Are you surprised by this? I am not.
Many call this the burden of beauty placed on women, because we are more valued than men for our beauty, seeing as in the past it was our only currency to marry into a better family to uplift the rest of our family with us and/or become wealthier. As a result, women over the years have always been into beauty and grooming, as it was the only chance we had to advance and climb the ladder of life.
These days, we don’t technically have to, but this lingering holdover from the past, still persists, and yet if we choose not to participate in it, we simply don’t advance in our careers (where we use our brains not our bodies or our looks), and we don’t make as much as we could.
Men of course, don’t have this beauty burden placed on them and actually, they benefit in two ways: high-earning men look more attractive and attractive men also tend to be promoted and advance in the company. It’s sort of a self-fulfilling cycle.
For women, we make 20% less if we don’t groom ourselves (makeup, clothing, hair, skin), and if we are too beautiful, we get penalized for being too attractive, because we come off as untrustworthy if we are.
Yes – women who are too beautiful, are not trustworthy because women are only categorized when they’re young, as Smart or Beautiful. Never both.
I remember growing up an Ugly Duckling, so I chose Smart and I am so glad I did because my current beauty will fade, but my brain, confidence and reliance on myself will last a lifetime.
Let’s not forget the emotional labour involved
It is exhausting to think of everything we have to do such as:
- planning these appointments
- spending time in these appointments (for those who dye their hair or get it relaxed, it can be hours)
- struggle into restrictive shapewear a good hour before leaving the home
- shower, and spend time curling our hair (for me, 20 minutes), to have it ‘done’ versus just going out with it dried
- planning what to wear, where to obtain said outfits, what goes with what, making sure it fits, etc…
Personally, I am very torn…
I very much enjoy all of this – makeup, hair, clothing, grooming and so on… but I hate that it penalizes women who don’t, and that men have no such standards to live up to, although I suspect a lot of these men with great hair days and fantastic skin, aren’t just washing their face with soap and water. :-\
Women who don’t want to participate in this, should have the right to do so, but if they don’t, they simply don’t get ahead.
I wonder if it is my brainwashing as a young girl and now woman, that makes me think I need to always look forever young, preferably in the range of mid-thirties to 40s, for as long as I can. I mean just think of all the money I spend on skincare versus my partner ($0), and non-invasive or surgical treatments I will consider such as laser facials for my skin.
The only rebellious act, if we can call it that, is I don’t do manicures (I type too much for this to be a thing), but I do pedicures, and I haven’t dyed my hair in over a decade. I used to as a teenager, almost going light brown at one point to the horror of my mother who said I looked like I belonged in a gang (??), and I think I will likely not ever dye my hair and try to go grey naturally.
I had done some older posts of how much I spend on my face, and the price of beauty & why we buy. Obviously these numbers have changed somewhat, but as an example if I look back at my budget over the years:
- 2009: $3694.65
- 2010: $5766.75
- 2011: $7810.40
- 2012: $12,435.99
- 2013: $12,862.63
- 2014: $5257.29
- 2015: $10,344.34
- 2016: $8168.15
- 2017: $18,191.25
- 2018: $13,601.15
- 2019: $6266.32
What the above includes is quite a wide range of spending:
- Beauty purchases – makeup
- Toiletries including contact lens solution, soap, shampoo
- Skincare of any kind
- Spa/grooming visits
- Yoga passes – they were grouped into one category I am not going to break it out
- ALL style — fashion, jewellery, shoes, anything to do with wardrobe/closet
So as you can see, these are big amounts in some years, and lower in others. In more recent years (2019 and later), I am now far more conscious about my spending than before, because my priorities are changing in the sense that I am now focused on seeing how much I can REALLY save on a contract if I put my mind to it.
Then maybe after that, I go back to spending more on the stuff above.
With style, it is clear I enjoy it greatly, so I am not surprised at my numbers, nor do I regret them. I have everything I could possibly need or want, and at this point, I am just doing it for fun and as a challenge (note: in recent years I am also shopping secondhand 99% and limiting all consumption as much as I can).
Did my spending above help me get ahead to make a killer income? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t really have any other women consultants to compare notes with who are my age, nor would they tell me (unlikely) what they earn and spent on grooming, style, etc.
But I do think that my presentation of self, has helped a lot, to gain trust at a client’s site, as I always start at a disadvantage, being a young woman. To dress appropriately, helps with that image of trust and confidence, that men gain immediately but women have to work for.
I remember at a contract, a client exclaiming: I don’t know how I got hosed on her rate! She looks like a teenager, how can she possibly know anything let alone lead a team?
After overhearing that, I realized I had to start dressing better and taking care of my skin more, simply because I was being discriminated against. I of course, crushed it at the project and led my team to success, but it doesn’t help when you start with a handicap right out of the gate just because of the way you look.
So this quote was what summed up a woman’s battle of beauty for me:
“Ellis is frank when I ask her why she bothers with an exhausting grooming routine that extends well beyond the supposed professional norms of showering, brushing your hair and dressing in neat, clean clothes. “The people who aren’t making this kind of effort have plateaued,” she says simply. “The people who are doing it are the high achievers.””
And that’s really, the bottom line. Women who don’t groom themselves, take time to wear proper clothes that fit and flatter, will simply not advance.
Of course, if you’re in a minimum wage job, or a career without any real advancement (hmm really?), this won’t matter at all, but I can remember back to when I was in high school and my friend who worked in a retail store, was promoted to manager while in high school because she was hardworking, smart, and took the time to dress well, and look nice. She beat out others who were in their 20s simply because of this extra effort she made.