting of "confidence" in this endorsement is sort of hilarious. Proctor & Gamble is sponsoring the U.S. Olympics women's gymnastics team, so it makes sense to pluck Alicia Sacramone, who won a silver in Beijing, as a spokeswoman, but the spin here is downright hilarious. "When I'm competing, confidence is key and nothing boosts me like feeling beautiful inside and out. I turn to P&G beauty brands like COVERGIRL, Olay, Pantene and Secret on a daily basis to give me the confidence to take on anything." Yeah, we've come a long way, baby.

Shrimpface: Shrimp derivative shown to aid skin permeation of green tea catechins. I was just wondering how to get all those green tea catechins to sink in, and damn if I don't have all these shrimp...

On grieving our fantasies: Medicinal Marzipan's haunting post on grieving the loss of our "body fantasy" is a self-acceptance must-read, because behind every woman who's dissatisfied with her looks is a fantasy woman who gives us a lot more than we realize. "We talk about grief in regards to losing those that we love or having to give up possessions or places by necessity of circumstance. Less often, you will hear people talking openly about the grief that they experience at having to give up a notion of themselves that they clung to for dear life."

Mass hysteria: Not exactly beauty-related, but this outbreak of what appears to be "conversion disorder"—aka mass hysteria—of 12 girls in upstate New York makes me wonder about eating disorder as a social contagion. Conversion disorder seems to be a way that the body and mind funnel stress, resulting in anything from tics to verbal confusion to temporary blindness, and the fact that there's an actual outbreak of it despite no known environmental factors makes it clear that it's also a social disease. (Not that kind of social disease.) Eating disorders are partly biological in origin, but there's also enormous cultural factors at play here. Is this odd spate of twitchy girls a microcosm of how some eating disorders develop? (via Jessica Stanley)

The trans beauty myth: Fantastic post from Jane Fae, who prompts us to think about the beauty myth and trans women. "Some women really aren’t too fussed over looks: would never contemplate a boob job or, the latest fad, a labioplasty. Others would because they can.... Ironic, therefore, if trans women now find themselves suffering from the same pressure. When, as in some widely-reported recent cases, hormones leave you underdeveloped, breast-wise, is your despair genuinely your own? Or is it increasingly something imposed on you by a society that, as it begins to accept that transition and transgender are not mere eccentricity, but utterly bound up with individual identity, now begins to impose on trans women the same pressures it has been imposing on every woman that ever was?"

What's your makeup: Beyoncé's spot for L'Oréal caught the attention of Indian Country Today; the ads claim that L'Oréal is particularly well-suited for the "mosaic of all faces before" hers. There's hardly ever a public mention of Native women's makeup woes, so it's nice on that front, and it's also interesting from the perspective of self-branding. Is Beyoncé marketing her mixed-race background?

The living years: Love this photo project of different women, ages 1-101. (via Ruby Bastille)

"Can Dr. VaJayJay help it if this is what women ask for?"

Dr. VaJayJay, M.D.: Am I the only one who's thinking of Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy in this spoof video with "Dr. VaJayJay," whose goal is to "Privatize Tho$e Private$" with labial cosmetic surgery? Vaginoplasty has its place, in particular for trans women (I'm pretty sure this falls outside the realm of what Jane is talking about), but this video is spot-on in connecting it to the way we medicalize what doesn't need medicalizing, and how pornography has changed what's normal—something Beauty Redefined does great work on dissecting. (Thanks to reader Rebecca from the New View Campaign for the link!)

Classical jazz: Une Femme d'un Certain Age asks what makes a classic, classic. "What we (I?) often think of as 'classic' seems to work best on the more ectomorphic among us. Am I trying to work 'classic' too literally for my body type? (Is there such a thing as Voluptuous Classic?)"

Private pantser: Pajama pants are eroding the moral fiber of society. I'm actually anti-pajama-pants-in-public, though I understand that some people with chronic pain conditions may need the comfort they offer. Not because it's a moral issue, but because I feel like it's contributing to a dangerous erosion of the public vs. private self. Facebook is bad enough, now girls need to showcase their private wardrobe too?

Alpha Girl:
Comics aren't usually my thing, but the premise of Alpha Girl is interesting: A cosmetics company develops a pheromone-based scent that turns women into "crazed man-eaters." Seems a tad too close to comfort to Anarchy, the new women's fragrance from Axe, which fragrance blog Mimi FrouFrou appraises this week from a marketing standpoint.

