Damned if You Do, Damned If You Don’t: In 2019, Let’s Be Done With With The Beauty Prejudice Already

 

 

Elizabeth I‘s make-up killed her. At least according to some historians. In her attempt to look youthful and blemish-free, the queen used a toxic white powder, Ceruse, containing high doses of lead. As you can imagine, lead isn’t something you want to put on your face every single day for years. No wonder the prosthetics and cosmetics to turn Margot Robbie into Queen Elizabeth I in the much-anticipated film, Mary Queen of Scots, gets so much attention. There’s an almost macabre fascination with it.  Margot looks freaky and that “look” actually ends up killing her.

But my fascination with her appearance is for a different reason. The queen went to great lengths to look like this (and suffer for it in multiple ways) for much of the same reasons we “kill” ourselves to look beautiful. According to Rebecca Onion‘s detailed story in Slate, The Real Story Behind Margot Robbie’s Wild Queen Elizabeth Makeup, Elizabeth was stuck. She was expected to look youthful and beautiful, as Onion explains: ‘People perceived a queen’s beauty as a sign of her divine right to rule.” In other words, she had to look good for her job. Sound familiar? Being the Queen, and a virgin at that, she became a worshipped, a cult-like figure that MUST remain youthful. Her appearance was one key aspect of that worship. “Living inside it all, Elizabeth clearly seemed to realize her presentation of a mask that didn’t slip was critical to her survival.” writes Onion.

At the same time, however, there was a strong anti-face-painting movement brewing. It’s questionable how much her subjects actually criticized her for it, but historians point to jokes made about her and published criticisms of the use of cosmetics in general stating that painted women are foolish, foul and abominable. Elizabeth just couldn’t win this game. Either she loses for looking old and ugly or she loses for masking her changing skin. And no question, she loses to her make-up’s poisonous effects.

Times have changed. Make-up won’t kill you (though some plastic surgery, like botched butt enhancements for example, can). Women can lead without having to be worshipped. And adorning ourselves with cosmetics is second nature. But we, women, aren’t fully immune from the high, and often complex, beauty expectations demanded of us in society. We have to look youthful, so as not to be deemed as frumpy and, thus, old-fashioned or not on the cutting edge of our fields.  And, at the same time, we can’t look too beautiful, so as not to appear too provocative or frivolous, and therefore, not smart or competent. Let’s be honest, how many of you — women and men — comment on what your female corporate or political leaders wear vs your male leaders wear? I remember these very discussions when my division was led by a woman.  I willingly took part in these conversations too! I’m not blameless. We didn’t want our female leaders to appear unstylish. Now that it’s being led by a man, not a word is raised. I’m not saying male leaders aren’t expected appear a certain way. It’s that it doesn’t become water cooler conversation, ever.

I love beauty. I love to play with make-up, wear fun outfits and get my hair blown out. I undoubtedly feel more confident and energized. And, yes, I want to be admired for it too. But why does it need to go beyond that? Why do women have to be caught between all of these tensions? Why can’t we look frumpy or dolled up without any of the negative associations? Why can’t we look beautiful without being accused of being flirty and flighty? My only hope is that as men invest in their beauty more (according to the American Association of Plastic Surgery, in 2017, nearly 100,000 men had filler injections, a 99 percent increase since 2000), we will level the playing field, and the conversations will turn from what women and men look like to whether they have something worthy to say and give to society.

 

Masculinity, Beauty & Peace: How a Light Make-Over Show Can Be the Key to Tolerance

Queer Eye’s Fab Five

While it’s the month to officially celebrate women, I’m actually going to turn our attention to men today.

In my quest to find a binge-able show on Netflix, I was scrolling through its latest releases and happened upon  “Queer Eye,” the remake of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”  While the make-over premise is still the same, this version has a new team or “Fab Five” and differentiates itself by evolving some of the least likely types — from religious Christians to self-described red necks.   Out of desperation for something — anything — to watch, I gave it a whirl.   Within days I had watched all eight episodes and cried at the close of  EVERY SINGLE ONE.  Needless to say I was moved.  And I’m not the sentimental type.

Every one of the male “subjects” featured goes through a major transformation.  Sure, each gets a better haircut and wardrobe in the end.  But that’s not what I’m talking about.  They all become more open-minded, more understanding and more self-loving.  And like me, each of them cries at the end of his metamorphosis.  But don’t discount the physical changes.  It’s because they have elevated their personal beauty, and the beauty of their surroundings, that this tremendous change happens.

I was so excited with the show that I immediately called my long-time friend and partner-in-crime on all my professional anthropological studies: cultural anthropologist, Thomas Maschio.  Because his insights never cease to amaze me, I basically forced him to watch this show and share his thoughts.  Like me, he was moved.  And like me he saw how it was the beautification process in particular that brought these men to a higher plane.

