Friday, March 16, 2012

Beauty Blogosphere 3.16.12

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

From Head...
The Blago: What will disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich do about his hair in prison? "According the Federal Bureau of Prisons commissary list, Blago's choice of hair products will be limited to a choice of shampoo—Pert, Suave, V05 or Head & Shoulders." Also, blow-dryers are banned in the joint because they can be jimmied to do tattoos.

Brazilian payout: Brazilian blowout manufacturer GIB agrees upon a $4.5 million settlement after the public outcry over the discovery of carcinogenic formaldehyde in its formula. (Hats off to No More Dirty Looks for being the first to break this to a lot of people, yours truly included.) Stylists will receive $75 for each bottle of product purchased; clients who assert they've been harmed by the process will receive $35 for each treatment, up to three.

...To Toe...
Ask a Plumber: ...about installing a home pedicure spa. (As a perennial urban renter, this seems outlandish, but then again, so does having a porch.)

...And Everything In Between:
Fight like a girl: Olympic boxer Mary Spencer on her CoverGirl modeling stint: "I think what’s important is that we put on a good performance and break the stereotype that girls can’t fight." Not sure how modeling for CoverGirl is going to help that stereotype; seems more like an attempt to show that one can be "girly" while still being fierce, making me wonder how much pressure individual boxers are under to make their sport more of a spectacle, what with the skirt suggestions last year.

Color me curious: Clinique has hired a social media marketing firm. "This is news?" part of me asks, but it could signal a potential shift in color trends: Right now makeup color trends are decided basically by the annual color show in Paris (as my beauty editor interviewee puts it, "I swear to God, I think it’s one person who decides it all"). So if these firms are good at their jobs, we could be seeing more grassroots color trends, going by, I dunno, Tumblr theme colors?

Printmakers: Where do "tribal" prints really come from? (via Final Fashion)

St. Makeup: Cosmetics line founder gives "makeovers" to abandoned religious statues in shuttered churches.

I only have eyes for you: Thoroughly freaked out by "eye-gazing parties," a speed dating arrangement where instead of chatting, you stare into people's eyes. There's no doubt in my mind that eye-gazing prompts a certain level of bonding, but who wants to be bonded to a total stranger? The power of the gaze is strong—particularly for women, I think—and I can't help but wonder what sort of weird dynamic this sets up. (via Will)

Man mascara: I'd wondered why so many stories about men's cosmetics were coming out of Korea, and now I know why: Korea accounts for 40 percent of the world's high-end male cosmetics market.

Chess code: New dress regulations in the European Chess Union, dictating skirt lengths and cleavage. Click-through bonus: amazing headwear, halfway down. (via Feminist Philosophers)

Russia's 2012 Eurovision winners.

Babushki: You wouldn't know it from looking at the U.S. media, but there are female entertainers over the age of 70 who aren't Betty White. Meet Buranovskiye Babushki, six grandmothers who constitute Russia's Eurovision entry, with dance tune "Party For Everybody." This is the group's second attempt at representing Russia in the annual competition; their 2010 third-place song was "Dlinnaja-Dlinnaja Beresta I Kak Sdelat Iz Nee Aison," which, in case you don't read Udmurt, translates to "Very Long Birch Bark and How to Turn It Into a Turban." (Which, let's face it, I'd love to know.)

What women want: Boomer women say that skin protection and looking healthy trump looking younger and pretty—but skin care ads still go for image-related messages. The survey authors seem to be saying this means that the skin care market for women over 50 should shift their messaging, but it's not exactly like that market is lackluster. I'm guessing it's more that women over 50 miss the effortless look of health that came 30 years prior. (I say this as a 35-year-old woman who doesn't want to look any age I'm not, but who realized six months after her 30th birthday that the "tired" look that had befallen me wasn't exhaustion but age.)

What happened when Sally Adee was hooked up to electrodes: "I felt clear-headed and like myself, just sharper. Calmer. Without fear and without doubt. ... I can’t tell you how stunning it was to suddenly understand just how much of a drag that inner cacophony is on my ability to navigate life and basic tasks. ... Who was I apart from the angry little bitter gnomes that populate my mind and drive me to failure because I’m too scared to try? And where did those voices come from? Some of them are personal history, like the caustically dismissive 7th grade science teacher who advised me to become a waitress. Some of them are societal, like the hateful ladymag voices that bully me every time I look in a mirror. Invisible narrative informs all my waking decisions in ways I can’t even keep track of."

Fitness at every size: Congratulations to Ragen Chastain of Dances With Fat and Jeanette DePatie of The Fat Chick for the successful launch of Fit Fatties Forum, a discussion board stemming from a Health at Every Size perspective, which—I mean, the last time I went to a fitness class the instructor kept yelling about how many calories we were burning and how "those of you who are happy with the way you look can keep it at the level you're at now. The rest of you BETTER STEP IT UP," which I think was supposed to be...motivating? In any case, being able to discuss fitness without the assumption of weight loss as a goal sounds fantastic, and here's the place to do it.

