From prehistoric times to the present day, through Cleopatra Queen of ancient Egypt and to the Japanese Geishas, makeup seems to have been employed in order to modify the appearance of its wearer, regardless of gender, sometimes for cultural, cultic or simply aesthetic reasons.
This use, whose codes evolve and transmute perpetually, through time and place, have resulted in conventional social standards gradually transforming into social norms.
Long associated with the female gender, makeup, originally an artifice of femininity, seems to have transposed socially, through a game both historical and media, on the very concept of femininity thus allowing the certification of the latter.
How true is this received idea? Is it so easy to reduce this deep and subtle concept, femininity, to mere cosmetics?
Here you are plunged into the heart of the central theme of Anna Loegel's dissertation entitled "The Perception of Femininity and its Relationship to Makeup" in which the author explores the hypothesis of a multidimensional conception of femininity supposedly associated with biological, perceptual, psychological and social variables.
Why read this thesis
This thesis work is a fine example of collaboration between the academic and private research worlds around a topic whose interdisciplinarity and multidimensionality, inapparent at first glance, might impress many.
The author succeeds in structuring and detailing all the different aspects related to her initial problematic, in a tone that offers clarity and interest for the uninitiated of any kind and horizon.
The structure of this thesis, respecting a standard academic format, cultivates and reinforces the reader's interest throughout the author's adventure by blending phases of presentation, explanation, exploration, and discussion.
According to the Trésor de la langue française (1980), the adjective feminine derives historically and etymologically from femenin "which has the character of a woman." This term, borrowed from the classical Latin femininus "feminine, of woman", seems to have been constructed in opposition to male, masculine or viril. Feminine is declined both on the physical side (external aspect such as flesh, odor, female voice, female grooming, charm, female grace ...) and psychological (such as: spirit, female intuition, character, soul, heart, sensitivity, softness, tenderness ...).
The term of femininity, as for him, appears during the low Middle Ages, in 1265, and derives from Latin femina (woman). It designates as a feminine noun, the set of specific characters, or considered as such, of the woman.
According to the Vocabulary of Psychology, femininity designates the set of "Admitted differential characteristics of women, biologically linked to sex, for a part, but, for a greater part, conditioned by the influence of the socio-political and religious environment".
Because of this definition, the criterion of femininity addressed in the research program differs, by its social and cultural approach, from the criteria of age and perceived health.
The existence of a stereotype concerning physical attractiveness "what is beautiful is good" which allows attractive people to be advantaged in different fields, has been demonstrated many times.
For example, during job interviews, attractive candidates are judged more "recruitable" than unattractive candidates, regardless of the type of position. But what about judgments of femininity? Is being perceived as more feminine always an advantage? In a society where women have a harder time reaching positions of responsibility in companies, and receive a lower salary on average than men because they are assumed to be less competent, it seemed to us that this question deserved to be explored further.
Also, in the continuity of the initial research program of the "perception unit" of Chanel R&T, we sought, in this thesis work, to determine as precisely as possible which biological and psychosocial variables intervene in the perception of femininity, in what way makeup can influence them, and what are the effects on the judgment made about a person.
What we learn...
Through her research and explorations, Anna Loegel seems to put forward that social representations strongly associate makeup with femininity. Following on from a study on the stereotype "what we have taken care of is good", the author seems to demonstrate the existence of a social control fed and maintained by norms and guilt-ridden representations pushing women to wear makeup in order to be feminine, in which makeup is a necessary condition to obtain high judgments of femininity, but also a constellation of positive characteristics.
The doctoral student discusses the shared roles of the source of the judgment and the person receiving it, not forgetting that of makeup in the very genesis of this judgment while reminding us that this cosmetic artifice is only one dimension of the multidimensionality of what is called "femininity."
A blush in the night...
Anna Loegel thus emphasizes that her work allows us to establish an observation of the place that women occupy in French society in 2019, often under the yoke of a form of injunction to stereotypical societal femininity, the weight of which influences the presentation and representation of the self.
It allows us to remember that certain standards, norms and certifications can be based on idealized, institutionalized, essentially subjective and most often untenable group consensus such as thinness, youth, competence or intelligence.
In other words: "We are never good enough".
Behind the makeup, then, we discover a whole world. By making us aware of the theme of stereotypical standards, Anna Loegel invites us to open our eyes to the possible social injunctions influencing us.
Thesis presented and defended on January 24, 2019 in Nanterre, within the framework of the doctoral school Sciences of Sport, Motricity and Human Movement (ED 566) and a CIFRE contract, in partnership with the Centre de Recherches sur le Sport et le Mouvement (CeRSM), Université Nanterre - Paris X (Nanterre - France) and the Chanel Perfume Beauté Research and Technology Center (Pantin - France).
Anna Loegel. The perception of femininity and its relation to makeup. Psychology. University of Nanterre - Paris X, 2019. French. ⟨tel-02441772⟩
See more articles by this author