Wednesday, July 6

Red lipstick is bad for you

Well, because Shiela Jeffreys says so. The Guardian's Julie Bindel talks to Jeffreys, the "Andrea Dworkin of the UK," on her new book Beauty and Misogyny which traces the history of the beauty industry and how it has perpetuated the oppression of women through the endless pursuit of beauty.

Jeffreys takes a look at how cosmetics have been used to alter appearance for thousands of years, sometimes exclusively by prostitutes and others deemed disreputable, other times as a political gesture. The suffragettes fought for the right to look and dress as they saw fit, some wearing red lipstick as a symbol of feminine defiance. After the second world war, a shortage of men meant that women tried hard to look as attractive as possible in the hope of getting a husband, and make-up became, Jeffreys argues, "a requirement that women could not escape, rather than a sign of liberation."

She even eschews how women now "do not want their behaviour 'policed by feminism', but wish to enjoy sex with men, wear make-up, and dress in short skirts and high heels without feeling they are betraying feminism." For her, the battle is not just political but also personal. She stopped dyeing her hair a certain shade, cut it, and then decided to become a lesbian as a political stance.

But Jeffreys has always been viewed as an extreme feminist, such that even pornographers have even named a sex toy after her: The Sheila: A Spinster's Best Friend.

Now that's really hardcore.

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