Would these men have evolved if they learned other things, like playing a sport or learning to appreciate poetry?  To some extent yes, but it was their exposure to beauty rituals and their new found knowledge of beautiful things that stretched them as far as they did.   Tom phrased it like this: “beauty opens up inner space or emotional life for the subjects/objects of the Fab Fives’ attentions.  It frees them up from their constricted ways of feeling and their constricted ways of moving about their own lives.”  In other words, beauty opened them up, and as a result, each has his own “coming out” experience.

What’s really going on here?  As the consummate anthropologist, Tom points out that each episode has a ritual of sorts that leads to the transformation:

  1. Setting out  —  the team gets an overview of the subjects and his particular areas of development
  2. Encounter and initial assessment —  the Fab Five meets the subject and sees all of his issues …often this can be the most hilarious part of the show
  3. Discarding of material objects  —  as it sounds, an in-your-face act of throwing the old life away, from stained easy-chairs to clothes that are 5 sizes too big.
  4. Sharing of truths (mutual empathy) — these are often the most profound moments.  While the individual team members are very different from each subject, there’s always something they bond over.  This could be a fear of coming out to one’s family, an intolerance of the “other,” or the sad truth that neglect of one’s appearance shows a lack of concern for his partner.
  5.  Teaching and convincing — life coaching through scotch tasting or shopping or a trip to the salon.
  6. Connection — emotional recognition by the subject for his need to evolve and his gratitude to the team for his reinvention
  7. Reintroduction to the social realm — this is when the men reveal themselves to their families or loved ones and take the leap they didn’t have the courage to do prior to the experience.  They all gain greater confidence in themselves which opens themselves up for more love and kindness towards others, e.g., their wives, parents, children and friends.

Through these steps the men change.  The outward changes lead directly to inward ones.  And beautification is the impetus.  As Tom explains it: “Beauty opens people up…the beautiful is disruptive; disrupts perception, enlarges it, halts the usual flow of thinking and feeling.  So when these guys are introduced to that in ways they can understand, their usual ways of going about things are disrupted.”   Because most of the subjects live in a culture that embraces a conservative or hyper western sense of masculinity, e.g, lack of concern around attire and grooming and a more constricted way of socializing, the Fab Five free these men to explore new, more expansive aspects of male beauty, and maleness in general.

What’s more, these men embody the changes.  They experience them via their physical selves, not just their intellectual or spiritual ones.  From new hairstyles to beard looks to eating different foods, these reformed men literally see the transformations on and around themselves.  Finally, whether it’s via grooming, getting dressed or or consuming more sophisticated flavors, these men are literally touching their physical selves.  They are performing acts of self care which I believe help them  love and care for themselves more.

Why do I care so much about this?  As I’ve said in previous posts, I think men in our society can only benefit from getting in touch with their physical selves.  By opening themselves up to beauty, they will not only see the world in a new, elevated way, but they will get in touch with their bodies.  The result?  A greater appreciation of themselves, and in turn, more empathy and love for others.  Now, more than ever, in this time of so much hatred and abuse in our society, don’t we need this?  If more men actually loved themselves, not in narcissistic way but because of their new-found confidence, they would undoubtedly embrace others.  And if beauty is the key to unlock this change then let’s harness it.  And oh yeah, who doesn’t love to see men in a well tailored suit?.  That’s something we should all celebrate!

Week in Review: 1/1-1/7

Need to Bundle Up These Days

Ah, we survived the first week of 2012.  So what did we discuss on Beautyskew?  Take a look…
I shared all the beautiful reinventing my family and I experienced over the course of the year Weekend Observations: The Beauty of Reinvention
Adding to the list of creepy but beautiful art exhibits that I admire, our Pic of the Week shared photos of Susie MacMurrays’ weird but cool show of art made from mundane objects Pic of the Week: An Eerie Look at the Human Condition
Karen shares her progress in week 6 of her 30 week weight loss plan, and urges herself to turn her good intentions into action in 30in30: Showing Up
Is it bad taste for head hunters to encourage their candidates to make over their appearance along with their resumes? Should Make-Overs Be Encouraged Before Job Interviews?
Add to your weekend reading list with these fascinating beauty-in-culture stories we found this week  More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

Have a fantastic weekend!


Week in Review: 11/13-11/19

Let’s take a look at what we shared this week, shall we?

My new look and what it symbolizes Weekend Observations: A New Look for a New Me

Check out the new exhibit of artist photographs of Africa Americans throughout the decades Pic of the Week: Arresting Images of African-American Culture

Great to see fashion brands using age-appropriate models! Miu Miu Ages Up

Jessica Simpson admits that her embarrassing Mom jeans pics may have been brilliant move How Being Curvy is Great for Branding

More juicy beauty news More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

Going out for sushi night-on-the town.  Can’t wait!

