I don’t have that kind of time to spend on my hair.
Women look so much better when they’re natural.
Aren’t you cold in that outfit?
That’s a lot of money to spend on make-up.
Short of listening to a middle-aged dude bang on about how The Dark Knight revolutionised the superhero genre, is there anything more tiresome than shaming women for spending time or money — or both — on their appearance?
If you think this doesn’t happen you’re not listening.
The great thing about our society is that it expects women to conform to a certain beauty standard in order to be judged desirable, it just doesn’t want to see any hint that effort was involved.
That would be shallow. That would be boring. What are you, obsessed with yourself?
Hosts of the brilliant Australian podcast Shameless, Zara McDonald and Michelle Andrews, dived into the topic on a recent episode after an online hair tutorial shared by McDonald attracted some … interesting comments.
“The majority of feedback was praise … (but) there was this weird undercurrent of women saying quite curious things,” McDonald said. “Comments like this: ‘woah, that’s a lot of work’ … ‘looks exhausting’ … ‘My goodness that looks like so much effort, how do you take the time for this once let alone often?’”
In a social media world where rape threats are considered a reasonable response to minor differences of opinion and everything gets compared to the Holocaust sooner or later, these comments may seem benign.
But these comments speak to a certain type of criticism — often very coded and so hard to spot — lobbed at women who are candid about the level of work required to look the way they do.
The criticism may be veiled but the message is a combination of some or all of the following: It’s anti-feminist, it’s tacky, you’ve got tickets on yourself.
It’s part of the reason someone like Kim Kardashian has been, for so many years, derided as a superficial moron, despite presiding over a lucrative business empire that suggests her brain is in proportion to her more famous asset.
It’s on the spectrum with the criticism directed towards Kourtney Kardashian last week for allowing her nine-year-old daughter to wear fake nails.
Neither Kim nor Kourtney present as a “natural beauty”: they don’t go in for the no-make-up look, where the idea is to spend 40 minutes and a toiletry bag of potions and lotions to give the impression you just rolled out of bed. The effort is right there on their faces and how very dare they.
It’s also not a world away from a joyous TikTok posted by a young woman under the name Delaney Rowe, which also came to me via Shameless.
“I’m gonna say it: one of the most passive-aggressive moves you can pull is asking someone who’s wearing, like, spaghetti straps on a cold night ‘aren’t you cold?’” she says in the short video.
“First of all, you don’t even care about my comfort, Britney, I haven’t heard from you in six months. Second of all, it’s a sacrifice I’ve made for the outfit and you know that you’re just trying to make me self-conscious about my bold outfit you BITCH.”
Not since Aliens’ Ellen Ripley has someone had as much fun delivering those last two words, by the way.
Wearing lipstick, nail polish and/or spackling yourself in the bathroom for an hour every day doesn’t make you a bad feminist.
Nor does a beauty routine that begins and ends with a spritz of deodorant and the cleanest T-shirt you can find make you a bad anything.
But if you’re judging other people for the effort they expend on their appearance or quietly believe your indifference to your own makes you a better person, you might want to take a long hard look in the mirror. Make that your beauty routine and a better-looking soul might yet emerge.