Beauty Industry

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Black Women are Regaining Market Share in the Beauty Supply Industry

According to the market research firm Mintel, black women spend approximately $500 billion on hair care. To put that figure into perspective, that’s about 35 times larger than the gross domestic product of my birthplace, Jamaica. Black women spend more money on hair care than any other group, yet very few hair care companies and beauty supply stores are owned by individuals of African descent. It is for this reason that a recent article in The New York Times struck a hopeful chord. The disproportionate levels of ownership of companies marketing black hair care by non-blacks remains and realistically, may persist for some time. However, there are signs the market is shifting as black women develop greater inroads into the massive hair care market.

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A response to Naomi Wolf | language: a feminist guide

by Deborah Cameron, Oxford Professor of Language and Communication

You made your name by writing a book that criticized the policing of women’s bodies and their appearance. You recognized that the constant pressure to look ‘better’—thinner, prettier, more groomed, more stylish—is a form of social control, fuelling a never-ending quest for physical perfection whose inevitable failure leads to alienation and self-hatred. And yet when it comes to women’s speech, you take the same approach yourself that the beauty industry uses to sell its products. First convince women they have a problem, then present them with a solution. ‘Detoxify your language and be a better, more successful person’.

What’s really destructive and undermining to women is not their way of speaking but the constant criticism to which their speech is subjected. Telling women their speech-habits are bad and wrong is not going to make them more confident speakers: it’s more likely to reduce them to silence. Continually repeating that women’s speech lacks authority just gives people yet another reason to dismiss whatever they say as unworthy of serious attention.

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Sexy Inc. (2007)

[Psychologist and author Sharon Lamb speaking in gifset]

“Sophie Bissonnette’s documentary analyzes the hypersexualization of our environment and its noxious effects on young people. Psychologists, teachers and school nurses criticize the unhealthy culture surrounding … children, where marketing and advertising  are targeting younger and younger audiences and bombarding them with sexual and sexist images. Sexy Inc. suggests various ways of countering hypersexualization and the eroticization of childhood and invites us to rally against this worrying phenomenon.” - (x)

Actress/Director Rosario Dawson played an HIV-positive drug addict in the movie “Rent,” and lost weight in order to play the role convincingly. Her experience being profusely complimented for that weight loss is an example of what happens to many women who lose weight for unhappy or unhealthy reasons, such as depression, disordered eating, and chronic illness. Her quote also highlights the need for us to redefine beauty in ways that don’t prioritize extreme thinness for all female bodies, especially since the pursuit of thinness often comes at the expense of health, life enjoyment, and survival. This post provides useful info for how we can avoid falling into those traps:


A doll with average proportions

The beauty industry is so reliant on youth. No wrinkles, no crows feet, no sagging skin, no age spots. The beauty industry’s focus is perfection, but perfection doesn’t exist. You know what exists? Laugh lines because you spent more time laughing than crying, freckles from that time you spent too much time outside, scars from that time you accidentally cut yourself when you were making your favorite dish, frayed and dried hair from that time you dyed your hair a crazy color every month in college because you got bored easily, yellow teeth from drinking too much coffee and you were too tired at the end of your days to brush them properly, age spots on your hands just like your mothers and you think of her every time you look down at them, chipped nail polish because the only time you like to paint your nails is when you’re sad and right now you’re happy, split ends because you’d rather buy the purse than the haircut, blackheads because you don’t have the patience to wait for a mask to dry so you deal with them, grey roots because you’re embracing your age rather than fighting against it. Those things are beautiful. They sell you diet pills for your baby weight, eye creams for your laugh lines, foot scrubs for your ragged feet. Those things alone reflect life, happiness and living. As a feminist I wholeheartedly believe in doing whatever you want in order to feel beautiful, but if the beauty industry didn’t exist would there be a need to feel more beautiful?

Perfect nails, poisoned workers

Please read this New York Time’s report on the health risks nail salon workers face. 

The women workers are suffering repeat miscarriages, babies born with birth defects, cancers, respiratory diseases, and painful skin conditions.

These women are often migrant workers who are severely underpaid, working in poorly ventilated conditions with unsafe chemicals. This is a feminist and labour rights issue. These workers deserve to work in safer workplace settings where they’re not exposed to toxic levels of chemicals which could kill them and their unborn children.


