Wednesday, December 04, 2013

A very Mallory post

-Do women dress for men? Hadley Freeman says no. WWPD says, it's complicated. Most women like men, just as most men like women. Women have the option of attracting men with clothes-and-makeup. The reverse isn't nearly as true. How would this not impact how (many) women (sometimes) dress?

It overshoots the feminist mark to say that women never take note of the effect certain clothing can have, and then go and wear it with that effect in mind. Feminism, in this context, means that women who wear said clothing can't be preemptively assumed to have given consent to anything in particular. Also that women uninterested in attracting men don't somehow owe it to men generally to dress in a way men like. Nor, even, is what random internet dude likes necessarily indicative of what men this woman is interacting with offline find appealing. This sort of talk is some mix of presumptuous and unhelpful. Thus why women so often balk at unsolicited advice from internet commenters about what they ought to wear.

-Is eyebrow pencil a good idea? I ordered one and it arrived the same day as Into The Gloss covered eyebrows. (Aha! I'd already decided on the purchase!) As I've mentioned on WWPD before, I have... thoughts about eyebrows. I feel shortchanged in this regard - someone of my ethnicity, and with my coloring and hair-thickness, ought to have really prominent eyebrows. Not faint ones several shades lighter than my hair, that I'm convinced belong to some blond woman who has the eyebrows that were, in turn, rightfully mine. Yet the fear in trying to correct for this is the Uncle Leo effect. And to connect today's Item One with Item Two, there's that other "Seinfeld" episode, where it's determined that men don't care about eyebrows. On at least two occasions in the WWPD comments, a commenter named Matt begged to differ (he prefers them untweezed), but I will only do so much archival research for one post, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

So I've put the stuff on and the result... I kind of like how it looks, and it's definitely what I wish my eyebrows did look like, the right color, etc., but because it isn't how they generally do look, it looks weird, artificial in a way that other kinds of makeup - including ones I rarely wear, like eyeshadow -somehow don't. Maybe it's that this type of makeup is seen as somehow shameful, so there's no general cultural knowledge regarding how to apply it? Putting on mascara or lipstick is kind of sexy or glamorous. Is that the reason? Who knows. In any case, I believe I can now conclude this post confident that I've lost any and all male readers, with the possible exception of the Matt with eyebrow preferences. With that, back to either "Family Ties" or The Magic Mountain, my two preferred bits of cultural consumption at the moment.


Petey said...

"Who knows. In any case, I believe I can now conclude this post confident that I've lost any and all male readers"

Untrue. I read to the end just to say that you're now set to appear in a silent movie.

(I'd pay good money to go see a well-executed four hour silent movie adaptation of The Magic Mountain with a live orchestra and an absurd amount of intertitles...)

Flavia said...

I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm a huge fan of eyebrow *powder* (like eyeshadow, basically, and applied with a thin angled brush). It's more subtle, natural-looking and easy to use (I've found) than a pencil, since you can apply it more lightly or heavily, dab it away with a Q-tip, etc. I like this one, and I prefer a long-handled brush like this to the stubby thing the kit comes with.

I get a lot of compliments on my eyebrows, but generally about their shape or queries as to whether I "do" them myself; it's rare that anyone imagines there's anything other than tweezing going on--maybe because, as you say, this is an area people don't talk about much.

(Unlike yours, my brows are crazy dark and heavy--much darker than my hair color--but no one's brow hairs will ever grow in such a way as to perfectly fill out a desirable shape; after tweezing there will always be places that are too thin or bare.)

Alyx said...

ugh, the eyebrow issue stresses me (a slightly neurotic transsexual woman in the middle of transition) out so much. Like, I want to clean them up or something but then I'm like, I don't know what I'm doing and I'll probably screw up and what if I do too much? So I just don't do anything at all while continuing to feel like I should do something. One of my friends suggested I go get them "threaded" with her sometime (whatever that means) but I dunno, that seems weird to me, like, I've never been a huge fan of strangers fussing about with stuff on my face, you know? Plus what if they screw up and I look ridiculous? And anyway I don't really have a whole lot of eyebrow to begin with, it's just like, what I do have is kinda... untamed? (And also seems like it's lower on my face than is normal, at least for women, which could be due to my being trans but then maybe not because I have seen woman with eyebrows roughly where mine are?) And then like are individual hairs supposed to be that long, and if not, do you like, trim them, or just yank them out or what?

