Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Smells Like Community

There are certain products that somehow create the magic alchemy it takes to give rise to a devoted, caring, and thriving community around them. Nail polish in general is one such community, and the brand devotees within that genre. Anyone who has run into a Lush addict will back me up that they are an absolutely devoted community as well. But today, I want to talk about a product that has created one of the most intricate, tight knit product oriented communities I know - BPAL, that is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume oils. 

I have a fairly keen sense of smell, which is actually pretty unusual considering I'm a smoker and have a depressive disorder, both of which are supposed to dull your sense of smell. Not only am I good at telling smells apart, certain smells evoke really powerful emotional associations for me. CK One reminds me of an ex of mine who was obsessed with it, so much so that if someone walks past in the street wearing it, I instinctively look for him. Since I stopped being able to eat normal bread and other pastries, the smell of baked goods gets me so pumped in the desire parts I often find it hard to walk past bakeries without pressing my face to the glass like a Dickensian orphan. I discovered an ancient tube of hair gel in a box I hadn't unpacked in about six moves, and as soon as I caught a whiff of that particular gel I remembered exactly how it felt to be 22, heading out to the local goth club, because that was the last time I'd used it. I have such a strong emotional connection with my boyfriend's smell that I actually find myself less attracted to him if he wears the "wrong"deodorant - it distracts me so much I can't concentrate on making out with him. TL:DR, smell is a big deal to me. 

New Nails Related Project

Because I'm always looking for more people silly enough to publish my ramblings, I have put my hand up to join a group of Australian ladies looking to compile a repository of everything a budding nail polish addict needs to know.

If you've previously looked at getting into the whole nail polish "thing", and wondered where the hell to start, THIS is where you start. The ladies I'm working with know everything there is to know about nails, and well, I'm kind of good at writing and funny and stuff, so come along and check out what we're up to!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Scar Tissue

I read a fascinating post the other day on All Things Kate, talking about a facial scar she has, and how it affects her perception of herself. It turns out I have far too many thoughts about scars and self perception to fit it into a comment, so let me indulge myself for a moment and tell you all about my scars.

I've always used fashion and makeup as a way of covering up or distracting from the things I would rather people didn't look at. When I was younger, I thought the best way to do this was to literally cover up - I was a big fan of full length, flowy skirts some days, and big baggy cargo pants other days. I thought that covering my chubby legs with fabric would somehow trick people into imagining they were slim and svelte, and that if I revealed them everyone would be horribly surprised. I later realised that long skirts on a girl as short as me just made me look even stumpier than I actually was, but at the time it was a comforting illusion I believed in. Later I got into Goth culture, which I found was a really fantastic way of covering up - not only could I wear my long flowy skirts, but I could put a corset over it, and stockings on my arms, and heavy makeup on my face. I could obscure just about every part of my natural body, and recreate it how I wanted people to see it. It made me feel safe, and sheltered. It kept people at a distance, and that was just where I wanted them.

It also meant I could cover the scars left on my arms and legs from self harming with minimal fuss. I could cover them up, obscure them, pretend they and the emotional problems that caused them weren't there. The only time anyone ever saw them was when I was having sex, and I seriously doubt anyone from that period really remembers my scars from the brief glimpses they got in between fucking. I could put on a bust boosting corset, drag stocking sleeves over my scars, and I would feel like nothing was wrong, that the chaotic vortex of emotions in my head wasn't there. Like I was normal.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hades and Zeus - Shades of Phoenix Review

You might have noticed a little bit of a change in the way I've been doing nail polish reviews of late. I've decided in order to give some extra value to those of you kind enough to read even though you're not super into nails, I'm only putting up reviews I can either spin into an interesting article, or reviews of local indie polishes, because I really like supporting people putting themselves on the line to create something. Happily, today's review knocks both those birdies down with one stone!

