Fashion, Self-Image, Sweet Machine

Quick hit: My first pedicure, or “the starter market”

This NYT article covers a supposed recent trend, that of throwing mani/pedi parties (at salons!) for girls as young as 6.

Traditionally, young girls have played with unattended M.A.C. eye shadow or Chanel foundation, hoping to capture a whiff of sophistication. In the recent past, young girls have also tagged along on beauty expeditions by their mothers and teenage sisters.

But today, cosmetic companies and retailers increasingly aim their sophisticated products and service packages squarely at 6- to 9-year-olds, who are being transformed into savvy beauty consumers before they’re out of elementary school.

“The starter market has definitely grown, I think, due to a number of cultural influences,” said Samantha Skey, the senior vice president for strategic marketing of Alloy Media and Marketing.

The “starter market”? Those words chill my bones. Not because there’s anything wrong with nail polish or makeup themselves — hell, when I was in elementary school I painted my nails every week and I loved those flavored Lip Smackers things. But what I remember liking about painting my nails was the bright color, how I could watch my hands do what they did — turn pages, hold pens, throw things, play a violin — and see the colors flying at the ends of my fingers. It was mesmerizing (it still is, honestly!), but it was much more like drawing on my hands than it was like sitting at a salon “primping” and being served faux martinis.

The article ends on a wistful quote from a mother:

But cosmetics for girls at any age worries Lucy Corrigan, a mother of two daughters, 8 and 11, in Hastings-on-the-Hudson, N.Y. Still, last year she allowed her younger daughter to go to two salon birthday parties for 7-year-olds. “Of course, it was alarming,” she said. “But I’d rather my girls try it and decide they don’t need all these products to be beautiful, and then do something more vital with their time and money and efforts, like write a poem or take a walk or save the world.”

Clearly, Ms. Corrigan’s got her heart in the right place. But I cannot imagine that, in our world that bombards girls with the message that they are too fat and too ugly, these girls are actually deciding they don’t need all these products to be beautiful. It seems to me that they are learning instead that beauty is something you buy, something that depends on you having enough money to purchase the labor of others. Which, you know, is not untrue if we’re talking about the social construct of Hollywood beauty, but I think 7-year-olds, no matter how precocious, probably haven’t read The Beauty Myth yet. This isn’t an experiment in reverse psychology, where the girls go through a grueling beauty regimen and realize that conformity is not worth the toll it takes on a person. This is a party, a celebration, a reward, and I’d bet you a dozen baby donuts that the oohing and ahhing over their shiny new toenails is going to stay with those girls longer than the praise they get for taking a nice long walk outside.

To be clear, what horrifies me about this trend is not the nail polish and lip gloss itself, nor the worries about “sexualizing” girls, nor the choices that some parents make to throw their daughters these parties. What horrifies me is those three words: the starter market. Because in our culture girls are both the consumers and the commodities in dehumanizing markets that divide them into body parts that can be packaged and redesigned, from your fingernails to your breasts to the size of your thighs. That market depends on institutionalized misogyny and individual self-loathing. When I joined what I guess was the “starter market” in the 80s, buying teen magazines and searching for beauty products that would turn me perfect, I was already convinced, because I had been told, that I was fat, ugly, and undesirable. But I still took joy in painting my nails, because it was the one “beauty practice” I did for myself, just so I could watch my jewel-like fingers. Today, I suppose, I wouldn’t have that joy, because my fingers and toes would be one more part of my body that needed to be researched, refashioned, and remade.

72 thoughts on “Quick hit: My first pedicure, or “the starter market””

  1. Oh my GOD. They are actually referring to 7-9 year old girls as “the STARTER MARKET”? I feel sick.

    It’s disturbing to me that the mothers of these kids are buying in to this crap as a lovely idea for a party, but given the slick marketing of such crap as “Mommy Makeovers” by plastic surgeons to “fix” women who’ve (gasp!) had babies, and whose bodies have changed because of it, I guess I’m not all that shocked.

    What happened to cake, ice cream, and punch, followed by opening presents, on your birthday? What happened to sleepovers where you ate pizza & popcorn and watched silly movies?

    Oh, I weep for the future some days.

  2. I actually went to a salon birthday party when I was… 10, maybe? 9? At least fifteen years ago, anyway, and definitely pre-puberty for me.

    I was miserable. I was in dance school at the time and desperately wanted to be lithe and beautiful, but I was a chunky little girl and when the stylists swept my hair into this complicated updo, I thought my face looked fat. I threw a tantrum.
    NO LIE.

    Little girls already ARE the starter market, have been for decades. The market hasn’t grown, although perhaps the marketing has… but you’re right, it’s ridiculous and kind of horrible that people can make that statement and think “Ah, what a good idea! Let’s do more of it!”

  3. What’s truly sad is that this isn’t really the beginning of the “starter market.” Long before this, you could (and some mother’s did) buy dolls with beauty salon sets, head and shoulder dolls on which you styled hair and put makeup, kiddie makeup sets, mix up your own makeup kits, etc.

    From a feminist perspective, I think that there’s every reason to question the marketing of makeup alongside the marketing of dieting, as they’re both based in the notion that women are in need of constant correction.

  4. I wish I could really be surprised.

    But hey, at least now when Mommy takes Daughter and her Dolly to American Girl Place, they can all wear the same clothes, get the same haircut, and even get matching manis and pedis. With all their friends and their friends’ dollies and mommies too! As if they came off an assembly line!!

  5. Miriam –

    I was just thinking about how I had about three different salon setups for my Little Ponies when I was younger. This age has been a target market for a long time.

    I think the marketing has become a bit more aggressive in recent years. When I was young and playing with those – I never thought the ponies (or barbie) for that matter where ugly or imperfect without the makeup or hairstyles – I just thought the makeup was fun to put on and hair was fun to style. This doesn’t excuse the marketing, but I can honestly say that I took it VERY personally when someone suggested I should comb my hair, or wear better clothes, or called me fat. It’s a different dynamic – the marketing I experienced garnered interest in the product while this type seems to be drilling it into these girls that they NEED it.

    But then again, this is all very anecdotal – anyone else late 20’s have the same experience?

  6. I’ll never forget how my babysitters used to give me “makeovers” when I was younger. (We’re talking Blue Eye Shadow, french braids and GIGANTIC bangs.)

    But it was fun, and I never really saw it as correcting me, it was just something fun to do that I couldn’t do myself. A preview of being older perhaps.

  7. I honestly think there is a difference between a play salon set and actually going to the salon to have these services done. I am also sort of freaked by these pamper parties for girls so young. Let kids be kids for a little while, man. No need to go shoving little girls into the paranoia of womanhood.

    Just a question– are no people who are attracted to women who just like women the way they are? I mean, shit, when I was in highschool, some boys admitted to me that they thought women were the “hottest” when they had just woken up, or just getting out of the shower. I don’t know if that was a facination with bedhead (messed up hair looks like you’ve just had TEH SEXXZ) or nudity (her hair is wet! she was just NEKKID!) or if perhaps there are some men who like what women look like when they are just being then.

