Posted by: jessicaswing12 | March 27, 2015

Makeup And Media: Help or Hurt Perception of Women Leadership?

Inspired by someone’s previous discussion posted last week about a Buzzfeed article in combination to the film, Miss Representation, I decided to further dissect how the media perpetuates how beauty is judged. Buzzfeed often uses social experiments, story lines, and sarcastic humor to reveal important messages about gender and race equality. This Buzzfeed video, that has over 14 million views, uses the form of a social experiment to allow “everyday women” to get dressed up and photographed in order to reveal a heavily photoshopped, glamorized photo of themselves, similar to ones found in model magazines. In the end, the overall consensus was that they felt as if the photo didn’t represent truly them, and instead felt it was a different person. This video exemplifies how women aspire to look like the model on the front page of their magazines, but once they visualize this unideal perfection onto themselves, they prefer how they “naturally” actually look. This fixation with appearance made me think about how the media most currently treats physicality in a way that’s seems to me, to be hurting society’s perception of beauty and often blurring women’s credibility as an individual. The media consumes our daily lives, trivializing accomplishments, while magnifying on clothing and the amount of makeup we’re wearing.

On the subject of makeup, I’m not sure how the media alters the judgement of women wearing certain amounts of makeup, but it does seem to have an impact. Because mass media portrays beauty to unrealistic standards provided by photoshopped ‘enhancements,’ many women try the use of makeup to attempt to achieve close to those standards of attractiveness. However, where I become confused is that makeup has grown into a commonality among females, yet the approval of makeup in society is still blurred. We are told on one hand that makeup isn’t necessary, and we’re just as beautiful without it, yet we are complimented when we do wear makeup even when it’s very subtle. My thoughts on the topic was sparked by this video, which doesn’t provide a credible experiment, but does spark the idea that men and women can equate a woman’s level of makeup worn to the type of person she is. In the experiment, the girl experiences that the pictures of more heavy makeup, she was complimented on her style, but on the other hand, was considered more sexually promiscuous than the photos of her wearing no makeup, in which she was viewed more as a friend than future partner. My questions lies to how does these mixed judgements on makeup translate into leadership? With Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, they were constantly criticized by their looks. Perhaps, if they would have worn more makeup, they would have been viewed more feminine and thus, not as credible possibly? On the other hand, if they had worn no makeup in their political campaign, would have they been criticized for not being presentable, and thus, not credible on that opposite spectrum as well? For the debate that women should just embrace their natural selfs, the judgement upon women’s faces for wearing too much or too little makeup is still judged upon as if it’s in connection to the type of human being and leader that woman is.

The judgement of makeup wearers also apply to men. I have a close male friend that when beginning to professionally do makeup, he would also use it on himself while working at the makeup brand he represented at the time, which soon was cut short. He received complaints from his managers that it wasn’t ‘professional’ of him as a male to wear makeup and directed him to immediately take it off every time they saw my friend. However, his female co-workers were encouraged to wear makeup constantly. Because the norm is for women to wear makeup, men who wear makeup are often judged. Relating back to the media, I couldn’t help but to think how the media supports this gender separation around makeup as men are portrayed most often as the masculine and rugged alpha-male while women are feminine, dainty girls who ‘play’ with makeup. If one really thinks about it, society has been creating a divide between genders, through the division of bathrooms to sport teams, which also creates the divide in equality and inflicts more gendering in even mere daily life. It feels to me as if we are separated into categories based on our gender and if our interests fall outside of those categories, we are frowned upon. So, my next question is do you think the media has been hurting or helping diminish the divide of genders, and do you feel as if this division is just as prominent with women in leadership roles as they are among women and women followers?


  1. Makeup is such an interesting topic to discuss because there are strong judgmental opinions from both sides. Women feel pressured to makeup because of unrealistic beauty standards set forth by the media and by society in general; however, simultaneously, women who choose to wear makeup are judged by men who attempt to paint themselves at being “accepting of women’s natural form.” So women definitely feel pressure from both sides. I think a major tenant of feminism is the idea of accepting other women’s choices and being understanding that it is their choice to do so. If a woman chooses to not wear makeup, then she should not be judged for her appearance. But if a woman does wear it then it should be viewed as her choice and not something for society to judge.
    As for the connection with leadership, I think that this has a huge implication on the double bind. Women who wear makeup are typically considered more feminine and play into more stereotypes we associate with women. They must walk a fine line between being seen as a woman and being taken seriously as a leader. If a female leader opts-out of wearing makeup then she risks looking too “butch” or unladylike. This ties back to the “bitch vs. ditz” article that we read in class between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin. There was a segment in the “Missrepresentation” documentary in which a newscaster talked about the picture of Hillary Clinton where she wasn’t wearing makeup and looked “haggard and 90 years old”. This is the judgement that women leaders face even if they are taken seriously in every other arena. Sarah Palin faced judgment from people who thought that she put too much effort into her appearance and her femininity.
    Media is definitely pushing the divide between the genders even further apart. Displaying women as objects of sexual desire and typical feminine idols is a way of pushing women into a box while at the same time making men into these hyper-sexualized, testosterone-driven animals. It’s degrading to both genders to be so limited and marginalized. As I said, the key to feminism is choice. If women choose not to wear makeup, awesome. If guys choose that they’d like to wear makeup, awesome. It’s really simple but somehow difficult for the media and society to grasp.

