Oct 14 2011

New study shows makeup is not optional

Well I hope you’re sitting down, because a cosmetics conglomerate has commissioned a study demonstrating that makeup makes people respect women who wear it.

Ha, I was joking about sitting down, because as you know there is nothing more predictable than a cosmetics conglomerate trying to prove with number 1 science information that their useless, demeaning products aren’t useless and demeaning. But before you die of ennui, digest for a moment that in this study, “snap judgements” were used to rate the trustworthiness, warmth, approachability, and competence of women wearing varying amounts of spackle. The spackle levels were “barefaced,” “natural,” “professional,” and “glamorous.”

Dude Nation translation: “lesbian,” “lazy,” “Patty Hewes,” and “slut.”

Apparently the more makeup you wear (and of course buy), the more awesome people think you are when making snap judgements about you. Snap judgements, as you know, are the main kind of judgment people make about women.

The New York Times article reporting on the study contains the following assertions made by an assortment of certified beauty experts:


“The pursuit of beauty is a biological as well as a cultural imperative.”

On my home planet, the planet Obstreperon, this statement translates as “Women are hardwired to align their appearance with pornographic fads as a reflection of their one true purpose as cosmetics consumers and sex toilets.”

Choice feminism:

“Women and feminists today see [wearing makeup] is their own choice, and it may be an effective tool.”

I don’t wax my eyebrows to appease people making snap judgements about me, I do it because I choose porn-compliant eyebrows. Choosing makes me a feminist. If porn-compliance happens appease to people making snap judgements, well, that’s entirely accidental.

The empowerfulized consumerist:

“There are times when you want to give a powerful ‘I’m in charge here’ kind of impression, and women shouldn’t be afraid to do that,” by, say, using a deeper lip color that could look shiny, increasing luminosity.

Ah, luminosity, luminosity. Who among us has not been afraid to go for just a little more luminosity, that most elusive of all the cosmetics industry’s mythic feminine attributes, the luminosity that will transform us from cold, unapproachable, incompetent slatterns to “I’m in charge here”?

Well, dudes, for one. When a dude wants to give an “I’m in charge here” kind of impression, he’s not reaching for a deeper lip color. How many straight dudes do you know who give a flip for luminosity? Dudes don’t yearn for beauty. Their yearnings are more realistic: they wish to be rock stars, astronauts, international playboys. Theirs is a world of action. Ours is a world of passive shininess.


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  1. AlienNumber

    Twisty, I love you so. With or without make-up (on me or you).

  2. nails

    I call make up “the lady tax”. You really need that shit for job interviews, which is bullshit, but job interviews are all bullshit anyway. They are set up so the phoniest liars get hired for being “charming” rather than competent. I’ve been paying the lady tax hard lately, trying to find a new job that doesn’t totally suck.

  3. Orange

    See how pretty you could be with just a little effort?

    I’ll never forget the older coworker who told me I could really be something with a perm in my hair. She sported scotch tape above her nose to remind her not to furrow her brow and cause wrinkles. (Her concern about wrinkles didn’t make her quit smoking, of course.)

  4. JRoth

    I was totally going to blow off this post, but when I saw the attractively pinkatized authoress, I couldn’t help but snap to attention.

    I see that the cosmetics even made the lemon in your water a little brighter. Empowerful!

  5. JRoth

    PS – I had to look up Patty Hewes. Never seen the show, but Glenn Close did speak at my sister’s college graduation 22 years ago. She was pretty awesome.

  6. Rae



    Your persistent verbal luminosity enthrobbens my lobes, Twisty.

  7. Wandering Uterus

    I looked at the after picture and thought, “How much Pepto Bismol has she been drinking?!”

    Bright red lipstick, on the other hand, strongly resembles clown make-up.

  8. Maria

    Nails, so true about interviews, I even find myself unintentionally lying! Although I’ve remained make-up free, I wish I could say the same for bra wearing -makes the interview clothes that much more suffocating.

    Ya know, I don’t notice many made-up women these days. Maybe the “natural look” make-up has just succeeded? Make-up begets make-up. My skin has always been fairly good, but now that it’s been a few years without any make-up it’s flawless.

  9. Liz

    Twisty, you never fail…

    My new lipstick color is named “Gravitas”!

  10. Liza

    I love you too. You get this one just right.

  11. ecb

    An example of how groups of women can internalize pressure about makeup:

    A church I attended last year once had guest speakers come and meet with all the women. They “taught” us how to wear makeup, and it was the most bizarre experience I’ve ever had with religion. They had this talking mirror that would say, “You are so beautiful!” and we were supposed to respond with, “Yes I am.” But not before the makeup was on us – only after we’d been given makeovers.

    This push to wear makeup had sunk so deep into these women that they honestly did not believe a woman could feel beautiful without it. They kept saying, “You don’t have to wear a lot of makeup, but you have to wear a little, or you won’t be confident.” I suppose that’s a function of the kyriarchy? Oppressed groups convince themselves that the very function of oppression is to free them.

  12. PhysioProf

    The hallmark of a valid synthetic theory in the sciences is that it is a simple conceptual structure that explains vast, diverse swaths of observable phenomena. Examples include the theory of biological evolution via descent from common ancestors and quantum electrodynamics. We can definitely add the theory of patriarchy to that list.

  13. Notorious Ph.D.

    I would like to see that empinkification app (or whatever you did to your photo) applied to the dudes involved in this study. We’ll see if they look more “in charge.”

    Oddly enough, this spinster feminist hasn’t worn makeup since 1990, and still I somehow manage to be an authority figure. Of course, I haven’t fulfilled my biological purpose, so maybe I’m just sadly deluded to think that I have a good and happy life.

  14. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    That picture shocked the cornchips outta me because you hate the color pink more than I do.

    A fella at work is more body-conscious than almost any other person I know. He comes in every morning and tells us how much cardio and “lifting” he did the night before. How long he spent in the sauna. What and how much he ate. (Seriously. I’m afraid he’s going to start describing his bowel movements next.) It would only be mildly annoying if he weren’t so rude about what we’re eating and why we should or should not be eating it.

  15. Cade

    I agree with you Twisty. I especially love the fake pink nails!! But the sad thing is, I feel better with makeup on, mentally. I guess I’m enmeshed too deeply. But people really do respond differently to me when I don’t wear it. Of course, Los Angeles might have something to do with it. Antoinette, I also have a guy who talks constantly at work. He does so because he can. We are not allowed such priveleges.