    Then again, another dude from my highschool quipped that if there wasn’t such a strong push from the media for us to be painted up and smelling good, then women would turn into men. I wonder if he really knew how poignant that was at the time. I honestly believe that whenever women are struggling for a greater amount of political and economic power, society on the whole is going to begin to put greater aesthetic demands on them. Because if we’re busy thinking about our bodies, hair, nails, body odor, breasts, even what our beautiful labias look like, if our vaginas are tight enough, if we are worried about these things then we are forever under the thumb of the powers that be.

  8. My mom pushed for me to start wearing makeup at 13 and she had a fit when I refused. At the time, I was going through some serious pimple issues and any makeup would cause my face to turn red and breakout. So staying natural was better for my skin. Also, this was the 80s, and the popular shades looked horrible on my brown skin. I still keep it natural, except for cheek and lip stain, and eyeshadow for going out.

    I had the Barbie beauty head when I was little, but it was innocent back then; we were just girls playing beautician. I had no thoughts of “I have to start looking like Barbie if I want to have a boyfriend and people will like me.”

    Things didn’t start getting bad until stores began to carry what some of us on another board call “junior slutwear.” Little girls’ clothing had Princess, Diva, and Angel splayed across asses of short-shorts, the length of shirts and skirts got shorter, and T-shirts with Little Hottie and Drama Queen were everywhere. Moms were turning their daughters into little sexpots because they thought it was cute. No it’s not. We’re turning girls into sex objects before they enter kindergarden.

    If parents would just KISS when it comes to their childrens’ parties (keep it simple stupid) instead of turning them into a suburban version of a red carpet awards show, we’d be so much better off.

  9. In our culture, all of us are seen as consumers and commodities. And most people allow themselves to be, happily and willingly. Or, a bit begrudgingly, but not really caring enough or feeling powerful enough to protect our children from it. I run with a crowd that has this philosophy that kids should be trusted to find what is valuable and good for them in the commercial marketplace. That might be all well and good if they weren’t being bombarded with negative messages in the first place. Kids are the most dependent segment of our society, making them vulnerable, and that might just make them the best consumers and commodities of all.

    So, I shelter my kids. They don’t see a lot of that crap. And when it comes up — which it inevitably does the older they get and the more of the world becomes part of their world — we talk about it, not in a reactive judgmental way (I don’t want them to think I’m judging them if they’re interested in the stuff, that’s a sure way to get them to close their ears) but in a thoughtful way. We have the time to do it because they aren’t in an institution all day long being bombarded with other negative messages and having their brains turn to mush with the boredom. (Sorry, I think the current school model is shit.) I’m not going to let them be brainwashed while I sit idly by.

    My daughter is naturally drawn to sparkly, brightly colored things. In the grocery store unfortunately we often walk by the cosmetics area, and she’s long been fascinated with those little boxes full of different colored eyeshadows. Little girls wanting to look sexy or “better” than their natural selves, which is what most makeup use amounts to in our culture, is just gross. Thank god that’s not where she’s at (yet?) so I bought one for her, thinking she’d use it in a more theatrical or decorative way. The first time she used it she painted circles of blue all the way around her eyes. Another time she used it to put large swaths of black across her eyebrows. They looked like fuzzy caterpillars. IMO that’s what little girls should be doing, not getting freaking pedicures. (Which bothers me also as a classist issue, but I guess that’s another post.)

    Relevant video: Dove’s Onslaught

  10. Miriam, like I said above, I definitely had it drilled into me from a young age that I NEEDED to be beautiful and that I wasn’t beautiful enough. That’s why little-me freaked out when a beauty salon party failed to turn me into a pretty pretty princess.

    But I also went to dance school from age 3-8 or 9, and there was a lot of emphasis on looks. Actually, every woman I know who went through dance school at a young age was sticking her fingers down her throat by puberty, except one whose dance school was run by hippies who seemed admirably invested in the girls loving their bodies (i.e. have good posture so you can breathe, not so you can thrust your chest out.)

  11. I honestly think there is a difference between a play salon set and actually going to the salon to have these services done.

    Yes. I think in a money-exchanged salon-type setting, it becomes less about play, and more directly about “getting fixed up.” I think it’s much easier to internalize the idea that something’s wrong with our, er, natural state.

  12. Just a question– are no people who are attracted to women who just like women the way they are?

    There certainly are, generally in the more progressive areas. Which is telling. You put it well:

    I honestly believe that whenever women are struggling for a greater amount of political and economic power, society on the whole is going to begin to put greater aesthetic demands on them. Because if we’re busy thinking about our bodies, hair, nails, body odor, breasts, even what our beautiful labias look like, if our vaginas are tight enough, if we are worried about these things then we are forever under the thumb of the powers that be.

    Reminds me also of this quote:

    “We define ourselves by the fashion and beauty industry that has for years been fashioning a terrifically successful strategy: You control a woman’s body and you control her mind, and subsequently her pocketbook or purse. You demand passivity from her and discontentment. You make her flesh to be gross. Too much, too saggy, or too old and… there you have it.” — Anita Roddick, founder of the The Body Shop

  13. Remember in psych when we had that field trip to the Toys ‘R’ Us to look for gender-specific toys? That’s what this reminds me of — you’re never too young to become a consumer of gender identity. And yes, you’re never too young to be taught that you yourself are a consumer product, worth exactly the value of all the money you put into being beautiful.

    Don’t forget we painted those great pictures with nail polish.

  14. I don’t think makeup necessarily has to be about becoming BETTER than we are – but it certainly IS presented in that light very often.

    I admit, I am a huge fan of ridiculous makeup. I don’t wear it very often but when I do, it’s part of a colorful and dramatic costume. It’s part of playing dress up. Which is something that should be accessible to kids and adults, I think.

    Makeup itself, as a product, is value neutral to me. It’s our cultural attitudes that are dangerous.

    At the mall near me there is a Libby Lu, which is a place for little girls to have makeup parties. It’s kind of bizarre, but it’s also a LOT of fun, it seems. Because they put sparkly things in their hair and paint their nails and the only ones who come out sexualized are the ones who went in that way. In a way, I can understand the appeal of Libby Lu – they get to go nuts without messing up mommy’s expensive product and no one has to clean up all the glitter in the living room rug.

    But when these places are marketed in ways that teach little girls they need these trappings to be properly feminine…. That is just another symptom of our broken societal concept of feminism. And THAT is just depressing.

  15. Miriam wrote, “From a feminist perspective, I think that there’s every reason to question the marketing of makeup alongside the marketing of dieting, as they’re both based in the notion that women are in need of constant correction.”

    I think there’s some truth to that, but there is one important difference, at least for me–Dieting isn’t FUN. Putting on makeup, just for the joy of looking different, is fun. So there is some value in engaging in an activity you find pleasurable.

