Beauty Blogosphere 8.17.12

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

From Head...
Crop top: Miley Cyrus cut her hair; world freaks out. Luckily, we have Mary Elizabeth Williams (with whom I've previously disagreed about short hair) to lucidly articulate why a crop needn't be a "call for help": "Long hair represents femininity and vulnerability and sex. It’s princesses and mermaids and porn stars. Short hair, on the other hand, says, 'If you think I’m gorgeous, great, but this isn’t about you, pal.'"

...To Toe...
A Tale of Two Walks: I've never been amused by men doing stereotypically feminine things for laffs; it generally strikes me as condescending, not investigative. Yet I'm sort of halfway into this fund-raising/awareness walk for domestic violence called Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, where men walk, yes, a mile in women's high heels. It shifts the onus for intimate partner violence from women onto men (who make up the majority of abusers); obviously I'm all for women helping women, but until anti-violence messages are targeted toward abusers, we're not going to get anywhere, and this seems like a start. But then again, it could do the opposite—paint a traditionally feminine icon as something weak, painful, and in need of assistance. Thoughts?


...And Everything In Between:
Avon calling: 
Fascinating study from Baylor University that serves as an interesting complement to the Mary Kay exposé in Harper's by Virginia Sole-Smith. For black women in South Africa, direct sales (specifically, Avon) seems to actually provide some of the benefits that these companies promise—and fail to deliver—their sales representatives in the States, as shown by Sole-Smith's work. One example: In a country where only 38.4% of black women have any bank account at all, whether their own or a joint account with a family member, 92% of Avon representatives had their own bank account. It seems that vague terms of "empowerment" can take a firmer hold in places where women's power is far more tenuous than it is in cultures where most of this blog's readers hail from. Women in the study widely reported increased self-confidence, career skills for future jobs, and financial autonomy. More to the point: The mean income earned from selling Avon was about 900 ZAR (roughly $109 U.S.) a month, which would put an Avon representative in the top half of wage-earning black women in South Africa, and would bring her earnings nearly in line with that of her male counterpart.

I can see through your transparency: Johnson & Johnson is launching a site dedicated to educating consumers on ingredient safety for their products, which seems like a nice enough idea until you read between the lines here. “People already know that our products and ingredients meet or exceed government regulatory standards. They want to know more,” said a Johnson & Johnson representative. Well, yes, we want to know more, given that there are no government regulatory standards for many of the personal care products in question. This seems more along the lines of the Safe Cosmetics Alliance to me—that is, not terribly safe at all.

Something smells suspicious: Two former employees of perfumery Bond No. 9 are filing charges against their former boss, owner Laurice Rahme, for racist bias. Rahme asked employees to use the unsettling code phrase "We need the light bulbs changed" whenever a customer with dark skin—oh, excuse me, whenever a customer who looks "suspect," as claimed by Rahme—walked in. (At least one of the women bringing the suit is dark-skinned and was allegedly not allowed to help white customers.) When the employees complained about the racist practice, they were fired and accused of defrauding the company of $25,000.

Patch it up: Sri Lankan man dies after an allergic reaction to a hair dye. Patch test, people! (Actually, I've never patch tested a beauty product in my life, but after I had an unexpected allergic reaction to a medication this spring that left my body covered in a heat rash and my face and hands terribly swollen—this after a lifetime of no medicinal allergies whatsoever—I'm going to start. You really never know.)

Breaking news: Area Woman Not Harassed Today. "Perhaps more mysteriously, not one male superior she passed silently in the halls grinned at her unnervingly and told her that it 'wouldn't hurt to smile,' the 28-year-old confirmed."


Fashion etiquette: What to wear if you're a lady marrying a lady?

"An individual is not an abstraction": A hyena might look like a very nice hyena but a very ugly dog—a nice analogy from Franklin Veaux on why he's never understood the idea of having a strong preference for certain physical characteristics in partners. (I never have either, besides being a sucker for a tall dude, though I've certainly been attracted to the small-but-mighty type as well.) (via Strong, Sexy & Stylish)

Alpha: Science (you know, Science) is coming one step closer to discovering how all that alpha hydroxy shit we're supposed to put on our faces past age 30 actually works! Like I suspected, it's all about the transient receptor potential vanilloid 3.

Go for the gold: Virginia Sole-Smith on "Olympic Beauty" and body diversity: "[W]hen the Olympics dominates the media, we see a huge range of body types — and we celebrate every one of them for what they can do, and how damn good they look doing it." (Okay, sometimes "we" also razz Olympians for how they look, but let's focus on the positive here.) Body comparisons of any sort usually lead nowhere good for me, so I don't do them, and that's also why I don't share any of my "numbers" on here (weight, clothing sizes, waist measurement, etc. Though I will let you all know that my feet are a perfect size 9). That said: Looking at Olympian bodies, I get the same sensation Virginia describes here. Seeing, say, female swimmers (or female sailors, apparently, according to this "What's Your Olympic Body Type" quiz that matches my frame to a surprising number of Nordic sailing team members) with features similar to mine—broad shoulders, not-whittled waists, and strong legs (ahem, not that my legs are a fraction as strong as Olympians')—when none of those features are particularly valued in our culture...yes, it feels sort of validating.

