Ok y’all, it’s that time again. I’m getting on the soapbox, yelling indignantly et cetera. But can we talk about how so much of beauty has this unpleasantly infantilizing tone? Looking at a lot of beauty ads, there are strange references to girlhood and childishness.
The unicorn trend is, I’d say, the most obvious illustration of this – unicorns may just be the ultimate symbol of female virginity, innocence, purity and girlhood. Brand after brand drop unicorn-themed products in cutesy packaging, along with other typical childhood favourites like fairies and mermaids.
How many have there been in the last five years? Brands like Sephora, Cargo, Besame, MAC, Ardell, Orly and ELF have all sold Disney princess-themed cosmetics in the last few years. These are big, mainstream brands aimed at adult women with adult paychecks, not middle schoolers with pocket money. Yet if you enter the nearest toy store, sure enough, you’ll find the exact same Disney princesses adorning those toy makeup sets.
This isn’t only a phenomenon in direct-to-consumer marketing, either – modern beauty PR gladly lends itself to this myth of girlhood. I’m a nobody in the blogging world, so I don’t interact a ton with brands and PR agencies myself, but thanks to social media I can at least watch other people do so. I’ve seen press samples sent in the shape of a huge lollipop, cutesy balloons accompanying PR packages, and ball pits at press events. What’s next, a bouncy castle?
Are we living in a world where grown women and little girls share the exact same idols and aspirations? If we’re to believe trend forecaster Li Edelkoort, it’s about escaping to a simple, black-and-white narrative. I think she has a point. But I also think there’s a historical background to the infantilization of women. Women have always been made out to be children, to be unable to handle the responsibilities of adult life.
Somehow, we’re starting to agree with this misogynistic sentiment – with books teaching you how to “adult”, and the aforementioned Disney princess makeup and unicorn toast. Not to mention the adult colouring books, the sudden appearance of ruffles on every garment in every store, and the prevalence of female sexual submission. It’s all connected.
I’m not here to be a curmudgeon who hates fun and thinks everyone should wear grey and only read kafka novels – but I do think we have to examine these trends and be critical of them. I love girly stuff as much as the next guy, but there’s a point where too much sweetness makes you queasy. I’m a grown ass woman, damn it.
Header image: Too Faced Clover Palette