The Brand Who Cried Feminism: Calm Down CoverGirl

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For those who didn’t see, earlier this week CoverGirl announced its #ProjectPDA , or Public Display of Application, campaign to “change the stigma against women doing their makeup in public”. (Say whaaat?…) In it, they make quite a fuss about the New York City’s oft-mocked subway banner, which displays general rules for rider etiquette, like the request to refrain from putting make up on, among other things.

Yes, it’s arguably irksome, but New Yorkers understood the MTA message is more about manners for navigating a crowded train, rather than about oppressing women. While the signage may be an example of MTA micromanagement, it has never been lauded as a feminist issue worthy of its own movement. PS the signs went up over two years ago.

Can we say reaching?

What’s even more troublesome, is that female forward websites are actually taking this seriously very seriously , wait are they serious? Clearly the “woke” content seekers found their next headline and five minutes of fame, addressing an issue that barely exists and is really not relevant to most women. Can you say #FirstWorldProblems?

In its trying-hard-to-go-viral video, CoverGirl interviewed a few women about the so-called “makeup shaming” they have endured and their responses are, well, slightly clairvoyant. One describes the “side-eye” she gets while applying makeup in public and another reveals that people look at her like she is “a circus clown.” I wonder how these ladies knew exactly what others were thinking as they looked at them? The video then went on to pose the question; “Is this just an ad on the subway or something bigger?,” to which we say loudly “it’s just an ad.” And by the way, the ad’s makeup-loving female protagonist is sitting next to a male figure clipping his nails. Does that mean we need a campaign around man-friendly public manicures too? God, I hope not!

We get it, feminism is a trending topic and thus low-hanging fruit for marketers, but I happen to think campaigns like these make feminism sound shallow and non-relevant to the larger picture. Not only does it leave men completely out of the conversation, but it also does little to consider the 70 percent of women who do not consider themselves “feminists.”

The social sphere clearly agreed, as the responses on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter voiced the shared frustration that women were feeling. With so many real issues affecting us today like healthcare, equal pay, and sexual harassment; putting my mascara on in public is the least of my worries. Let’s get real!

“Anything for the likes and cash,” wrote one annoyed Instagrammer. “Just another company marketing off the feminist trend. Maybe do a commercial about women in countries who want to wear makeup and western clothing but can’t because they will be put in jail or murdered. Make that kind of statement and I’ll respect it.”

One YouTube member basically read my mind and wrote: “This is the dumbest thing I’ve seen all day. One of you CoverGirl reps needs to read the MTA signs again. They’re about being considerate of your fellow passengers by not grooming yourself in a way that is potentially bothersome to those around you. Get off your soapbox. This is not an issue.”

And another Instagram user wrote simply,“Wow, thank you CoverGirl for talking about the greatest feminist issue of our time.”


While, yes we live in a time when women’s voices are increasingly being heard, and the world is in the grip of a rising women’s movement, we can’t squander the opportunity with irrelevant nonsense. Applying makeup in public is not inherently an issue affecting women in any real way. I even asked a few lady friends for their opinion and not one said it was something they ever thought about. And I hang out with a lot of heavy users, AKA beauty queens…

Pushing forward feminist agendas that do nothing but weakly attempt to put a brand into the forefront of today’s cultural zeitgeist only hurts women in the long run. After the whole Pepsi fiasco, I would expect brands to be a bit more careful about claiming to be affecting real change through a commercial with a messy product endorsement. The efforts of those who actually devote their lives to the real gender biases in society are being undercut as a result of halfhearted messages like these. With such a huge platform to actually do good for women, it is sad that this is the issue CoverGirl chose to tackle so publically.

Again, makeup application in public has nothing to do with the women’s movement. There are women who don’t give a shit and will put on makeup wherever they are; subway, doctor’s office, sidewalk bench, starbucks line, wherever. There are also those who would rather not. Why does this matter? How is this relevant? No one is actually stopping you, you know that right?

I understand (and agree) that makeup should be a way to express ourselves and that we shouldn’t be judged for that but taking it a step further and turning a subway etiquette into a cry for help and a women’s issue is outrageous.