Fatal Attraction: Cosmetics and Chemicals

2 Wonderful Infographics

Fatal Attraction: Cosmetics and Chemicals

Beautiful Problems


The Gist: Cosmetic products in the United States are notoriously under-regulated. One in three lipsticks were found to have lead contamination in levels exceeding the allowable limits for food products, and yet the average woman will consume 4 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime.

The Rant: The implication of this chart is to stop wearing deodorant and lipstick, to eschew hair products and fragrant soaps. Bra burning is optional.

(almost) No one is going to do this. If you’re anything like me, you will guiltily peak at the ingredient list on the back of your deodorant, get distracted by that disproportionate silhouette on the bottle, and slather on whatever cream/paste/powder/gel just as eagerly the next morning. girl’s gotta look good right?

So why do we exfoliate/tone/squeeze/pluck/moisturize?
A. Looking Good = Feeling Good (I do it for myself)
B. Looking Good = Getting Ahead (I do it for my career)
C. Looking Good = Attractive (I do it for positive attention from others)
D. I deliberately make myself look like shit in order to get revenge on other people’s eyeballs.
E. Other

If you answered E: Please stop trying to be unique. I bet you wear wear fake horn rim glasses, you pretentious fuck.

If you answered D: Please get help. Or look into ICP, y’know, whatever floats your boat

If you answered C: wow…that’s pretty honest of you, good job.

If you answered B: You probably work for tips

If you answered A: Winner! Or rather, this is the line that every glossy pink magazine ever has tried to sell. After all, the best pressure comes from inside.

Contrary to what my rants may indicate about the role of male dominated media (Bechdel test, anyone?), no one MAKES you stare in the mirror and identify every freckle, every pore, every fine line. Part of it can be explained by the prevalence of false standards of beauty, unrealistic airbrushing yadayada… You’ve heard this before. But, like the infographic, it probably hasn’t impacted your life in any meaningful way. Maybelline’s airbrush escapades aside, women’s foundation, mascara, and lipstick sales have been impervious to even the worst economic downturn in a way that necessities such as groceries could only dream of doing.

The origins of this are, however, much more sinister. Women are not taught to value themselves as organic existences. The tradeoff of health and beauty has always weighed in favor of the latter, and it is a lynchpin in the deadened passivity of female social roles. When we sacrifice our right to live full lives in favor of outward appearances, we are voluntary subjugating ourselves to outside definition. Feminist Fatale does an excellent analysis of how. Women are not seen as creatures of utility, but instead as decorative side liners. It all seems so very…Victorian. Only, it’s worse, because the modern woman is expected to do it all–2010 was the first year in which.

Case in point: a man can wear sneakers, or hiking pants, or Under Armour base layers, and still be considered fairly competent. A woman’s perceived job competence directly correlates to how much make up she wears. Yes, I understand there are other factors at play, and men face this too, but none of this mitigates the fact that women simply are not taught to value themselves for what they can accomplish, but by how they are perceived.

This is why women continually poison themselves and their bodies. We cannot empower ourselves so long as we view our comfort and our physical agency as somehow secondary to an impossible and arbitrary standard of beauty. Why do we commend men for bravery, intellect, innovation, and women for beauty and loyalty? More to the point, why can’t we demand those same accolades?

An ex- boyfriend once compared me to a flower, and , while cliched, there is something very poignant about the comparison. Flowers are beautiful, and cultivated to be so, but they wilt, and they die, and they are eventually replaced. Women are not flowers. We are people, and we should demand to be treated as such, even if it means losing our favorite lipstick.


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