The Don't Buy List: Strawberry Legs, Sunscreen Drama, & Beauty Standards As Child Abuse
Plus, the rebranded consumerism of "empties."
Hello, dewy dust bunnies, and welcome to another edition of the The Don’t Buy List! I logged onto podcasting platform Riverside the other day to record a guest spot on yet another podcast and was greeted with this pop-up:
Ah, sometimes beauty culture really does feel inescapable. (As for why so many podcasts insist on including video these days? I don’t know! Make it stop!! Can we please have one non-visual medium???)
A reader recently unsubscribed, explaining (complaining?) that they “couldn’t handle the nihilism right now.” Which like, OK, whatever. People unsubscribe all the time. I can’t please all ~40,000 of you. No big deal. BUT! I wanted to address this piece of feedback in particular because it feels so far from my intention here. My work is not meant to say “there’s no point to life” (…which is what “nihilism” means). My work is (mostly) meant to say “there’s no point to industrialized, standardized beauty because it does not satisfy our deeply human need for a truer kind of beauty and therefore it inhibits our capacity to lead full, embodied, joyful lives!!” Then again, many of us build our lives and our identities around physical “beauty,” and so denouncing beauty culture can feel like denouncing life itself…
Let me put it another way: I think the idea of a “beauty industry” is as ridiculous as the idea of a “truth industry” or a “love industry.” Or it’s like referring to the prison industrial complex as “the freedom industry.” You cannot industrialize and mass-produce and sell beauty in a way that’s satisfying to the human spirit and beneficial to the collective! But a lot of people make a lot of money by making us think we can. A lot of people make a lot of money by redefining beauty as appearance, as power, as wealth, as sex, as race, as class. A lot of people make a lot of money selling a one-dimensional version of “beauty” that doesn’t enhance the experience of life but rather diminishes it — one that’s linked to anxiety, depression, dysmorphia, disordered eating, obsessive thoughts, and self-harm.
The point here is to get ourselves free from the psychological fuckery of beauty culture. The point is emotional and physical autonomy. The point is alignment and embodiment and joy. The point is life!!
OK, the point is also to make fun of brainless beauty brand marketing. So just for fun, here’s a smattering of absolutely absurd PR pitches that landed in my inbox this month: