And none of this really adds up, which generally means that you need to back it up and take a look around for some other dynamic that is probably the real controlling mechanism.
But first, I'm kind of curious about this. Is it true that (some) women love make-up, or any of the other beauty regimes that are thought to be so central to the performance of femininity? If you're a woman reading this post, and you wear make-up, do you love it, or even like it? Do you identify with wearing make-up, or any of the other beauty rituals in a significant way? I guess I always thought that for women who wear make-up, it's just another one of those slightly unpleasant, time consuming things that you nevertheless feel obligated to do. Or that you've internalized the idea that you can't look good without.
At my stepdaughter's afterschool program a few months ago they had a spa day for the girls which involved styling their hair and applying some awfully adult looking make-up. She came home and showed me and said "don't I look beautiful?" It was like a trick question. I didn't want to say "yes," and reaffirm the idea she's already picked up on that what makes a woman's face beautiful is the stuff she puts on it. But I also didn't want to tell her she didn't look beautiful. Needless to say, a long conversation ensued.
So, if men aren't particularly turned on by a lot of our beauty conventions, and women don't love them for reasons that are entirely independent from the social dictate that women must cater to the male gaze, then what's driving these beauty trends? What's motivating them?
You can probably guess that my theory will have to do with the beauty-industrial-complex, and the need for constant market growth, which requires ever-evolving and increasing demands, which in turn requires a set of constantly-changing perceived needs on the part of the consumer. I have a vague sense of how this might work. It seems to me that the make-up ads out there are always telling you about how some cosmetic product solves some problem you have with your existing one, or does something your old brand doesn't do. Some lipsticks last longer, or make your lips shinier (if that's the current trend). Some mascaras don't clump as easily, or they make your lashes longer (seriously, now) or plumper or something. Foundations have a (get this) more "natural" look. Like they make you look like you're not wearing any make-up.* And then there's eye color, which is one of the things the panel of male experts consulted by Yahoo for this article complained about. It seems to me that the trendy eye colors have to change from year to year, or you'll be able to buy one color or set of colors and it will last you a really long time, so you won't be spending money on it. But if no make-up trend lasts for more than a few months, or maybe a year, and if your beauty "needs" are constantly evolving, then you'll constantly be buying new products.
And that's how an industrial-complex works, right? You have to constantly be manufacturing both the demand for your product and the product itself. It's a self-sustaining system. What gets left out of the system is 1) what women actually
...anyway, the beauty-industrial-complex theory seems like a compelling explanation for this dynamic to me, but I'm sure it will have it's critics. So, what other competing explanations are there? How do we make sense of all the collective silliness?
*Incidentally, I have an idea about how you can make your face look like you're not wearing any make-up, and it even has the added benefit of allowing you to sleep in an extra half hour every morning, or however long it takes to apply make-up. Send me $50 and a self-addressed stamped envelope, and I'll share my idea with you. Your life will never be the same.
**Of course, none of this conversation will have anything to do with what lesbian and bi women find attractive in women, because hetero relationships are always centered in these kinds of discussions, so it's just plain silly that you would even notice the fact that in articles like this we always talk as if the whole world is heterosexual.