Makeup, the Musical: War Paint, Lindy Woodhead's chronicle of the rivalry between Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, has been optioned as a Broadway musical. Ten bucks says one of the songs is called "I Blush to Admit."

Also, wearing green on Thursdays: About-Face asks why it's remotely okay to sexualize M&Ms. The Beheld asks if this is what 12-year-olds across the globe were anticipating with the claim of green M&Ms making you horny.

xoWTF?: In my rush to defend ladyblogs, I specifically left out mention of xoJane, which has some good content, and which also horrifies me on a weekly basis. Dude, when you have a piece from someone with a history of an eating disorder being all, "You know, juice fasts are sort of great!", you are no longer being honest or subversive; you are the problem. (I'd link but don't want to traffic-feed what the team there knows full well is a problem that needs addressing. Jane Pratt has played her last Jane Pratt card, and I am no longer interested.) Anyway! Maura goes beyond the fairly obvious points I'm making here to get to the crux of the problem.

"Cute shoes": What's the difference between fashion taste and sartorial judgment?

Video star:
Just because one YouTube "am I pretty or ugly?" video turned out to be a hoax/art project doesn't mean all of them are, and an expert in this piece on the trend asks whether posting these videos is a modern form of self-mutilation. Virginia questions that, however: "Almost every teenage girl, for as long as we’ve had teenage girls, has asked “am I pretty or ugly?” And honestly, I don't know where I stand. Obviously these are horrifying, but they're just a more visible form of a very old problem. But...manalive, they really are visible. I want to trust that 13-year-olds will develop the skills to navigate these questions, but I literally cannot imagine the impact of having people tell me that I was ugly at that age. It just seems to be opening the door so much wider into the symbiotic relationship between bullies and the bullied. I have no idea if this means more girls with shaky self-esteem can get the...what would you call it, negative affirmation?...they're craving, but it certainly makes it easier.

Tenure track shoes: Hilary Levey Friedman on leaving academia—and frumpy shoes, as advised by her colleagues for interview suitability—behind. "I wanted to wear fabulous high-heel shoes all the time, especially after wearing those boring flat, black boots to the interview, having two professors comment on them, and still not getting the job."

"I think I'm beautiful": The number-one link people have sent to me is Lisa Bloom's article on not praising little girls for their looks. It's a good piece, but overlooks probably the #1 thing any of us can do to help girls navigate their way through a beauty-obsessed world: being comfortable with yourself. Amanda's approach gets to the root of it: "I've started telling my girls that I think I'm beautiful."

"Doing it wrong": From Korean American Annie Koh: "I’m not troubled by doing femininity wrong in America. There’s more variety for one (indie vs. glam, San Francisco pigtails vs. Los Angeles coif). ... But I take it personally in Korea."


  1. That post about xoJane is so dead-on it hurts. I follow the site because occasionally they will post something that is so honest and smart that it will make up for six thousand of Cat Marnell's "I sniffed bath salts!" posts.

    The Fit Fatties forum is brilliant. I love it. I get goosebumps just looking at the photo montage at the top of the site.

    1. Caitlin, me too. I follow it too because when they're on, they're on, with original, honest content that exemplifies what JP did/does best. But, I mean, I didn't get the sense that Cat Marnell was really eating tissues for a lark. I'm troubled by her post about being a drug user. I found the whole idea of "I'm a drug user, lots of other women are, why aren't we talking about it?" provocative--because maybe I *am* a goody two-shoes who only wants drug use to be talked about by people who have a problem with it in a reformative, apologetic sense. (The occasional I-got-so-high story notwithstanding.) But then it's like...christ, she's a train wreck, and obviously needs help. I'm sure the people in a position to do so have tried to get her help for her myriad problems--but then again, maybe because she's whip-smart and defensive and I'm guessing manipulative, maybe they haven't. And that would be a fucking shame.

    2. Yeah, I almost feel like she's very much into glamorizing this whole idea of the NYC party girl lifestyle, which frankly doesn't need any more glamorizing than it already gets. I am with you in that I hope she can figure her shit out, because it's pretty sad to see someone act like this in such a highly visible manner.

      And from an editorial standpoint, I think it's really absurd that they have this woman who praises $200-a-day juice fasts and drug use and lord knows what else serving as their health and beauty editor. She doesn't need to be a vegan endurance athlete, but maybe they could start with someone who doesn't smoke?