    For the record, I very rarely wear any makeup at all. When I do put some on, it’s because I’m feeling playful, not ugly. I suspect that’s not every woman’s experience, though.

  16. I do think there’s a difference between putting on makeup and going to a salon for your regular mani-pedi and facial, though. It’s like the difference between eating a salad and going on a diet. I love makeup, and I love vegetables, but what raises my hackles is the ritual engagement in these habits with the underlying implication that they are the standard penalty for being female.

    I’m sure people can have functional relationships with salon visits, but I tend to see people expressing a lot of obligation and self-flagellation about them.

  17. Fillyjonk said: “…you’re never too young to become a consumer of gender identity.”

    I knew this, logically, well before I had a daughter. But after having Bacon, and having to buy her clothes and books and toys – the amount of gender branding is bizarre, frustrating, and insane.

    Girls’ clothing doesn’t hold up as well as boys’. It’s also smaller – even though boys and girls are not “sized” along gender lines when they’re infants or toddlers. Pick up a 9-month girls’ garment and a 9-month boys’ garment, and you will see the boys’ garment is larger, generally made of heavier, more durable materials, and is plainer.

    This is, I’ve found, especially true of low-cost children’s clothing – so throw in another class issue there, too.

    Every. Single. Toy marketed to my daughter is pink. They’re even making PINK LEGOS these days – because girls won’t play with regular ones? I certainly had no problem with them. Bacon has no problem with them.

    The relentlessness of the gendering going on in popular culture is almost unbearable. On a message board I frequent, a mother was lamenting that soon she wouldn’t be able to stop her daughter from wanting “Princess shit.” She had something like 20 replies to that before I said that they only want it if you tell them they do – and that was revolutionary. People DON’T KNOW they can opt out of the consumerism or the gendering – it’s just never occurred to them.

    Which is the most chilling thing of all, IMO.

  18. I do think there’s a difference between putting on makeup and going to a salon for your regular mani-pedi and facial, though. It’s like the difference between eating a salad and going on a diet. I love makeup, and I love vegetables, but what raises my hackles is the ritual engagement in these habits with the underlying implication that they are the standard penalty for being female.


    Personally, my only beef with a salon visit for myself (someone rubs my feet *and* makes my toes pretty?! yes!!) is the guilt I have in contributing to the marginalization of the underpaid unfortunate stuck rubbing my gigantic feet. Makes me tip more, mostly.

  19. When I was a teenager, of course I was caught up in everything that was “not as it should be” with my body, but now I wear makeup as an accessory and I go to salons (when I do) because someone else is going to massage my hands and feet. I’m not sure they really know what to do with me when I don’t pick out a color to put on my nails, but I’m really just going for the relaxation. And I don’t worry about “correction” so much when I wear the make up, I look at how it looks with my clothes, just like I do with my necklace. I think I have a pretty functional relationship with beauty products, but I also see that it is nearly impossible to be a young person (whether 6 or 16) to make the distinction when constantly bombarded with the “fix yourself” message. It’s like dieting, yes, for some people, it actually works, but a 95% fail rate means that you should go into the attempt witht he realistic notion of failure. Some kids are secure enough to get that it can be just for fun, but most, possibly nearly all, are going to end up with some internalization of the consumerism message.

  20. Baconsmom-

    I can totally see your point, but on the other hand, I have a hard time finding things for my sons that AREN’T pink. Everything from blankets to shoes to clothes are 3 times more plentiful if they ‘for girls’ Anything gender neutral for kids, or boy-specific is hard to find. Granted, if you have 4 types of kids’ sleeping bags, you’ll get 3 in 3 different shades of pink and one that’s blue. So maybe girls don’t have ‘choice’ either.

    And I found it hysterical when my 3 year old son picked up a pair of pink sequined shoes, wanted to try them on since they were so shiny. No shiny stuff for boys: slugs and snails and puppy dog tails. What ever happened to primary colors for kids in general???

  21. Hmmm. My mom used to sell Mary Kay, and she gave my sister and me the makeup samples to play with. We played with them, but because it was fun to play dress up, not because we felt we needed them to look prettier. I mean, we put them on my little brother too, it was just fun. I think some of the appeal too was that makeup was for grownups, so when we put it on we got to feel grownup. (I’m seeing that in the article too: ““Look, we’re reading an adult magazine,” Eleanor told her mother, gleefully”) So I wouldn’t really have a problem with makeup or manicure parties done at home, for fun, but the marketing aspect is definately alarming.

  22. I don’t find anything astonishing about business people looking at things from a marketing perspective. Would there be this kind of outrage if a local yarn shop started having knitting classes for kids in the hopes that they take up the hobby and become yarn consumers for life?

    I guess I also don’t see going to the salon the same way most others do. For me it’s a form of pampering. I give myself pedicures at home because it’s a way to treat myself nice.. not because my feet can’t be seen in public otherwise. I guess maybe it’s just how I was brought up.. my mother wasn’t one to make much of a fuss over hair and makeup (although she did style her hair and wear makeup daily), and I was the only girl so I didn’t have sisters to influence me.

    As for the kids party at a salon.. I mostly see it as being just over-the-top. Plus I could imagine it would annoy the other patrons who weren’t expecting there to be a bunch of little girls running around. However, a at-home party with washable nail polish (I remember having some of this as a kid) and play makeup and maybe some costume jewelry and feather boas and things like that.. that would be a blast!

    And as a mother, I think if my daughter was invited to a salon party at age 7, I would let her go. However, I’d talk to her about it before and after.. try to get her thinking about things. I also might talk to the birthday girl’s mom and offer to come along as another adult to help out.

  23. I’m having a hard time with this one because what comes to mind are two little girls to whom I teach piano. They are 6 and 8, and every once in a while, their mother takes them with her and all three of them get their nails done. It’s a special date with mom, no older brother allowed, girls afternoon out, and pink (or sometimes orange or purple) nails are the result. But that’s where it stops. It’s not about the nails… it’s about the time with mom. I’m OK with that.

    I’m also OK with the whole “playing dress up” thing. I remember having play make-up as a child. We also had a whole trunk full of dress-up clothes, a ton of old costume jewelry, and a few wigs to boot. But then, most of our dress-up clothes were ill-fitting thrift store items that resembled things our grandmother might have worn. None of this hyper-sexualizing going on there.

    But I do have a problem with the whole marketing aspect of it, I think, mostly because there doesn’t seem to be a line drawn between “play” and “for real.” Or perhaps it’s not the marketing so much as the way that parents seem to be presenting it. If it were billed as, “Oooh, look at that glitter, how pretty, I’ll bet you had fun. Now go wash your face because it’s time for dinner,” then I don’t think I’d have as much of a problem with it. But when we start to call them “makeovers” (what 6-year-old needs — or needs to think they need — a “makeover”??) or when there’s no clear message being sent that “we are having fun playing today, but you are still not allowed to wear lipstick ‘for real’ until you’re 14,” then I think we’re in a trouble zone.

