Friday, March 2, 2012

Beauty Blogosphere 3.2.12

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

Like this, but on your head, and $400 an hour.

From Head...
Cinnamon bun: Why did so many Oscar hairstyles resemble baked goods?

...To Toe... 
The pedicure that hate built: Need a new shade for your pedi? Try Santorum. I think this nail polish, from ManGlaze, a nail polish company targeting men, is hilarious. It also makes me wonder why no nail polish aimed toward the vast majority of its wearers—you know, women—did this first. (Of course, the company's other offerings include names like Lesbihonest and Butt Taco, so it's not like they're necessarily freedom fighters over there at ManGlaze HQ.) There's plenty of humor to be found in shade names for women's cosmetics but I can't think of anything explicitly political (however crude) offhand. Anyone?

...And Everything In Between:
Dr. Daddy: I really try not to get too judgmental about media-circus parents who take questionable action regarding their children's appearance. As Virginia Sole-Smith put it, "By focusing only on these extreme, headline-grabbing stories, we get to outsource the issue and blame the victims"—instead of examining our larger cultural attitudes toward beauty. Caveat over? Okay! So, which is more gross: Performing cosmetic surgery on your daughter, or naming her Charm?

Lady resources: Not directly beauty-related (I stumbled into it when sniffing around for info on Procter & Gamble), but fascinating for its insight into gender essentialism: How human resources departments went from being male-dominant to female-led in a fairly short span of time.

Pro-recovery: Tumblr has banned pro-eating-disorder content, as well as other content promoting self-harm. And, you know, I hear all the "this is a slippery slope" arguments, but frankly the slippery slope I'm really worried about is the harm that pro-ana sites contain. There will always be a home for that kind of stuff on the Internet, but brava to Tumblr for recognizing that it doesn't need to be a part of it.

Ode to an Eating Disorder: Elizabeth Nolan Brown examines the real fallout from eating disorder literature. I'm thrilled to see someone taking a sharp view on this—my own experience with ED lit mirrors Elizabeth's, varying between using such books as dirty little guides to tips and tricks, and using them as actual support. In fact, I once pitched a piece about this to a teen mag and it was flatly shot down with, "There is no way in hell we can run a piece like that." But Blisstree can! Yay Internet! (Actually, Blisstree overall seems to be offering smart content for NEDA week, sharing the real story behind sensationalist recovery tales and featuring an interview with Carrie Arnold, one of the best ED writers around.)

Case study: You've followed my advice and read Ashley Mears' sociological study of the modeling industry, Pricing Beauty, right? Good. Then you have context for this lawsuit in which a model is suing a low-prestige cosmetics company for unauthorized use of her image.

From the history files: Meet the Anti-Flirt Club, a group of women from the 1920s who banded together to organize responses to street harassment, or "embarrass[ment] by men in automobiles and on street corners," as they put it. As with plenty of anti-harassment measures the onus was on the women, but I love these ladies nonetheless. Rule 1: "Don't flirt: Those who flirt in haste oft repent in leisure." (via my momma)

Beauty beyond the grave: From mortuary anthropology blog Bones Don't Lie comes the rundown of a recent archaeological paper on the role of cosmetics in funerary rites in central Mexico.

Eau de Die Hard: Interesting/hilarious marketingspeak about celebrity fragrances, pinned to—I am not making this up—the new fragrance Lovingly by Bruce Willis. (Bruce Willis! Smell like who Bruce Willis loves! L'objet du desir d'Officer John McClaine!)

In the beauty parlor: Yolanda Gibson gives a salute to black cosmetologists and hairstylists, from the legendary Madam C.J. Walker to the Bronner Brothers Hair Show to founders of makeup lines for dark-skinned women.

All the world's a stage: HuffPo looks at the role of physical transformation for actresses receiving Oscar nods. Putting aside for a moment the notion that part of acting is physical transformation (and that it's actually refreshing to see actresses make that transformation instead of just playing pretty—or playing "ugly" as with Charlize Theron in Monster), the point is a good one. The piece quotes John Berger's Ways of Seeing: "Men act and women appear." Are male actors allowed to just inhabit their craft while women have to become visions—or is the physical transformation of female actresses more of a reclamation of the outside-in approach to acting? I'm not sure.

