Friday, March 15, 2013

Beauty Blogosphere, Ides of March

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

From Head...
The short story:
A tale of three haircuts shines a light on how our hair can feel like an extension of our agency.

In SATC III, Carrie has high arches, Charlotte gets a stress fracture,
Samantha is corny, and Miranda stays callus.

...To Toe...
Metatarsals in the city: We all knew that high heels can lead to permanent damage to your feet, but I'd never stopped to consider what that means when wearing high heels is literally a part of your job—as in, you play Carrie Bradshaw.

...And Everything In Between:
Vampirical evidence: The Kardashian sisters' Khroma cosmetics line is on the losing end of a trademark infringement case involving a line called Kroma, whose representative had met with the Kardashian team before the Khroma line became a reality in order to talk collaboration. In related news, Kim got a blood facial.

Ask and we shall receive: A couple of weeks ago, Baze Mpinja at Beautycism asked why Adele doesn't have a beauty industry endorsement deal. Answer seems to be she has actively shunned endorsements—until now

Ch-ch-ch-changes: Shiseido president is stepping down for health reasons, leaving the current chair to figure out what to do in the midst of a projected 52% cut in revenue.

Windy city: Chicago has the most stressed-out hair in the nation, according to Head & Shoulders, which has absolutely zero investment in the outcome of any such survey, yes'm.

Avon's calling: Avon emerged from their conclave with a refinancing plan, which should help get them out of their lingering debt.

Dosha do: If you're at all interested in the beauty market in India, this in-depth Q&A with Shahnaz Husain, founder of the eponymous beauty line, is a must-read.

Hair care: Plenty of black women have a legacy of connecting hair with identity. But what does that mean when you find out in mid-adulthood that up until then, you weren't exactly sure what kind of hair you really had?

Holy See: Not beauty-related per se but way too cool to not mention: Pink smoke released over the Vatican to protest exclusion of female priests.

Wonder workers: Loving these "butch heroes" cards: celebration of butch women through history done in the style of Catholic saint cards. (via Feminist Philosophers)

Breaking the box: This PSA from the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault hits all the right notes. It's aimed at preventing sexual assault, and in doing so it weaves in broader gender stereotypes and the not-immediately-evident ways they show up in our lives—and the ways we can reject them.

Les Authentiques: Color me bowled over that Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway have inspired so much thoughtful ink on how we view women. From Christianity Today, this piece on "authenticity": "The more we mock and dissect the 'falseness' of women like Anne Hathaway, the more we force each other to downplay our actual, authentic selves in favor of an impression of a girl who's 'keeping it real.' We can't all be that person. In truth, most of us respond to the pressure and judgment of others more like Anne Hathaway than the perfectly 'real' Ms. Lawrence."

Quantity, not quality: I don't think it's random that the writer of this reflective post on self-quantification—that is, tracking activities and habits à la exercise journals—begins with an anecdote about calorie tracking. The point here is that as much as we believe we rely on the "just the facts" quality of self-qualification, in truth we bring our desired narratives to self-quantification and interpret the data accordingly. And we bring a lot of desired narratives to calorie tracking, eh?

Through the vine: Congratulations to Angela Washko, the first artist to sell a Vine-created video as art; Tits on Tits on Ikea sold for $200. It's a video of tits in front of tits of a woman sitting on Ikea. (Thanks to Lindsay for the link!)

Actress Chanel Preston, made over by Melissa Murphy

Money shots: It's one thing to stereotype porn performers as false-eyelashed, spray-tanned, and petunia-lipped (though we already know the average porn actress is a 5'5" B-cupped brunette), but it's quite another to see exactly how that look comes to life on smiling, just-washed faces. These fascinating before-and-after shots from makeup artist Melissa Murphy featuring adult actresses show exactly how manufactured the porn "look" is, and what goes into creating it. I wonder what the experience of being made up is like for the performers—does sitting in the makeup chair allow you to get into character? does looking in the mirror post-makeup? 

Miss takes: Excellent reporting from Katie J.M. Baker at Jezebel on sexual coercion in exchange for breaks in Miss USA pageants. It's easy for us—okay, me—to laugh at pageants because, well, do I really have to explain? But they remain a source of capital, status, pride, and identity for a good swath of women, and treating them like a circus doesn't help. What's galling here is that the perpetrators don't seem to understand how unethical their actions are: "She told me she would do whatever it takes, and now she's throwing my help in her face," says one of the men in the article (though he denies asking directly for sexual favors).

Tweeze me: The story behind Dal LaMagna, better known as "Tweezerman," the first entrepreneur to recognize that the true tweezer market lay in beauty, not health.

Glitter food?: For those of you who are intrigued by nail art but find the lingo on how-to blogs intimidating, check out this (hilarious) glossary of terms.