    And my students with the mommy-and-me manicures? I think that it works for them with no harm done because of the rest of the boundaries that that mother has in place for her kids.

  24. Aren’t the parents at fault here? A girl who is 8 or 9 years old won’t be paying for her clothing, toys, parties or make-up. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanted to play at being a girly girl, but parent’s should be very careful about genderizing their children to the extent that the market would like you to. It’s inherently damaging to both females, in terms of their self-worth and self-esteem and to males who may believe they’re exempt from codes of conduct.

    This next part doesn’t have much to do with this…or maybe it does. I received an article from a friend yesterday concerning a local ad campaign for chicken. The logo read “Delicious Frickin’ Chicken”. This agency received several complaints about the language in this ad, the article quoting a father expressing distress that his children are exposed to such language. My response to my friend on this article is how misplaced people’s concern is, considering there are any number of advertisements displaying women’s bodies in various sexual poses and states of undress. Why wouldn’t this concerned father be worried how these ads affect the way his daughter may see herself someday or how his son may view women??

    Gender, and women as the exposed gender, the sold gender and the imperfect gender is too widly accepted. Changing this begins with parents who pay attention to why they force gender roles on children and rather than rejoice in it, actively work against it.

  25. I casually mentioned to a former hair stylist that I was looking for a party idea for my daughter who was turning FOUR, because we had just recently moved to town. She immediately suggested that I bring my daughter in with 6 of her closest girlfriends for a salon make over party.
    WTF? NO little girl needs a make over; my daughter is perfect AS SHE IS!
    Sure, make up can be fun, when one is old enough to make a real and informed choice about what you are doing to your body. I don’t personally care for it, but I don’t usually care what others do. However, I have a real problem with anyone telling my daughter (and other people’s daughters!) that their main goal in life is to “look pretty” which, natch, needs “product” to attain. I haven’t been back to that salon.

  26. Regarding the finding-women-attractive-in-their-natural-state-ness, I know individual people who do, but not, say, men as a class.

    I remember when I was in Girl Scouts, we’d do the makeup thing or the hair salon thing, and yeah, by the time I was ten or twelve it was presented as this thing you need to do every day in order to look presentable in public. (I turned 12 in 1994, for reference.) I thought it was utterly ridiculous, but then again, I knew my mother never did any of that stuff and she was still pretty. Depends on how the mother approaches it.

    And Brazilian waxing for a teenager? YUCK. I think the implications of Brazilian waxing are a bit disturbing for anyone (pre-pubescence much? although I have been informed that many people feel otherwise), but TEENAGERS?

  27. okay, i myself am not a girly-girl. i may have a touch of the chemical sensitivity, because makeup smells like ass to me and the taste of lipstick makes me gag. i can’t bear the scent of perfume, hairspray, or dryer sheets following me around all day. it feels like pollution. i enjoyed a normal period of late-girlhood (pre-adolesence) when i wanted to experiment with shaving, nail polish, teasing bangs, wearing too much eyeliner. i just couldn’t get away with it, because my eyes would water from the stuff and my hands would swell up, and i got appalling razor burn. so that’s me, and where i’m coming from.

    still. there is a big, huge, parting-of-the-red-sea difference between being sold shit in a salon and playing girl day with your friends.

    my favorite cousin grew up as an only child with her mom, a hairdresser. their fun bonding mom-daughter moments were all in the spirit of mom-daughter love, and ‘oh, let’s try this, it’ll be so cute!’ and ‘it’s just hair – it’ll grow out.’ my cousin learned to enjoy doing girly stuff in a cooperative spirit, and could cut hair like nobody’s business, long before she herself went to ‘beauty school’ which temporarily ruined her.

    everything in ‘beauty school’ is about choosing, using, and selling products. when my otherwise wonderful cousin was in school, she changed into a sales professional, one who was less willing to accept who i was and who called me a wimp for not being able to stand having these amazing! new! products! touching my flesh. beauty school is sales school. without products, they wouldn’t exist. my wonderful cousin had gone from being more of a mechanic (‘if you want to do x, and your hair is like y, then z will probably work best’) mindset to a pusher (‘oh come on, this stuff is great! you’re just being a weenie’) one. and i’m a generally agreeable person, i think, in spite of the sensitivities that i live with. so it took a long time, telling her over and over, that i still was who i was and couldn’t tolerate most products.

    now that she’s accepted that, and forgotten some of what she learned in sales school, it’s fun again.

    but this was our dynamic for a time, and we are friends and family with stake in how we treat each other. advertisers want nothing from you but your money. they don’t care how much of you they tear down to get what they need. they are cannibalizing women for the contents of our wallets and we buy it. i would buy it, too – or would have. but my body is smarter than i am, and won’t allow it. so i’ve never gotten sucked in.

    marketers and advertisers are aiming all their messages lower, i find (lower in age and every other common denominator) because if we leave home at 18 with a good sense of who we are and what we need, we’re not vulnerable enough to rob of all our disposable income and then some. the credit card industry preys on us, also, because if you don’t have enough to get what you need there’s a magic card for that and then the marketers not only get all the money you have, but a lot that you don’t have, and the interest you pay on it fattens another industry. everyone but the buyer wins in this scenario.

    no matter *what* advertising is aimed at kids, i’m infuriated by it. this example is especially nauseating because it’s so unnecessary. girls of 9 have no skin problems at all. they don’t need manicures or pedicures, though they might – if they’re living right – need the dirt scrubbed from beneath the nails as indicated. their hair needs a wash or trim occasionally to get dirt and maybe leaves and tree pitch out of it and that’s it. at least in the NYT photo (accompanying article) the benches are clearly designed for adults and not children. there is always an attraction among kids to do what the grown-ups are doing. but what effing grownups do they know that do this stuff? when i get together with girl friends, we cruise the fabric and craft stores, take a meal that the kids/husbands would never appreciate, like sushi, and share a good dessert. primping would be a waste of valuable girl-time. we already think we look awesome to each other. what more needs to be done? besides getting craft supplies and using our artistic energy on more interesting projects, that is.

    when you reject the idea that your body constantly needs work to be presentable, you can spend your energy, money, and considerable talents on other things. turning the focus inward on already-self-centered girls (between ages 6 and 9) is a waste of their creative energy. they’re already turned inward as a natural consequence of being in that developmental stage. exploiting it this way is indecent to a degree that’s really nauseating.

  28. Baconsmom said: On a message board I frequent, a mother was lamenting that soon she wouldn’t be able to stop her daughter from wanting “Princess shit.”