Shades of Phoenix is a brand new Australian indie maker, and like Alanna Renee are a really good example of just how exciting and interesting indie nail polish can be. As with any kind of "home made" product, indie nail polish in general can be a bit of a crapshoot - some of it is godawful, but some of it just blows me away. And Shades of Phoenix definitely falls into the latter category.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lady of The Lake - A England Review

One of the things I love the most about mythology and folklore is the way they illustrate just how pervasive and incredibly old a lot of archetypes and tropes are, particularly in relation to women. I know rather more than I really should about all sorts of different folklore, and one of my favourite things to do with this knowledge is to find patterns that can be seen across different cultures. I have a confession to make though - I've always shied away from the Arthurian legends. They're just so....messy. The lore is made up of poems, and stories, and songs, and all of them have so many different versions that it's really more like a genre than a narrative as such. I can rattle off Swedish lore about women who turn into birch trees, but until recently I couldn't have confidently named more than three characters in the Arthurian stories, and one of them was King Arthur. Which is a bit sad, considering my entire family on my mothers side are so utterly English it's hard to believe they're real.

However, once I came across marvelous indie nail polish maker A England, I decided I was obviously going to have to do some research in order to do these gorgeous polishes justice. I know you all like the pretty pictures, but I know you like the wordy parts as well, and I would feel bad showing something so lovely and not knowing anything about the characters they are named for.

So today, we're going to learn about The Lady of The Lake, in between pictures of this stunningly soft lavender holographic polish. If you're just here to find out whether it's any good or not, the TL:DR version is that is very, very good. It's beautiful, easy to use, and wears for ages, and you should totally go and buy it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

TGIF, For Want Of A Better Phrase

I tried to be creative, I really did. But honestly, by Friday, all I can think is "lemmeoutlemmeoutlemmeoutlemmeout..."
Thankfully, my workplace tries to balance out our cabin fever by letting us indulge in the fine tradition of Casual Fridays. I was really interested to learn about the history of Casual Fridays over at All Things Kate - it's one of those things that you never really consider the origins of, but once someone points it out you wonder how you never thought about it before.

In your feedback to the Listen Lady, there were a couple of requests I expand my repertoire a bit, and to be totally honest with you, I've been putting off taking full body shots for this blog. I'm excruciatingly aware that once I put pictures up here, they're out there forever, and as much as I wish I loved my fat ass, I really don't.
HOWEVER, I have noticed that through repeatedly taking photos of my face for this, and other projects, I've gotten a lot more comfortable with it, so I'm hoping I can do the same for my ass. Exposure therapy of sorts. In later posts, I plan to give y'all some actual advice about what to wear to work, both on casual days and formal days, but for this first time out, I'm just going to spam you all with pictures before I lose my nerve.
So here we are, today's Casual Friday outfit.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fix It, Feminism!

I’ve been listening to an interesting discussion of late. Several people have brought up the idea that they feel like the fact they have self esteem issues and that they are also a feminist is somehow inherently contradictory. That feminism should have somehow “fixed” these feelings. That if they are feminist and still hate the size of their ass, that somehow either feminism has failed them, or that they are doing feminism wrong. When I hear the phrase, “being a feminist isn’t helping me to love my body”, I can’t help but wonder who exactly promised them it would? I mean, it might. There is a good chance that it will. But it’s certainly not guaranteed, and I don’t think feminism can be blamed if it doesn’t. If you still feel fat after learning a bunch about feminist theory, you’re not doing “doing it wrong”- you’re a human being. Believe it or not, I don’t think there is anyone, male or female, who has NEVER had a day where they look in the mirror and sigh. Self consciousness, anxiety, these are feelings. Feminist theory is rational thought, a school of philosophy. Rational thought can HELP you change the way you feel, but there is no thought so rational that it can banish deep seated feelings and emotional responses by mere application. Feminism will not fix all your problems. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Organic My Ass - Part 1

Rejoice science geeks, it's another exciting installment of Show Your Working! Today we'll be looking at the increasingly valuable label "organic", and what it actually means it terms of cosmetics.

(spoiler alert: very little)

I'll be doing this in two sections, one for Australia and one for the US, because the relevant legislation is quite different, and putting it together would turn this into a Masters essay rather than a blog post.

Before we really get into the nitty gritty, I just want to put it out there that I don't actually give a damn if something is organic or not, so please don't try and start a comment war on the pros and cons. I just...I don't care. I know, I know, I should, and it's probably better for me, but honestly when you have as many allergies as me, adding extra restrictions to what you consume is just more effort than I have in me. (In case you were wondering, my complete list of allergies is currently dairy, gluten, alcohol, peanuts, seafood, aspartame and related fake sugars) Also, I smoke, for heavens sake. Unless I quit sucking in noxious chemicals five times a day, the amount of parabens in my mascara is pretty moot.

