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The Beheld
By Autumn Whitefield-Madrano
Examining questions surrounding personal appearance: What does it mean to be seen? What is the relationship between "beauty labor" and cultural visibility? And why do two lipstick shades combined always look better than one?
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Beauty Blogosphere 3.9.12

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

From Head…
Blush on the line: Sixty-seven percent of British women apply all their makeup during their commute. This seems really high to me–British readers, does this ring true? I see this plenty in New York, but it’s not like two out of three women on the subway are putting on makeup. (I live at the first/last stop on my subway line, so I’m in a good position to see people beginning their commute routines.) Random bonus: The article lists top 10 cities for en route cosmetics application. Number eight is Sheffield. Why? I don’t know!

…To Toe…
“I’ve heard of a fish pedicure, but this is ridiculous!”: Mermaid pedicure art. J’adore.

…And Everything In Between:

From Girl Model, directed by David Redmon & Ashley Sabin

Model citizens: I’m hoping for a wider release of Girl Model, a new documentary tracing a 13-year-old model and the woman who scouted her, following them through their various paths in the industry. In the trailer alone, to see a teenaged girl in her “country mouse” town in Siberia—fertile ground for new talent—and speaking candidly in her native tongue is nearly shocking in its rarity. (via Virginia)

Starving 9 to 5: Laurie Penny on eating disorders as the cannibalization of rebellion: ”Eating disorders, particularly anorexia, are to riots in the streets what a white strike is to a factory occupation: women, precarious workers, young people and others for whom the lassitudes of modern life routinely produce acute distress and for whom the stakes of social non-conformity are high, lash out by doing only what is required of them, to the point of extremity.” Yes.

Missing Pakistan: Why Miss Pakistan is hardly ever from Pakistan. Fun (?) fact: There is such a thing as Miss Pakistan Bikini.

Face-off: Hijab isn’t just about oppression, folks. Or is it?

America’s Next Top Stereotype: The innovators at America’s Next Top Model had the flash of inspiration to ask Mariah Watchman, the first American Indian contestant, to dress as Pocahontas.

By any means necessary: Will street harassment fall under the “verbal, non-verbal or physical” sexual harassment that British Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to take “necessary legislative measures” against?

Mediate, deregulate: A beauty industry writer on recent deregulation efforts: “These situations remind us the best way to protect our industry and your profession is to make sure we are vigilant, connected and ready to work together at a moment’s notice.” Especially in urban areas, the beauty industry workforce is come-and-go, making this sort of mobilization crucial. Meanwhile, Eastern European markets are merging regulatory practices to allow greater fluidity between borders.

Choice bits: The rise of curated subscription purchasing, à la Birchbox, prompts the Guardian to ask why we’re so eager to pay people to make decisions for us. “Is this the answer to the tyranny of choice?”

Bitches be crazy!: A L’Oreal sale “turned ugly” as 300 women “stampeded” the event; six police cars had to show up to “tame” the crowds. But reading further into the story, it seems that there were totally unfounded rumors of women punching one another for a better place in the queue; nobody was hurt, it’s just that the event got a lot more attendees than anticipated, and chaos ensued, which basically sounds like Saturday night on the Lower East Side. But that doesn’t make for a good story, now does it? Especially not one that can conveniently be illustrated with sexy lipstick!

Ways of scrolling: The Spectator asks what we can take from John Berger’s writings on imagery and reproduction to apply to the digital age. Which of course makes me wonder how the inevitability of image reproduction affects the ways women perceive themselves as objects. Thoughts?

“Some black and white truths”: I know Victoria Coren means well in examining the results of a self-esteem study of black and white American women, which found that black women reported higher self-esteem; Coren theorizes that the lack of diversity in media images is part of that. It’s an interesting theory and there’s perhaps some truth to it. But utterly absent from her analysis is…black women, which didn’t escape the sharp eyes over at We Left Marks. “Beauty myths exist in BME [black, minority, and ethnic] cultures as well as white cultures. What’s more, they are inevitably influenced by the hegemonic white beauty myths. While there are other historical factors around and within postcolonial cultures which affect beauty myths, it would be ridiculous to pretend that people of BME descent living in America and Europe operate in some sort of cultural vacuum immune from ‘Western’ pressures.” It’s also somewhat self-serving on the part of white women to assume that black women are immune because of their lack of representation; it allows us to fantasize that if only faces like our porcelain visages weren’t everywhere (sigh!), maybe we’d feel better about ourselves because we’d have less to live up to. Overidentification with media ideals is certainly a problem, just as much as a lack of identification. But Coren should know better than to make such sweeping statements.


Contestants from 1968, from right: Vida Afshani, Manijeh Etezadi, Parichehr Makooie, Mehrnaz Jalali Qajar, Mehrasa Khademi, Shohreh Zandi. 

Miss Iran: Arresting photos of Miss Iran contestants in 1978, the year before the revolution. (A personal aside: I was pleased to see an entry about the Carlisle Indian School as the following post at Teenage, the blog I found the Miss Iran photos from. It’s a questionable episode of American history, but it’s also where my great-grandparents met. It’s also where my great-grandmother nearly became not my great-grandmother by dating the school’s most famous alum, Jim Thorpe. /geneaology)

Too hot to drive: After old colleagues started knowing odd information about her personal life, former cop Anne Marie Rasmusson followed up on a hunch: Her driver’s license profile had been accessed hundreds of times by fellow police officers. It’s easy to feel creeped out on her behalf, but then I think of what kind of information I casually peruse because I can–Facebook, Googling–and I see how it’s a slippery slope for officers, who have taken an oath but are all too human. More interesting to me here is why she became a target: She’d gone through a physical transformation, losing a good deal of weight and entering bodybuilding competitions, and was widely considered to be a catch.

