A useful example of the way in which male dominance enforces makeup use by women is the treatment of women in mental hospitals. Some hospital psychologists understand the maintenance of feminine beauty practices to signify “mental health” and enforce makeovers for women they consider recalcitrant. Resistance by women to these practices is seen as a symptom of ill health. Thus Michael Pertschuk says that the first thing medical students are taught is to observe the patient: “How is he dressed? Hair neat? Hands clean? If the patient is a woman, is she wearing makeup? How well is it applied? Has she attended to her hair and nails?” (Pertschuk, 1985, p. 217). […] Pertschuk’s big worry is that, “The woman who feels unable to meet the demands of a female identity and who grooms and dresses accordingly is indeed likely to be viewed as asexual by those around her” (1985, p. 221). The woman may desire precisely such freedom from men’s gaze but Pertschuk will not allow it. He sees the solution for such women who refuse to service male sexuality as “appearance training”. He explains how this cruel procedure was carried out on a 29-year-old woman with anorexia who, “In appearance … looked rather like a thin, frightened nine-year-old boy. She wore no makeup. Her hair was worn very short. She was dressed in nondescript slacks and a top. She was extremely diffident in her manner” (1985, p. 222). He used what he calls a “flooding procedure” on her:
"We coaxed her into the situation she feared i.e. using cosmetics, and helped her work through her anxieties. Her initial response to the occupational therapist’s extremely modest application of mascara, lipstick, and powder was to say that she now looked like a prostitute. However, after repeated application of cosmetics for a week, she became somewhat more accepting. The occupational therapist worked with Alice to teach her to apply makeup herself. The entire staff conscientiously attempted to reinforce her with compliments about her appearance. The next phase of training involved selection of clothes … The goal was for her to select a few items of more becoming apparel, specifically a dress. The patient had not worn a dress in nine years. Again with much coaxing, Alice was able to do this and was lavishly reinforced for her efforts." (Pertschuk, 1985, p. 222)
This attempt at something like dog obedience training did not, as Pertschuk says, “cure Alice”, but he thinks it “did help” (1985, p. 223). She now wore dresses for appointments and was letting her hair grow so he was probably able to look on her with more satisfaction. She had a “sexual identity” for him.
Beauty and Misogyny, Sheila Jeffreys (p. 122)
Oh god. *vomits*
R.I.P. to all the men and boys who have been abused, assaulted, and killed but are only remembered when someone needs a tragic example to reason away the suffering of women.
I’m so sorry that misogynists only see you as tools to enforce oppression.
You deserve so much better than that.
The thing is, rapists absolutely need one thing to operate. They need people to believe they are not rapists. Stranger rapists do that by trying to hide that they are the person who committed the rape. Acquaintance rapists do that by picking targets who won’t say anything about what happened, or by using tactics that, if the survivor does speak up, people will decide don’t really count as rape. If you want to do something about rapists, make sure people know they are rapists.
This article contains some very useful, very concrete tips on how to attack rape culture in your social circles
If you asked your girlfriend, “Do you want a Hawaiian vacation for your birthday?” and she didn’t say anything, would you buy plane tickets? If you asked someone at the grocery store, “I only have one item, do you mind if I check out ahead of you?” and they stared determinedly into space, would you cut in front of them? Why is it that “you didn’t say no” applies only to sex?