But nothing about "bicycle face"?: Gala Darling on "bicycle style": Helmet-hair, skirts and modesty, and keeping warm whilst staying stylin'. I tend to choose one or the other—chic or practical—but I applaud those who can try to do both!

"Punish whoever brought these mirrors!": I love Kjerstin Gruys's "Fun Fact Fridays" about mirrors, and this one is my favorite yet: Jewish couples in antiquity would use mirrors specifically to increase their levels of arousal.

Beauty, violence, and sensationalism: Elizabeth Greenwood for The Atlantic lays out two films that succeeds in depicting violence against attractive women without making it somehow seem alluring—and one that fails miserably. 

"Only people over 70 are fooled by Photoshop": I loved Bossypants so much that I didn't think to be critical of Tina Fey's bit on Photoshop, but Virginia Sole-Smith's second look at Fey's take on the matter makes me want to reread and reevaluate. 

"They must reap what they sow": Margaret Cho on the fury that escapes when her looks are attacked. "When someone says something negative about my face or body I will always and forever just completely lose my shit, because I have so much hatred in me, a violence that lies just beneath the surface of my delightfully illustrated skin. ... I’d like to say things that would haunt them for the rest of their days, because their hideous words stay with me eternally. Their insipid spouts of 'no fat chicks' are branded onto my soul, so they must reap what they sow." I'm generally of the "turn the other cheek" variety, but I understand the impulse, yes, I do.


  1. That's interesting about the new Starbucks coffee--I saw it and my mind did not immediately think, "Oh that's going to cause a lot of blonde jokes!" Moreover, I just thought it was cleaver marketing.

    1. It is clever--and troublesome for that. I'm glad they're directing employees not to make blonde jokes, but I also think it's disingenuous, for the reasons K brings up. They want it both ways, man!

  2. When I heard that Starbucks was naming their new light roast "blonde" roast, I was struck pretty immediately with the question of "WHYYYYY????"

    Then I realized: it makes you think of a woman. A bombshell.

    They -could- have called it "light" roast, but that brings to mind coffee. And who wants that?
    They -could- have called it "Palomino" roast, but that would probably only appeal to those of us in cowboy country.
    They -could- have called it "Sandy" roast (or something?), but who wants gritty coffee?

    So instead, let's think of something that everybody covets. The thing that everybody wants: the blonde. (eyeroll).

    Okay, so I can sort of get behind this. Call it blonde, for all I care. It validates the blonde colour, right? Makes it super desirable? Depressing and alienating, but it's nothing new. We're using the implied visual of a woman (a blonde woman) to sell the coffee (because really, I don't think many people think of a man when they hear the word "blonde"). What's more troubling than calling the coffee "blonde" is the associations that they're making with it:

    "It is subtle, mellow, lighter-bodied, full of flavor, and delicious." (from the Starbucks website)

    The implied message here is that the ideal blonde (coffee or woman), is subtle. She's mellow and easy to deal with, but interesting. She's lighter-bodied... which can be interpreted both as skin colour and as body type. I've seen this blurb (or something like it) in every Starbucks I've frequented since the new roast started getting hype, and every time I've had to take a breather and remind myself that even though I'm blonde, it's alright to be brazen and a loudmouth and super curvy. But it's tough.

    Who knew I'd feel so violently victimized at my local coffee shop?


    And speaking of ligher skin colours, the 101 Women project is ah-MAZING, except for the fact that most of the women are the same shade of pale. I would've loved to see some diversity in there!

    1. K, GREAT points, and I've amended the post to include some of your thoughts here. It really seems like they want it both ways, don't they? And for the record, my associations with blondes are always of the buxom/brazen sort--not that I should really have any associations with blondes, but there it is. My blonde cup is quite different than the 'bucks!

      And agreed on the 101 Women project. It leaped out to me immediately--the all-white factor--and I get that the idea is that they do all sort of look alike. But there was a 101 Men too, couldn't they have made one of them all men/women of color?

  3. Love your blog and your posts, so I hate to write anything the least bit negative, but I had to roll my eyes at that Starbucks article. "Blond" is honestly the French word for light-yellow-coloured, and it's used in cooking all the time--you can make a blond roux (in between white and brown), or use blond cane sugar. If anything, Starbucks is at fault for snagging a culinary term to jazz up their new name for what is, essentially, a lighter roast than their usual.

    There doesn't need to be a knee-jerk reaction when a corporation tries to sell you something using a word that can coincidentally be used to describe some aspect of a female human. Also, would we be as up in arms if they'd called it a Brunette Roast?

    Again, love your blog so I don't mean to snark. Just didn't want people to think they needed to get up in arms about being objectified while they're grabbing some morning caffeine.

