Is Shunning Makeup the Key to Gender Equity at Work?

Is Shunning Makeup the Key to Gender Equity at Work?

A few weeks ago, I left the house and headed to Aaron Brothers to claim my insanely overpriced but very pretty custom frame. After a few blocks, I looked into the rear view mirror and realized with a start that I'd left the house without a stitch of makeup on.

With chagrin, I admit I actually considered heading home to slap on some mascara.

So it was with particular interest that I watched Tracey Spicer's TED talk entitled "The Lady Stripped Bare." In the 15 minute speech, Spicer, a TV personality, recounts how much time she and women everywhere spend on personal grooming--more than 3,000 hours in a lifetime. And, how that time reduces women's productivity and ability to get ahead in the workplace since it's three times as much as men's. But, she also points out how grooming is a societal expectation for women, that, love it or hate it, is quite controlling.

To demonstrate her resistance, Spicer washed her face, spritzed her coif with water to make it more natural (aka frizzy), tossed her heels and even stripped out of her dress. The performance was so refreshing.

Spicer's ultimate point? That protesting personal grooming, slowly but surely, will help advance the feminist project. You know, that whole equality thing. After all, how much time do men spend slapping on make-up, shaving legs, styling hair, bronzing, etc. etc.?

I felt somewhat skeptical at the simplicity of her suggestions... to simply stop playing the game, to actively speak against these social norms. But I wonder... will individual women's resistance of beauty norms really work? Can't I be a feminist and maintain platinum status at Ulta, too? What if I think about shoes and nail polish as creative expressions and not the constricting influence of patriarchy? Am I just deluded? How much of daily make-up wearing is conforming to social norms and how much is sheer habit?

Ultimately, I'm not sure that I'll find myself giving up make-up or heels or shaving altogether, but I appreciate the call to think critically about the message we send to others, especially kids. (Spicer's talk was inspired by her 7-year old who asked her why she wore make-up.)

What say you?

Cross-posted from 

Related Posts

I Choose My Kids Over Friends and Me-Time

A friend is having a fabulous 40th birthday getaway in a few months. It involves a short flight and a drive and some fabulous scenery and spa and an overnight stay at a great house. Guests are making their plans for flying in from all over the place and it looks like a really good time. I'll be sending my regrets. It's not the money, or the schedule, or even childcare, really, that is keeping me away. Those things can be worked out. It's this person right here. He has spent every night of his short 20 months firmly tucked in against my side and nursing when he wakes before drifting off to sleep again.   Read more >

I'm Not Too Cool to Beg, Not For Thai Orphans

I used to try and be cool. It wasn't even a conscious thing but I had this ingrained habit of being non-committal about things. Don't let people know you care. Better yet, don't care at all. Keep your hand close. Smile only occasionally. Be hard to impress. I don't know why. I have many, many guesses. But I don't want to talk about that. I want to talk about when it changed for me.   Read more >

An Interview with Rachel Devenish Ford, author of The Eve Tree

There is a gentle fragility about Rachel, or Rae as most people call her. She is vulnerable in the strongest way possible, wearing her heart on her sleeve. We've known each other since we were single, she was 18, I was 20, and we traveled the west coast of Canada and the US in a giant 16 passenger van with 4 other girls.   Read more >

Recent Posts by bluestmuse


In order to comment on, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.