Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's a Make-Up Day

I’d like to personally thank the make-up and beauty industry for making it easier for me to command the attention of any room. With the use of eyeliner, mascara and lip gloss, I feel gorgeous, competent and ready to take on the world. I am not a girly-girl. I will always choose the football game over the salon, would rather roll in the mud than dish it, but when it comes to the artistry and power of a well put-together woman – the advantages are clear. Boris’s research into the hiring requirements, training programs, and job description of airline flight attendants in the 1950’s through the 1970’s shows the struggle for women’s rights on the job, and the precarious balance women keep between establishing our own power derived from beauty, and conforming to standards of beauty domination set by men. “Flight attendants wielded their sex as a weapon even as they questioned the cultural association of youth with beauty and sexual availability” (Boris, 2009, p. 247).
What women wear has been a hot topic of discussion since the creation of clothing. Fashion, beauty, and the like, dominate the lives of most women whether they like it or not. It would be almost impossible to enter the workforce as a woman without considering the dress-code and beauty standards of the career. Regardless of our opinions on the issue, personal hygiene, hairstyle, clothing, and use of make-up are all managed, in varying ways, by our employers. Airline flight attendants were sent to special schools as part of their training programs where they were taught how to apply make-up, do their hair, and “generally carry oneself” (Boris, 2009, p.248). As a locally-owned retail business employee at 19, I received similar advice and instruction from my boss. I learned how to properly pluck my eye-brows, apply effective make-up, and style my hair, along with operating the register, selling the product, etc. This “job training” was offered to me because my boss, the business owner, was a woman and also store manager of Mac cosmetics! Sometimes we enter a particular genre of business which requires attention and care to the details of beauty. I have not been required to wear make-up by an employer since leaving the retail industry.
However, court findings in the last five years show basis of women’s sexual discrimination complaints. JESPERSEN v. HARRAH OPERATING COMPANY INC (2006), states:
The plaintiff…was terminated from her position as a bartender at the sports bar in Harrah's Reno casino not long after Harrah's began to enforce its comprehensive uniform, appearance and grooming standards for all bartenders. The standards required all bartenders, men and women, to wear the same uniform of black pants and white shirts, a bow tie, and comfortable black shoes. The standards also included grooming requirements that differed to some extent for men and women, requiring women to wear some facial makeup and not permitting men to wear any. [She] refused to comply with the makeup requirement and was effectively terminated for that reason (2006).
Americans by nature perk up for issues involving control by authority. Women and men have the right to wear whatever they wish, except when dressed as a representative of the employer. Essentially, I feel most powerful when I know I look good, and I have utter confidence that my voice will be heard. I call those days: Make-Up Days. Be it right, or be it wrong, the beauty stereotypes of femininity, youth and seduction make for an unbeatable combination when attained. I thank the women who fight for our rights, and I thank men for the Achilles advantage I possess simply by virtue of womanhood. As new generations are raised in ever-expanding social consciousness, I can’t imagine we will suddenly stop desiring beauty in all aspects of life – but perhaps we can simply expand our beauty-consciousness to envelope a much broader spectrum of people, and life, and experiences.

Works Cited
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. (2006). Jespersen v. Harrah Operating Company Inc. Retrieved from
Boris, E. (2009). Desirable dress: Rosies, Sky Girls, and the politics of appearance. In V. Taylor, N. Whittier & L. Rupp (Eds.) Feminist Frontiers (pp.176-186). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

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