So but anyway in conclusion I guess this is why I am still pretending to be a guy even though I'm out to everyone in my life about transitioning and have been on the proper hormones for almost a year (which is a long enough time that I have to wear baggy clothing so as to not seem like a really oddly shaped guy), the end.

Britta said...


Even if you do kind of find it traumatic, I would recommend taking up your friend's offer to get your eyebrows threaded (which is as I understand it is some sort of Indian hair removal method involving rubbing with thread that women with hairy eyebrows swear by), or if you prefer waxed. Just do it one time to get a general sense of the shape that suits your face, and then you can replicate it at home with tweezers. They're much less likely to screw up than you are trying to shape them with no idea of how to do it.

I once applied mascara on my eyebrows to darken them to the same color as a wig, and the results were convincing enough that all my friends thought I was actually a different person with dark hair and eyebrows. Though, it sounds like what I did is probably a cruder version of what eyebrow powder sounds like.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Try a 1970s-1980s-style sitcom based on the novel.


Yes, eyebrow powder! A good idea. I've always been wary of powder makeup, though, because I'd never figured out what to do with it (eye shadow, anti-shine powder, etc.), and the one I can kind of manage (blush) is still tricky and rarely used. I was on some level imagining that powder put on brows would promptly migrate to eyelids if not properly "set," which is a makeup term I don't understand, and which might require further products.

The best bet for me, though, may be the pencil. Just because, from eyeliner, I have a sense of how to use one to more or less dramatic effect, and because it's what I've already, alas, bought.


Rest assured that much of your confusion is shared by cis women as well. Some never learned how to do anything particular with their eyebrows, while many others were adhering to that 1990s style of tadpole eyebrows, and are now trying to figure out how to go for a current-but-flattering look. Which - as it so often goes - is a "natural" look that's anything but.

Of course, I couldn't begin to understand the extra levels of significance such grooming rituals might have in a transition. (I don't want to be the proverbial white woman announcing to a black woman in some thread that I, too, have hair concerns!) And if you're looking to have your eyebrows balance out your face in some way slightly different from how cis women generally are, or are thinking of trimming your eyebrows... perhaps do as Britta suggests and have an eyebrow expert take a look? What Britta says makes sense - they'd probably assess the overall situation and let you know what to shoot for on your own.


I think some eyebrow makeup sold as eyebrow makeup is effectively that - mascara for brows. So that may not have been as crude as all that! (Depends the color/texture of the mascara, I suppose.)

Petey said...

"Try a 1970s-1980s-style sitcom based on the novel."

I could certainly get into a laugh-track after every third dialog line.

But consider the silent.

A 40 second shot of Hans Castorp with his tabac on the balcony. Followed by 3 minutes of intertitles of his interior monologue. Followed by another 40 second shot of Hans Castorp with his tabac on the balcony. That's cinematic!

fourtinefork said...

I recently purchased eyebrow gunk as well! I went with a Clinique brow powder, mostly because I was buying something else from Clinique, expressed a vague interest in brow products and, voilá!, ended up with a random powder. It's a subtle difference, and I've only used it a few times, in the evening, but it does lend a more polished look. Oddly, the powder itself has a slightly grayish hue, but I guess you want brows to be on the cool side, because that looks more natural. Recently, Sali Hughes on the Guardian was talking up some fantastically expensive pencil and the color for blondes was green...

Also, I can (mostly) recommend the cheap threading salon in the Rockefeller Center concourse. It's $6, I think, and almost all of the women do a good job. I've done well asking for them to saying "just please clean them up" and "not too thin" and "I'm trying to grow them out."

PS, I've seen that NARS lip pencil set in-store at a few Sephora in Manhattan. I am usually a red lip girl, but damn, I like Dolce Vita.