A level playing field may apply in sports, but not in gender relations.
Sports Illustrated's annual paean to impossible feminine perfection celebrates an arbitrary nature/culture distinction between men and women that reflects a deep-seated cultural misogyny and perpetuates an uneven playing field in the battle of the sexes. Until our society matures to the point where women don't have to wear makeup to be considered equal to men, they will continued to be objectified and treated as less than human.
Commenting on the February swimsuit issue, the Huffington Post’s Verena Von Pfetten notes that "The SI Swimsuit Edition is like the Holy Grail of men's magazines: little to no articles, and pages upon pages of absurdly beautiful women in little to no clothing.”
While acknowledging that super model Marisa Miller looks older with all the makeup they pile on for her photo shoots, Von Pfetten doesn’t suggest that women abstain from makeup entirely: “And I know that we all have our limits. I, for one, cannot leave the house without mascara or blush. I've got flimsy mousy-colored lashes, and while tans may be tacky, my paleness always needs that little added flush. But all I'm asking is that we just lighten up. Pick your products, and use them wisely.”
That women still want to wear makeup reflects a failure of the feminist movement in particular and the immaturity of our culture in general. Makeup is a mask that allows women to tap into corporate power. I don't mean corporate as in business, but rather corporate as in the power of the group vs. the individual. Men achieve this power by actually belonging to corporations, whether they are lodge brothers or corporate raiders. Women counter by painting their faces. Hiding physical imperfections or accentuating certain features makes sense only if the result is more power for the individual, whether sexual, social or corporate.
But why makeup? The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss once asked a native informant why his people tattooed their bodies. "Because we are not animals," was the reply. That women still use makeup is a reflection of their continuing status as not-quite-human, or to put it in a more Lévi-Straussian mode, women without makeup are still seen as "natural" while men without makeup are seen as "cultural." By acceding to cosmetic industry standards of beauty, women who wear makeup promote a status quo that says that women are not equal to men. Men can be "cultural" just by showing up. Women, to participate in the culture, must put on a corporate mask.
And while a woman who uses makeup is considered "cultural," a man who uses makeup is considered absurd. Mass media meditations on masculine makeup like “Some Like It Hot,” “Tootsie” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” are always comedies.
Madison Avenue-driven cosmetic companies have made some inroads into the use of body fragrance by men, but they have not yet found the right inducement for men to paint their faces, highlight their eyes and gloss their lips. My suggestion is that advertisers market tattoos as acceptable body paint for men. Invent a tattoo "makeup" that needs regular renewal but involves some pain to apply, and your fortune is made.
In sports, the play of the game depends on who makes up the rules. In gender relations, the play of game depends on who rules the makeup.