Girls with Hair, without Makeup

Tuesday, 21 February 2012
I just finished an excellent book that is not required for class so of course I feel guilty for wasting time but at least it is non-fiction and centered on gender issues.

An Unconventional Family is written by Sandra Lipsitz Bem, a professor and PhD at Yale. She gets married in her early 20s to another PhD/professor and in the 1970s they decide to attempt a egalitarian marriage. Egalitarian marriage centers on the premise that both husband and wife do equal work and have equal say in sex, money, chores and parenting. This is more commonplace today but in the 70s it was regarded as ridiculous to some conservatives. This lifestyle was as much as her husband's idea as hers and they published many articles together and traveled the US giving lectures on the idea.

The most interesting aspect of the book to me came into play in the parenting department. The Bems wanted to bring up their children with gender-neutral influence and pay specific attention to teaching their son and daughter about homophobia, sexism and racism. They went so far as to purchase gender-neutral books (not every police officer was a man, not every nurse depicted was a woman...) and gender-neutral toys (both children played sports and had toys such as building blocks, sidewalk chalk, jumping ropes, etc...)

How did the experiment turn out? The son (a young adult at the end of the book) isn't intimidated by wearing a pink shirt to school and has had fulfilling relationships with women because he is able to listen to and communicate feelings. He is fulfilled sexually and has close gay and straight friends.

The daughter seems to struggle more. She suffers teasing because she doesn't shave her legs (considered to be "gross" in our society) and doesn't always wear makeup. Emily even describes how she has to convince herself that it is okay to not shave her legs and actually wears pants more often than she would like to in order to hide this. On the upside, she is confident in her body and in deciding not to sleep with a man even when it seems to be expected in a relationship. She pays more attention to her emotional needs. Both children turned out to be very smart.

Mind you, with this book review, I'm not advocating shaving or not shaving legs, wearing or not wearing makeup... My point is just that we don't realize how much women are still expected to look a certain way in approaching beauty. I wouldn't even consider taking a week off from wearing makeup because I'd be embarrassed to show my face without makeup to the masses. That's sad in a way. Women are conditioned to cover up true appearance or at least augment what we look like. This is cultural construction, yes, but interesting to consider in the scholarly realm of gender issue studies.

Ladies, would you be willing to forego makeup for a week and blog about it?


LetsTalkAndWalk said...


Check out Cailin's blog at the link below. She and a friend are doing a 60 day experiment called The Naked Face Project.


LizP said...

I never wear makeup so I would have to do the opposite and wear makeup and blog about it :-) But I would ... however first I'd have to purchase said makeup!

Teri's Blog said...

Oh, I only wear make up when I have too. I was never taught how to by my Mom, so it does feel like a chore when I have to do it. I was about 30 before anyone even showed me.

AK said...

Interesting. I like that the Bems are open about gender issues and equality. But it can also go too far - such as with a family in Sweeden. The parents are brining up their children as having "neutral genders" - thus objecting to refer to them as either boys or girls. That is wrong. We still need gender, it's natural. To accept the existence of genders is not the same as reinforcing society's gender roles.

As far as appearance... I wear makeup daily, because I feel fresher. I do distinguish between regular days and weekends. I have no problem going without makeup today, but I did when I was younger. It all depends on the setting. When I lived in America, I felt I was almost at a point where I started not caring about how I looked. You see people all the time walking around in their sweats and crocs and greasy hair. Over here, people are WAY more high maintenance, almost to the point of exaggeration.

I think if someone feels good about themselves, that's the key point, no matter where you live or what society thinks you should do. Makeup or not! :)

Denae said...

I stayed in this weekend and didn't wear makeup for two days. It was glorious but I only went places like the grocery store and Home Depot where people can be a bit more forgiving.