Thursday, October 8, 2015


Hey everybody! In this post I'm going to be examining a company that you may be familiar with, Maybelline. Though this website was born as a "beauty and fashion" blog if you will, I'm sure it has become quite apparent that is not the case any longer. (Totally not to say that I don't enjoy makeup or writing about it...but that's not my point here.) In Crit Theory today we were discussing language and the relationship between ideas/objects and the words that we use to signify them. So, my friend and I decided to take a look at the makeup brand Maybelline in order to observe this phenomenon.  

Diachronically speaking, Maybelline represents the “ideal” woman in American culture: one that is seen and not heard. In other words, she is revered for her physical appearance and not for her personal beliefs or opinions. Although their ads have changed over time in terms of appearance and marketing techniques (i.e. slogans and color schemes), the message has remained static: women are made into meaningful individuals by making themselves up with Maybelline products. In Maybelline ads from the early 1900’s, the message is blatant and woven expertly into the descriptions of the ads. However, in more recent advertisements the sexism is implied in the language rather than said outright.

When you look at this specific ad from Maybelline in a synchronic sense, you get the idea that everything women are doing is for men, not for themselves. Women are told through this makeup ad that men always want them to be perfect. However, they are only perfect when it comes to their physical appearance; women’s thoughts and ideas are clearly not as revered as much as say, her eyes. Even if the women’s man is away, she should look the way he thought she would when he returned.

 The word “makeup” itself leads one to believe that those who use it are hiding something. Makeup acts as a façade, a mask that covers up the truth, and “the truth” is that women are undesirable without it. Many of the advertisements feature words like “accent” and “perfect” imply that women need to use Maybelline products because their natural beauty is understated, boring, and in need of improvement.

These Maybelline ads speak to the nature of American beauty ideals: women need makeup because they are not pretty without it. Natural beauty is something to be ashamed of, and the façade that makeup provides becomes the “truth”. The language that these ads utilize is persuasive and steeped in sexism, aimed solely at generating revenue and perpetuating stereotypes of women.

 Maybelline’s “target audience” is arguably white, heterosexual upper-middle class women. While this demographic is likely the main consumer of these products, it is important to keep in mind that there are a multitude of individuals (of varying races and ethnic backgrounds) who are consuming but not being represented. The ideas that construct Maybelline as a brand were once stable and static as women were trapped in a singular role by society. However today, as women continue to stand up for themselves and defy social norms, those ideas are outdated and fail to accurately support women as a whole.

until next time,



  1. Looks like the start of a great BITCH Magazine story... :)

  2. This is a good analysis, Shannon! I like your writing style and I think your blog is beautiful! I wanted to take a minute and give my $0.02 on the ads that you chose to feature. The first is clearly one of the many "propogandized" WW2 ads that show women in support of the war effort. Women, of course, represent home and hope and future in this world. I think the language is very interesting in the first image "Just as he dreamed her eyes would be" is certainly very mysoginyst, in so far as the industry is defining beauty through the eyes of the home-coming GI. The industry wants to show that women are still sexy and desirable despite the fact that they have had to keep the home front going, including many long shifts as aeropleane mechanics and riveters and such. "The MEN" still wanted to come home to find Hollywood starlets waiting for them, after all, that's what the pinups they were used to promised them! It's an interesting dichotomy: the ACTUAL (factory workers, farmers, homesteaders, butter savers, metal collectors, green stamp users) and the FANTASY which were all these beautiful "sweater girls" who had been waiting (in stasis, evidently) chastely for the MEN to return from war. It's a cognitive (and social) disconnect that I think we're still feeling the rebound from, these man years later. In contrast, the later ad you showcase is definitely appealing much more to women themselves, and what's more, it's appealing to how women see (and judge) other women. What I think is interesting here, is the emphapsis on numbers and "science." The ad uses terms like "8x bigger!" and "Rocket time!" to sell their products. I think this says a lot about how the perception of women has changed since the 1940's. Women are understood to be smarter, more schooled in math and statistics and are appealed to by a "space age" marketing campaign. Yet, they are still being told that beauty is important. Rather than being beautiful for some GI, now you are subject to "space age" trends and you must keep up with the latest technology. I wonder if, perhaps, the beauty industry is trying to intimidate "us simple minded women" by throwing a bunch of numbers at us (because, some man said they're important, and what would WE know about science?) we could be intimidated into buying into their line because it's SCIENTIFIC and "the numbers" say it makes us more attractive? I can't draw a definitive conclusion on this, of course, but it does offer a great discussion point about the perception of female beauty(and who "we" are trying to impress) over generations.


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