  16. susanw

    Wearing make-up and dressing “appropriately”, i.e. performing femininity, is essential for job interviews. The more honest approach is to declare that we will be good slaves and not cause trouble in exchange for a paycheck, but that is too overt and violates the Code of the Sex/Serve Class. Our most important job is shielding the patriarchy from fear, worry and qualms of conscience. If we aren’t willing to that, there is no place for us. Performing femininity delivers the unmistakable message that we know the rules and know our place.

    Rule 1: Pretend we’re not oppressed. This is much easier for women if we fool ourselves as well. When obviously oppressive situations make this pretence impossible, see Rule 2.

    Rule 2. Pretend we don’t mind. Women devote so much time, energy, and dignity to reassuring the oppressors that the shitty ways they treat us are OK, it is astounding that we have any humanity left at all. If we can’t pretend we don’t mind, see Rule 3.

    Rule 3: Pretend it’s our choice, and we have only ourselves to blame, as in “I don’t have to wear make-up, I mean, nobody’s forcing me to, and I like to be pretty. I guess I’m just vain.”

    Being a second class world citizen would be hard enough without the burden that the over class inevitably tacks on; we must constantly reassure them that we have no reason to slaughter them in their sleep.

  17. Jezebella

    Speaking of “lady taxes,” I recently discovered that men’s deodorant costs about a dollar an ounce, and women’s costs about two dollars an ounce. This is simple math I could have done in the deodorant aisle about a thousand sticks of deodorant ago, but it just never occurred to me until a week or two ago. Apparently it costs half as much to make it smell like “Sport Talc” instead of “Babypowder Fresh.” Or, you know, they were just counting on me stupidly reaching for the lady deodorant over and over without even thinking about it. Doh!

  18. lahana

    And has anyone noticed that the make-up photo has been brightened up – the non make-up photo is definitely darker and bluer, making the woman look more “dead”. And I am not talking about differences in the make-up on her face, you can see the difference in the background as well. I wonder if that is why they have her in a blue t-shirt in the non-makeup photo, if she was i the same clothes it would be too obvious.

  19. Hattie

    Great! I live where it is too hot and humid to wear makeup, so hardly anyone does, at least as far as I notice. If you want to see a beautiful job of makeup, see how Dina Martina does it.

  20. Doctress Ju'ulia

    AAAAAGH!!!… O_o


    Oh, it’s you, Twisty! Hey, I brought my Scrabble board.. :D


    Now I know why I keep bombing these job interviews: not enough makeup, deoderant, boob-tray-age, or performed subservience. At my last one I was asked if I am married or have children! Only babymaking property laydeez can make margaritas for people! Yeah… Oh, well… fuck it. Fuck. The. P.

  21. Jessie

    Lady tax, indeed. Of course a study by corporations that sell useless beauty stuff is going to find that make-up makes people like you more.

    I don’t wear make-up at all, ever, and I actually suspect that nobody gives a shit. Or, at least nobody whose opinion I actually care about gives a shit. Me having a bunch of schmuck on my face is certainly not going to somehow make me more effective at what I do (teach biology to undergraduates). The frat-boy types might not rate me as “hot” on the “rate your professors” site, but I can’t say I care.

    On the other hand, being a part-time sessional isn’t really cutting it for me right now and I’m applying for various full-time jobs. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll be more likely to get a job if I wear a bit of make up for interviews. Bleh.

    Also, the idea that women are somehow evolutionarily hard-wired to want to look like porn stars is a big old sack of crap, and I say this as someone with an M.Sc. in systematics and evolution. Cultures change far faster than do gene pools and there’s so much variation in what different cultures deem attractive that it’s very dubious to say that a culture’s beauty standards are genetic adaptations for reproduction or survival.

    Hell, in most sexually dimorphic animals, it’s the males that are brighter coloured or that have extra ornamentation. In some human cultures, it’s the men who wear make up.

  22. M

    Lol @ Orange’s scotch-tape’n-cigaretted colleague =]

    Antoinette, while it’s also entirely possible that your male colleague is an insufferably vain tosser, he does sound rather like a “recovering” eating-disorder-sufferer.

  23. quixote

    susanw: we must constantly reassure them that we have no reason to slaughter them in their sleep

    which is all the proof anyone, including them, needs that they know what they’re doing. They’re no more oblivious to the patriarchy than we are.

  24. ElizaN

    Drab feminist looks more fun. Radiant feminist wouldn’t knock back a couple of margs with me, because it would mess up her lipstick, and she wouldn’t go bowling with me, because she might break a nail. Drab feminist drinks what she wants and bowls when she wants. I hereby formally revoke funfeminism’s claim to fun and declare it our territory.

  25. Kea

    Well, I’m too poor to pay lady tax, phew, although in my unwitting youth I sure did. Instead, society has thrown me out, phew. Twisty, don’t forget to get YourColors checked, in order to improve that shiny match between T-shirt and lippy.

    Sunscreened lips are essential in the mountains, at times, and even the men will sometimes choose pink. Perhaps that’s the next urban fad?

  26. tinfoil hattie

    She sported scotch tape above her nose to remind her not to furrow her brow and cause wrinkles.

    Because the scotch tape looks so much better than lines in her skin would!

  27. susanw

    It’s nauseating how Liberal Men (forget Conservative Men as a lost cause) have no trouble understanding that white slave owners, who knew that they would personally hate to be enslaved, created the fantasy otherness of Negro men as childlike, unmotivated, stupid dependants who loved their kind masters (except for the almost magically clever and evil Bad Negros), so that the slave owners could feel both safe and virtuous. They can understand that enslaved people have to pretend constantly to never be angry or resentful, to pretend that they don’t feel oppressed, don’t mind, and have only themselves to blame. Substitute “Woman” for “Negro” and these men become conveniently clueless.

  28. Embee

    susanw: we must constantly reassure them that we have no reason to slaughter them in their sleep

    Because I no longer trust myself not to do exactly this, I have sworn off men.

    Truth: I began writing a short story this morning about a woman who was given an elixir that allows her to revive her dead husband…and so she dreams up myriad creative ways of killing him. It’s really quite funny.

  29. speedbudget

    I have never in my life worn makeup to an interview, much less to work. I have been hired for every job I have interviewed for. Maybe it’s different here in Delaware?

