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August 14 2015

Media Feminists Uncover an Insidious Form of Bias Against Women: the "Makeup Tax"

Charlotte Allen

It's the newest form of sexist oppression: the "makeup tax."

No--not the sales tax the Clinique lady has to collect when you buy a new lipstick, silly. It seems that women spend a lot more time than men every morning applying cosmetics and doing up their hair.

And that's not fair! Here's Olga Khazan at the the Atlantic:

Women invest time and money into doing their makeup because it impacts their relationships and their paychecks. And while both genders tend to buy haircuts, shaving cream, and moisturizer, the price of makeup is something men never have to worry about....

Years of research has shown that attractive people earn more. Thus, the makeup tax: Good-looking men and good-looking women both get ahead, but men aren't expected to wear makeup in order to look good.

Boo-hoo!

Tyler Atwood at Bustle took over the talking drum from Khazan:

Khazan notes that modern culture further complicates the issue by saturating magazines, television, and advertisements with cosmetics-sporting women, thus transforming what should be an optional beauty practice into something obligatory if one wishes to climb the rungs of the corporate ladder or score a holiday bonus. Men are unshackled to makeup while women are pressured to utilize cosmetics.

While there is no immediate solution on the horizon, knowledge of the makeup tax and its consequences is a form of power, and allows women to ask more probing questions about seemingly innocuous aesthetic issues that may be impeding gender equality.

And, as it turns out, none other than Hillary Clinton has styled herself a victim of the makeup tax:

In an online question-and-answer session on Facebook, the former Secretary of State was asked about her morning routine by a female Facebook staffer who noted that she has to spend more than 30 minutes getting ready while her boyfriend “zips out the door.”

“I wonder about how the ‘hair and makeup tax’ affects other women — especially ones I admire in high-pressure, public-facing jobs,” asked Libby Brittain, who added that as a “young professional woman” she’d like to know how Clinton handles it while “staying focused on the ‘real’ work ahead.”

Clinton agreed that it’s a problem.

“Amen, sister — you’re preaching to the choir,” she wrote. “It’s a daily challenge. I do the best I can — and as you may have noticed, some days are better than others!”

Now, if I were Libby Brittain's boyfriend, I might  be pointing out some of the taxes that I have to pay but women don't. For example, there's the "shaving tax." Men feel "pressured" not to show up at work with day-old stubble unless their job title is "bouncer." And guys who'd wish "to climb the rungs of the corporate ladder" also have to pay the "shower and deodorant tax." It's so unfair that it's "obligatory" to smell nice at work when everyone knows that men sweat a lot more than women! And how about the "tie tax"? Unless you're Mark Zuckerberg, you've got to stick your neck into one of those nooses every single day if you want to make the C-suite. Carly Fiorina didn't have to wear a tie when she was president of HP!

I love Olga Khazan's parting shot at the Atlantic:

Or, the country’s only serious female presidential contender [that doesn't mean you, Carly!] could, when asked, speak out against appearance discrimination and gender bias—something she herself has very publicly faced. That kind of response could help change the makeup norm, sister.

Maybe Hillary could call for a $350 billion anti-makeup program, just like her $350 billion college tuition program.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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