It took a while for me to be able to articulate what annoyed me about arguments along the lines of “everyone is smart/talented/skilled/beautiful in their own way,” but I eventually recognized that the thing that bothered me about those kinds of statements was their underlying logic—that everyone needs to be X or have X in order to have value. I think that trying to justify/prove those types of statements is a trap that a lot of people fall into in an attempt to be politically correct. I believe that it’s important to treat a human being’s value as an intrinsic and holistic quality, rather than something that is contingent on some quality they possess or don’t possess.
The reason why I bring this up is that I’ve been feeling objectified recently. This is part of the Wikipedia definition: “[Objectification] is part of dehumanization, the act of disavowing the humanity of others.” When I feel like people are—consciously or subconsciously—“valuing” me only for my external appearance, I feel like my worth depends on how I look, and that feels really bad. And it’s so dehumanizing because I am not just a body! I am a human being! In other words, I don’t want to be seen only for the way that I look.
One thing that I’ve been thinking about is how I present myself relates/doesn’t relate to me being objectified. Three years ago, I started dressing less conservatively (i.e., I started wearing crop tops), and have continued that ever since. Initially, this change came from a desire to not be seen/stereotyped as a passive Asian girl, and also to push myself out of my comfort zone. Since, changing my wardrobe has been an amazing catalyst for cultivating self-confidence and loving my body. But when I think about slut-shaming rhetoric like “if you don’t want to receive attention, then don’t dress provocatively,” I fall into the trap of blaming myself and the way I choose to present myself when I feel objectified. I’ve been trying to rewire that self-blame by reminding myself how easy it is for me to interact with others in multidimensional ways and to treat them as human beings.
This post has been in my drafts for awhile… Last month, I visited New York and took a trip to the Glossier showroom, the first (out of two, now) Glossier store in the world! I had never purchased any Glossier products before, and I was not super familiar with their product line, so this was a very new experience for me.
The showroom is located in the penthouse of a building that is actually pretty close to RC. When I arrived, there was a line of about 10-ish people waiting to get in. It was somewhat deterring, but the woman in front of me told me that the line moved quickly. We were probably waiting for less than 5 minutes, and then we got ushered into an elevator and went up to the showroom together.
The place was fairly crowded and smelled like roses. There was music playing. The interior decoration was spot on, and very on-brand, like the graphic design of the website in real life. Even though the place was crowded, the product layout made it pretty easy to try things on.
I ended up purchasing the one item I went with the intention of trying, the Boy Brow. The checkout process is similar to the one at MAC, if I recall correctly (it’s been a long time since I’ve purchased something at a MAC store), where you go to the register and tell them what you’d like to purchase. I was surprised because I was told to wait a bit while my “purchase was being prepared,” even though I only bought one thing. But when I received my bag shortly afterwards, I found that my Boy Brow was packaged nicely in a pink makeup bag, along with a couple of samples and Glossier stickers, and I was no longer disturbed/put off by the fact that my purchase needed to be prepared.
I feel that the most exciting part of the whole experience for me was not the actual experience of being in the store, but realizing that I had been “marketed to.” Even though I had previously read about the company and its founder (h/t Sonia ☺️) and watched videos of people applying and reviewing Glossier products, I didn’t really get the brand. But after visiting the showroom and making a purchase, I totally understood and bought into the brand’s appeal.
Unlike most other makeup companies which either seem to brand themselves as aspirational (e.g., Fenty Beauty, luxury beauty brands), more artistic (e.g., Kat Von D, MAC), or role-specific (e.g., Bobbi Brown for the professional woman, Huda Beauty for the Instagram baddie), Glossier advertises its products as bringing out the real you, but enhanced and cooler. Cool is the one word that always stays cool (I forget where I read this). Also, since Glossier is a makeup and skincare brand, their message is not only more believable, but they can also get consumers to buy in to the entire ecosystem, which is genius. The only makeup brand that I can think of that is as cool as Glossier is Pat McGrath’s line, but it’s more artistry-focused and isn’t geared towards everyday wear.
For me, someone who pretty much wears a full face of makeup whenever they wear makeup and is relatively high maintenance (people have commented on how frequently I wash my makeup brushes), the idea of becoming a “Glossier girl” was enticing. Since I’ll be traveling this summer and mostly living out of my suitcase, I knew that I didn’t want to pack a lot of brushes, and especially not my makeup sponge. If I embraced the your-beauty-but-slightly-enhanced Glossier look, then I wouldn’t have to pack any makeup brushes.
This idea was so compelling to me that I almost immediately changed my daily makeup routine, and honestly I don’t see myself changing it back even after the summer. I think the fact that the brand (which I only purchased one product from!) already made such an impact on my mindset and daily life goes to show how powerful—and craved—its message is. Glossier is definitely doing a lot of things right.
The word beauty is overloaded: it’s used to describe both “outer beauty” and “inner beauty.”
Inner beauty is pretty much an unobjectionable idea. Of course we all want to be good people! But why does inner beauty have to have any relationship to outer beauty? C.f. quotes about “true beauty comes from within.” Even if outer beauty does reflect inner beauty, I don’t understand why the relationship is drawn at all, other than the fact that the two ideas happen to share a common word!
This is also why I find messages like “strong is beautiful,” “skinny is beautiful,” etc. so problematic. Although well-meaning (whatever that counts for!), in an attempt at inclusivity, they reinforce the idea that outer beauty – rather than inner beauty – is something that should be universally sought.