  30. Fede

    Obstreperal enlightenment is all the luminosity I need. Twisty and Blamers, I love you.

  31. Killerchick

    Whether in the blue or pinkified version, that’s a fine and dandy Sergeant Pepper Tee the spinster aunt is sporting.

  32. Killerchick

    Or perhaps it’s Yellow Submarine?

  33. Pinko Punko

    Also, glitter.


  34. roseh

    speedbudget, what jobs have you interviewed for? That is fascinating. I have always femmed up for interviews but it doesn’t always guarantee a job.

    I wear makeup every day and dress as femme as I can stomach (boots, jeans, t-shirt, sometimes a slightly dressy ladies’ shirt) because I get treated SO MUCH BETTER when I present as P-compliant female. It is ridiculous how much better I get treated when I read as definitely feminine and when I pay the ladytax of cosmetics and shit. To make it in this culture with my heritage I pretty much have to thread the shit outta my eyebrows and upper lip because otherwise I’d have a unibrow and slight mustache, not unlike Frida Kahlo. We are mammals, we have hair, I don’t know why this bothers people so much.

    I tried getting through architectural school in clothing and appearance that was comfortable to me — no makeup, short haircut, utilitarian clothing similar to Twisty’s attire — and the outright anger and hostility that I received on all sides, but especially from the professors and jurors was so bad that I ended up barely making it through undergrad and then dropping out of my graduate program with a nervous breakdown. It was truly awful.

    When I did land surveying work my appearance didn’t seem to matter at all.

  35. Kea

    Yes, it is very field dependent, as I can verify, having worked in such a variety of professions. As a financial analyst, it was strictly heels, short suit and make up, even if I was never meeting clients. As a lab scientist, or outdoors worker, it was always T-shirts or whatever. In the colleges at Oxford, few women seem to wear make up anymore, but then many of the lecturers are dolled up to take classes, so the ideal must be to look right at the right time, which gives me fuckall chance of figuring it out …

  36. Pantsuit Sally

    It’s very interesting that “barefaced” and “natural” were two separate categories in this “study”.

    susanw, back in the days of the IBTP forum, there was a thread about “letting yourself go”, i.e., failing to perform femininity sufficiently, and something you said always stuck with me. I don’t remember your quote exactly, but it was something about letting ourselves go, because we’ve been captive far too long. Now [i]that’s[/i] beautiful.

  37. Jill

    the ideal must be to look right at the right time, which gives me fuckall chance of figuring it out …

    Exactly! The femininity game is like Vegas. It guarantees that you will eventually lose, so the house always comes out ahead.

  38. josquin

    True confession: my instant uncensored emotion upon viewing the pink-ified Twisty was: “what an elegant pretty lady”. What my emotion should have been was: “so sad – another woman is wearing the female equivalent of black-face to appease the patriarchy.” For that I blame the f-ing Patriarchy. It’s a classic case of the Prisoner’s Dilemma thought experiment, but, alas, it is real life. Except that, as Twisty points out, in the long run, even the women who “rat out” their fellow women by wearing the femininity costume do, eventually, lose. The only way for women to win this battle is to agree, en masse, to stop wearing the blackface. I would love to wake up one morning, wash my face, get dressed in comfortable clothing, go out into the world, and find that not a single woman had donned the f-ing femininity costume that day, yes, that we had “let ourselves go”, and that we were all free! Forever!

  39. josquin

    I just realize that “blackface” is not a perfect equivalent to women donning the femininity costume. What is it that black performers used to do to appease their white audiences? Didn’t they portray a ridiculous parody of black facial characteristics and mannerisms so that the white people would laugh and think that they were superior? That’s more what I was getting at. We don the femininity costume so that men will smile and know that we are dancing to their directives, and that they are superior, and, comfortable in their higher status, they will then “approve” of us.

  40. nakedthoughts

    Thank you. “Choice” feminists don’t seem to understand, that if you don’t want to wear makeup you don’t have a choice. If you can’t say no, there is not choice.

    Then, they are upset when people angered by this situation state their views, because we are hindering their “choices.” Yet again, people confuse “feeling” empowerful with actual empowerment.

    I wear makeup when job hunting. It isn’t a choice. It is a survival mechanism.

  41. combat baby

    The following comment, which was recommended by readers of the NYTimes, made my lobe explode:

    “I wear makeup every day. Why? First of all, because I love it. Secondly, as a common courtesy to those who have to see me during the course of the day; it’s right up there with showering, brushing my teeth, and using deodorant. I feel better about myself when I know that I look my best. That said, others can do as they wish. It’s all about having a choice. And yes, I consider myself a feminist.”

    The internalized misogyny in that short statement is just depressing. Nothing about make-up is fun. Why is this so hard for some people to understand? Hating yourself is not fun.

  42. Ruby Lou

    Twisty, you are frekken awesome. You just plain are.

  43. Jezebella

    Pinko, what the fuck is wrong with glitter, I ask you? I am a magpie, and I like shiny things. Glitter: it’s shiny and I like it. Hmph.

  44. LS

    I can’t handle the whole make-up thing. I never learned how to do it growing up and I don’t particularly have the desire to wear it. I am currently job hunting but job hunting always raises my self-hatred about my appearance because my curlyish hair and make-up-free face are “unprofessional.” Not to mention I don’t shave anymore, but at least that can be covered with clothing… Not that I have the “right” clothes. I realize this is an anecdote and I shouldn’t post this but I really feel like most people would tell me to suck it up and play the game and the blamers are the only people who understand what I mean. I hate this society… IBTP

  45. Cassandra

    Obligatory shout-out to Deborah Rhode, in the original NY Times article:

    “I don’t wear makeup, nor do I wish to spend 20 minutes applying it,” said Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford University who wrote “The Beauty Bias” (Oxford University Press, 2010), which details how appearance unjustly affects some workers. “The quality of my teaching shouldn’t depend on the color of my lipstick or whether I’ve got mascara on.”

    She is no “beauty basher,” she said. “I’m against our preoccupation, and how judgments about attractiveness spill over into judgments about competence and job performance. We like individuals in the job market to be judged on the basis of competence, not cosmetics.”

    Rhode does good stuff, and “The Beauty Bias” is great, in a bleakly depressing way.

