This ‘pin’ popped up on on my pinterest feed recently. Almost immediately I went to “like” it. Once you get past eyeliners in cool colors, I am someone who has trouble with make-up and understanding what all the different products are for. This is really helpful in getting a handle on how to make up your face.

But something made me pause. I thought back to when I was a junior in high school and my mom bought me my own make up and first went over the basics of a make-up routine. That summer I was going to be living in NYC for about 2 months while participating in a summer arts program at NYU, so she wrote a list on an index card so I would remember what the steps were when I was away from home. Her list was not as long as this one.  It easily had 4 or 5 less steps.

Perhaps some of these products have been around for a while and I just never encountered them, but it seems like the number of standard make up products you are supposed to use just keeps growing and growing.  This list includes 14 products (if you don’t count whatever would be needed for Evening Glamour Step 10).  That’s just to get your face set-up properly!  Women also usually have to do their hair, get dressed, pick out shoes, accessorize properly, maintain their nails, police their body hair and skin, and keep their body in shape.  How many steps do you think that turns out to be in the end?

<a href=”data:I really enjoy fashion and interesting/fun make-up, but I always feel sort of embarrassed about my interest because that arena is also so oppressive towards women.  I really wish fashion and cosmetics companies (and magazines) could find a way to market and sell their products to women without abusing our insecurities, alienating and devaluing our diverse physical forms, elevating certain gender performances over others, and supporting conformity, gender bias, and control of women.  (See this article for another interesting take on the role of make-up and our ideas about what makes an ideal/desirable face.)

Cosmetics companies in particular bother me because so many of them are now using a pseudo-liberation/self-actualization language that shallowly chant “you are beautiful” or “you are worth it” but really just support the same old oppressive, conformist ideas about women’s bodies, the Patriarchy, objectification of women, and control of women’s physicality.  Rather than giving us 14 ways to ‘fix’ our faces, I wish one of these companies would innovate so that they are giving as maybe 5 ways to have fun with our faces, keep them healthy, experiment with identities, give us options, and/or provide us with the minimums we need to be presentable in society.

Someone recently said to me, “if people aren’t unhappy, then people aren’t buying things” and I get how that is true, and certainly the main reality behind most of our modern advertising methodology and consumerism.  But I think that there truly are other ways to motivate people’s spending behavior (although it would mean a major revolution in our economy’s attitude towards consumerism, fast fashion, and trends— if we are reasonably content with ourselves we would still need to buy things and enjoy buying things, but probably not as much).  I just wish there were more companies who would be brave enough and pioneering enough to sincerely search for new attitudes towards consumers and invest in this type of feminist work that could result great societal benefits—  happier people, less waste,  less oppression and objectification of women, and less lookism in general.  That’s a company I would gladly buy from and invest in!

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