April 29 2013
Feminism Falling through the Cracks:
Cosmetics; personal expression or oppressive tool? Arguments that have contrasting views of a subject often come up short in being holistic. The black or white view is of course missing various shades of gray. While some think that cosmetics are excessively a tool of the patriarchy, others believe the use of cosmetics could be a tool to express autonomy and individuality. The second-wave liberal feminism claims that, "The personal is political" (Hanisch). Personal choices reflect larger political ideals. While critics of liberal feminism put more values in distinctly feminist social actions (Tong, 39). Later feminist frameworks allow more room for female empowerment through the sex appeal of cosmetics. The use of cosmetics as an art form has existed from far back in distant history (Marwick). The use of beautification products within our current Western culture could be used as a strong means of expression by individuals, but is often used as a trope against female progress.
The choice to adorn oneself, to use cosmetics as an outward expression of self, as can be seen in third wave feminism, as useful. However, this opinion should not overshadow all the possible evils of the makeup industry. Second-wave feminist are quick to point of the faults of cosmetic companies with capitalist and commercial goals objectify women within magazine and television ads. Critic of the third-wave such as Michelle Goldberg bring up how the third wave new of cosmetics ties into capitalist agenda, “This new shopping-and-fucking feminism is so ubiquitous right now in part because it jibes precisely with the message of consumer society, that freedom means”. Critics of third wave feminism are especially harsh on the views of the third wave peers on the subject of cosmetics and beauty. Assuming that third wave feminism projects wearing this lipstick is feminist because proving that feminists can wear lipstick, can be seen as pointless.
Third wave defends its stance on cosmetics fervently. Naomi Wolf in Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women, makes a strong third wave argument, that cosmetics are not the enemy, rather the guilt women feel about using cosmetics, coming from the patriarchy, or even the second wave, is the real villain ( pg. 360). Here we will try to reconcile contradicting views and form a framework that addresses all sides of this multifaceted issue. Issues such as this one highlight the difference between the second and third wave feminist movements.
Understanding the stances of both sides of the double binds allows others to understand the pleasure and the pain women currently and historically have undergone regarding cosmetics. Cosmetics and body ideals have undergone dangerous changes from the earlier movement, beauty ideals have gone viral and the cosmetic industry is more powerful than ever before. Navigating the murky waters of cosmetics is difficult for many women in the U.S today. The second-wave mothers, and the third wave daughters must be knowledgeable of one another's opinions and reconcile their differences. Both second and third wave feminism have unique differences, but also have much in common. There are strength in numbers, and mutual understanding can bring about mutual action. We should carry on into the future of feminism in the contemporary U.S. feminism’s enemy should not be other feminists. Reconciling, communicating, and understanding can bring about the next feminist movement, perhaps, “no wave” feminism.
Before we discuss opinions on cosmetics we must understand the cultural history of cosmetics and its meaning to the modern day. As far back as 10,000 BC ancient Egyptians crafted and wore makeup, eyeliner, and powders (Chaudhri & Jain 4). Many other cultures, including Middle Eastern, Hindu, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, and Roman, used forms of what we think of as cosmetics today,