  46. minervaK

    Jeebus Cripes, I nearly spewed from laughing at that pic. It’s downright blasphemous to see Twisty wearing lipstick. Blasphemous, and hilarious.

  47. minervaK

    Oh, shit, I missed the manicure!!! Now I have to go lie down.

  48. minervaK

    Hell, in most sexually dimorphic animals, it’s the males that are brighter coloured or that have extra ornamentation. In some human cultures, it’s the men who wear make up.

    Somebody cut me a big ole slice of that.

  49. keira

    Yuck to the whole shitty make-up deal.

    I threw all mine out a while ago, after keeping it only for weddings (ick) and job interviews for a few years before that. I stopped wearing it when I was sharing a house with a male colleague, and realised I earned less, spent more on the make-up shit, and spent more time putting it on, for the same damn job.

    Just before I threw it out I did up half my face, just to see what it looked like. I was shocked by how much more I preferred my made up face. Still threw it out though.

    I hate how internalised the “be pretty” message is. I have a bare face, hairy legs, and no head hair these days, and I’m glad, but I STILL have moments when I feel that I look shitty, and feel shitty about it.


    re: job interviews, I think it does depend on where you work. I work in lefty politics and unions, and even though they do have a preference for a made-up lady face, they dare not say so, so there’s plenty of room for us hairy lesbians and lesbian-look-alikes.

  50. Ugsome

    I tried wearing makeup regularly the summer I was 21, but said to hell with it. Once in a while I try it again–wander into a MAC store and dare them to do me, for example– but it changes nothing; I just look the same but with goo on my face. Plus it’s very uncomfortable. I don’t get it. I just keep a pot of Zit-B-Gone around to blot out the occasional sebaceous eruption but as I age even that have proven unnecessary.

    I have a theory that my oft-remarked-upon lovely complexion is a result of years of not putting any crap on it, but that might be BS. Probably just genes.

    Nail-painting does have a kind of zen-archer calming quality to it, but so do lots of other pointless activities.

  51. speedbudget

    roseh, I have been: Administrative assistant in an investment bank; environmental tester; high school teacher; special education classroom aide; court reporter.

    All of these but the environmental job are jobs that most people would think require makeup. I have never worn makeup in my life, except as a kind of “play acting” when I dress up sometimes when the mood strikes me for something different. Maybe that makes me comfortable about myself and confident in myself without it. I would imagine if a person wore makeup all the time and felt naked without it, they would lack confidence at an interview, so that might play into the dynamic.

    Of course, I was interviewing for these jobs in Clinton’s America, before Bush changed the tax structure and Wall Street made sure we were all in penury.

  52. Pantsuit Sally

    “Secondly, as a common courtesy to those who have to see me during the course of the day”

    That just makes me want to cry. Men walk around in public with their real faces ALL THE TIME. How can it possibly be RUDE for a women to show her face to other people?

    In another cruel twist of the patriarchy, it seems that often, it’s women moreso than men who care so much about whether other women are wearing makeup, and are only too eager to criticize those who are not sufficiently painted up. Well, men might notice the more obvious things, like whether a woman is wearing lipstick or whatever, but every time I’ve heard someone say, “Oh my God, why doesn’t she put some concealer on those dark circles under her eyes? She looks so tired!”, it’s been a woman. (Nevermind that men can get dark circles, too, and that it’s not offensive to look tired.) It’s another example of how the patriarchy divides women against ourselves to keep us distracted from the real enemy.

  53. Treefinger

    I hate to bring down everyone rejoicing over the genius of “spackle”, but there is in fact a company (Laura Geller) that calls one of its products “lip spackle”. I once witnessed (couldn’t sleep; shopping channels were the only thing on) the head of the company go into more detail, saying (paraphrased), “you wouldn’t paint your house without spackling the cracks, so why paint your lips without this product?”

    Not an ounce of irony.

  54. buttercup

    Makeup would be better if it were gender neutral. I admit to a love of shiny (magpie, like Jezebella) but why can’t men wear it too? Start small, with a little nail polish or lipstick. Before we know it, there’d be a whole Men’s department at that MAC counter.

    Why doesn’t she cover those dark circles instead of why can’t she get enough sleep, huh Pantsuit Sally? Nobody ever asks why she’s so tired.

  55. Lovepug

    Geez, if there was ever an article the sole purpose of which was to enforce patriarchy compliance it’s this one.

    I wear makeup to work. It’s survival. I do it along with the 847 other things I do but don’t really want to do as part of survival.

    I wonder if this “choice feminist” stuff needs to have a restructure of the conversation. Maybe these statements along the lines of “I choose to wear heels. The boob job was my choice,” could use, I don’t know, some kind of more compassionate response (bear with me, this thought is still forming). I mean, it sounds to me defensive when women say that. I hear behind those “it’s my choice” words, something like, “Get off my back. If I don’t wear this makeup I will lose my job and be rejected by every man. All of that scares me.”

    So, it’s not really a choice if a behavior is motivated by fear. However, I think there’s a dual fear. There’s the fear of being slapped down by the patriarchy, and there’s the fear that feminist women will call you out on your feminism. So, maybe they just opt to make these bold, “choice” statements in an effort to appear empowerful but at the same time remain compliant.

    Surviving in a patriarchy is some tricky shit.

    susanw – your first post hit it right on the head. Well said. nails – I’m adding Lady Tax to my regular vocabulary.

  56. Fictional Queen

    I used to think that but I don’t think it’s the fear of feminists calling you out on feminism at the root.It’s simply because feminine women are showered with ridicule and hatred.And something about traditional virgin-ness that still lingers and leads to automatic disapproval of fashionable girls.The choice thing definitely is defensiveness,but it’s not truly against feminists…Maybe it’s their own deep suspicion that this is degrading,or simply because feminine women are as hated as unfeminine ones.On the surface though,it looks like you have to defend yourself against feminists,too…

  57. hayduke

    “On the surface though, it looks like you have to defend yourself against feminists, too.)

    Well, of course you do. Because your behavior had damned well better reassure the P that you like your low status relative to them, remember? So if you don’t reject the feminist contention that you are not making an empowerfulized choice by wearing lipstick/nail polish, you are allowing it to stand. You are agreeing: “Yeah, I don’t really want to wear this shit – but they make me.”
    It is a defense mechanism, and it’s a defense not against the feminist calling them out on it but against the P.

