Assessment Item 1 -3602QCA [Is there a choice?]

For certain cultural norms has the choice of wearing makeup disappeared?

When makeup first started  in history, it began in a more accepting time where it was frequently worn by both the sexes. As time progressed, the various cultures developed specific criteria on how it was to be worn. Today, even though we may have many more freedoms in how we choose to wear our makeup in style, do we really have the choice to wear makeup in certain cultural norms?

It is felt that Women are supposed to wear makeup. However, Women who wear makeup aren’t natural. Men who wear makeup must be gay. Society as a whole says Men can’t wear makeup.

These are all statements online that shouldn’t mean nearly as much as they do in our society today. For some reason, the perceptions on makeup today seem to completely focus on the sexes.


Nash, Rebecca, George Fieldman, Trevor Hussey, Jean Luc Lévêque, and Patricia Pineau. 2006. “Cosmetics: They Influence More than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 36 (2): 493–504. doi:10.1111/j.0021-9029.2006.00016.x.

Cosmetics: They Influence More than Caucasian Female Facial Attractiveness, talks about one of the many situations that has become a social norm of society today. The aim of the article is to investigate if women are being judged on the makeup they are or are not wearing, in a way that changes their perceived social and work standing. It touches on one of many of the social norms in todays society and how the choice of wearing makeup, for certain situations, may be fading away for women. They do this by surveying both sexes, with photos of the same women with and without makeup on their faces.

This is very pertinent to the research I am doing, because it shows real investigation into the perceptions made about women wearing makeup, especially in the work field. Makeup has become such a standard that If you show up to a school or work environment not wearing your usual amount, you could be thought of as being sick or ill. When going to an interview, who is more likely to get the job, a women wearing makeup or one without? This shouldn’t be a deciding factor, but often it plays a surprisingly large role in our judgement. The research sticks very strongly to makeup perceptions being for Caucasian women only. In my further studies I will be looking for information on any and all genders and races.

My conclusion to this article is that there is a strong judgement factor in the workforce regarding women and their makeup. The choice of wearing makeup is teetering on a very thin line and sadly seems to be tipping to the side of loosing that choice. This is very useful to my research, to see if I can come across evidence supporting the other side of the arguments, or better still, involving different genders and race as well.

I found this article very interesting to read because of the different topics they used in their survey. Not only did they check the initial judgements made, it delved into specific topics, such as where people viewed them in their professional standing. So when did makeup become such a standard that it was almost a necessity? I remember when I was growing up and makeup was mainly for dress up. That’s not to say that I don’t wear, or have a strong love for the creative side of makeup today. I find it to be a topic that is so global and public in the media, but isn’t being touched upon in one of the biggest forms it could be publicized in.


Leibu, D. (2014), The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law by Deborah L. Rhode New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Studies, 11: 90–93. doi: 10.1002/aps.1389.

In The Beauty Bias, it touches on the same subject of how makeup is becoming too much of a standard. It goes off on the other angle to find out if not following these cultural norms is creating a form of discrimination towards them. The author touches on statistics taken from a very similar type of survey as the first article I talked about. Using photos of women with and without makeup to test the perceptions made on them. A key difference between this survey was that it was done with all different races, instead of just caucasian women.

Using a survey that was judged by a large number of men and women, using women of different races, and having three different categories for judgement; it left a wider range of responses. This allows me to see another study proving the same sort of statistics but exploring more sides to it. The research touches slightly more to the cultural type of norms that may be arising, but still doesn’t touch on the use of makeup between different genders.

Makeup is creating such a strong social importance within social and work standing. It makes me wonder how we could take away the judgements that are automatically made with makeup, when its something that almost seems unpreventable. Judgements are such a standard thing that we make with so the society of media and marketing we are in today. Like Deborah touches on in the book, why should people who don’t want to wear makeup be punished or scrutinized? Are we setting a cultural norm for makeup that is making it less of a choice and more of a burden? This contributes to the daunting process of figuring out just how high has the bar been set in today’s society with our  expectations of makeup.



