Wear makeup, get promoted.

A new study reports that women wearing makeup are perceived as more likable, competent, and trustworthy, and the New York Times is on it. In other words, as the Times put it: “cosmetics boost a woman’s attractiveness.” The study was paid for by Procter & Gamble, who sells CoverGirl cosmetics, and designed and executed by researchers at Boston University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I can’t wait to see how CoverGirl is going to harness this research to sell us ladies more endocrine-disrupting potions to slather on our faces!

This is real no-shit-Sherlock science, but I suppose it’s good to get it out of the way and established. But I’m surprised at the Times‘ treatment of it. The article barely gives the time of day to Stanford Law professor and author of The Beauty Bias (also major legal scholar on issues of legal ethics and gender) Deborah Rhode, describing herself as not a “beauty basher.” The article does quote the study’s lead author, Nancy Etcoff, saying:

“Twenty or 30 years ago, if you got dressed up, it was simply to please men, or it was something you were doing because society demands it,” she said. “Women and feminists today see this is their own choice, and it may be an effective tool.”

Yes, it’s true – many women and feminists do see getting dressed up and putting on makeup as their own choice, and they may use it as an effective tool to get what they want in society. But that doesn’t begin to address the point that it’s a choice that perpetuates a historically- and culturally-embedded demeaning of women’s value.

In fact, the article does kind of implicitly illustrate this point:

“I’m a little surprised that the relationship held for even the glamour look,” said Richard Russell, an assistant professor of psychology at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pa. “If I call to mind a heavily competent woman like, say, Hillary Clinton, I don’t think of a lot of makeup. Then again, she’s often onstage so for all I know she is wearing a lot.”

Exactly. You almost certainly are never going to see Hillary Clinton wearing no makeup. The fact that this (male) professor of psychology doesn’t even realize that Hillary Clinton always wears makeup in public is why our society needs to stop this ridiculous beauty standards arms race.

I recently watched the trailer for the documentary Miss Representation, which looks like it deals with this issue pretty well:


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