    “I like my heels/make-up/boob-job” = “I promise not to kill you in your sleep.”

  58. nails

    I live in utah (I am sure everyone is sick to death of hearing about it), and I have never seen so many women wearing skirts in my life. It makes job interviews awful. Women who don’t go to church seem to be the only ones who don’t try to look pretty, so empolyers either feel superior to you (if you were never mormon) or are scared of you (because you are an apostate). You can’t win.

  59. tinfoil hattie

    nails, one of the women who works with me is LDS. She is currently fighting against her patriarchal upbringing, and is struggling mightily. She tells the same tales about Utah that you do.

  60. Jezebella

    Speedbudget, this kind of hit me the wrong way:

    “I have never worn makeup in my life, except as a kind of “play acting” when I dress up sometimes when the mood strikes me for something different. Maybe that makes me comfortable about myself and confident in myself without it.”

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, but this suggests that you think the rest of us – who do paint up for survival – merely need a bit of confidence in order to do without. This is not really a fair assumption, and it puts the onus on women to have the confidence to do without, or, dare I say – the blame on us. I live in Mississippi, where most women do “full makeup and hair” before they walk out the door. My own mother will put on full makeup and lipstick when she gets up in the morning, even if she’s just going to putter around the house and do some yardwork. I know, it’s absurd. But let’s put the blame squarely on the patriarchy, and not on women for not being confident enough to risk our livelihoods.

    I will also confess that the voice of patriarchy in my head is saying, “Well clearly speedbudget is pretty enough to do without. She probably has eyelashes you can actually see without mascara. Easy for HER to go to job interviews without cosmetics.” And I realize how dumb that response is overall, but maybe you do have a bit of “pretty privilege” that makes it possible that people don’t notice that you’re not spackled, painted, and polished. Maybe you don’t, I don’t know you. Just something to consider.

  61. speedbudget

    Jezebella, you are reading too much into it. I think a lot of people get used to being behind whatever mask they put on, whether it’s makeup or a suit. I have incredibly dry skin that makes my curly hair even frizzier than normal. I was the butt of every joke in high school. I dated exactly two guys in high school. I was not the chick everyone wanted to take out, and certainly with my feminism, that is even more true today.

    I was just commenting that maybe the fact that I never wore it makes me comfortable without it, so if somebody who IS used to wearing makeup suddenly stopped, I can understand they would feel uncomfortable or “naked.” I’ve heard many women comment about that.

  62. Bäumchen

    I really love this post. Thank you!

  63. Milly

    One of the pamphlets handed out by the women’s hospital where I had my caesar had the helpful advice to “put make up on and do your hair daily” to avoid postnatal depression. Gee thanks P. Just what a girl needs when she’s been gutted.

  64. MPMR

    Number 1 science information! On your Number 1 science blog! Yay!

    Here’s some more, on Neanderthal makeup:


    My favorite line: “We can’t prove it, but it makes sense.”

  65. Phonaesthetica

    When I wear makeup, I feel like drywall damage. Especially since the last line I bought (it happened after a truly disastrous haircut) included a “3-step primer process.” It cost $375. Which is almost enough to fix actual broken drywall, now that I think about it.

  66. squiggy

    Reading through the first fifty some comments, the obvious occurred to me like a bolt of lightning. I’ve made a living as a makeup artist for film and television for 28 years. I didn’t even think of it while reading the comments for some reason. Around 75% of the people I apply makeup on are men. When I do women I endeavor to make them look as little like drag queens as possible. I was doing makeup for Sunday Night Football a couple years ago and a very famous actor happened to be in the audience. His manager nervously approached me asking if I’d do makeup on the actor because he was going to be on camera with one of the hosts for a quick bit. It was almost embarrassing how grateful they both were. It’s all confusing and stupid and I owe my living to my early years of wanting to be as fuckable as possible. Finally, I saw cosmetics for the unwinnable, absurd, sisyphean action that it is. My only satisfaction comes from doing as little harm as possible and also that I can make a living at something that men know jackshit about.

  67. ElizaN

    Wow, MPMR. The most horrifying thing might be that they’re using possible cosmetic use to boost their claim that Neanderthals were more advanced than most people imagine them to be.

  68. R.

    Hey everyone.

    I read this blog on a regular basis. I am a young woman, French (forgive my English as it is not my native language), did my last year of MA at UTexas (I found this blog doing some research online after a “Ethics in PR” class about Dove), and now working in the Oil and Gas industry in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
    I agree with most of the content I read on IBTP. However, there is something I would like to discuss : makeup.
    I obviously don’t think that we NEED beauty products, but I do purchase and wear makeup. In my current work environment, women are not expected to wear makeup or high heels, etc. However, I do wear makeup and high heels.

    I get comments everyday about my shoes and the fact that I sometimes wear bright eyeshadow from my male co-workers. They say “Where are you going ? To the opera ?” or “Why are you wearing lipstick ?” etc. Because I’m a woman, I have to “behave” – i.e being discreet.
    Don’t get me wrong, I do not look like a “drag queen” or a “slut” like I read in some comments just because I like to wear high heels. Don’t forget I live in Abu Dhabi, this is not exactly the kind of place where you can wear mini-skirts and huge décolletés. And this is actually my point. It also happens in the western world ! “Good” women are not expected to wear something that attracts attention. Like pink lipstick.
    Sometimes, when I read articles and comments from this blog, I feel like we forget that my mother (and maybe yours) had to fight for being able to wear jeans, and mini-skirts. It was at the same time than when she had to fight for abortion to be legal in France.
    I feel like wearing high heels, I keep fighting a system where women are expected to be “discreet” and “shy”, which I’m not.

    It does not mean that I enjoy or agree with what I see in advertising nowadays. It means that I would like to wear lipstick and high heels without it being a whole discussion on whether I look like a drag queen or not, or whether I am a “good girl” or not.
    I think the only discussion people should have about makeup should be whether it is cruelty-free and safe to apply on your skin or not. Am I wrong ?

  69. Tigs

    “I think the only discussion people should have about makeup should be whether it is cruelty-free and safe to apply on your skin or not. Am I wrong ?”

