Is Botox really feminist after all? Kristen Barber, author of Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry, helps Lindsy Van Gelder tackle this and other questions about economic disparities in the beauty industry in this piece for the February issue of Allure magazine:
But maybe we need to take a more historic view, suggests Kristen Barber, an assistant professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and the author of Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry (Rutgers Press). “It isn’t so much that men aren’t paying as much as women as that they’re paying for products they haven’t purchased in the past—there’s an array of new products targeted to men that aren’t new to women,” she explains.
Women didn’t fully adopt cosmetics until World War II, when cosmetics “became patriotic and tied to womanhood,” says Barber. Even Rosie the Riveter (Rosie the Riveter!) wore lipstick, blush, and mascara. If women were going to work in the factories, build war machines, and make ammunition, they still had to look like women, dammit! Which is to say: They had to look like the female ideal promoted by a patriarchal society. Call it patriotic womanhood. It ushered in new consumer habits, and before you knew it, cosmetics became synonymous with womanhood. In fact, grooming was so successfully intertwined with female beauty, Barber adds, that there’s now a fast-growing industry dedicated to rebranding it as both “manly” and necessary to compete in business.