Category Archives: beauty

The Making Up of a President … and His Staff

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Laurie and Debbie say:

Makeup may seem like an odd topic for a blog with its roots (and its heart) in body image. However, makeup is a form of body expression–although mediated in many ways by looksism and beauty culture–and people are entitled to their own choices around body expression. Makeup is also commonly used by many people who spend a lot of time in the public eye, and especially people who are frequently televised.

Makeup is also one of the places where our body image interests and our revulsion at the current D.C. power structure intersect.  So we are interested in Sarah Graalman’s “Makeup Anxiety During the Trump Times” post on Medium.

Graalman writes primarily about makeup issues with Trump himself,

Trump is orange and his hair is famously peroxide blonde. He rocks a fake-tan like a star from the 80’s who can’t let that go. Have you ever really looked at the whites around his eyes? Chances are those lighter patches are the result of tanning bed goggles. We have a bronzer addict running the country, and I have very strong opinions about bronzer addicts. I’ve rarely ever met one who doesn’t have a disjointed view of who they are or nurse a strange self-image. Sometimes that self-image is inflated. … He likely reached his physical and sexual (sorry) prime in the 80’s, and though his power has skyrocketed to his being the most powerful man in America. It seems he is still chasing the dragon of his 80’s Trump facade. Why else would he still emulate that 80’s bronze glow?

It’s not news to anyone that Trump’s self-image is inflated and that he’s stuck in an earlier era. Still, it’s informative that he’s apparently a make-up “type,” and Graalman could figure out these things about him without other information.

While Graalman is clearly prepared to dislike and distrust Trump, she saves her detailed makeup analysis for Kellyanne Conway. No surprise, she goes into a lot more detail about Conway, and shows more than a touch of sexism in her assumptions that Conway (1) does her own makeup, and (2) isn’t good at it. However, anyone who sees Conway on TV knows that something is wrong, and Graalman helps analyze the problems:

When someone of significant stature appears on a network, that network supplies an artist, or they will pay for the cost of one. I’m occasionally that artist in the wings at CNN with a personality on a publicity tour. Sometimes I show up to studios, and they have ANOTHER artist there on staff, just in case. It seems rare that any artist is doing the work. Yes, I’ve found a few instances where Conway is done and it looks fabulous. She isn’t obligated to look ‘done’ if that isn’t how she wants to be seen. But she’s putting on a lot, so she’s trying. She’s rejecting the use of a professional makeup artist.

Kellyanne Conway and even *sigh* Donald Trump have an inalienable right to look how they want to look, and to present themselves to the public in whatever way suits them. If Conway thinks she looks terrific, and we think she looks like she’s about to star in Night of the Living Dead, she gets to be the judge.

But maybe, just maybe, Trump’s attitude toward makeup and how he looks, and Conway’s style in presenting Trump’s choices, are emblematic of how the administration is “running” the country. Here’s Graalman’s conclusion.

They’re on our TV constantly. They are running our country. I’d love to give them some HD powder and proper concealer. If only they trusted the experts.

IF ONLY THEY TRUSTED THE EXPERTS. It’s not just about makeup any more.

A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints

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Laurie says:

I love the wood block prints from the Ukiyo-e (“floating world”) in the Japanese Edo period.

Kitagawa Utamaro – From the Series Fujin tewaza jūnikō (Twelve Forms of Women’s Handiwork)

There is an excellent article by Susan Chira in the New York Times about a stunning exhibition of prints from the Edo period in Japan. They are of a wakashu, who were considered a third gender. The article is thoughtful and discusses these works and their context both in Edo Japan and
in the present time.

A figure in a translucent kimono coyly holds a fan. Another arranges an iris in a vase. Are they men or women?

Wakashu and Young Woman with Hawks

As a mind-bending exhibition that opened Friday at the Japan Society (in New York City) illustrates, they are what scholars call a third gender — adolescent males seen as the height of beauty in early modern Japan who were sexually available to both men and women. Known as wakashu, they are one of several examples in the show that reveal how elastic the ideas of gender were before Japan adopted Western sexual mores in the late 1800s.

Suzuki Harunobu Youth on a Long-Tailed Turtle as Urashima Tarō

The show, “A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints,” arrives at a time of ferment about gender roles in the United States and abroad. Bathroom rights for transgender people have become a cultural flash point. The notion of “gender fluidity” — that it’s not necessary to identify as either male or female, that gender can be expressed as a continuum — is roiling traditional definitions. …

The wakashu are a case in point. The term describes the time a male reaches puberty and his head is partly shaved, with a triangle-shaped cut above the forelocks that is a telltale way to identify wakashu. During this stage of life only, before full-fledged adulthood, it was socially permissible to have sex with either men or women. …

It is one of the many reflections on contemporary society that this provocative exhibition raises. Walking through it is a reckoning with categories, definitions and how they resonate in societies still uncertain about whether lines between genders should be bent or blurred.

You really need to read the whole article to get a sense of what this means. There is also fascinating information and a video at the Royal Ontario Museum site , where the exhibition originated.


Hosoda Eisui – Wakashu with a Shoulder Drum

It runs til June 17th and I’m hoping to see it when I’m in New York.