  2. I really enjoyed the first video and I thought it was interesting to see how women felt to being photoshopped. Many women and men read magazines or see the covers of magazines in different places that they go on a daily basis. With this being said, I think that there is a standard or perceived standard that people feel like that are supposed to look like, wear, or act. I think this can tie into leadership when the topic of authenticity is addressed. We read articles for class and talked about how women may feel the need to “wear masks” or downplay their accomplishments in order to fill a role that they feel is expected. The women in the photoshopped video talked about how violated they felt that the pictures were not their true selves. They did not feel like the pictures truly captured who they were as people and that the little flaws that made them unique were removed. It would seem that if they could experience how it felt to be photoshopped, then they could apply this to other aspects of their lives. Women in leadership roles may feel that they need to act like all the other examples of leadership that they see around them. Depending on the place of leadership, the majority of the crowd may be men. In this setting a woman may try to be like the men that she works with and knows are respected, but in return she is not being authentic and what makes her unique and bring diversity is now gone.

  3. I don’t really think that you can argue that the media has been helping reduce the divide of the genders. Everywhere we look what we see as ideals for men and women are so far apart that it seems more insurmountable then it actually is. However on the topic of make up, I find it interesting while men might not be expected to do additional such as lipstick or eye shadow, they are expected to do removals. They need to keep their hair short, beard/mustache (if they even have one) clean and trimmed. In this I feel that the two sexes are equal in expectations.

  4. I agree that media puts unrealistic expectations on both genders. But when handled the right way, I think that women can use their presentation to their own advantage. As my interviewee pointed out, life seems to just be easier for attractive people. As much as we say that we don’t buy into the whole looks matter thing, everyone would rather listen to and follow a more put together person. Sometimes the way people look just screams professionalism. I have realized more and more throughout life that presentation really does matter to how people perceive you. Snap judgments are made about you before you even realize them and as a leader, you want those opinions that people form before they even speak to you, to be of the highest nature.
    So honestly I think women are at a great advantage to have the world of fashion and make up at their disposal more readily and acceptably than men do. I don’t consider presentation about being flawless, but rather portraying the best version of yourself and who you are. If there is already so much going against us as women, i think we owe it to ourselves and our followers to put forth the highest effort and be noticed by as many people as possible. If looks are the most helpful way to accomplish this, then let’s use them.

  5. I personally think make-up should be used as much or as little as a woman wants. I don’t think the opposite gender should expect anything more than good grooming and basic hygiene. I think if smoothing out a complexion or lengthening lashes makes you feel good, then go for it. If you prefer to go barefaced that is fine too. I do think the societal expectation that women should wear makeup can prove beneficial for women that choose to do so because it helps present a more professional and put together look. I personally really enjoy wearing makeup because I feel as if I actually tried pulling myself together that morning and it provides me with time to think about and organize my day. I do dislike the fact though, that on the days I choose not to wear make-up I repeatedly get comments such as ” You look tired” or “Are you sick” or even a professor asking “Ooh, did you stay up all night?”. I think that there should be a stigma that we can make positive comments about a persons appearance but refrain from making others unless they are a health or professional concern.

  6. I’m going to be real, I love make-up! I wear it every day to class. I like the way I look after I put in on. I enjoy the process of putting it on. It’s my 10-15 minutes of quiet for the day. I know guys who are jealous because they “can’t” wear it. I mean I know when I get a zit, I grab that concealer. And after going through beauty school, I knew for a fact that make-up is an art form!
    With all of that said, I agree with Amber, it is up to the woman whether she wants to wear make-up. If it makes her feel good, than why not? The thing I have always wondered is why is just make-up criticized? I mean why is everyone fixated on makeup and not flat irons, curling irons, nail polish, hair dye, and the aisles and aisles of hair care products? Do these things not also mask a woman’s naturalness and perpetuate an unreachable ideal of beauty? Just a thought.
    To go back to my main point, like all things a woman or any person chooses to do, they should be a choice. If a man wants to wear some foundation… go for it, dude! If a woman wants to be bare face… you go, girl! Your appearance is just that. It is yours.

  7. Make-up, or lack of it, in the media has been a hot topic for years now. Recently, in one of my classes we watched a video about body language. In this video was a clip of the first televised political debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. Nixon refused make-up because he thought it was only for women, but Kennedy welcomed it with open arms. During the debate Kennedy looked refreshed, confident, and had a sort of boyish charm to him. Nixon on the other hand looked like death stood over him. The audiences watching the debate had a strong reaction to these differences. Those who watched the debate clearly preferred Kennedy over Nixon, but those who heard the debate on the radio showed preference to Nixon. Who knew that the decision for one man to wear make-up and the other to refuse would have such an impact on the media and society?

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