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Cosmetics, Fashions and the Exploitation of Women Paperback – Apr 1986

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How do the wealthy owners of the cosmetics and fashion industries play on women's insecurities to sell products and rake in profits? How are the standards of beauty determined in capitalist society? Why do the employers, the media, the government, and the schools and churches promote "the feminine mystique" and glorify the family? How has the growing participation of women in the labor force changed their view of themselves and their potential? How has it affected the attitudes of men toward women? What does all this say about the relationship between the capitalist system and the oppression of women? These are some of the questions that emerge from a lively 1954 debate over the relation of the marketing of cosmetics and fashions to the exploitation of women. The controversy was sparked by a short exposé of the cosmetics industry in the 'Militant', a socialist newsweekly. That article, written by 'Militant' editor Joseph Hansen and entitled "Sagging Cosmetic Lines Try a Face Lift." is included in this collection. Also published are other articles from that debate by Hansen and Evelyn Reed, providing a Marxist analysis of the pressures bearing down on women - and men - in capitalist society, especially during periods of political reaction or retreat.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d0d3b88) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cf89eb8) out of 5 stars Small book stuffed with essential information 16 April 2002
By hatlanta - Published on
Format: Paperback
My two favorite sections of this book are the introduction by Mary-Alice Waters and the essay by Evelyn Reed, "The Woman Question and the Marxist Method." In the intro, Waters explains 1) how the status of women in the US has changed since WWII; 2) what the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s accomplished; and 3) a scientific explanation for why this powerful and inspiring movement declined. It is the definitive answer to Susan Faludi's thesis in Backlash, written 8 years before Faludi's book appeared! For that alone, this book is worth buying and reading and studying and discussing with others.
Reed's essay sums up the political debate at the center of the book (see other reviewers' summaries of this) and, like Waters, launches a factual, scientific examination of the roots of the oppression of women and how our concepts of beauty, fashion, and cosmetics are tied to the rule of a handful of capitalists over the majority who toil for a living. A must for women (and men) who want to understand why sexism exists in our society and how to fight it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d016eb8) out of 5 stars Human relations vs. prejudices and fetishes of capitalism 27 Mar. 2002
By Harvey - Published on
Format: Paperback
A fascinating and instructive collection, this is the written record of a debate carried out in the pages of the socialist newsweekly, the Militant, in the mid-1950s.
You get a serious look at the roots of the oppression of women in capitalist society, including the powerful psychological pressure exerted through mass media, marketing, and bosses to compel women to "need"--and hence buy-- the "right" clothes, cosmetics, and so-called beauty treatments. The discussion takes up the changing relations between men and women as human society has evolved from earliest times to today's class-divided society, debunks the notion of an eternal standard of beauty, and much more.
It's also a wonderful example of how to analyze and understand political and social questions from the standpoint of the interests of working people and not succumb to the prejudices and fetishes of capitalist society. You see how political activists can thrash out sharp differences over tough questions in the framework of an open exchange of views.
An extensive introduction covers the impact of the capitalist crisis of the 1980s on women and the decline of the mass women's rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d0ee768) out of 5 stars A clariftying book 27 Jun. 2006
By Tony Thomas - Published on
Format: Paperback
While American corporate propoganda, the pressure of advertising, and an antiwoman culture means that more money is spent in this country on cosmetics than on education, this is not natural, but the product of a society hostile to women, hostile to humans, and beholden to capital. The core of this book is the discussion about this issue that took place in the Socialist Workers Party in the 1950s, but the rich and full introduction linking these discussions to the rise of feminism, the victory of abortion rights, and other struggle since is very important to understanding of women's struggles today.

This books clarifies a lot of things that we let just seep into our minds from this society without understanding where they come from, why they exist and who is to blame.

While this book may not be available from Amazon from time time, it is always available from booksfrompathfinder, a vendor you can rech by clicking on new and used toward the top of this page.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d0d3564) out of 5 stars Women' image and women's realities 22 Mar. 2002
By Martin Boyers - Published on
Format: Paperback
This entertaining and thought-provoking book had a curious beginning - a 1954 exchange of news articles and letters to the editor in the socialist newsweekly the Militant. The original article joked about the declining use of cosmetics and subsequent problems of the cosmetics industry. A reader's reaction quickly brought a discussion of the role of women in society, their increasing participation in the workforce, and the source of the imaging of women in culture.
This dispute, which became a debate within the Socialist Workers Party, took place well before the rise of the 1960s women's liberation movement. It took place at a time generally regarded as one of bland social conformity. Obviously, social attitudes towards, and by, women were much more complex than met the eye. An introduction by Mary-Alice Waters puts the book in its modern-day context
HASH(0x9d0d74ec) out of 5 stars otherwise good content. 25 Feb. 2015
By K. Thomas - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A little too much socialism for my sensibilities, otherwise good content.
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