The beauty industry is a place that is both for women and against women. Feminism isn’t a word that crops up in this industry too much, but my version of feminism is something that supports equality across the sexes, regardless of where in the world you exist. There are so many extreme versions of how women live across the globe that wanting and believing in equality in both respect and pay is the very least we can do for each other. We just have to keep sending the message that that is our expectation.
So, working in a world where promoting less wrinkles is prized above ending FGM for example, or where being thin is something we’re encouraged to pay good money to buy creams for rather than worrying about the dreadful state of food poverty in this country and abroad can be rather difficult. At the same time, I’ve made my stands and know where my limits lie in what is acceptable and is not acceptable. On my own site, I can choose not to feature brands like Rodial with their stupid and insulting Size Zero cream or in fact, any ‘fat busting’ creams and I can choose not to pressure readers with a 10 Years Younger claim from serums and lotions that are based on clever marketing and claims rather than real results. In my own tiny way, I can try to influence women into believing in themselves and not creams.
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The beauty industry is very heavily populated by women – until you get to the very top and then it’s mostly men. One of my most horrible evenings was at an event (for charity) by a huge beauty brand where all the corporate bods appeared – all men – and started clicking their fingers at the PRs to ‘call me a cab’ or ‘hang my coat somewhere’ – these guys could barely scratch their own bums. But what was worse, was that the PRs just turned into simpletons and ran about after them doing everything they were asked to do. How could they not? There was no choice in the matter. This was several years ago and I have never forgotten these men treating competent, intelligent and productive women like idiots. Basically, if you aren’t capable of hanging your own coat, you probably shouldn’t be running a beauty company – or even a bath. It’s not unusual though.
On the other hand, we can’t lay everything at the door of the opposite sex when it comes to equality in the beauty industry. It’s rife (sorry to say) with women who don’t support other women in their beauty careers. We all know that boss that makes every task impossible, that undermines at every opportunity, that takes all the credit while never sharing the glory… she exists in almost every single beauty company. The micro-manager, the over-obsessor, the clock watcher, the insecure and the deluded – I’ve seen the fall out from all of them. It’s often the case that women who achieve anything in the beauty industry do so in spite of, not with the support of, other women.
Then we have brands that genuinely contribute to women’s lives. L’Occitane is a good example, as is The Body Shop with their work in Burkina Fasso and Kenya. Khiels and Philosophy, Avon and Aveda to name but a few, all make financial contributions to projects that make lives, including women’s, better across the world.
I’d like to take those male directors who couldn’t hang their own coats and pop them over to Burkina Fasso to do a little time cracking Kukui nuts or something that helps them to realise how much the beauty industry relies on women who will do just that in order to feed their children. I’d like to whisk those unsupportive women who think being career driven is keeping subordinates subdued to somewhere where there is no clean water and then watch them worry about their wrinkles and their next promotion more than malaria. I’d like to fly the marketing departments of every single fat reducing brand to West Africa where 23 million people live on the edge of starvation.
So, I guess my message on World Women’s Day is that the beauty industry needs to take a long, hard look at how to give women from every single part of the beauty process a hand up, not a push down. Giving women equality across the world isn’t about lipstick, wrinkle creams or magic serums. It’s about an attitude and a desire for change from both men and women.
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