Conservative feminism and the more orthodox schools have very different views on beauty. The former accepts that woman’s physical attraction is essential to her well-being, the other doesn’t appear to.
The Woman’s Equality Party, which is looking to field candidates in next year’s elections, has urged supporters on its website to report ‘articles that describe or comment on a woman’s clothing, relationship status or number of children where this would not have been included in an article about a man.’
They believe that this sort of reporting, when it happens, is demeaning women and perpetuating gender stereotypes.
While I agree it can be irksome, is this not just a tad hypocritical seeing as women spend so much of their time focusing on these very subjects—their children, relationships, or, indeed, their clothing?
Neither is it by pure accident that, despite the last fifty years or so of the devaluation of traditional femininity in place of egalitarian feminism, the cosmetics industry is now booming like never before. With more money in their pocket (or pocket books) from higher salaries gained by equality in the workplace, women are choosing to spend their earnings on, amongst other things, more and more lipstick and hair products. As a result, the beauty industry is now worth more than £300 billion per year.
This obsession with grooming is not as self-indulgent as at appears at first glance. In France, caring for your appearance, whether you’re male or female, is considered a part and parcel of maintaining stable mental health. Unkempt hair and disinterest in your looks is the first in a number of boxes to be ticked which signal onset of ‘la depression’.
Also, being attractive–as opposed to the opposite–confers many other advantages to be gained even in today’s modern, emancipated workplace where it shouldn’t matter any more. Good looking or well-presented people, rightly or wrongly, are judged to be more intelligent, and, as a result of this, they can earn more money.
Hence the more women glam up, they more they are promoted, the more they get paid, and the more they have to spend on face creams and accessories. Then the more of these items they buy, the more it gets written about by journalists. And so on and so forth. A continual spiral of cosmetic spend, caused , not by evil men or other forces trying to return female executives back home to clean behind the fridges, but by women themselves.
There are also some real advantages to be had in flashing the female style card or drawing attention to a woman’s innate capacity for handling complex personal relationships, work and children. In this respect no one springs to mind more so than the late Margaret Thatcher. Her well-publicised handbags, clothes and jewellery, which filled acres of newsprint, motivated large numbers of women to feel comfortable with their femininity at the same time as developing their leadership potential. In fact such was the importance of the outfits to her work in Ministerial office on behalf of the UK that that the sale of her wardrobe has already raised millions.
It seems that, like it or not, how we put ourselves across in public, whether by way of confidence or by physical adornment, is important. And not everyone has a lot to spend on it. Thousands of women, who hold their priorities in good order, such as putting family feeding ahead of splurging on themselves, derive great pleasure from a simple £3 pot of nail varnish bought from Boots. In that way the cosmetic industry has its proud part to play in the cycle of happiness.
The reality is that men and women consume differently and all you have to do is cast a glance around in the shopping centres to see that in action.There’s just no point in being anything but honest about it.