Being liked, being known: Is the Internet still aflutter with the Pinterest-is-for-the-ladies discussion? Either way, I'm entranced with this essay about the ways that Pinterest and other sites of self-curation wind up hiding, not revealing, ourselves, and why that matters in particular for women. I don't agree with everything the author says here but as someone who suffers from a chronic case of pleaselikemeitis, this piece resonates. (via Marginal Utility)

On Whitney: I'll be frank: I didn't understand the intense outpouring over Whitney Houston's death. Until I read this. "Outside was a culture that derided black girls as hoes and welfare queens. Inside we were fed 'positive' messages, by black women who swanned around in gowns and updos—female performativity, as Judith Butler would have called it. They were overly feminine and overly dignified so as to prepare us for a world that believed we were neither. Before we went out into the world, we needed them to show us how to behave. That’s why we took Whitney’s decline so personally. Our model wasn’t supposed to deviate from the script. Now who would show us how to be beautiful and poised? If she could succumb to the familiar stereotypes—the drugs and the thugs—what in the world would become of us?" (via Britticisms)

Where the bois are:
Thanks to reader Felix for pointing me toward Butch Sightings, a blog of...butch sightings. It's interesting to see photos of women proclaiming the butch identity, all over the spectrum, from butch women to bois to simply genderqueer to women who present as men.

Finis: What exactly is the namesake behind Danielle Meder's wonderful blog, Final Fashion? "The instance where fashion fails to impress and instead absurdly breaks its own spell is the beginning of the end of a trend. That is final fashion."

Product reviewers needed: Want to review beauty products for Prevention magazine's beauty awards? Their beauty team (helmed by a friend of The Beheld) wants to cast a wide net of reviewers so that they're not sitting around having 19-year-old interns test wrinkle creams. Enter to be a tester here; you get five full-size products to review.


  1. I just had to jump in and say that the article about females in HR made me SO ANGRY! Seriously, people are saying that since women are beginning to dominate this field, they need to balance it out and recruit more men? What about ALL the other business fields that are completely male-dominated? I don't see many business executives demanding that more women be hired! It's so frustrating that the only executive position that's primarily held by women is HR (and the article still points out that while many women get the vice president of HR title, the CHRO title is still mostly held by men), and even that seems to threaten the men in charge!
    Sorry for the rant, I just had to let out my feelings about this article immediately. What did you think about it, Autumn?

    1. Oh wow, I actually hadn't gotten to that part--I stopped reading after the first part where it was all, "Hey! Women's traditional strengths are handy in this profession, ain't that neat?!" Which I DO think is neat; it's a wonderful example of how the workplace can change to accommodate working styles, whether they're from nature/nurture, and indeed HR departments overall emphasize a more traditionally feminine set of values.

      But now that I've read the rest, I'm totally with you. I mean, theoretically I hear the point: It makes sense to have a gender-balanced department anywhere, particularly when the department is one that deals specifically with workplace issues and, well, human resources. But really?! At this point, now that it's tipped in favor of women, we need to start scaling it back? Jeez, funny that you don't hear that about traditionally devalued feminine work that pays less--nursing, hairstyling. Funny that it's only the legitimate corporate area where women are succeeding in unprecedented numbers that people are agitating. (Perhaps that's happening in nursing or cosmetology; I wouldn't know, as I just stumbled across this. But I can't imaging there's much hand-wringing over gender imbalance in pink-collar work.)

    2. I'm glad you see my point :) I don't know much about nursing or cosmetology either, but I am in the field of veterinary medicine and there are similar issues here as well. Over the last 50 years, the profession has gone from mostly male to predominately female, and there is definitely some hand-wringing because of it. I've heard the older male practioners, who still tend to make more money, own their own practices, and do specialty work, complain about this, and talk about how more men need to be recruited to vet schools (even though there are not enough vet schools in the US as it is, and they are all constantly flooded by excellent applicants). There are also clients at my work who refuse to see our female vet, even though she is more educated in certain areas than the male vets are.

  2. Had a little trouble liking the anti-flirt club - reminded me too much of trying to walk by a construction site while ignoring seriously nasty remarks. The list didn't include "responses" to street harassment, unless trying to disappear is a response. "Don't encourage them" isn't really something to do; it's something not to do. And I inevitably get grumpy when I am told that I shouldn't smile - I'll smile if I damn well feel like it, and absolutely require the recipient thereof to accept it (or not) in the spirit in which it was given, rather than permit it to be twisted into a sexual invitation. I know the difference between a "come hither" smile and a cheerful "nice day, isn't it?" smile, and so does everyone else.

    1. Marsha, totally. I would be super-annoyed if it were contemporary, for the reasons you point out. (And you're right, the list didn't really include responses, thank you for pointing that out.) I think it's interesting because it shows that street harassment has been around for a damn long while, which means that it's not about how revealingly we dress at all, and also that women have been made uncomfortable by it for some time, refuting the idea that feminism made it so that women couldn't take a joke/compliment.

      That's also a good point about smiling. So often I think of smiling in the opposite way--probably something more akin to what the Anti-Flirt Club had in mind. But you're absolutely right--that's me taking on the onus of what a smile communicates, when any adult man of sound mind knows the difference. This is making me think about the ways I'm absorbing that responsibility, when really it isn't mine--and indeed it shouldn't be anyone's "responsibility" to begin with.