  4. Thanks for the brilliant comment you just left on my blog. What is "natural" and what isn't, how much we should and shouldn't conform to gender roles, are complicated questions. I find it fascinating -- and frustrating -- that we are so indoctrinated that we can't even use our own personal experience to answer these inquiries. Reading and listening to the brightest thinkers hasn't given me all of the answers yet and, the older I get, the more I realize I don't know. Thank you for contributing to the conversation.

    Oh, and thanks also for the link to Jane's blog above. I wasn't aware of it before.

  5. The link about trans women and the beauty myth always makes me think of pumping, and how women are ending up with serious health complications because they've been pumped full of industrial grade silicone in pursuit of an "ideal woman's body."

  6. Anonymous, I'm always open for discourse on these issues--commenters have changed my mind on issues before, and as long as someone isn't being a jerk (which you are certainly not being here!) I'm happy to listen and consider. Not snarky at all. But on to the point at hand! Yes, it's a word in other languages, but that's just it--it's a word in other languages. And I get that Starbucks does that all the time (my personal protest is always saying "small" instead of "grande" or whatever we're supposed to call it). But "blond" isn't a neutral word like "venti"; it has specific, and strong, connotations in their target audience. I'm not sure how I'd feel about it being a "Brunette Roast," but let's look at it from another angle: If it were called a "Negro Roast," would we be okay with it? "Negro" simply means "dark" in Spanish (and you do see "negro" in that context sometimes, but not in a major corporation) but it's not a neutral word. Certainly "Negro" isn't exactly equivalent with "Blond" for a number of reasons, but the root point is that they're words with specific connotations in the language and audience Starbucks is aiming at. And coupled with the language that K points out that draws upon our ideas of idealized blonds, I think that it was a poor choice on Starbucks' part. I really like drinking Belgian blond beers, but I don't see their marketing playing in any way upon our connotations of blond women, which changes the equation for me. But certainly I hear what you're saying here, and I don't think that the company meant to denigrate blond women or to further objectification of them. I just also think that they could have avoided the question altogether by choosing a different name.

    Shybiker, but of course! And I'm happy to point you to Jane--I too just found her and love her work.

    Caitlin, I wasn't aware of pumping until you mentioned it here--yikes. I don't even know what to make of it. It's like...where do you draw the line between what someone needs to feel like they're in the right body, and vanity? Does that line matter? Much thinking to do here. Thanks for drawing the connection.

  7. Such things as skull reconstruction (facial feminisation surgery) and augmentation mammoplasty can be accurately described as preventative medicine for some Trans women.

    They can prevent not just psychological problems, but fractured skulls, broken bones, even bullet wounds.

    An example:

    Same woman. Her treatment by society before was very different from her treatment after.

  8. I should add - I transitioned, though am Intersex rather than Trans. A technical difference only, but it means that facial surgery and a boob job (to put it cruelly) would be pure vanity and self-indulgence rather than a necessity. I only looked *mostly* male before the change. I only look *mostly* female now, and to the same extent, but it's enough not to invite assault.

    I'd go for it if not for the health risks and emptying my life savings. I have better uses for the $50,000 or so it would cost - more than I've earnt in the last 3 years put together. The surgeon said I'd only get a marginal improvement anyway.

    I'd like to look pretty - but that was never in the cards, and I'd resigned myself to being "the girl with the wonderful personality" at age 10.

    Now - if I lost a little weight - I'd look better than many others my age. Not in Madonna's league, or Blondie's, but adequate, and most important, me, not a plastic imitation.

    All women have body image issues. Trans women who transition after their early teens have a lifetime subscription. An insecurity based not on some ad-man's propaganda, but grounded firmly in fact. I don't think it's possible for a woman not Trans to understand that emotionally, not just intellectually, any more than a White American woman can understand what it must be like to be Black and living in some parts of the USA.

  9. Zoe, it's great to meet you! Your perspective on this is interesting. I've heard from other trans women about the ways in which certain procedures we often write off as sheer vanity are, as you put it, preventative medicine. And I imagine that for you, having to decide which procedures were musts and which were optional illuminated plenty of ideas about the construction of femininity.

    I absolutely agree that it's impossible for a non-trans woman to understand the body image issues that many trans women face--and then, of course, trans women aren't excluded from dealing with the same crap biologically-born women deal with too as far as the beauty myth. I don't think they're entirely separate concerns, though (which is not to say that they're on the same spectrum). I don't know enough to say how they're connected, but I suspect they are--if you have more thoughts on this I'd love to hear them.