Beauty Tales

beauty tales

I was going to leave the blog alone this weekend to concentrate on other things, but I’ve stopped questioning when I feel like posting. I guess that explains why I’ll never be able to implement a planned blogging schedule, most of my posts tend to be spontaneous. Last night, I dreamt of long delicious baths, with heather and violets floating in the water, creating a haze of perfume. This morning, I woke up and bought some beauty products from Rose and Co. Apothecary online. There’s a story behind this dream and these purchases, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to share it.

But first, there’s a context for why I’m even bothering to share this. You may have noticed this post by Grace from Design*Sponge. Who would have thought that a simple post on nail polish would create such an in-depth discussion about attitudes towards women bloggers? I sat there reading Grace’s comment, nodding my head in agreement. I’ve often encountered passive-aggressive comments on various women’s blogs when they decide to post items that may be expensive, or when they decide to do beauty posts.

Besides the fact that a lot of women work damn hard for their little luxuries, this is also a form of misogyny. Women are inflicting self-hate upon other women. Many of my male friends buy expensive after-shaves and suits. Do I judge them for that? Does anyone else judge them for that? Not very often. It’s assumed they worked hard for these things, and therefore, they have nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve been thinking about why female bloggers are treated differently when they talk about their own wares, and I suppose you could cite many reasons: it’s a tough economy, many people are struggling, there are people in the world who can’t even afford food, it’s ‘superficial’ to concentrate on these things when compared to other issues. These are all valid points. But when I see snarky comments on female bloggers’ posts, I can’t help feeling the response is primarily based on gender.

There’s another thing that bothers me though with these comments: they assume that women blogging about these things are compiling their posts like a shopping list, borrowed from the pages of a magazine trying to sell you stuff. That’s not always what these posts are about. As Jane pointed out in her comments here, these posts are also about abstract enjoyment. And for me, some products are not just wares with a price tag, they also carry stories with them. I’ll tell you one.

the moors

the moors

When I was doing research at The Brontë Parsonage Museum, it was a cold time of year. After I hiked up on the moors with a local guide, I could feel myself starting to get sick. I knew I wouldn’t have time to be sick, and I was staying in a cottage room by myself with no one to take care of me. I figured the only way to beat the sickness was to let myself relax, to trust what my body is telling me and let it calm down for a while. So I walked into the village’s Apothecary shop to buy some bath salts and sweet-smelling soap in preparation for a long, hot bath that evening. Not only did I buy the salts and soap, but I also walked away with a satchel filled with dried heather from the moors and an array of salves and lotions by Rose and Co. Apothecary. I felt like I was carrying a bag full of the moors in my hands.

That evening was heaven: a long and slow process of enjoying being swallowed by warm water, smelling the various delicious scents in the room, and feeling as if an open meadow was clinging to my skin. I’ve had a sentimental fondness for Rose and Co. Apothecary products ever since, and I use them regularly. I notice that I tend to use them when my body seems to be screaming: enough, you’ve stressed me out too much, stop your abstract thinking and actually enjoy me.

That’s just it. I can’t call posts on cosmetics and perfumes ‘superficial’, because I can’t ignore the fact that I’m not simply an abstract mind, but also a physical body. I do terrible things to myself that aren’t healthy. I stay up late working, I don’t get enough sleep, I forget to eat when I’m writing. There’s only so much you can ignore your body though before it rebels.

Of course, I do realise there’s a bevy of superficiality out there on the internet, and I’ve often voiced my opinion against it. But I resent the idea that women’s beauty products have been co-opted into slick consumerism and superficiality. Because for me, they are part of my enjoyment of life and my senses. I also think people make fun of these things because they’re associated primarily with women: it’s ‘fluffy’ women’s stuff. That’s just insulting and demeaning.

So as a feminist, this is what I think: if anyone makes you feel guilty for posting about these things and enjoying beauty products, the superficiality is on their end, not yours. Yes, these products are a luxury and I do have perspective about the world. But it’s reasonable to balance this perspective with an enjoyment of things that extends beyond their price tags. We are different beings with different buying habits: a lip balm can represent a product that one person buys because of its label and marketing, while another person will buy it because it’s a symbol of a personal memory. Let’s not generalise and place everyone within simplistic categories. And please, let’s not be misogynistic to each other.

Image credits: All images are my own. The faux-painterly top one is courtesy of some Photoshop fun with a photo of my cosmetics. I’ve often thought how nice it would be to sit and paint all the different colours and shapes of my beauty products, but alas, I lack both the time and skill for that.