When I started noticing brands marketing their cosmetics and accessories with what seemed like pro-feminist campaigns, I was pleased. If nothing else, it’s taking the stigma out of the term and movement, right?
But some aspects of the trend weren’t sitting well with me. I started grumbling my way through Glossier’s #empowering Instagram feed. Finally, a gold-plated ‘Feminist’ necklace from ASOS pushed me from uncertain to insulted.
See, feminism has been used to sell beauty for ages. Dove is probably best known for their ‘real women’ adverts in the noughties, where they wiped our tears, told us we weren’t as ugly as we thought and that, yes, we can buy nice soap too. I grew up with that kind of commercialised empowerment so, while it rings hollow, it doesn’t grate as much.
I mean, it’s shallow. It’s not doing much, other than telling me I’m pretty. The risk of Dove tearing down feminism from the inside? Very small. Plus, I like their shower creams. I can cope with their shtick.
Glossier, the biggest new name in the beauty industry, sells itself as “a celebration of this freedom…real girls, in real life.”
The cosmetics are made to be sheer so that imperfections (and your personality, apparently) can shine through. Unfortunately, Glossier gal’s imperfections are freckle dustings, delicate veining, a flash of a faded scar. It’s the same beauty standard that any other brand keeps – embrace little quirks, don’t dare mention acne, sagging, deep, dark circles, melasma – anything that’s not runway ready cannot exist in this space.
Glossier has just slapped some body-positive feminist rhetoric and millennial pink branding on what could be a Chanel, Max Factor or MAC advert. It’s Malibu Stacy’s hat, again.
Corporate feminism, only concerned with women once they’ve got their masters, a start-up and a table at a monthly networking breakfast, springs to mind. I feel like the hype surrounding the Glossier aesthetic works on the same level – upholding a beauty standard that, actually, few people meet, but pretending it’s possible for all.
The real damage, beyond what it might mean for your self-esteem, is what effect this has on how young women themselves are relating to and perceiving feminism.
I wonder, if marketers were riding feminism like this when I was trying to learn about it, would I have been taken in? Would I think Kim Kardashian’s contour was the patriarchy at work, but the pursuit glossy cheeks and bushy brows would set me free?
It’s only makeup, natch, and, but I feel like we need to call out this branding for what it is. Classing common, socially acceptable features on the human face as flaws – even if it is to ‘celebrate’ them – is about as feminist as that feckin’ gold-plated ASOS necklace.