    I could easily be just that mom. Except it happened in the past. My 9 year old was totally raised gender neutral- we spent lots of time making her nursery/bedroom in primary colors to be “gender neutral.” Practically as soon as she could talk, she began to demand the pink and sparkly lifestyle. Over time, we have allowed SOME of it- her room was painted pink at age 5, SOME pink sparkly clothes, etc. But I have to agree with other posters that its very difficult to even find items (within our meager means) that are teh pink. But at the same time, she’s an outdoorsy kid who wants to go to summer camp for two weeks instead of just one this year.

    On the other side of the genderfied spectrum is my son. He’s 5 and is all about art and movement. He started karate last fall for an extra outlet of energy– to him, its good, but its not dance. He finishes his karate for the year in one month- then next fall he is slated to start dance class. In the meantime, he performs ballets of Harry Potter soundtracks.

    At some point it really does become about what each kid is deep within- and letting it happen. Sometimes, it is a pink and sparkly life with some nail work done. But you as a parent need to emphasize that their life is THEIRS- not about trying to met some unattainable and random “standard.”

  29. I agree with those who say, “Playing around with makeup and glitter yay; ‘makeovers’ for kids boo.” No little girl should ever be told she needs to be “made over.”

    I am one of those women who almost never uses nail polish because I chip it within SECONDS of having it done even if I actually manage to get through the drying period without smudging. And I can’t put it on myself because I’m not coordinated enough. And I knew all this from the very first time I ever “did” my own nails. But it took years for me to accept it. Maybe decades.

  30. OK I have a 12 yo and an almost 7 yo (and I feel really old typing that, sheesh)….this stuff is INSANE and it needs to stop. Sorry, honey but you will NOT be going to a makeover party at 7, you will not be wearing eyeshadow and colored lip gloss, even if “all the other girls” are. I DON”T CARE. I’m the mean mom.

    Luckily the 12 yo gets it…she doesn’t wear makeup to be “pretty” but because it’s fun…glitter and bright colors and absolutely no pretending it’s changing her looks, just accesorizing it. Of course she’s about as “girly” as a tree stump- the kind of girl who puts on makeup and paints her nails then goes and plays in the mudpit with her baby brother or climbs a tree.

    We don’t do genderized toys either…they get neutral blocks, balls, cars, babies, stuffed animals and the like until they’re old enough to have preferences. Then we go by their preference (with lots of discussions about why they like certian things). And some things are forever off the table- Bratz, MyScene Barbie, anything overtly sexual or overly beauty focused is out. We have some generic “barbie” style dolls with lots of mom’s old funky 80s clothes for them, but they’re so far from what my girls see as the “sexual ideal” that it’s laughable, hot pink poodle skirts and white pleather jackets just aren’t hot anymore :). The rest of the toys are stuffed animals, hard animals (Littlest pet shop, my little pony, various barnyard sets), legos (of every color…the lego store is like christmas for them AND daddy), baseball equipment, play house stuff and art supplies. Lots of art supplies.

    In the end, it’s possible to raise girls who aren’t all about the beauty industry. Just talk, talk, talk to them about it, and LIVE the life you want them to have. My girls are both Shapelings in the making (they had no chance genetically to be otherwise), and they’re both fed messages that they ARE beautiful, and strong, and worthwhile every single day. And they see their daddy (the greatest guy on earth in their eyes) loving a Shapeling woman, and not caring that I’m bigger than I was, and not being disgusted by the fact that I never wear makeup (well…once every month or two I do, but that’s it), and don’t go to salons…well….ever, and so on. They see me living the life I preach, and being happy doing it, and it helps. It really does, even when the oldest has the “OMG I’m so fat and I’ll never have a boyfriend and and and” moments. She usually comes out of them pretty easily, after application of Midol because it’s not her talking, it’s those nasty puberty hormones. She knows better, and she sees better every. single. day. And that’s the best I’ve found to do.

  31. I’ve heard Club Libby Liu referred to by moms as Build A Ho. I don’t want goo on my little girl. Dress up clothing is quite enough IMO.

  32. I think libbyloo has put her finger on exactly what bothers me about this: it’s not play, it’s REAL. It’s not trying on the trappings of adult life for fun, it’s about starting to really use them long before they can be put in perspective.

  33. I have two nieces (well, they’re my husband’s nieces) of just about that age – 7 and 9 – and thankfully, they seem pretty much immune to that stuff. They’re honestly more interested in Dr. Who and messing around with arts and crafts than they are in primping themselves.

    I remember that sort of thing for quite young girls being around in the late 70s disco era – sparkly accessories, glitter face and body gel and lip gloss, that kind of thing – but I never got a whiff of it because while I had the appearance-is-everything mantra drummed into me, it was in a kind of Puritan way that it wasn’t supposed to be fun, and that to actually enjoy your appearance, to wear anything that got you noticed, was ‘making an exhibition of yourself’. Which, at least, has meant that in adult life I still don’t see the whole make-up and dresing-up thing as obligatory. Which means it’s still quite fun (and still feels slightly subversive) when I choose to do it!

    It all depends on choice, or lack of it. The option of playing dress-up, at any age = good. The idea that you have to do 1001 things to yourself otherwise you’re ugly and unworthy = definitely not good. When these things get into ‘makeover’ territory, they’ve crossed that line.

  34. OK, girls that like Doctor Who are awesome. I should know; I’m one of them. ;-)

    I did have a makeover, but I was in college. We had to write an essay to the local cable access channel about why we deserved one. I got picked because I said I was fat and I deserved to look good and get pampered like all the other thin girls. Too bad the store they chose to get clothes for the makeover had “fat is bad” pricks working there. Most of us that were chosen were not a size 2, so some of us ended up going to Lexington Lady and Lane Bryant for our clothes. The producer ended up not mentioning said store on the air and was appalled we were treated this way—good for her! We got a limosuine ride and a free lunch at The Bayou, a restaurant in my hometown. It was a fun day of female bonding.

    But we were women, aged 20 and up. Not little girls who shouldn’t even be worrying about looking good for society.

  35. Regarding the finding-women-attractive-in-their-natural-state-ness, I know individual people who do, but not, say, men as a class.

    Gee, you mean like every other preference or character trait?

    Would there be this kind of outrage if a local yarn shop started having knitting classes for kids in the hopes that they take up the hobby and become yarn consumers for life?

    Marketing goods != marketing oppressive culture.

