Wicked Witches of the Old World and Their Nasty Goods For Sale

Again, over at Arts & Letters Daily, I found an interesting article about the women who founded those repugnant corporate marketeers of dissatisfaction, needless worry, and shame: The Czarinas of Beauty, an article by Stefan Kanfer about the founders of three of the world’s biggest cosmetics companies.

Even in this time of Botox and collagen, implants and liposuction, the cosmetics industry still grossed some $60 billion last year and shows no signs of letting up. The siren appeal of a product off the shelves, a concoction that can diminish wrinkles, revive the skin, lighten the smile, and banish the years, remains as irresistible now as it did when Miss Arden, the Madame [Helena Rubenstein], and Est? Lauder first worked their magic.

If you ask me, cosmetics companies are like leeches sucking blood—not all of it, but enough to dull the senses and to create a certain degree of waste—out of many of the women in the developed world. It was a wicked old world that these women founded their companies in, a world riddled with uncertainties and inequalities, and the companies they founded may have made them wealthy, but did very little for the status of women. The fact that so many women find the need to paint themselves every day, when men do not, is a sad comment on our society. I know, I know, cosmetics highlight the things that males of the species tend to be attracted to, and with this kind of “attraction prosthesis” women can be empoered. But the fact they’re stuck using sex to bargain for power says something.

Anyway, I’m sure that some people will think I’m overreacting. But I’m thinking of a friend who went to work one say without makeup. Most of her coworkers advised her not to come to work again unpainted. Sure, this is Korea, but I think the same pressures exist in a lot of places in the West, even if people are less blunt about it.

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