You flirting with me?: Make sure your Flirt is authentic! Customs officers seized a sizable shipment of counterfeit perfume. (Am I the only one who wants to know what a counterfeit flirt smells like?)

Age-old story: Can’t decide whether to be pleased or annoyed at this article in which the New York Times recognizes that women over 40 can be pretty. Actually, no, wait, I’m annoyed, as the writer lives in a universe in which L’Oreal should be applauded for choosing Diane Keaton to represent them because the poor lass is “average-looking.” We should all be as “average-looking” as Diane Keaton, oui?

Plumb lovely: This story about a young woman who dropped out of beauty school to become a plumber is nice from the human-interest angle, and it’s also an opportunity to examine why it’s a human interest piece at all. Seventeen-year-olds aren’t exactly known for sticking to one profession for a long time (nobody wrote about me when I went from being babysitter to Denny’s hostess) but swinging from one end of the gendered-work spectrum to the other? What can we possibly do but write a whoda-thunk piece?!


He who speaks loudest: The whole Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke thing honestly made me wonder if Limbaugh has been setting us up for years as a Colbert-type figure. If only! In any case, Aaron Bady on what Limbaugh’s voice means for public voices of women: “[Limbaugh] only has the legitimacy he has, as public voice, to the extent that voices like Fluke’s can be made to lack legitimacy. She becomes a complicating and problematic presence for him because he needs things to seem satisfyingly simple. So she must be excluded, de-personned, rendered a type (‘slut’) instead of a subjectivity.”


Pinned: Nathan Jurgenson on how Pinterest can illuminate feminist theory: “Take Wikipedia: 87% of its contributors are male; a bigger discrepancy than Pinterest by any count. However, when discussing Wikipedia, it certainly is not the norm to go on and on about how male the site is.” Plus, he name-checks two of my recommended reads, Virginia Sole-Smith and Simone de Beauvoir, so obvs he’s onto something.

Bump and grind: I’m wary of the “burlesque helps your body image!” claim–I know it’s done great things for some women (like interviewee and friend of The Beheld Jo JoStiletto) but speaking generally I’m more aligned with Laurie Penny in thinking it’s sheep’s clothing for the same old song of woman-as-object. That said, I imagine there are a lot of breast cancer survivors who would be happy to take a burlesque class as a way of tuning into a pride about displaying the body, and for that, there’s Jo “Boobs” Weldon.

Was it the Paleo diet?: Crap, when did the Care Bears get slimmed down?

Pocket change: Shine.com breaks down exactly how much it costs to look like Jennifer Aniston (cloning not included). The grand total? $141,037.

Girl in Front of Mirror, Pablo Picasso, 1932

Fairest of them all: Why do men like to paint women looking at themselves?

Ladyblogged: Diana Clarke at Dissent adds to the “ladyblogs” discussion spurred by the n+1 essay that got me all frothy: “By titling her essay ‘So Many Feelings,’ she underscores her classification of the ladyblog as a cozy nest of ‘slumber party intimacy,’ irrelevant to the outside world. That logic, powerful as it might read, draws a false and harmful division between old and young, lady and woman, frivolity and seriousness.”

Want fries with that?: Whaddya know—The New York Times stands up for vocal fry and other linguistic trends pioneered by young women. “They’re not just using [vocal and linguistic characteristics such as ‘like’ because they’re girls. They’re using them to achieve some kind of interactional and stylistic end,” says a Stanford linguistics professor.

A modest proposal: I’ve long been intrigued by how fashion-conscious women who wish to dress modestly navigate styling themselves. And then, thanks to Sally, I found the modesty archives of Clothed Much.

Beauty machine: I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure what this 12-minute film means, but the idea of a “Beauty Machine” scam as a complement to empty self-esteem talk interests me. (Thanks to Sarah for the tip.)

Beauty turnoffs: Emily skewers the notion that there is any beauty mistake in the history of womankind that will prevent a man from having sex with you. Hygiene, sure. But overdone eyelashes? Really?

“Wear more eye makeup than you usually do”: Rachel Kramer Bussel on what happened when her date told her to wear more makeup. That’s not necessarily as brash as it seems–it was in a command-and-obey kink setting–but it still made her wonder about what introducing a dynamic of dictating one’s appearance might mean.

Strike a pose: Sally asks what it means to be a poseur. Interesting comments, revealing that people appropriate symbols for all kinds of reasons. It’s making me wonder what constitutes a potentially offensive appropriation versus one that’s for kicks. Is it the level of oppression the original owners of the appropriated item face? (Say, “ethnic” prints on sale at Urban Outfitters.) Ceremonial or ritual uses of the appropriated item, like headdresses mimicking various indigenous nations? The self-chosen nature of the world the appropriated item comes from? (You can choose to be a punk, so appropriating punk style seems less disingenuous than appropriating the style of a race of people.)

Thrifting 101: Elissa from Dress With Courage knows from thrifting, and while the advice on her blog is always excellent, practical, and accessible, her new Thrifting 101 book goes even more in-depth, and also features fashion history of the sorts of clothes you’ll find while thrifting, maintenance tips, and more.

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One Response to “Beauty Blogosphere 3.9.12”

  1. Tom Slee says:

    That is one mighty lot of reading that I would never have found. Not sure if I should thank you for all the interesting material or blame you for the fact that I will probably spend my day off work reading it instead of doing what I should be doing. On balance: Thanks.

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