Natural beauty: I'm glad to see someone challenging the idea that "natural" beauty products are better because they just are, but I wish the writer had looked at other ways natural products influence how we could think about beauty. I remember interviewing Siobhan O'Connor, coauthor of natural beauty guide No More Dirty Looks, and digging what she had to say about the connection between feeling good about her products and feeling good about herself: "Something inside both of us transformed over the course of writing and constantly thinking about beauty and our relationship to it—every woman’s relationship to it. We’ve seen a lot of people fight their natural look. And it’s cheesy to say, but you know what it’s like when you see a really healthy woman, regardless of the shape of her nose or her body, and you’re like, whoa. There’s health and joy, smiles and truth—it’s one of the most beautiful things in the world. Natural beauty can go beyond products; it’s about stripping all that other stuff away and just taking joy in the natural curl of your hair or the natural glow of your skin. It’s about not hiding."

Objection: Laurie Penny for Jacobin disabuses us of the notion of the news reporter's "view from nowhere" by giving a sliver of how her sources interact with her, a young, attractive female journalist: "I was wearing my second-nicest tights and a bit of makeup and holding a recorder, and hence appeared old enough and professionally polished enough to be someone they felt the need to impress—but not so much older and more polished that they didn’t suspect there might be an outside chance of me shagging one of them in the hostel bathrooms later on."

Inspired: As someone with zero skill in putting together outfits (why do you think I wear dresses so frequently, skirts never?), I'm forever mystified by those "get this outfit inspired by_______" pages in magazines. So I love this piece from The Closet Feminist that shows exactly what "inspiration" can mean, from a variety of perspectives.

Pretty smart: Something that comes up in conversation a lot when I mention what I write about is the idea of not-beautiful people "compensating" for their lack of beauty by becoming smart or funny or talented or whatever—the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) equivalent being that gorgeous creatures don't develop those traits. But as Elisa points out: "Guess what, all the combinations are possible! It’s just that when you start selecting for rare traits (very beautiful, very funny, very intelligent, etc.) it starts to get unlikely that you’ll run across people with multiple 'gifts.' That’s not sociology or psychology, it’s statistics."

Hustle/bustle: Historic fashion blogger Cassidy takes an evidence-based look at the idea that fashion becomes hyperfeminized after periods of female liberation. This is held to be fact in feminist-minded women's studies—and certainly the idea of feminist backlash holds true, sadly. But when looking at the micro-changes in fashion through these periods of history, the story isn't quite so linear.

Under wraps: Maryam Monalisa Gharavi has us look at the effect a covered face has on its viewers, in a photo essay that asks larger questions of the veil than the same old oppressive-or-not-oppressive.

Sky high: Nothing insightful on my end on this, just holy cow these 3-D-printed high heels are amazing.


  1. Always look forward to your weekly round ups. The link that struck me the most was Melissa Murphy's before and afters. After spending about 5 minutes on her instagram, it made me realize (again) how much every day women need to see AND know that women who are often perceived as the most beautiful (subjective), are just like you and me. Not sure why, but the simplicity in that realization seems pretty powerful.

    And, yikes, SJP and her feet! OUCH!

    1. I saw a link to this earlier in the week, and found it FASCINATING. Having been "behind the scenes" in the sex industry, I already know what a difference makeup can make, but the costumey quality of certain makeup still fascinates me. Did you notice how they all seem to pose a little differently once the falsies are on? I wonder if she asked them to do that, or if it just happened?

    2. Thanks! And there really is something revealing about seeing the "behind the scenes" bit. I'm slightly annoyed by the constant "stars without makeup!" thing, but overall I think it's been helpful in that regard.

    3. Cassie, I'm guessing it just happened--that it's sort of a part of the character they become, to stay distinct from their personal lives. I see this play out to a lesser degree in my day-to-day life--wearing, say, heels makes me walk differently because of the physical effects they have, but they also make me *sit* differently, because I'm more prone to feeling ladylike.

    4. Yeah, I would guess it at least partially was unconconcious. That's interesting about heels making you sit differently...I've started wearing rings again for the first time in years, and noticed I actually move my hands differently when I have one on, more delicately and gently.

  2. You make me look forward to Fridays. :)

    Your high heel story reminds me of Aly Reisman (former Olympic gymnast) complaining this week about having to learn how to move in high heels (for "Dancing With The Stars"). A real athlete conforming to social dictates for women. Fertile material there.

    1. Oh wow--I hadn't heard Reisman's story. That's so interesting, this person who is basically a professional...mover? body-oriented person?--having to change her movements for this other socially dictated thing. Fascinating.

  3. I'm slightly nutty about checking my hits and seeing where I'm linked, which is how I got here. Thank you so much for linking me! Feminism relating to historical fashion has interested me for a long time because there are so many statements that are just accepted without any factual backing - "corsets were instruments of torture", "women's fashion is entirely about being sexually appealing to men", etc. - and I love to complicate things.

    1. Thank you for the delightful content! I love that kind of thing--I feel like especially with sexism, there's so much out there that doesn't need "padding" that the more we're able to unearth the real stories behind these myths, the more we see what the fabric of sexism (or whatever) really is.

  4. As always, thank you for linking to the Museum! :D

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