“Beauty is an Attitude”

Estée Lauder Introduces European-Specific Skincare Line, Reminding Us of Our War Against American Women

Personally, I believe most cosmetic facial creams and moisturizers do nothing for women’s skin besides hydrate it, and I think the cosmetics industry sells mostly ageism, vitamin A, and water. I also firmly believe in what Estée Lauder must have when she began selling the facial crèmes she invented with the help of her chemist uncle: that “there are no ugly women, only women who don’t care or who don’t believe they’re attractive.”

Unfortunately, today’s multinational cosmetics firms profit mightily from predatory marketing designed to strategically divide and conquer women as though they were enemies on a battlefield. In the U.S. in particular, the cosmetics industry seems to thrive on a premise of negativity: that there’s automatically something wrong with you that you simply must fix. From makeup to cosmetic surgery to the final handoff to Big Pharma, American women are the baton in a pretty nasty relay race.

Co-founder of Healthy is the New Skinny Katie Halchishick, in the November 2011 issue of O (Oprah Magazine). Dotted lines, like those made by cosmetic surgeons (or photo editors) cover Katie, indicating what would have to be cut away in order for her to have Barbie’s body.

In keeping with this trend, Estée Lauder the brand will soon launch its Revitalizing Supreme Global Anti-Aging Crème, a gimmick purportedly aimed at European women but which will no doubt sell well among their American counterparts, regardless of the carnival-science behind it.

In fact, by claiming that it designed its cream around studies involving European women, Estée Lauder will reinforce a belief that European women are more sophisticated, sensible, and discriminating than Americans when it comes to skin care. This pseudo-conventional wisdom keeps the two markets separate but unified just enough to make you wonder which female demographic is really being targeted. In the end, it’s whichever one buys more, hence Estée Lauder’s interest in preserving illusions of superiority vs. inferiority, perceptiveness vs. naivety, and European vs. American.

If you want to see a real difference between average American and European women, ride a subway in Germany, England, Spain, or France and look around. Women there live with far less of an expectation of being viewed than American women do, and that fact is exploited by multinational cosmetics (and fashion) companies. Does this expectancy of appraisal leave American women with less resistance to marketing tricks (i.e. does it make ‘em suckers)? I think it makes them less fortunate, less left to themselves to be who they are.

From the time they’re practically children, American men are sold pick-up trucks and beer. American women are sold lifespans of subordination, rivalry, and stupefying physical standards. Sound imbalanced? How many whole floors of your average department store are committed to women’s apparel and cosmetics versus the often half or single floor for men? How many more products is that to be tempted by, especially when each of them has been designed to remind you of your unlimited “flaws?”

European women aren’t smarter or more pragmatic: they’re luckier in the sense that many have not yet been utterly shamed to near psychosis with self-improvement advertising. Apparently images of women who have turned themselves into cosmetic surgery monsters don’t only make me grimace; as Estée Lauder conducted its surveys and research, with some exception they found out real fast what European women did not want.

And there are other socio-cultural differences as well of course, some of which actually do point to a need for self-improvement or at least restraint. Most European refrigerators are rather small, with room for essentials and the day’s meals. Americans, on the other hand, seem to equate quality-of-life with the ability to up-size. We aspire to Sub-Zero kitchen barge refrigerators and don’t think twice about the proliferation of commercials for Snuggies and Forever Lazys and Hoverrounds, regardless of how all of this conflicts with the media’s insistence that American women reshape their 50-year-old bodies into those of bouncy 10th-graders in order be sold their wardrobes. On top of that (or perhaps because of it) women size each other up like no one’s business, so in my opinion no race on earth is more divided and conquered than American women, at least not so insidiously.

For now – and my money’s on this unfortunately changing – European women have a little bit more luxury to believe that beauty is an attitude, which ironically is another Estée Lauder (the woman) truth.