Unretouched make up ad a reminder the problem’s much bigger

I’m pretty sure Make Up For Ever had folks like the Feministing community in mind when they put together this ad:

Thin blond white model takes a picture of her made up face. Copy reads You're looking at the first unretouched make up ad

The ad claims to be the first for make up that isn’t retouched. The feminist critique of retouched images of models has gone mainstream, so I’m not surprised to see a make up company engage with it directly. But I see this more as an attempt to co-opt the critique in order to sell a product than actual progress. Don’t get me wrong, I love make up – my feminism has equal space for stilettos and work boots. But this ad still represents a very specific beauty standard – the model is still incredibly thin, white, blond, the photo’s still lit and shot professionally to make her look as smooth, thin, and pale as possible, and the make up is still done by a professional. In fact, pointing out the ad wasn’t retouched serves to make this unattainable idea of beauty seem more real. Retouching is part of the problem of what the beauty industry’s selling us, but it really just scratches the surface.

So kudos to feminism for pushing this issue to the point where a major make up company starts engaging with our ideas in its ads. But sorry Make Up For Ever, you’re not gonna make me think you’ve gotten unproblematic that easily.

Via Jezebel

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/charlesford42/ Charlie

    She does have those little bumps on her arm. Her camera is off, though.

  • http://feministing.com/members/relised/ Renee

    I don’t have a problem with professional photography, flattering lighting, stylists, etc. There will always be pretty people in the world. I’d love to see more diversity, but at least this woman EXISTS.

  • http://feministing.com/members/offbooze/ offbooze

    I struggle with this: that beauty isn’t a total social construct, in that we are all engineered to see certain people as attractive–we can all, for instance, agree on what facial structure is attractive (wide cheek bones, large eyes, small nose, small chin), and do so across cultures. We have the impulse to evaluate each other, so the question isn’t about undoing that impulse necessarily; indeed, this ad privileges a different kind of purity: touch up free is almost a religious statement that my beauty (however stereotypical) comes without aids, and I’m still the hottest thing in the room without trying SO LONG AS you use this make-up.

    • ecape2

      “we can all, for instance, agree on what facial structure is attractive (wide cheek bones, large eyes, small nose, small chin), and do so across cultures.”

      You’re not completely right about that.

      But even so, any cross-cultural study done in the last 30-40 years is necessarily dealing with cultures who are exposed to much of the same media. Poor people in many countries of Africa idolize the same American celebrities that we do, for instance. So cross-cultural comparison may not be all that valuable in this day and age for determining what is truly “innate.”

  • http://feministing.com/members/fltc/ F.Toth

    I have a big problem with the notion that the stereotypically beautiful creature–blonde, thin, and probably a teenager pretending to be a women–STILL is supposed to wear make up to be attractive. I know the make up company has to sell the product. In this case I am not blaming them for doing that they have to do. The fact that this message still is considered believable makes me sick.

  • http://feministing.com/members/flor/ Flor

    I don’t think they are trying to show they are more feminist or progressive than other make up companies; I think they are just saying that their product is so good it looks touched up when it’s not.

    Also, can anyone read what the little comment on the side says?

  • http://feministing.com/members/eleanore/ eleanore wells

    I don’t object. I got what I need from the ad. I want to know that it’s not re-touched. I expect an ad to be well-lit and staged to look great. After all, they are trying to sell a product.

    eleanore – The Spinsterlicious Life

  • http://feministing.com/members/kl1982/ Kate

    Actually, if you look at the whole campaign, it is rather diverse:


    While it would be nice to see a variety of body types, it doesn’t seem right to criticize a company for a campaign when they are actually taking steps in the right direction.