  36. Callicebus — does 26 1/2 count as late twenties? : ) if so, then yes. i totally played with makeup when i was a kid, but it wasn’t like i was trying to make myself more beautiful doing it. it was either goofy fun or a childish attempt at seeming older. i remember once in third grade i stole into my mother’s bathroom and swiped a bunch of her blue eye shadow onto my lids before running off to the bus (head down, out the door, bye mom!). when i got to school one of my friends was like “are you wearing MAKEUP???” (gasp!) i said “NO!!” very defensively. because blue eye shadow is totally natural looking and i had just woken up like that : ) i wanted to be grown up but i didn’t want anyone noticing that i was trying as hard as i was.

    i suppose i have my mother to thank for escaping the makeup neurosis (got hit with another ten or twenty but that’s another story). there was definitely a weight hangup with her, but she was never a big makeup person (that blue eyeshadow was an unused free sample, i remember). and as for raising my brother and me, she was always very big on gender neutrality … which i suppose could explain why he and i had the same haircut until i was eight years old. eh.

    but anyway, as a young kid i don’t remember thinking that i absolutely had to buy or wear something in order to be pretty. i mean for god’s sake, i wore my mother’s christmas sweaters to school during the holidays when i was like 12. (don’t hate me because i’m cool.) they were ten sizes too big, but they were sparkly!! also, sad as it is, i didn’t think i was pretty when i was a kid, so the thought of trying to “make” myself pretty didn’t cross my mind, at least until high school anyway, because i truly didn’t believe i had the raw material to work with. i just thought i was plain ol’ me, one of the smart nerdy girls, and we just weren’t the pretty ones, end of story. we got the artistic talent and won geography bees instead, and at the time that was the way of the world and i accepted it without thinking too much about it.

    i’m totally rambling. i’ll shut up now. this is a very interesting topic though. ah, ponder, ponder.

  37. My daughter (now 11) has gone to 3 of these types of parties in her short life: One at a friend’s house, one at an actual salon, and one at the epitome of all that is evil, Club Libby Lu.

    She wasn’t much interested in any of them, except for hanging out with her friends. I think part of it may be that I’m not a girly-girl (that title goes to my sister, who LOVES to play dress up with my daughter), but I enjoy doing my nails and will wear the amount of makeup I can put on in under 3 minutes.

    But a lot of it is that she doesn’t watch t.v. (of her own volition) and get the message that she needs to fix herself up. And I think/hope that it helps that even though I’m not the tiny skinny woman I once was, I don’t walk around talking about how fat I am or how much I need to lose weight or how I need to stop eating bad foods. Because that shit is pernicious.

  38. You know, I do see an important difference between dieting and many other forms of “beautification”. (I am, of course, aware that the notion of what is beauty is just this arbitrary thing, but living in this society, I too am affected by it.)

    See, dieting doesn’t actually work at all. We simply don’t know how to make fat people thin. Mascara, however, does in fact emphasize your eyelashes, and applying it is certainly much easier than dieting. Shaving your legs does in fact make them hairless for awhile, and there are other methods that last longer or even forever. And plucking a hair out of your eyebrow does make that hair go away for quite some time. And rhinoplasty does, in fact, change the shape of your nose, permanently.

    Obviously, the issue of whether we SHOULD attempt to look a certain way is its own debate. And for me, it comes down to what fillyjonk said – that if something becomes this duty, this ritual, this thing that consumes enormous amounts of energy your whole life – then yes, it’s more like dieting. And like dieting, it only “works” if you keep doing it to an obessive and sick degree. And also if you have fantasies about other types of “beautification” processes that are similar to the “fantasy of being thin”, that’s another similarity…

    But specific things that we do with realistic expectations and without crazy cost to ourselves – those things are more like, say, wearing things that make you look slim, or padding your bra. You’re still trapped in that idea that slimmer looks better, or that your boobs should be bigger (sorry these are just common examples but it could be anything), but at least your keeping some perspective on the whole thing, and keeping your expectations realistic.

  39. *actually when i wrote “boobs should be bigger” i should have said maybe that they should LOOK bigger, cuz that’s all you’re really doing if u pad ur bra… so i’ve heard. i wouldn’t know, having the opposite situation myself.

  40. cggirl, I understand what you’re saying but I think there’s another aspect to it. I think there is a “Fantasy of being beautiful” aspect of makeup. And you know how even if you do succeed in losing weight, you’re never think enough? Well even if you succeed in making your eyes look bigger with eyeshadow, they’re not big enough. Even if you succeed in making your lips look fuller with lipstick, they’re not big enough. Nothing’s enough until you look exactly like one of those women on the covers of the magazine, which is of course impossible because not even those women actually look like those women.

    Now, I do agree that it’s more possible to have a healthy relationship with makeup than having a healthy relationship with dieting. But I still think (and I’m saying this as someone who wears makeup regularly) our society would be a better place without the stuff. It would be wonderful if everyone was made to feel like they’re attractive the way they are, without needing to alter their appearances whether through dieting or makeup.

  41. An extension of this image marketing is the plethora of “princess” stuff going on out there. I don’t mean play dress-up or imagine you are a fairy princess, I mean the “I’m a princess which makes me special and excuses rude, petty behavior.”

    This focus on being shallow and materialistic…am I just getting old and cranky?

  42. FJ: Gee, you mean like every other preference or character trait?

    I spent five minutes trying to figure out why THIS WAS DIFFERENT and, of course, you’re right, it isn’t. :-P

    I was also trying to imply that while a person-attracted-to-women might find hir partner attractive in a natural state, s/he may not find any OTHER women attractive in that state. I guess it doesn’t matter at all, though. :) A guy might like it when his girlfriend dyes her hair black, although he doesn’t particularly care if any other woman has dyed-black hair. Or any other random trait.

  43. Oh I am SO EMBARRASSED. I love love love my six-year old niece, and last year when she visited I took her to the salon to get her toenails painted while I got a pedicure. On the one hand, I am totally cool with the fact that this was a “Tanta and Bailey” moment, but, on the other hand, I realize that just the very act of taking her to a place specifically designed to convince women that they need servants and chemicals to be acceptable. Oh, and our family calls anything to be put on the lips “pretties.” I clearly have forgotten how to be a feminist. :roll:

  44. YARN and KNITTING do not have the same ramifications as a fucking makeover for a 6 year old. So you are right, if people were trying to get young kids interested in knitting, it woudn’t bother me. I’m sorry, but I really fail to appreciate the connection between those two activities.

    cggirl- totally OT, but can I use your tree as the basis for a tatoo for my back?

  45. I’m kinda ambivalent about this particular topic…of course no woman of any age should be made to feel like she has to look a certain way, whether by wearing makeup or specific clothes, dieting, or whatever. And the consumer beauty industry definitely sucks for making women feel that they’re broken.

    But on the other hand, I love makeup. Lovelovelove. I’m definitely an artsy-crafty person, and at some point in college I started looking at makeup as another medium to explore, and it was all downhill from there. Eyeshadow in eleventybillion pretty colors–yes please! I think I have a fairly healthy relationship with makeup, though, as I certainly don’t feel obligated to wear a full face, or even any at all, every day. It’s fun for me, and I use it to enhance the features that I like, rather than feeling like I’m ‘fixing’ myself. So maybe the problem isn’t the products themselves, but finding a way to put them in context, as a form of artistic expression or self-appreciation instead of an obligation, for those girls who are interested in exploring cosmetics.

