Doll Up and Get Ahead

The Supreme Court has decided to hear the Walmart sex discrimination case – not the case itself but whether or not it can be tried as a class action lawsuit. The implications are huge as, more often than not, individuals are powerless against big conglomerates such as WalMart. The only way they can have power is to band together. If it goes to trial as a class action, it puts considerable pressure on WalMart to settle and change. The emotions are running high and the opinions vary. Is this true gender discrimination or merely the sour grapes of a bunch of women who truly did not have what it takes to be good managers? Can’t wait to see how this one turns out.

But let’s face it, its not just big bad WalMart. Our society still has deep seeded preconceived notions regarding men and women and although many barriers have been overcome gender equity still does not exist. Take for instance the comment allegedly made by a WalMart manager to the woman in the lawsuit who was seeking a promotion. The advice she was given was to “doll up” and “dust the cobwebs off of your make-up.” I know I can recall many times saying something like that to a man who was asking about promotional opportunities. There is a part of me that is always surprised when I hear these things. I mean, come on – still today? But, I guess I still live in somewhat of a protective bubble.

It does not change the fact that women are still expected to look a certain way, behave a certain way, embrace the feminine ideal and all the while balance the opposing characteristics that typically connote leadership – strength, assertiveness, decisiveness, power and authority. Talk about Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And if you don’t look a certain way, as a woman it can hurt you.

Why does a woman have to look a certain way to prove her competency?  If she is clean and dressed neatly that should be all that matters, right? When this whole “doll up” and “dust the cobwebs off of your make up” thing surfaced yesterday, a friend of mine questioned whether wearing make-up is necessary in order for a woman to be successful. That really got me thinking. I’ve never considered not wearing make-up to work or to job interviews or to social events. It has become just a part of what I do. I never stopped to question why until now.

As a young girl, I looked to Madison Avenue to define beauty. Growing up in the “British Invasion” era, magazines were loaded with pictures of Twiggy (weight and women, a totally separate blog) with heavy eye make up and very distinct upper and lower lashes. Mary Quant was a household name. Make up and fashion were it for me. I remember begging my mother to let me wear make-up. I was probably the last girl of my peers allowed to do so. My mother would not even let me pluck my eyebrows resulting in a truly remarkable Freshman Year class picture of me with one continuous eyebrow. Talk about mortified!

Make up was and still is a part of my life. I’ve never really considered otherwise. So the question of whether make up is necessary to be successful is not an easy one for me to answer. On the surface, I would say yes it is. Our society is so ingrained in how a woman should look and part of that look requires make up. As to whether it is fair or should be part of the “package” that women present, that is a completely different issue. It’s not fair. And I learned a long time ago that life isn’t fair and to get over it.

The other side of the coin is one of personal preference. Make up makes me feel better. I want to look good. And if you have ever seen me without make up, I can guarantee you that it is not a pretty sight. I use make up for me, not for others. It may have been ingrained in me for all the wrong reasons, but it is part of who I am and I do not regret that. Wearing make up makes me feel good. It gives me self confidence. And self confidence never hurt on a job interview. But wait, that’s right, I am a woman so don’t be too self confident or it will turn people off…  Oh well.

3 thoughts on “Doll Up and Get Ahead

  1. Alright, now I feel like commenting all the time!
    I just had the make-up conversation with my husband a few weeks ago. I’m sure he could have cared less, but being a good husband, he indulged the conversation.

    I am now 37. I have never been a big make-up wearer. I just never really had the inkling to take the time to do so. If I’m “going out” or it’s a special occasion, I definitely wear it, but other than that I never wear it! So my question to my husband, as I looked around recently at other mothers picking up their kids from school, was WHEN should I start wearing make-up all the time? At what age do people look at me and start saying, “Jen, a little foundation and lipstick wouldn’t kill you!”.

    He responded that he hates make-up and could care less if i ever wear it. He thinks the women who wear it all the time are covering up their true selves (love my husband!). So, I’m not too worried about wearing make-up regularly any time soon…
    BUT, I will say, when I DO wear make-up I feel that people take me more seriously, and treat me with a bit more respect. Is it because I feel better about myself and respect *myself* a bit more? Is it because I feel a little flirty and fun and fresh? Perhaps.

    Still, I think make-up is a pain in the butt.


  2. You pose an interesting question – ‘when should I be wearing make-up all the time”? For me it is just the opposite. I find myself wearing it less as I have gotten older, especially since I am not working a traditional 40 hour-a-week job. I never wear it at home and have even gone out to dinner a couple of times with Nick and not worn it.

    I think the appropriate use of make-up becomes trickier as you get older. If I wore red lipstick now I would look like a joke. In my 20’s it looked ok. Heavy make up makes me look like Tammy Faye Baker – light make up looks good. So I think it is interesting that you are thinking that as you get older you might want to consider wearing make-up more regularly. I find I wear it less regularly.


  3. I, too have a husband who refers to make-up as “junk” and doesn’t understand why women use it. God bless him as I have never worn it and have no desire to start using it.

    This conversation about make up and looking “professional” came about when our city treasurer, who always looks very chic, told me the following “Cindi, I know you don’t wear make up but with a just a little bit we could do a lot with you.” I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I suppose I started it by noting how I really liked her scarf.

    I don’t dye my hair (going grey!) and don’t wear make up. I’ll take being comfortable with “me” and accept that life isn’t fair if at some point I feel as if I’m skipped over since I don’t exude “professional.”

    I’ll still look at the vast majority of you and think “wow, you look great” and inside I’ll think – but I’ll get you on the sports field…. 🙂

    Thanks Jan for your great blogs!



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