Weekend Observations: A New Look for a New Me

Ok, I know it’s not the clearest picture I could have taken (blame that on the iPad) but as you can see I got some make-up on.  I splurged and bought a whole new make-up kit at Barneys.  I spent a luscious hour getting my face made-up by the Beauty Guru, Jason Ascher, and then went all out.

And I didn’t feel one drop of trepidation doing it!

This much-needed, overdue make-over wasn’t just a gift for myself, but a sign of a make-over in my life.  Soon I will be departing, not only my company, but the world of advertising and entering a whole new industry.  So of course I need to refresh my look as a result.  But even more than that, I need to refresh my attitude, my brain and my soul too.  I’ve written about the powerful, transformative effects of make-overs in the past, i.e., that they not only shift our attitudes, but can also propel us to make actual physical/mental changes in our lives (Weekend Observations: Changing Your Lipstick Can Be Pretty Deep), so I decided to see if its true for me too!

What better way to start than my face?  Oh, and my hair is next….

As I strutted along the streets of New York this weekend with my new make-up (though I confess I couldn’t quite replicate the brilliance of the Beauty Guru) I did feel like a new woman.  I can’t wait to see where my next adventure takes me (new look and all!)

Weekend Observations: We Really Do Look Younger as We Age!

Take a look at this pic!  Yes, that’s me in 1995.

Yikes!

My mom found this photo from my college year book.  She was surprised that she had never seen my it.

Hmmmm, I wonder why!!!!!

Look at the suit and pearls…I’m 20-something going on 50.

Wow, there’s no question styles (and photographers) are better today.

I have nothing more profound to say on the subject other than if you want to feel really good about how you look today, there’s probably no need to go shopping, get a haircut, or get a make-over.   Just go through some old photos.  You’ll be amazed at how sexy, cool, and beautiful you are now!

Week in Review: 9/11-9/17

If you have some time to steal yourself away from all the Fashion Week coverage, take a look at what we shared this week:

Why it’s so key that the 9/11 memorial is as beautiful as it is Weekend Observations: Remembering Through Beauty

The significance of who won (and who didn’t win) the Miss Universe title Pic of the Week: First African Miss Universe

New study bears out another, more intimate role for cosmetics in our lives Another Powerful Role of Cosmetics

A psychologist experiences a make-over and realizes why we should all want and try to be beautiful Stop Judging Me for Wanting to be Beautiful

Not satisfied with out POV? Take a look at some more beauty reading from other sources More to Love: Additions to the Reading List

Enjoy the last days of summer!

Weekend Observations: It's Time for a Make-Over!

No, I’m not going on “What Not to Wear” or anything like that (th
ough I am getting my semi-annual haircut this week, yippee).
Beautyskew is getting a major make-over!If you’ve been following the blog, you probably have noticed some delay with the posts.  Well, we’ve moved hosts and soon we’re going to be changing our look.
Why a makeover?  For one thing, it’s the American way.  We Americans love progress.  We believe in the power of transformation.  Make-overs are examples of that.  We can go from ho-hum to beautiful with a few snips, a couple of new outfits and a change of lipstick.  (See our post, Britney: An American Icon for further dicussion on that topic.)
Another, more functional reason?  Upgrading the theme, i.e., the look of the blog, will both enhance the feel of it and permit us to do cool stuff on the back end which will help us understand how to improve the user-experience for you.
Please be patient with any weirdness you may encounter with the blog as we prepare for the big reveal in a day or so.  Hopefully you won’t notice many differences until then.
In the meantime, I’ll post my new “do” after my haircut on Tuesday.
Hope you’re looking forward to our new look!
🙂

Weekend Observations: It’s Time for a Make-Over!

No, I’m not going on “What Not to Wear” or anything like that (th

ough I am getting my semi-annual haircut this week, yippee).

Beautyskew is getting a major make-over!If you’ve been following the blog, you probably have noticed some delay with the posts.  Well, we’ve moved hosts and soon we’re going to be changing our look.

Why a makeover?  For one thing, it’s the American way.  We Americans love progress.  We believe in the power of transformation.  Make-overs are examples of that.  We can go from ho-hum to beautiful with a few snips, a couple of new outfits and a change of lipstick.  (See our post, Britney: An American Icon for further dicussion on that topic.)

Another, more functional reason?  Upgrading the theme, i.e., the look of the blog, will both enhance the feel of it and permit us to do cool stuff on the back end which will help us understand how to improve the user-experience for you.

Please be patient with any weirdness you may encounter with the blog as we prepare for the big reveal in a day or so.  Hopefully you won’t notice many differences until then.

In the meantime, I’ll post my new “do” after my haircut on Tuesday.

Hope you’re looking forward to our new look!

🙂