  46. I agree with what everyone’s saying: no child needs to be made over. People are fine the way they are,including young people. There’s nothing wrong with presenting makeup and clothes as tools of expression. I think people who don’t let their kids choose their own clothes are people who are afraid of their children’s artistic expression in general, or they are afraid of having a serious conversation about what a thong means. It’s awkward to have discussions with your kid about serious topics, but a person with children knew that when they signed up for the job, presumably. I don’t know if I would let my hypothetical kid go to a salon party unless my kid understood not to take it seriously.

    I’m speaking as someone who was repeatedly bullied into being made over because others didn’t like how I looked. The most egregious example was a school counselor who forced me into skirts and such (and took pictures–unforgivable!) because she was concerned that I wasn’t pretty enough and that this was somehow a symptom of low self-esteem? I go back and forth in my head imagining a situation where Younger Me has the courage to yell at her that maybe it takes more self-esteem to dress how I want than it does to go with the Lady-Blueprint.

    I’m now able to be just angry about it, and I’m pretty determined to stick up for the young people I know who might get bullied the same as I did. So all these conversations children and salons is great for pushing my message of Make Art, Not Shame.

    And for the record, I am a big fan of women in general, including “just woke up”, “sweats with paint on them”, “just went jogging”, etc. Even strangers. It is with deep joy that I surreptitiously watch a strange woman in a diner enjoy her helping of pie, for example. The enjoyment is heightened when it’s someone I know and like. I find the only bad “looks” for women are the looks that are bad on everyone– “crying”, “stomach flu”, “skipped lunch and cranky”, “uncomfortable shoes”, etc. Nobody wears those well.

  47. Becky: Nothing’s enough until you look exactly like one of those women on the covers of the magazine, which is of course impossible because not even those women actually look like those women.

    Yes, it is impossible to look beautiful when the standards of beauty are not humanely possible, regardless of any of the other numerous problems. It makes sense that, on average, people’s perception of ideal appearance would be unnatural, and media is perfectly willing to take advantage of that, no matter how badly it decalibrates society’s perception of attractiveness.

    Though, I suppose that even if the media completely swore off digital touch-ups and make-up forever, the problem wouldn’t go away, because you would still have people who’s jobs it is to be beautiful, and so would dedicate a great deal of effort, time, and money into improving their baseline appearance, which would tend to make them more attractive than people who do something else for a living.

  48. Along the lines of what Alice was saying…

    Did you read the article (can’t remember what it was in, but Feministing has it linked to this week) about how parents are requesting digital touch ups for their GRADESCHOOLERS photos?

    “No honey, you don’t look okay, your cheeks are pudgy and you have a zit on your forehead, but don’t worry – the picture we send to grandma will look far better than you ever will.”

    Fucked up.

    On a lighter note, this thread has reminded me of my husband’s Libby Lu phobia. He starts hyperventilating any time he sees that shade of pink. There is an entire wing of the mall we can’t shop in. :)

  49. Make Art, Not Shame

    I love it! That’s basically my feeling about makeup: it absolutely can be a form of personal expression, and I am all about people of all ages presenting themselves in a creative, expressive way. But there is a HUGE difference between experimenting with makeup yourself (at age 7, 15, or 30) and going and paying someone else to do it for you. Girls who smear blue eyeshadow all over their faces? Awesome, they’re discovering what they like or don’t like about adorning themselves and creating an outer persona that matches their inner feelings. Girls who are handed faux martinis while working class women file their toenails? Are learning that beauty is both obligatory and commodified.

    Telle, FJ and Kristin have already covered this ground, but seriously: being a yarn customer for life is predicated on having an enjoyable hobby. Being a beauty customer for life is predicated on living in an oppressive society and internalizing sexism. I say this as an obsessive knitter and as a young woman. These are not the same “starter markets.”

  50. I still don’t get being upset at business people for thinking of marketing strategies and trying to expand. You don’t like the “product” they sell, fine.. you don’t think the “product” is appropriate for young girls, fine.. but I just don’t see how the term “starter market” is any different here than it is in any other industry.

    I guess part of my problem is that I also just don’t understand the uproar about manicures and the like to begin with. Last night I had my first ever experience at a spa.. a local yarn shop had a knitting party at the spa (maybe this is why I’m equating salons and knitting?? :) ). It was a bunch of us women sitting around knitting and gabbing, drinking fancy martinis, eating bruchetta, and having spa treatments. Everybody just enjoyed it as a fun thing to do.. I don’t think I heard a single body-negative comment all night.

    I also just have zero comprehension of the fact that there are actually women out there who see regular salon treatment as some sort of mandatory maintenance. It’s such a complete 180 to how I think. I see going to the salon and getting pampered no different than going to a fancy restaurant where the waiter pulls out your chair and refills your wine for you.. it’s just a fun treat every once in awhile.. something that’s special and above and beyond the ordinary experience.

  51. Sometimes I contemplate being born a decade later – the age group these salon parties are being marketed to – and shudder. It was bad, and I didn’t think it could get worse, but this – I don’t understand this.

    Why? Why do this?

    As I see it, playing dressup – including stage makeup and all the awesome permutations thereof – at home with their mothers would be, well, more fun in that they got to do it themselves rather than being passive and handing over their beauty to someone else’s appreciation, a lot cheaper, and far less distressing. My heart goes out to the kids excluded by this – and it will be used as an exclusionary tool, if it isn’t already – because they’re too poor, or the head girl in the group decides one girl or another is too fat or too ugly or too unpopular. I understand, as a girl bordering adulthood, that it’s just another way to reinforce the idea of beauty as series of passive mechanics, but I know that as a eight or nine year old, I wouldn’t have known that to the degree that I did now (though it did seem wrong at that age, I didn’t have the tools to understand or articulate precisely why); it would have been interpreted as commentary that I was so ugly/fat/awful that I wasn’t worth the attempt.

    It just seems like yet another way to attempt to shame others into fading from existence, and earlier.

  52. Last October, when I was looking for Halloween costumes for my kids, I was pretty disgusted at the choices for girls. My daughter is 4, and she could choose between “General Flirt,” a military costume, or “Pop Tart,” which is a singer, and all kinds of short, disgusting little barely-there outfits. For boys, they had astronauts, firemen, police officers, etc. We almost bought our daughter a football player costume, but eventually found a cute fairy costume that WASN’T revealing.

    It’s sickening. It’s one thing to play dress-up, but it’s another thing entirely to start telling little girls that they have to be sexy.

  53. on men preferring the natural state:
    My husband has seen me with makeup on exactly three times: twice when I was a bridesmaid in friends’ weddings, and at our own wedding.

    on little girls and pink, etc.:
    My older daughter is just over two. She’s actually grown into *and out of* her first obsession with pink. We were as careful as we could with getting gender-neutral clothing and toys (though some family members were hard to convince!). When she was old enough to start expressing an opinion, suddenly everything had to be pink and sparkly. I didn’t mind – there’s nothing inherently wrong with pink. (My father actually asked me if I was really okay with “encouraging her” – he didn’t have an answer when I responded with “Would you want me to discourage her if she decided her favorite color was blue?”) And now she’s pretty much over it. Mickey Mouse and hockey are her newest obsessions.

    on being a “princess”:
    Of all the potentially-troublesome monikers going around, I’m most okay with princess. I think it’s the most value-neutral, as opposed to “brat” and “diva” and other terms I can’t handle. Sure, princesses can be stuck-up and spoiled. Not in my house. My princesses are polite and kind and clean up after themselves and use their influence to secure a better working environment for mice. Plus, princesses are beautiful and special – and every little girl is and always will be a princess, regardless of what she looks like.

