Wednesday, January 26, 2011

All dolled up

I just came across this link on Fark, and just about fainted. Essentially, the article asserts, the recent absence of Mary-Kate and Ashley's finished cosmetics line on the shelves at WalMart is going to be filled by makeup that's targeted at cis girls in the 8-12 age range. Yes, you read that right. 8-12.

I think Emily's post from November does a great job of unfolding some of the personal, cultural, and political questions raised by the spectre of makeup, so I'm taking a leaf from her book to give a quick reaction to the WalMart marketing plan.

My first thought was a knee-jerk "WHAT?!?!", followed by a total-body sense of outrage. Eight, from my perspective, is far too young to be thinking that your skin needs specific products to make it attractive. For that matter, any age is. When I thought about it a little more, though, and remembered myself at ages 11 and 12, I (an admittedly flirting-and-sexually-interested-at-an-early-age person) realized that that was the age that my friend Maura and I used to go to drugstores, buy any beauty products we could, and give each other "spa treatments" and makeovers during late-night sleepovers. Of course, wearing makeup out of the house at that point was a major no-no, so my (teenaged) response was to put on just enough to make myself feel defiant before leaving for school. End result? I doubt the makeup was noticeable on me. But at age 12, wearing makeup felt empowering because it meant rebelling against my parents' rules and being "all grown up."

Now, looking at this WalMart line and juxtaposing it with my own late-tween idiosyncracies, I find myself less angry at the fact that 12-year-olds are being sold makeup (though 8 years old still makes me feel ill) and more outraged at the fact that this is how cis girls are taught to grow up. And when I say "grow up," I don't mean "behave when they become adults," but "behave now to appear grown up." In other words, what that marketing campaign is communicating is
-The primary function of women is to look beautiful.
-Makeup makes you look beautiful.
-Therefore, you need to wear makeup in order to look beautiful.
An addendum, of course, is that since these logical steps apply to women, this is the process that girls must undergo to become women (or to grow up).

It makes me wish that the makeover saleswoman described in Emily's post had made everyone push the button on the mirror before the makeover happened, so they were told that it's not the makeup that makes them beautiful. But then...that wouldn't be marketing.

No comments:

Post a Comment