    I think you are. In Abu Dhabi, wearing makeup might have a different set of social signifiers than it does in the West (or the USA at least), but either way, they are embedded in deeply patriarchal discourses about what a woman ought to be. As such, the discussion ought to be about what role wearing-or-not-wearing-make-up has in the broader system of socio-political structures. Or perhaps it ought even to be about those structures themselves, and how makeup fits into them.
    That doesn’t mean that you are a bad person or even a bad feminist for wearing makeup, but it does mean that it is a political act that in the best case ought to be examined as a political act (whether that politics is submissive, reinforcing, or resistant, or some combination thereof).

    Whether the makeup you are putting on your skin is cruelty-free and safe is an important consideration, but it is by no means the only element open to critique. Indeed, I believe reducing it to that level is also a political act; one that undermines the possibilities for any sort of real critique and obscures the real influences of power in policing femininity in society.

  70. R.

    @Tigs : Thank you, this is a very good answer.

    Of course I should have added “in a ideal world” before my last sentence. Is IS important to discuss makeup, but it should not be the case. Well, like all the injustices of this world I guess.

  71. amrit

    “It does not mean that I enjoy or agree with what I see in advertising nowadays. It means that I would like to wear lipstick and high heels without it being a whole discussion on whether I look like a drag queen or not, or whether I am a “good girl” or not.”

    The shaming of women continues. Back in the salad days of radical feminism, in the mid-1970’s, when I first came out as a lesbian, there was only one politically correct way to dress. It was called androgynous. If you looked too feminine, you were called a “fem-bot”, at least in my collective, which was veering close to Delusional Seperatist Island. If, like me, you were too “boyish”, you were castigated for being old-school and told to get on with it. Getting on with it meant you wore two earrings,albeit small ones, jeans, flannel shirts, and work boots. Utility hair-cuts were fine, as long as they weren’t butch. Extra points given for Guatemalan sweaters and things made by hand in far-off lands.

    The regulation extended to what we ate – vegetarian. How we were “supposed” to have sex – no butch-femme, no penetration, the full-on pretense that we didn’t give a fig what our partners actually looked like, that attraction itself was based only on intrinsic qualities. There were endless self-criticism sessions in which we were expected to purge ourselves of any hetero-normative ( we said “het”) behaviors.

    I loved living in an all-lesban setting free from men and male energy. I did not like the shaming and castigation directed towards me and other non-conforming “wimmin.” I still think it sucks. I never understood why it was better to be more on the butch side of things, (even though we were pressured to “tone it down”) than on the more feminine side. Why those women had to be ridiculed for any self-expression outside of the rad-fem aesthetic was beyond me and still is.

    I’ve been involved with women who wear make-up and women who do not. I haven’t noticed a difference in their strength of character or their drive towards social change. I have better things to do than humiliate other women for attempts to locate themselves somewhere on the gender spectrum that makes them comfortable, and that includes straight women, as well.

  72. Michele

    As I was reading, this nagging thought kept creeping forward, “If makeup is so fucking GREAT, why don’t all the men wear it?” I love how the sponsor of that study (who had no vested interest in ensuring that the outcome of the “science” they spewed supported their ridiculous existance, right?) came up with the idea in the first place. I work for pharma and they pull this shit all the time to ensure that everyone keeps peddling & buying their drugs. Jeezuz- makes me want to simultaneously vomit and move to another planet.

  73. Frumious B.

    I saw this study, too. It’s not news. Twisty points out the problems and how ridiculous the basis is, but we are stuck with snap judgements on first meeting, and we are stuck with preconceptions based on appearance. I’m convinced that I *should* wear a little makeup to appease the patriarchy. I tried some implementation by wearing mascara to a professional event last week. Result was mascara flakes on the insides of my glasses. Sigh.

  74. D.

    Photoshopped, of course; I can’t see anyone ruining a perfectly good and probably original Yellow Submarine t-shirt.Ugsome, I am 60+, and attribute the skin texture and condition (that every cosmetic consultant marvels at) to not using goop (technical term) on my face.I wear makeup to job interviews (when I get them) largely because everything I am seems to terrify interviewers, and I won’t dye my hair unless I can go cobalt blue; I earned that grey.I just outed myself, didn’t I? Oh, well.

  75. D.

    Why is it I never remember that your comment system does not recognize ordered list tags?

  76. Keri

    I feel that to really improve the image of my flawed skin I need to go with full on mime make-up. I think I will start testing the limits of my tenure with this look tomorrow. Better start getting my “face on” now. That makes as much sense as that “study”. I fart in their general direction.

  77. Ottawa Gardener

    @ Michele: Why don’t men wear it is an illuminating question.

    Frankily Twisty, I think you look more approachable on the left. The right looks like you are trying to out shiny me with that dayglo lipstick and those nails look scratchy in pink.

    I am very happy that in organic veggie growing land, the uniform does not include, at least overtly, makeup though it has its own dress code: c’est la vie. Interestingly, the men can be downright dirty looking with deep tans and mud permenantly embedded in the creases of their fingers. Long beards and either hair in dreads or that college boy I-can’t-afford-a-barber look. Alternatively, gals are generally expected to look wholesome without impurity pimples, chapped lips nor the aforementioned dirt tattooed hands. Definitely more glam involved even if lower key. Nevertheless, my eldest daughter mentioned she needed lipstick to look pretty. I think I gave her a long steady stare before beginning yet another conversation. The thing is that despite patriarch and capitalist approved beauty is a bit like trying to chase down the end of a rainbow, it is true that some people consider makeup beautifying. Her statement is not wildly incorrect, it just should be.

  78. Jezebella

    Keri, what is tenure for if not to show up dressed any way you want? If I ever get tenure, I for one intend to emulate my favorite Pre-Columbian art history professor, and wear house-dresses, flip flops, and vintage glass Mardi Gras beads every day. RIP Betsy Smith (Mayan name: Lady Nine-Can, for her ability to drink nine cans of beer without taking a piss), my academic role model.

    Mime make-up, why the hell not? You might lose a few points on the ratemyprofessor’s fuckability website, but wev.

  79. Rain

    The thing that most puzzles me about the conclusion drawn by the “study” is that, why isn’t “Natural” getting the highest points? It takes far more make-up gunk and masterful technique to get the “Natural” look than it does for any other category. I should know, for I am the freak that goes around town without make-up in this culture of artificially-made-up-natural-look-is-the-only-look-for-P-compliant-woman Japan. From tea-drinking to make-up wearing, every damn aspect of life is raised to an art-form in this stupid country, and the master-teacher will always be men. IBTP.