    I can’t spin “brat” or “diva” like this. :)

  54. I also just have zero comprehension of the fact that there are actually women out there who see regular salon treatment as some sort of mandatory maintenance.

    True story: I went to the nail place to get a spa pedicure because I was having a bad week and I just wanted to be pampered (just as you are describing, Telle). The tiny little Vietnamese woman was mortified that I was fat, that my legs weren’t shaved, that my toenails hadn’t been clipped for a few weeks, that my heels were rough, that I needed my eyebrows waxed, that I needed my upper lip waxed, etc., etc. While she was working on what she clearly thought was my disgusting body, she was chatting with the other women who were getting their pedicures and manicures–regular customers. This is where the phrase “letting herself go” comes from, y’know? There’s this concept that women have to do these things in order to be acceptable, whereas the mentally healthy woman can look at it and say, “Bullshit. I’ll get these things done IF I want, WHEN I want, WHY I want.” It takes cojones and the willingness to have both men and other women look at you funny.

  55. Wow phledge, that’s just fucked up. I don’t know how I would have even reacted in a situation like that.. I think I’d just be so shocked. How does some place that treats its customers like that stay in business??

    The place I went to last night treated everyone with the utmost respect. I got a massage, and never once felt like my massage therapist had any negative feelings about my larger body.. and she made me so comfortable and relaxed, I never even thought to be embarrassed about the fact that I haven’t shaved in awhile. They were 100% about making sure you enjoyed your time there.

    And Alyssa, I know EXACTLY what you mean about the Halloween costumes. My daughter just turned three, and I had the hardest time finding something for her that wasn’t sexualized. I couldn’t believe the things they expected people to put on their toddlers!

  56. Telle, I think that your description of the salon you went to sounds amazing, and that your experience sounds entirely positive, but I think there is an undeniable difference between yarn and beauty treatments in terms of marketing and all of the cultural gender-related baggage that goes along with it. It also seems naive to me (although refreshing and encouraging) to deny ANY connection between beauty treatments and the constant consumer-izing, sexualizing, and commodifying of women’s bodies that ties into patriarchy

    Maybe a closer analogy for an equally objectionable “starter market” would be boys and porn… I’m a little hesitant bringing porn into the discussion, since it’s my experience that it is instantly polarizing, but if we think of porn as a wide spectrum, ranging from enlightening and saucy and life affirming to degrading and violence-inducing and dehumanizing, and just posit for the sake of it that it IS possible to have porn on every part of the spectrum, I think that we would still be disapproving if there seemed to be a cultural sea change in which young boys were encouraged to look at and consume porn, systematically, as a “fun man thing!” from a very young age. And we would look askance at any parent who didn’t regulate their child’s exposure to porn, with fear that too much too fast and of the wrong varieties would produce men who had disordered relationships to sex.

    If we follow the argument that it’s just a starter market, and therefore part of capitalism and ok, in the porn instance it begins to look absurd, or at least really reprehensible, really quickly.

    There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with spa treatments, make-up, or dress-up, just as I believe that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to look at sexy pictures. However, in both porn and the beauty industry, consumerism, capitalism, manipulations of desire and unequal power relationships have a potential and a likelihood to value the market over the good of the consumer. Which is why people are getting het up about this issue.

    I’m thinking of other examples I could use…Tobacco advertising, violence in video games…

  57. i work at big box retail store, and i was really disturbed to find press-on finger and toenails for little girls.

  58. There’s a story my parents always like to tell about when they were dating in college. On their first date my mom showed up all primped out, and my dad told her she looked better without makeup. (That’s my dad: the king of the sincere but utterly awkward compliment.) Things went well, and they had a second date. Again, my mom showed up with makeup, and my dad said, “What? Didn’t you believe me?”

    My mother has hardly ever worn makeup in my living memory. (The formal Christmas Mass and my sister’s wedding are the only times I remember.) I’ve never thought much about it, but I wonder now how much my dad’s attitude has to do with that. Not that she isn’t a confident, independent person; just that it can be really powerful to have an ally like that. On the (rare) occasions when she comes home from some crazy upper-middle-class, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, self-loathing fest, he’s always there telling her the world can go to hell and he’d be happy to escort them there.

    Of course, my dad works as a PhD engineer and once went a whole day with his polo shirt inside-out and none of his colleagues noticed. I think in his professional world appearances are several orders of magnitude less important.

  59. Medea, that’s an awesome story.

    I reread the quote from the mom, and I kinda fantasized about what I would do if my two surrogate daughters (nieces, ages 3 and 6) wanted to do something like this. So, I’d let them. And then I think when I saw them again I wouldn’t make a big deal about whether or not they looked different. I would not tell them that their makeup/hair/nails look pretty, but that they are as beautiful as they always are. I would probably put my emphasis on whether they had fun or not and whether they liked having those things done to their bodies. When I was in, oh, sixth grade I decided I wanted very curly hair (it was the 80’s) and I sat still for perms for years. I HATED IT. But I kept coming back because I got the goods–the rewarding oohs and ahhs of admiring friends and family members, and I was convinced at that young age that my attractiveness depended on what other people could do to me, not what I was intrinsically. It took me over fifteen years to realize that I didn’t ever want a perm again, that my hair was way more beautiful in its natural state, and that by buying into “needing” to have curly hair to be pretty I was essentially bound to a four-hour torture session that I paid $125 for every three months. Fuck that noise, sez I.

  60. I thought you girls might be amused by this illustration i did a while back for this EXACT subject :

    I dont think i quite captured the horrifying side of it though.

    I just got caught up on having the ‘toy’ dog on wheels. hee.

  61. I moved to a new town a few months ago, and finally got around to finding a salon to get my hair cut. On the recommendation of a coworker, I made an appointment at this place.

    I show up, and when I check in with the owner (acting as receptionist), she offers to show me around. The tour is brief; hair salon, nails, tanning beds.

    Oh, and the “injectables” room. A direct quote: “We do injectables here. Botox, like that. Do you want me to set up you with an appointment while you’re here?”

    (the punchline here is that I’m 24.)

  62. Good grief, Green Tri Girl! run for the hills! there has got to be another salon for you!
    Lapidary: awesome, and right on. What you said, again.

  63. So little girls like wearing their mothers’ makeup and shoes and getting their nails painted like their mothers. Wow, that is NOTHING new. It’s just being more cleverly exploited.

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