Trying To Look Good Limits My Life

Fig. 1: Stefan Sagmeister, Trying To Look Good Limits My Life, 2008, ‘Things I have learned in my life so far’ book series, 15 different covers and 256 pages.,,


Trying To Look Good Limits My Life

Fig. 1: Stefan Sagmeister, Trying To Look Good Limits My Life, 2008, ‘Things I have learned in my life so far’ book series, 15 different covers and 256 pages.,,

Sagmeister, Stefan. Trying To Look Good Limits My Life. 2008. ‘Things I have learned in my life so far’ book series. 15 different covers and 256 pages.,,

Stefan Sagmeister is a well known graphic designer and typographer. He formed a collaboration with Jessica Walsh to start their New York City design firm, Sagmeister & Walsh. In 2008 Stefan worked on an art series which included pieces titled, ‘Trying To Look Good Limits My Life.’ These pieces use strong and unique typography to create evoking thought behind the statement.

Throughout the work that Sagmeister & Walsh is creating they work with bold typography that stands out in the designs. The statements they are portraying for the customers come across strong and grab your attention. In this specific piece that Sagmeister worked on, using real world typography, speaks to the cause I am researching. By proclaiming such a broad and heavy quote he is making a very bold statement. When viewing the work that he has gone out and created, I wonder if the amount of time, effort, money, concentration, etc, that is put into “looking good” .. is beneficial or limiting our lives.

Building and working with real world type speaks to the amount of effort that goes into things in our lives, that may not actually require that much work. It can be taken so many different ways and perceived by someone else completely differently, but I feel a relationship to the topic I am touching on. A leather belt had also been created and produced for sale with the same statement written on it. Putting the quote onto a wearable object creates that objectification of becoming a part of our look. Whether it be fashion, hair, style, or makeup, there are many things that have become quite the effort in our daily routines, that may have had less pressure behind them before.

Even though this may not touch on the direct topic of makeup or the roles it may be taking within cultural and gender norms, it can be closely related to my topic of research. So much of the work released to us as viewers does not have a meaning disclosed with it. Everyone finds their own meanings and connections to pieces of work and I think the meaning pushed through this design can stand for a part of my investigation.


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Fig. 2: Ana Teresa Barboza, Maquillaje, 2008, cross stitch on metal structure, 2 pieces of 17 cm x 25 cm,

Barboza, Ana Teresa. Maquillaje. 2008. Cross stitch on metal structure. 2 pieces of 17 cm x 25 cm.

I found this piece on Ana Teresa Barboza’s personal website. She lives and works in her native city of Peru and mainly works with embroidery as an artistic medium. She focuses on the human body and uses metaphors in her work to evoke feelings and strike meaning in the viewers.

This specific piece of hers that I find interesting is called Maquillaje or Makeup in english. It is two depictions of women applying makeup in a mirror. What sets this apart from regular pieces is that it is embroidered in fine detail in the actual place the mirror glass would go. I feel this touches on a big piece of how much work and effort may actually go into the application of makeup. In the photo that shows the back of the two mirrors, you see endless pieces of yarn crossing over and going every which way. This explains in a sense the time and effort that was put into the meticulous embroidery of the pieces, which mirrors  what is often put into the application of makeup.

This piece does not delve into any issues or the cultural norms behind the use of makeup in todays society. It does however, touch on an important piece of the puzzle in my research topic. I think the images contribute and are trying to shed light into how much work may be expected of a lot of women, especially in today’s working society. If it is expected of women, or more beneficial for their advancement in the workplace to be wearing a full face of makeup, do people truly understand how much goes into it?


Going through this research and investigating the different aspects of this topic, I realize just how much is going on with makeup in todays society and the issues it could be presenting. If we still do have the choice of wearing makeup, what are the repercussions of doing so? I look forward to finding out more on this topic and sharing it with you.



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