Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eyelashes and moral regulation

Nicole gave me the box for this "Bad Gal" mascara, which came with a sample pack of make up that you get for shopping at a specific store.

What I want to know is whether "bad girls" have different eyelashes than "good girls." What makes one a "bad girl?" Long eyelashes is supposed to be alluring, so does being alluring and seductive make a woman bad? It plays into the Madonna/whore complex, in which there are only two types of women- good women and bad women.

Madonna (a biblical reference, not to be confused with the popstar) represents "good" "pure" and "well-behaved" women. These women do not have sexuality, and therefore, do not need alluring eyelashes. The "whore" is supposed to represent sexual women. What is most problematic is that within this dichotomy is that all women that do not follow the "good girl" rules end up being seen as bad, as is evidenced in the double standards imposed on women's behavior.

Like this product, a general theme throughout pop culture involves playing into this stereotype rather than trying to change expectations regulating women's behavior. As a result, women (and, increasingly, young girls) want to conform to standards of beauty and behavior that are imposed on them by this norm- for more on this, see the book "Female Chauvinist Pigs". As women's sexuality becomes less taboo, it is less stigmatizing to be a "bad girl" but it I don't like that the category still exists. A lot of TV shows and movies portray female characters as either "good," meaning asexual, motherly, or if they are sexually active, it is only within the bounds of a long-term monogamous relationship or "bad" women, meaning sexually active, deceptive, generally seducing poor men who can't help but fall for them.

Despite the name of this product, I think that long and thick eyelashes have become a beauty standard that women are expected to have regardless of their behavior within this dichotomy. Eyelashes that are "inadequate" by dominant standards are now considered a medical problem requiring prescription medication! At very least, needing medication to "fix" this "problem" seems to break away from the previously mentioned dichotomy, but it does so because there is money to be made by drug companies who want as large of a consumer base as possible (as do companies selling mascara). This medication also has side effects, such as the permanent darkening of the iris, which sounds a bit dangerous to me.. if you had blue or green eyes, they could turn brown, and if you had brown eyes, they could get darker. It entirely blurs the distinction between beauty aids and health care.

I wonder how many men have felt as though they needed a medication to thicken their eyelashes... or have purchased products which labelled them as "bad" because of a desire to conform to dominant standards of beauty.


  1. As a man, I can't seem to understand the attraction of long eyelashes, but I can definitely "feel" it. Long eyelashes have been a hallmark of an attractive woman for millenia's. Refer to ancient egypt.

    Is this is a biological thing, or simply a deeply ingrained historical-repetition exercise?

  2. I doubt it is a biological thing... ancestors were probably not like "ooh... look at that potential mate, those lashes will help prevent getting dust in my offspring's eyes"

    But I have no idea what it might really be about.

  3. Eyelashes do seem to be a sign of femininity, for whatever reason. If you look at cartoon animals, often the only difference between "male" and "female" faces is that the females have eyelashes- look at mickey and minnie mouse for example.

    It seems to date back to ancient Egypt, if Wikipedia can be believed. Might be because our eyes are drawn to things that move, and having longer lashes draws attention to the eyes, or maybe it is just because men and women are supposed to look different, and this is one of many ways to achieve that.

    I'd love to hear it if someone has any insight into our desire for long eyelashes, as my google searches have turned up very little other than numerous eyelash enhancement products.

  4. Eyelashes thin as one ages, so thick, very evident eyelashes are a sign of youth -- rather more valued in women than in men.

    It is the same with eyebrows, by the way, but I think there's probably a more noticeable gender difference there, that women exaggerate by plucking. (Depending on their culture.)