Twenty-eight, looking great: Women feel sexiest at age 28, apparently? I looked pretty schlubby at 28 so I can't really comment on this. (Age 31, however, treated me nicely.) I can't seem to find the original study—which, mind you, was conducted by a marketing firm, so grain of salt and all that—but it goes on to say that women just might actually be happier with their bodies than we usually let on. This definitely jibes with my experience: I've found that the places where women (myself included) seem most free to praise their own bodies are spaces of presumed overcoming of body issues. And hell yeah, those issues are vast, and real, and harmful, no doubt. But our vanities must remain secret, or posited as contrary to the baseline "truth" of us all disliking our forms. Harrumph. (via Ashe)

#nodads: One of the greatest indicators of whether a girl will self-objectify? Whether her mother does the same. This makes sense, and in the best-case scenario some mothers might realize that all the positive words in the world won't matter as much as having a genuinely healthy relationship with her own body and presence when it comes to raising a daughter with a strong self-image. But I'm with About-Face: What about fathers?

Bare it: Fashion Fair, one of the first makeup lines targeting black women, unveils a mineral foundation line. That's nice and all, but I love what Clutch fingers here: The ad uses a bald model, thus neatly sidestepping the natural vs. relaxed hair debate. Clever, clever!

Who's the most bimajo of them all?: Congratulations (?) to Masako Osako, who recently won a magazine contest in Japan for being the most bimajo out of more than 2,000 applicants who proved to not be quite as bimajo as the reigning bimajo. Bimajo, in case your transliterated Japanese is rusty, translates roughly to "beautiful witch" and denotes "a woman over 35 with a radiance that gives no suggestion of her age."

Turban 101: Eleven years ago, this "turban primer" might have seemed merely interesting to people curious about headgear of different cultures. But after 9/11—and, more recently, after the tragedy in Wisconsin—publishing a guide to distinguish Sikh turbans from Indian turbans from, well, Taliban members (who, it turns out, don't have any particular turban style at all) seems disingenuous at best. At worst, as Angry Asian Man points out, it's more along the lines of WWII-style "How to Spot a Jap" pieces.

Give generously.

"Add some googly eyes, for chrissakes": Until I watched this shocking PSA, I was unaware of the "Swetsy shops" that churn out wall decals, hand-stamped bird stationery, and tam o'shanters—all using the labor of young exploited hipster women. The Manic Pixie Dream Fund: Won't you donate?

Mirror me: I never thought I'd be mentioned in a trend piece (moi?!), but it's about time someone saw a story in the fact that Kjerstin Gruys and I—and others, I've learned—each thought up the idea of "mirror fasting" independent of one another at roughly the same time. Kate Murphy at the New York Times takes a look at what appears to be a mini-trend.

What's in a name?: Beauty and personal-care product company Pinch Provisions—formerly Ms. and Mrs.—is the hook of this piece on companies renaming themselves. (via Nancy Friedman, who knows a thing or two about naming).

Pussy play: If you've been following the story of Pussy Riot, the Russian punk group whose anti-Putin sentiments may well land (have landed? the verdict is due today) three members in a Siberian labor camp, read this essay on the performative aspect of the trio's saga. Performative for the women involved, yes, and that's why I'm including it here. But Sarah Nicole Prickett's excellent essay delves into broader questions about performativity: west vs. east, here vs. "there," punk fashion vs. punk ethos.

And what do you do?: The backstory from seven people with nifty-sounding jobs in the beauty industry, including a perfume "nose" and color forecaster. (Here's a non-slideshow version; I feel ethically obligated to link to the place that generated it, but c'mon, Refinery 29! Internet, can we cut the slideshow crap? I thought nobody cared about page views anymore?)

Out of the box: How to use your blow-dryer for auto body work, and seven other non-beauty tips involving beauty products.

Globetrotter: As a total xenophile, I'm loving Venusian Glow's new series on global beauty, in which women from various regions share beauty routines, products, and attitudes. First up: Australia, where apparently having a real tan as opposed to a spray one is actually frowned upon.

Manicure message: Phoebe nails it (oi!) on the peculiar appeal of nail art: "[T]he more complicated your nails, the more of a statement you're making about your willingness to scrub the kitchen floor, or to bake bread from scratch. It's telling men ... that you take care of yourself, and aren't looking to pick up after them. Which could be why it's so appealing as an antidote to stressful domestic tasks." Strictly speaking, I don't do stressful domestic tasks (I'm willing to live with the dust bunnies, and I treat bread mold sort of like Where's Waldo), but I have noticed that the more demanding my work, the more I long for a manicure. I'm too cheap to get an actual manicure on a regular basis, but I can measure this in temptation points, right?

Child's play: If there's a kid or teen in your life who's passionate about fashion and has expressed interest in it as a career, point them toward Final Fashion for this post by Danielle Meder about ways to nurture/direct that energy.

Size 8s unite: Kjerstin Gruys takes a skeptical yet open look at the recent spate of "size 8 pride" among celebrities like Mindy Kaling and Miranda Lambert: "I think that claiming to be a 'size 8' is intended to give us the impression that the celebrity is not so skinny that we can't relate to her, but also not so fat that we cringe on her behalf, or no longer aspire to be her." (P.S.: Check out the 20/20 segment on Kjerstin's mirror-free year that aired on Wednesday. Just try to watch it and not get a little teary during her first dance at the wedding, mmmkay?)