Sunday, October 27, 2013

Would more women in power reform the beauty industry?

I was lounging in bed listening to the community hour on the radio while the rain splattered the window and my neighbours washing machine rattled my ceiling. Community hour is a radio segment allowing school kids to air their views. This particular show featured a young lady complaining about the beauty industry enslaving women through unrealistic advertising. I don't necessary disagree but I was struck by her conclusion: the beauty industry is patriarchal so more women in advertising and cosmetic boardrooms will reform the industry.

This 'trickle down culture'* theory is misguided because modern economic progress is (allegedly) driven by competition. Companies must continually grow or be eaten by larger competitors. In this darwinian environment any advertising company who refuses to promote a cosmetic product will lose market share to the company who does accept the contract. Any cosmetic company who refuses to create demand by 'innovanting' will lose to companies that do. Neither female nor male company executives can halt this cycle.

The last twenty years has witnessed ever increasing numbers of women gaining university education and positions of power. And yet in my experience girls are wearing more makeup than ever. When I was a student girls reserved expensive makeup for important nights out. Now I constantly see girls with faces caked in what I am reliably informed is anti-shadow airbrushed makeup ("Get the airbrushed look!") just traveling to college for daily classes.

Markets excel at promoting vice hood. Instead of the reform envisioned by some feminists we are witnessing the same pressure and influences traditionally applied to women being applied to men. Male skin care products like moisturisers are mainstream and a man rubbing cream on his face in a crowed gym would not raise any eye brows. Makeup targeted at men is slowly creeping toward widespread acceptance with a growing number of products and websites offering male makeup with celebrity endorsements. This is the only equality free market competition can offer: the equality of vice hood.

*Trickle down economics is the belief that making the rich richer benefits the poor because wealth trickles down the social classes. In a similar vain I call the feminist belief  that more women in power will change the world 'trickle down culture'.


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