This is the video in question.

Makeup blogger and industry professional(?) showmemakeup doesn’t see the act of painting a white woman black as “blackface,” and therefore argues it’s a-ok, it’s just art.

This is a perpetual problem not only in the beauty and fashion world (with constant skin-lightening photoshop techniques and over-represenation of white women with barely any black models being used), but also in the online beauty and blogging community.  We’re always being told to contour the sides of our noses to make them appear “slimmer” (and therefore more European and/or white) because, god forbid, wide noses are undesirable (the implication of such frequently repeated suggestions).  We’re told to use a foundation a few shades lighter, and to then add a few shadows, because that’s “prettier” or “just the way you contour.”  Granted maybe some people WANT to do that, but putting forth these rules as “the right way to contour” instead of just “ONE way to contour” further reinforces white, European beauty standards.

The above screenshots are incredibly disappointing as it display the typical ignorance of a fellow white person when confronted with our racism:

1) Deny the racist act itself (“No it’s not”)

- Shows an ignorance of both the history of blackface and how it’s being manifested now.  Doesn’t acknowledge that the literal act of painting a white person black is a direct reference to the racist act, and therefore further perpetuates it as acceptable.  Basically, just outright denial without any reasoning attached (except for the attempts in 2 and 3 below).

2) Make a false parallel (“If I took a Black Woman & coloured her White..”)

- An attempt at explaining why what she did isn’t blackface/racist.  It’s a false parallel because blackface as an act that has a long history and has been done repeatedly - “whiteface” has not.  Blackface is done to mock and degradingly imitate black people, which adds to our society’s racist perception of them and the violent way we treat black bodies (as if solely for our entertainment) - again, “whiteface” has rarely been done, and on the few occasions it has been performed, it has not had the wide-scale systemic impact on white people that blackface has had on black people.

- Therefore, the act of painting a black woman white is literally not the same as the act of painting a white woman black because of the extremely important context of how each group is treated.  Black people are still oppressed, marginalized, erased, and treated poorly, while white people still occupy the majority of powerful political positions, police forces and law enforcement positions, and the upper-class/CEOs/rich population.  Mocking a white person through whiteface has no impact on us as a group or as a whole, and the average person will still assume neutral or positive facts about us, while mocking a black person with blackface further reinforces the countless negative stereotypes about black people.

- Yes, this person is not attempting to mock black people with this blackface example, but the act references the above patterns, and despite the intent being ‘innocent,’ the impact is not.  The act also makes it convenient to exclude black models since apparently it’s so easy to take already successful white models and turn them black.  This further oppresses black individuals by denying them any chances of success in an industry that already tells them they’re ugly.

3) Attempt to make an excuse for the racist act (“It’s Art…”)

- This part is even more absurd.  If it’s not racist, why is she trying to justify it with this last part?  Why throw this in if she is so confident she’s doing nothing wrong?  The only times I see someone say “it’s art” in reaction to another’s comment is when a) it’s so bizarre no one gets it, or b) it’s extremely offensive.  This isn’t some bizarre contemporary piece that no one “gets,” this is clearly blackface.  "It’s art" excuses nothing.  If I stabbed a disabled person to death and captured it on camera, I would not be able to excuse myself with “it’s art.”  People can easily recognize the example I just gave is horrific and offensive, and would know that my excuse wouldn’t work.  The same is true for this case.

I am just continuously disappointed with how un-feminist the beauty industry is in 2014.  I’m always seeing faux lipstick-feminism 'hoorays!’ and people talking about how beautiful blackness is, and then there’s really nothing actually changing.  I want to see diverse runways, and Vogue covers that feature COLOR photography of beautiful WoC, especially black women.  I want to see contouring techniques that VARy or that CELEBRATE WIDE NOSES!  I want to see countless articles on HAIR, hair that is 4c and super curly and kick-ass fros.

I want to see BLACK WOMEN being hired to represent black women.

I want to see people finally fucking understand that the literal act of painting a white person black IS blackface, and is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

*Addendum: It’s also hard to not notice how brightly the lips are painted for the racist image above.  That BRIGHT RED thicker lip is a DIRECT reference to blackface tradition.  Barf.