  80. niki

    For those of you working in states/countries where you’re forced to be feminized – be glad you’re not down here in South America trying to get a legit job where they give you psychological tests involving your feelings about animals/babies and make you draw things (for example, a man in the rain) whereby they may analyze and draw psychological conclusions about your character and job competence! If babies and marriage bore you as they do me, and you can’t draw a decent picture to save your patookus, you lose each time.

    Luckily I’m off the radar. Who needs legit?

  81. Jill

    they give you psychological tests involving your feelings about animals/babies and make you draw things (for example, a man in the rain) whereby they may analyze and draw psychological conclusions about your character and job competence!

    What tha?

  82. pheenobarbidoll

    So drawing evil babies and rabid animals tearing the man apart while it rains blood is probably a no go?

  83. Lurker Lyn

    Sounds like we need a blamer art gallery.

  84. niki

    No joke! I’m in Colombia now but it was the same in Peru. Trust me, I had to interview many of my friends to make sure some craptastic joke wasn’t being played on me by my students who related the story.

    If they ask you to draw a man in the rain and you forget the umbrella, you’re obviously psychotic. Not enough facial features? Negligent. Clouds too small/large? Superfluous.

    I thankfully don’t have to suffer this malarkey in my line of work but I would assume the best route would be to find a friend that works on the board of psychology and get the exact measurements of everything needed for a proper drawing. Not sure what they’re aiming at with this line of thought – complete conformity? Russian style sci-fi utopia? No idea.

  85. Mildred

    I have this compelling attraction to make up. I wear very little of it, just foundation to cover skin I’m not happy with. Whenever I go to the supermarket I’m drawn to the make up isle. I pick these things up, marvel at their shininess and the colours and their promises of vague beautifying things and I feel like maybe they could really change my life. But I also hate them and feel insulted by it all, and I hate that I have to pay a price. So I stuff lipstick and liquid eye liner, lip gloss and other weird things like ‘foundation primer’ in my pockets. I take them home and play around with them. I hate that they have so much power over me and I hate that I feel like I have to have them so I steal them and then I feel like they loose all their mystique and power over me. Then they just fester on my shelves for years or else I just give them away.

  86. Jezebella

    Buy art supplies instead, Mildred. Paints and markers and colored pencils and pastels and glitter and construction paper can be just as compelling as makeup, and won’t make you feel that way. I don’t recommend stealing them, though. I’m not saying you have to DO anything with them. I certainly don’t.

  87. Kaia

    Rain I was wondering how bad Japan actually is for women, in alot of things I’ve read its either ok or really bad if you get stuck with a traditional family. So I was wondering if it is as bad as western society or worse? Thanks.

  88. Owly

    I don’t wear makeup, don’t shave, have very short hair, and dress in androgynous, comfortable clothes. The funny thing is that I live in Hipsterville, where this is considered cool.
    Women tell me that I don’t need to wear makeup because I’m pretty enough without it and that I don’t need to shave because I have light-colored body hair. I guess they’re trying to compliment me, but they’re also implying that the only reason I don’t do those things is because I’m P-compliant without them. Like I think so highly of myself that I dare to go without.
    I get so much praise for not giving a fuck from liberal dudes because my appearance sets me apart from all the other chicks.
    FUCK NO.

  89. Owly

    Oh yeah, and my family thinks it’s a phase that I’ll “grow out of.” At least I live in a city and community where I can get away with it.

  90. Daisy Deadhead

    I love how you match the colors, I never did learn how to do that stuff. My mother was always yelling at me. So, decided not to wear it at all, and she got upset about that too. It was something she fussed at me about HER WHOLE LIFE… now that she has passed, I wish I had some of that time back, so we could have talked about something important, something else…

  91. Fede

    So drawing evil babies and rabid animals tearing the man apart while it rains blood is probably a no go?

    Not for nothing do I have this wide-eyed crush on you, Pheeno.

  92. Lola

    Yup, South Americans are pretty much off their rockers… In Brazil you have to draw a tree in order to pass your driving exam. If your tree has fruits you’re gay, if you don’t draw roots you’re insane. My dad knew a guy who’d flunked it 3 times.

  93. TwissB

    Thanks to Orange for that deathless line about pretty which sums up the cosmetic industry’s siren song.

    The National Organization for Women’s annual Love Your Body Day is (distressingly?) increasingly popular. Link:

  94. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    People usually make snap judgments about me based on the size of my tukis, so lack of makeup doesn’t make that much of a difference. Besides, I am drawn to wildly inappropriate shades — it would be fun if I could wear the green foundation, black eyeliner and purple-red lipstick of a Disney Evil Queen. It reflects my inner beauty.

  95. savagebeard

    @combat baby – I saw that NY Times comment too. It was one of the last things I read at work and then I shook my head all the way home.

    Showering, wearing clean clothes and combing one’s hair are things both men and women are expected to do to be “clean” and “neat.” I can get on board with the idea that if you are going to be interacting with people at close quarters, you should respect their noses enough to be clean. If you are trying to be taken seriously in the professional world – fine, let’s do neatness too, as long as it applies to both genders.

    But how did it ever come about that half of the human race owes everyone to be “pretty”? Or, to put it more accurately – half of the human race apparently owes everyone to be the prettiest version of themselves. Too old, fat, or otherwise non-compliant-featured to ever actually be considered pretty by the P? Guess what, you still have to try for a vague shade of pretty by smearing shit on your eyes, skin, and mouth. Did you fail at it? Not the P’s fault that your genetics and the march of time made it impossible, so the P will proceed to thoroughly mock you for trying AND failing.

    For women in the middle ground whose non-compliant features can be prettified by makeup, the P demands that you make this happen at all times, and that you continually work to improve your face’s P-pleasing ability by buying ever more makeup and reading ever more “fun” tips about how to use it. You should probably get up an hour before your boyfriend every morning to apply it, too, so that he never has to see your features in their offensive non-makeuped state. I mean, you wouldn’t go four days without showering and make him smell your BO, so how could you force him to deal with the ugliness of your natural face? Never mind that you have to deal with his natural ugliness all the time. That’s clearly different.

    I refuse to wear that shit more and more. I never wear it on regular days, including to work, even though all the other women at work wear a medium-thick frosting (except for my boss, who has it permanently tattooed on her face). I used to wear some when I had to interact with our clients, but I don’t even do that anymore.