    3. I'm not one of Cat's die-hard fangirls, but I must admit that I usually really like her posts. She does understand that she has a problem, but I like that she's not always apologizing for using drugs- there's plenty of "I used to do drugs, I don't anymore, drugs are bad!" stories out there already, and it's really interesting to me to read a different perspective (especially because I know plenty of drug users in real life and they tend to run a much bigger gamut than is usually portrayed in the media).
      Same with eating disorders- I see tons of "I recovered from my ED and I'm doing pretty well now" material, not so much "I still struggle with my eating disorder, I realize it's a problem and I know why I have it but this is what happens." (I'm kind of in that place myself so it's nice to hear it from someone else). Basically, I like XOJane, and Cat in particular, because they really do offer a unique perspective (and I don't have to wade through news bits and celebrity gossip to read the good stuff!)

    4. Anne, I'm glad to hear from someone who likes her work, because it's a reminder that ways I approve of aren't the only way, you know? I too appreciate that she's not coming from a neatly packaged place, and her piece about why she writes about drugs stuck with me--that if they're a part of many women's lives we need to have honest, non-shaming discourse around them. But ai ai ai, I just feel like she glamourizes them too (and as Caitlin points out, it's not like her lifestyle needs much glamorizing). I mean, when someone with an eating disorder goes on a juice fast, that is deeply troublesome, and for her to emerge saying, "Hey, it wasn't that bad"--I mean, that's her experience, so on one hand brava to her, but on the other hand of course that's her experience! She has an eating disorder! How could she not emerge from a juice fast feeling awesome?!

      But then, on the third hand (we're on Mars now...) maybe that's exactly the point. That by letting us know she's struggling, a different route to (honesty? I hesitate to say "liberation") can emerge. Because in the throes of an eating disorder, recovery seems so far away; hearing a voice say the same things one is struggling with can be reassuring.

    5. She recently had an item that was a text conversation she had with a reader and it really helped me understand where she's coming from and what her views are:

      I still don't agree with everything she says and does, and I do think she's a troubled person who needs help. And I probably wouldn't be friends with her if I knew her in real life. But her writing has been helpful to me more than once and I wouldn't want to lose that.

    6. Thanks for the link--I found the exchange engaging but also infuriating. Still, I feel like if the writing has been helpful, that says something. My fear is that it's triggering, but, shit--if you're in a spot where something might be triggering, it really doesn't take much. (Seriously wondering if there are academic theses somewhere being written about Cat Marnell's body of work; wouldn't surprise me!)

    7. If I was still in school, and in a field where it would apply, I would totally write about Cat's work! So much to address there...

  2. So many things to say!

    From Maura's post on Jane Pratt:

    "What happens when these women who are being pushed to mine their lives for high-volume content sites run out of stories? Well, I guess one answer is “go into the bathroom with a Flipcam.”

    LOL JUST LOL. Yeah, to be honest, I don't know anyone who likes Jane Pratt. This is not to say these people don't exist or that she doesn't deserve to be liked, but I never hear about her. At least not anything good.

    Also, I love that everyone got punked by Sophia Roessler. Perfect.

    1. And yet everyone reads Jane Pratt's stuff! Including me! Ha. I mean, not everyone, and I see more trashing of her and the site than I'd expected. And the thing is, I don't want it to be trashed. I want it to be good.

  3. I hadn't read Cat Marnell's stuff until seeing these comments. Holy hell, what a mess.

    Oh, M&M. Grrrr.

    1. "Mess" indeed. After reading Anne's comments (and knowing that another source I trust is a fan of Cat's) I'm trying to reframe but it's difficult. It takes all strokes, and she's not mine, I suppose....

  4. Great group of links this week! I already commented about XOJane/Cat, but I have some other thoughts as well-
    - The Covergirl boxer piece annoyed me for the same reason it bothered you, I think- why do female boxers need to be "feminine" in order to be accepted? Why can't she show that girls don't have to be "girly"? (Not blaming Ms. Spencer in particular- she can model for Covergirl if she wants, I just wish she didn't feel like she had to do it to prove something, as she appears to be doing)
    - I'd already seen the tribal prints article and I really enjoyed it, especially because the use of "tribal" prints by mass retailers has been called out as appropriation, and the article shows that it really isn't.
    - Something rankles me with the YouTube hoax but I'm not yet sure exactly what. I almost feel like I should be offended on behaf of teen girls... it somehow reminds me of Tyra Banks putting on a fat suit for a day. I'll have to think about it some more.

    1. Re: YouTube--I think it's that those of us who are already sympathetic to the idea of teenage girls doing such horrible things feel sort of exploited. Like, isn't there already enough of this shit out there? Did this really need attention called to it? It's not like she's the sole voice out there doing this--there are plenty of real teenaged girls in pain doing this. Hers was the one that went viral because of her skills, but it seems like sort of a co-opting and exploitation of the real. and troubling, sentiment behind it. She claims she's doing it to validate the feelings of these girls but I have a hard time seeing it as that, given that the primary audience for her work is people who genuinely give a shit about teenage girls doing this, not assholes leaving YouTube comments. At best it's preaching to the choir.

    2. Exactly! Thank you for articulating my thoughts.