What’s going on in beauty this week, from head to toe and everything in between.
I love a man who isn’t afraid to show a little deoxyribonucleic acid.
In your face: “Information artist” Heather Dewey-Hagborg reconstructs faces from shreds of DNA—and in doing so, calls attention to genetic surveillance.
Toeing the line: I try not to be alarmist about these things, but I was genuinely disturbed to learn about these sneakers—for girls as young as toddlers—that have a hidden wedge heel inside. It’s one thing for girls to mimic adult women in an overt way, because that can prompt discussions about self-presentation, maturity, sexuality, and appropriateness that kids could benefit from as they navigate the world. But heels disguised as sneakers? Ugh. So I was particularly pleased to be called upon for comment by writer Misty Harris for her piece in the Vancouver Sun covering the matter.
…And Everything In Between:
Inglot founder dies: The founder of Inglot cosmetics, chemist Wojciech Inglot, died unexpectedly last week at age 57. He started the company in 1987, when Poland was under communist rule, using military equipment he purchased after a dictatorial command that unneeded equipment be sold off. After the fall of communism, his fledgling company floundered a bit before he hit upon the idea of allowing women to test makeup before purchasing it, a concept unheard of in Poland at the time. Inglot found unexpected success with Muslim women with the development of a nail polish that allows water and oxygen to reach the nail, allowing compliance with a pre-prayer washing ritual that states water must run over the hands, including fingernails. (More background here.)
Americas divided: In North America, “prestige” beauty products (like department store brands) are driving industry growth; meanwhile in South America, mass brands (i.e. drugstores and the like) account for 90% of sales, as opposed to 65% up north. Now, I’m not trying to suggest that prestige brands aren’t worth it if you like ’em, but whenever those crass “countries with the most beautiful women” lists are published, don’t South American nations always top the list? Just sayin’.
Emerging markets: The ins and outs of marketing cosmetics in Africa. (Who knew South African men would go wild over Vaseline for Men?)
“The treatment of Sarah Bartmann during her life and after her death speaks of suffering, dispossession, sadness and loss of dignity, culture, community, language and life. It is a symptom of the inhumanity of people.” —Marker at the burial site of Baartmann’s repatriated remains
A tale told too late: The story of Saartjie Baartman—or, as she’s sadly better known, the Hottentot Venus.
Mating game: Some fascinating findings on attractiveness and coupling up. Contrary to popular belief, women don’t tend to trade their beauty for men’s status—in fact, people tend to trade their attractiveness for…attractiveness, since similarity across all measures is what largely guides partnerships, according to the study findings. That doesn’t mean That Episode of Girls is any less real, though, thankyouverymuch. (Thanks to Parisian Feline for the link!)
Purim’s beauty myth: Purim was last weekend, but it’s not too late to learn about (well, “learn about” if you’re goyim like me) the link between female beauty and the celebratory Jewish holiday; apparently Esther’s milkshake brought deliverance to the yard.
Lululemondieu!: Yogapantsgate was last week when I was away, but in case you missed it, check out Caitlin Constantine’s response to it. Like her, I wear form-fitting workout clothes not so that my ass will be checked out by strangers, but because form-fitting clothes don’t get caught in equipment (like baggy pants do), don’t slide down when I’m moving around (like the more generously sized yoga pants do), don’t reveal too much when I’m doing floor exercises (like baggy shorts do), and keep me warm enough when going to and fro (like fitted shorts don’t). To be told by a man that I simply couldn’t be wearing them because I actually like wearing them is—hmm, more insulting or annoying? Not sure.
Mirror mirror: There’s this idea out there that women are competitive about their looks and bodies—so what is it like to be in a same-sex romance and feel that competition? The Hairpin’s Queer Chick takes it on.
Best for Last: Given that Adele was the one person at the Oscars whose beauty every woman in the room at the Oscars fête I attended commented upon, Beautycism’s question is well-taken: Why doesn’t she have a beauty products contract? Perhaps she doesn’t want one—or perhaps companies are still hesitant to have a non-rail-thin woman as their spokesperson, even when she’s as utterly stunning as Adele. (Seriously, any makeup company that could promise me her lipstick’s staying power would at least get my trial dollars.)
Body shop: Why do maternitywear retailers target women in their seventh month of pregnancy, when women’s bodies start showing significant changes at the fifth?
Actually, my mom did tell me, which was horrifying in 1982 but which I appreciate now: Listen to the Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast on vaginoplasty, then take a moment to love your labia in whatever way you choose. (Light a candle? Sing “O Vagina” to the tune of “O Tannenbaum”?) A neat complement is the episode on a population that may get vaginoplasty for reasons that aren’t exactly cosmetic: transgender folks.
Darling Nikki: The average porn star is a 5’5″ brunette B-cup brunette named Nikki. No, really.
Exhaust: Hey, did you hear that the Oscars and assorted happenings were a misogynist shitshow? Among the incredible amount of ink that’s been spilled this week on the matter is Lindy West’s fantastic piece titled “Sexism Fatigue: When Seth MacFarlane Is a Complete Ass and You Don’t Even Notice.” This was sort of my experience: I wasn’t terribly worked up over many of the things that so many people have been enraged about, like the “We Saw Your Boobs” song, which I actually saw as being a comment on the expectation of female nudity in film. But I think the deeper reason I didn’t get too worked up is exactly what West is describing here: I saw MacFarlane’s airless jokes about women as simply being par for the course—and that, my friends, is sexism fatigue. There’s also the question of why so much ire has been (understandably) directed at MacFarlane as an individual when, as Cassie points out, the Oscars are a highly choreographed event involving a lot of people.
Pretty as a picture: One of the arguments for photo retouching is that the principle has been around for centuries—unless, of course, royals through the ages were perpetually rosy, unlined, and sparkling of eye. But as this “unretouched” portrait of Elizabeth I shows, that was hardly the case.
Eye catcher: Rachel Hills at Daily Life on fashion and the “attention economy.” (Apparently there are “street style stars” who change outfits several times a day to maximize social media exposure. Who has the time?)
Oh my god Becky look at her bustle: Baby got behindativeness.
Pink think: I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day myself, but Nahida frames it in a way that almost makes me want to defend it: Which sex is it that’s supposed to put in the labor for Valentine’s Day? Hint: Not the sex that’s expected to create Easter baskets and Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas decorations.
Reality check: Elisa poses some intriguing questions on beauty (some of which provided fodder for my two cents on the “why can’t women say they’re pretty?” discussion). Have you ever, like, ever seen a group of men actually get all tongue-tied ga-ga when a good-looking woman walks into the room? I haven’t either, so why is the male reaction to beauty in films always painted in this way? And in a follow-up post: Do women tend to know how good-looking they are, objectively speaking? (If such a thing as “objectively speaking” exists, that is, which is a whole other question itself.)
Critical reading: If you enjoy fashion criticism, check out this meta-fashion-criticism of sorts, with an entire issue of journal Fashion Projects devoted to examining criticism, including interviews with critics like The New Yorker’s Judith Thuman.
Smile, baby: Thanks to The Closet Feminist for making me question why I got crabby about seeing Kristen Stewart’s lack of smileyface at the Oscars. I enjoy her as an actress but was like, C’mon, girl, you’re at the Oscars, would it kill you to smile—in other words, I was doing what I hate having done to me: C’mon, baby, just gimme a smile.
“Junk in the trunk” is a pain in the ass: All in favor of banning the phrase “junk in the trunk,” say aye (aye!), and then read Anytime Yoga’s Tori guest post here about why it’s problematic.