    I don’t know how people actually see me, and whether they would indeed respect me more if I wore makeup, but wearing that shit actually makes me feel less confident. When I know I have made up my face solely to be P-compliant, I walk around the whole day feeling like I have given in.

    Also, I feel that other people when looking at me are seeing me as someone who is more compliant and who has deliberately made herself appear more like a blow-up doll. The concept that people would respect me more for wearing makeup makes no sense. I’m sure many of them approve of me for being compliant, but approval is not the same as respect, and in this case they may be mutually exclusive.

    However, I’m sure I would still wear it for job interviews, and if I was ever in a career-path job where I felt it was important, I would wear it. Sometimes, rebellion can only go so far.

  96. Bec

    I’ve managed to avoid wearing makeup for the last six years. Thankfully the industry I work in doesn’t demand it, and I have the good fortune to work mostly on my own anyway. If one can be self-employed, I highly recommend it.

    As for “lady tax”, the only makeup I can wear without breaking out (my skin is very sensitive) is ridiculously expensive. Forty to fifty dollars for one little bottle of foundation is typical. I could wear the cheap stuff, but then my face would look like a pizza and that’s not very porn-compliant, is it? Can you imagine a dude spending that much of his hard-earned money on something so frivolous? Yet somehow I’m expected to.

  97. Rain

    Kaia, I don’t think it’s any worse or better, it’s just different. Different manifestation of the same ole shite. Patriarchy takes many forms, but the underlying rule and ways of enforcement changes, which makes culture what it is, no? So the ways to fight against them shall also change.
    I’m not an academic, but have been reading up on Japanese feminism, and it seems some aspects of western(or to be more specific, US) 2nd wave feminist ideas were already present long before in Japanese feminism. Can’t come up with any specific examples at the moment(pretending to work and all), but am looking for Japanese feminist theory written in English to share with y’all(so I don’t have to translate!)

  98. Rain

    Gagh, the above “Patriarchy takes many forms, but the underlying rule and ways of enforcement changes, which makes culture what it is, no?” should read “Patriarchy takes many forms, but the underlying rule stays the same. Ways of enforcement changes, which makes culture what it is, no?”
    Apologies for not making sense.

  99. LS

    Japan is way cooler about abortions but it’s still a pretty bad place to be openly gay.

  100. Kea

    Daisy, some of us are just born hopeless, but our mothers never give up hope that we’ll See The Shinyness. I’m 44 and my mother is still convinced that I’ll never be happy because I don’t dress to catch a man.

  101. JetGirl

    I know the color pink is used to push stereotyped patriarchy-approved femininity, but that t-shirt really complements your skin tone, Ms. Faster/Psmith.
    *Ducks and runs*

  102. Rain

    LS, yes, employment opportunities and partnership entitlements are closed for openly gay people, but at the same time, we don’t have nearly the number of specifically homophobic hate crimes either.
    Abortion was very open and all up to the women until pressure from the international (western, judeo-christian) community set in. Abortion was never a moral issue in Japan until about 100 yrs ago, and most of Japanese society still does not think of abortion as a moral issue. Which it isn’t. However, we still have a zombie law on our books from 100 yrs ago that prohibits abortion unless done by a proper medical doctor, and then only up to week 12 or something like that. You also need a signed document from the impregnating party, but since none of it is strictly enforced, the document can easily be forged.
    There’s a hilarious book called “Pregnant Novels” that criticizes a book based on 1 criteria only; whether or not the book contains pregnancy of the female character. Wish someone would translate it in English. It shreds many so-called “Literary Canon” (like Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Woods) with witty brilliance. No need to mention its written by a woman.

  103. Kaia

    Thanks Rain that was helpful, on a more on topic note I was thinking of my aunt yesterday who sometimes takes 2 hours to get ready with make alone and refuses to leave her bedroom without it.
    My Mother has started to wonder what she looks like without it.
    I find it saddening that there are people like this, who feel they cant even let people actually look at THEM because they feel unworthy without layers of probably toxic goo on there face.
    With all these adds saying. ‘You cant look beautiful without xxx’ I think its time to get rid of the concept of beauty, first move? Ban beauty adds.

  104. Kaia

    I meant make up, sorry keyboard playing up again. ><

  105. niki

    Mom doesn’t dye her hair or wear makeup. Both of us draw on eyebrows but that’s about it (for her it’s because they became ghostly invisible at some point and for me it’s a hangover from the overplucked goth years).

    I do, however, have a ton of multi-racial straight male friends who wear makeup. Then again, I’m from California.

  106. Jill

    “I do, however, have a ton of multi-racial straight male friends who wear makeup.”

    Anecdotal and anomalous!

  107. Anne

    @josquin – You’re thinking of Minstrel shows. Those were originally done by white a-holes, who’d put on blackface to ridicule and appropriate African-American music and linguistics in performance.
    In meta satirical protest black performers started mimicking the white performers who’d been mimicking them but, amused and unthreatened by the ridicule of mere lowly black folks, white a-holes just lapped that shit up.
    That’s how it was explained in Jazz History class anyway.

  108. Georgie

    roseh I read your comment further up about land surveyors and that must be where I am going right – I work in a membership organisation for surveyors, so the people I interact with are mostly male … but none of them seem to care whether I wear makeup or not. Excellent!

  109. ptittle

    The thing about make-up is that there are three possible ‘purposes’ : simple aesthetics, appearing youthful, and appearing sexually attractive. The tricky part is to understand how these three are related in the patriarchy.

  110. Nadia

    I realise this thread is over a year old at this stage but…
    I hardly ever wear makeup. When I do, which is probably 1-2 times every 3 months, I usually just cover blemishes and dark circles. I use only the best & cruelty free products.

    However, I think applying makeup can be a feminist act, because when I do wear a lot of makeup (the occasional college night out) I do it as a form of art, I enjoy the process of transforming my face. I’m not doing it because I want to look better, sexier or appealing; I do it cus it’s simply and art form for me & many others. I like a natural “no makeup” makeup look. I am blessed with a beautiful appearance thankfully, so I never draw on anything, or go over board. I’m 24 & I don’t even own lipstick. When I do wear lipstick, I usually borrow some from mum, I reach for bright red almost all the time.

    I don’t know, does this make me anti feminist? Because I just like having the option to look for made up once in awhile?

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