    2. Your thoughtful reply is encouraging to me. And oddly, the issue of smiling came to the fore, for me, many years ago (in the eighties, maybe?) when I saw a woman who worked for a supermarket chain complaining about being required to smile and ask if she could help "strange men" (How strange? Who knows? Not her brothers or cousins or husband, anyway) who were shopping in her department. By my reasoning, her professed inability to smile in a non-sexually inviting way was the problem, and I was annoyed that she seemed to think that she shouldn't be asked to behave in a professional, friendly, and civil manner to a customer if that customer happened to be a man. She was, in my fevered imagination, practically begging for a burqua - because she seemed to believe that every woman's smile is a potential source of social unrest and possible incitement to crime. I wanted her to grow a backbone and extend herself so far as to be able to be professional, friendly, and civil in the marketplace while simultaneously insisting that she be treated respectfully. But she seemed to think that she should be "protected" from the requirements of her job, since she wasn't capable of performing them without having her actions misinterpreted as sexual invitation. Protection is often the pretty face of oppression, and she was promoting oppression of every other female worker because she didn't have the strength to do the job she was paid to do, and wanted every woman to be considered equally incapable. Everyone of sound mind, as you so nicely express it, knows the difference between "Come over here and let me help you, big boy" or "Is there any little thing you'd like me to do for you, sugar?" emitted in purring tones and "Can I help you find anything?" spoken crisply and cheerfully. As I saw it, if someone "misinterpreted" her question and treated it like a come-on, her job was to report to her manager that she was being harassed, not complain that we shouldn't ask women to behave professionally when dealing with the public that includes men. That just keeps women out of the marketplace, and at that time at least, the marketplace is exactly where we most needed to be. Whew! End of rant, and thank you for listening.

    3. I'd never thought of it in that way before and this is really interesting to me. I'm a big fan of "The Managed Heart," in which sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild writes about the emotional labor of flight attendants, who must be pleasant at all times, including smiling. It's a part of the job description, much as it was for the woman you're describing here. And I can't help but feel sympathy for workers who are basically forced to display emotion they may or may not feel--it's a commodification of what ideally should be a free exchange. If I like you, I'll smile. If I don't, I won't. (I'm speaking hypothetically here; I smile at everyone even when I don't want to, which brings a whole host of other problems.) But when conjuring and displaying emotions becomes a part of my paid work--well, then, what really IS mine? How much of my personality does my workplace own?

      But then, as you point out, to imply that a smile (which, while demanded more of women, is a customer service basic, at least in America) is somehow beyond a woman's capabilities actually does put the onus back on the woman, in a way. That we need to manage our emotions in a different way--concealing them--in order to avoid harassment...well, that's hardly progressive.

      I dunno, I fall on both sides of this. The problem is that anyone of sound mind CAN tell the difference between a come-hither smile and a polite one--but so often this is willfully ignored by men. And then there are the men who insist that you smile merely because you're a woman--the "Hey, put a smile on that face" thing. Which irks the hell out of me. Basically, the problem is that what a woman portrays on her face is seen as a public statement instead of a personal one--and from there whether we feel pressure to smile or not smile, the root problem is the same.

  3. This is such a fascinating topic, this smiling business. "My Last Duchess" by Browning sheds light on it: "Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt / Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without / Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together."
    After some consideration, I decided to ignore all external commands regarding my public face - but that does mean that I cannot at the same time decide to engage in commercial enterprises that require smiling civility (nothing more). Some choices must be made.

    What is on our faces is very often a public statement, not just a personal one, and that applies across the board for every human. We do have some social responsibility to fulfill our employers' expectations (or find another employer) and to avoid deliberately provoking or distressing those we encounter in both the public and the private sphere, if only for the sake of good manners, and again, this applies across the board.

    I only ask that we stop somewhat cravenly relying on men to be gentlemen (why must my actions be dictated by their strength of character or lack thereof?) or worse, assuming that at base, no man can behave respectfully in a public setting because even there, he is subject to being tempted beyond endurance by some wicked seducer he is helpless to resist. I wish we had the courage to insist upon our freedom to let our bare faces hang out there and to insist on general acknowledgment of our capacity to control those faces responsibly, that is, to avoid misleading or enticing or otherwise manipulating people.

    The onus to achieve appropriate, context-specific balance between internal emotional states and outward expression is on the individual (woman, in this case); the onus to avoid willfully ignoring that achievement is on those regarding her (in this case, men), and those who do willfully ignore her should be the ones whose behavior is challenged and rejected. Such challenges are a burden, I agree, but I don't want to be protected against needing to make them because that is such a short step from being protected against participation in the public realm and once again relegated to the private domestic sphere. Such a lot of concepts: public and private demeanor, the marketplace and the home, authenticity of self-expression and consideration of others, good manners! What a seriously meaty topic! I am thinking furiously, and I thank you for your response.