Some Qualms With This One
I found some of these chapters (particularly 2 and 15) to be quite frustrating. It is very possible that the critiques that I have of this reading are somewhat defensively driven, but that’s OK with me. In nearly every movie I’ve seen ever, the beautiful, made-up women are shallow and dumb, while the smart ones dress poorly and don’t use makeup. Every romantic comedy focuses on the girl who “is not like other girls,” which makes her special, more authentic, and more deserving of the love she receives in the end. Personally, I’m sick of that and think that a lot of this book reinforced that trope. Women can be smart and aware, all while wearing purple mascara, and wanting to wear makeup doesn’t make anyone “less real.” I do think that makeup can be a really fun means of expression. Finding fun in makeup, to me, takes back the act of applying it. No one puts on blue eyeshadow if they are trying to look “natural,” and no one is born with shimmery cheekbones. I think that taking something that is supposed to make you look “natural but better” and turning it into a means for personal expression and joy can be empowering.
I also think that chapter 15 was very quick to dismiss makeup use and experimentation as a hobby. It seemed to me that that was done because putting on makeup is seen as something that women are forced to do by society, but I think that it deserved more credit than it was given. In the discussions of the time that makeup takes, it is almost portrayed as wasted time. However, every hobby requires work and time. If some guy loves cars, he may spend all of his free time and money learning about and buying parts for cars. He may even try to find a career doing what he loves. I don’t really see how this is different from a beauty vlogger. If anything, I see it as more empowering because these women have the “tools” forced upon them, take them into their own hands, and turn it into a career.
My final objections with this are the devaluations of self-motivation. I can think of few successful women who got to where they are without taking things upon themselves. It is clear that those who hold power in the patriarchy aren’t going to just change the system, so it has to be done from the inside out. While I see that the largest problem here is with the capitalistically driven calls for self-empowerment, I am inclined to say that as long as it works, I’m cool with it. There is no one way that a strong, confident, woman has to look, so the somewhat dissonant empowerment rhetorics make some sense to me. No one else can make someone confident, so I don’t really see the problem with encouraging women to do it themselves.
I have a problem with makeup being a requirement for success and respect, but I also have a problem with it being seen as a false source of value for women. I think that it is possible for women to transform makeup from something for men into something for themselves. Women shouldn’t have to feel confident, but more can happen when they are. Beauty does boost confidence, and is sucks that it’s hard to be confident when you don’t feel beautiful, but you can’t blame the people who do what they can with what they’re given. There is nothing outside of capitalism anymore, so to quote my favorite mention of Baudrillard in The Most Radical Gesture, “all that remains is the pleasure of playing in the fragments.”