THE FEMINIST BEAUTY PROJECT
The Feminist Beauty Project is a website for revolutionary makeup enthusiasts who want a space to both love makeup and analyze the beauty industry through a critical feminist lens.
PROJECT ORIGINS & CREATION
The Feminist Beauty Project began as a component of a final thesis project for the DePaul University Women’s and Gender Studies Master of Fine Arts program.
Upon completing my first year of graduate school, I was diagnosed with allergic contact dermatitis, a form of dermatitis that is a chronic illness and considered an environmental health issue. Allergic contact dermatitis is not inherited genetically; I developed it through repeat exposure to certain ingredients (allergies listed above) over a long period of time. This diagnosis created a major shift in my life— personal, academic, and political. I quickly became interested in investigating the lack of information consumers receive regarding what ingredients are in the household and beauty products that we all use on a daily basis.
Following my diagnosis, my dermatologist provided me with a document that listed all of the “safe” products that exist on the market for me to use. The list included everything from makeup to toothpaste to sunscreen to household cleaning products. However, as I read through the eighty-page document, it became clear very quickly that this was not a comprehensive list of products. Entire companies that I normally purchased from were not included on this list, and I began to realize that the “knowledge” provided to me by my dermatologist was incomplete. This document only included as much information as the American Contact Dermatitis Society had researched. I became outraged; it did not seem fair that I must accept this list as the parameters for the rest of my life. At that point, I began my own investigations on companies and ingredients. When I told friends, family, and colleagues about my allergic contact dermatitis, I received tremendous encouragement to start talking about my experiences. Almost everyone I talked to suggested that I start blogging about cosmetics, ingredients, allergies, and the lack of information that we receive. So many people who I shared my story with expressed that these conversations are lacking and there is an urgent need for them given that there may be many others experiencing similar conditions. I had a hard time ignoring how significant this shift in my life was, and felt compelled to do something.
As I began to investigate these topics, my focus shifted to a more intense interrogation of the beauty industry at large, including not simply consumerism, but also production and sourcing of materials. I began to understand my journey with cosmetics as a feminist project and I began to see myself as a feminist cosmetic activist.
I identified several key questions as the guideposts for this project.
- Why do we, as consumers, not have readily available access to information regarding what ingredients are in the products we use?
- Why are we, as consumers, not taught how to read and understand the very little information that we do have readily available to us?
- How can we increase our product literacy?
- Where are our products made?
- From where are ingredients and products sourced?
- Who is involved in the labor required to develop the products that we use?
- Under what conditions do individuals work in order to produce the products that we use?
- Are women disproportionately affected by labor and production within the beauty industry?
- How is this impacted further by race, nation, nationality, class, ability status, etc?
The Feminist Beauty Project exists as a daily practice of transnational and antiracist feminist pedagogies; it is a living project and a form of everyday resistances toward systems of domination and inequality both globally and locally. The Feminist Beauty Project is a pedagogical space for collaboration, community and feminist knowledge production. I decided to create this website and blog as opposed to a course curriculum to intervene in traditional or formal understandings of learning and teaching. The Feminist Beauty Project offers access to collaboration, community, and information.
The Feminist Beauty Project is grounded in values derived from transnational and antiracist feminist theories. These values include, but are not limited to:
- feminist knowledge production
- transnational solidarity and coalition building
- critical consciousness raising
- daily resistance
- Increase access to information regarding sourcing, ingredients, production, labor, and systems of domination and oppression that exist within the beauty industry in order to build critical consciousness
- Exist as a resource and an educational space not only to build critical consciousness, but also to share and create knowledge
- Increase consumer literacy regarding cosmetic and beauty products, including how to read ingredient labels, recognizing where products are manufactured, etc.
- Create accountability for both consumers and companies