BUT I know that it's really important to other people - people like David Lynch, who made a brilliant ad for his signature coffee blend, in which he points out several times that it's both organic and fairly traded. It's also incredibly creepy.

Because I'm a much less compassionate person than I should be, every time I hear someone ask if something is fairly traded, I can't help but hear it in Lynch's weird Barbie voice, and then I can't possibly take them seriously anymore.

However, something that I DO care about rather a lot is truth in advertising. I was enormously pleased to see Estee Lauder coming up against a class action for using misleading claims on their Clinique products, and I wish that sort of thing happened more often. Pseudo science claims like the kind used by Physicians Formula for their "happy blush" make me so angry I virtually froth at the mouth. Way back in the way back times I used to be part of the marketing industry, and one of the reasons I would never go back is the incredible amount of dishonesty involved in the way products are marketed.

EUPHORYL(TM) IS NOT A REAL THING. The marketing department MADE IT UP.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hurting the eyes, and stirring the heart


It's time for another Aussie Nails Monday, and given that this week's theme is "Skittles" (a manicure made up of different designs on every nail) I thought I would take this opportunity to pay tribute to one of my favourite photographers - David LaChapelle.

When I say the name, people always look at me blankly, but I would be shocked if anyone truly didn't recognise ANY of his photos from the last couple of decades. He's shot some of the most iconic images of people like Britney Spears and Angeline Jolie, and has such a distinctive visual style Rhianna blatantly ripped him off for her S'n'M filmclip (and consequently got sued). 

LaChapelle has the world's biggest hard-on for Barbie pink, but the thing I really love about his work is the way he uses photography to examine the grey, nebulous area between sexy and grotesque. The idea of "sexy" is often portrayed as so solid, and straightfoward, and easy to quantify, and the way he pushes the boundaries of sexy to ridiculous and uncomfortable places shows just how mushy an idea it really is.I find artists who play with this idea endlessly fascinating, and to the best of my knowledge Lachapelle was the first to go quite so far in terms of exploring how celebrity, sexy, and the grotesque all work together.

For someone who's work can be so eyeball burningly over the top, I'm also really fascinated by how subtle LaChapelle can be as well, especially in terms of slipping just a touch of uncomfortability under the viewer's skin. I saw an exhibition of his at the Barbican Gallery in London, and was standing enthralled in front of a huge portrait of Lil' Kim. She was in a typical LaChapelle type bedroom set - bright pink walls, ridiculous over the top bed draped with bright white lace that matched the lingerie she was wearing. The friend I went with came up behind me and started saying something like, "Man, this guy sure likes pink..." but suddebnly let out a strangled little squeak noise and physically jumped back. I turned around wondering what the hell his problem was, and he stammered, "There's blood...on her panties...that's the grossest thing I've ever seen..." before staggering away white faced. I looked back and realised there was in fact the tiniest spot of blood on her panties, right over her crotch, just where it would be if a tampon leaked. *I* thought this was a hilarious, clever subversion of a typical "sexy" stereotype, but my friend didn't think it was very funny at all sadly.

These are the photos I used as direct inspiration for this manicure - they're some of his older work, and a bit more restrained than the pictures he's more famous for. I figured I had to think of a design that was actually capable of fitting on my nails! I took inspiration for the background from his iconic garish pink room sets, and then tried to work in an element from each photo I chose.

A Waitress
Big Consumption
Death By Hamburger, 2001
Hopefully you can at least see what I was trying to get at here.

Get it? I used a camera cause he's a photographer...heh heh

I even did the other hand as well!

This was a really challenging design to do - not so much in terms of actual skill, but it terms of having it on for more than the ten minutes it took to take the photos. I am just not a pink person, at all, so I was weirded out to be putting Barbie pink on my nails at all. But when the one I'd chosen happened to dry to a waxy, plastic finish, I started flailing around the house whimpering about being a damn Barbie doll. My Boy very wisely observed that it would hardly be a fitting tribute to LaChapelle if it didn't make me uncomfortable - which just goes to show he DOES actually listen when I go off on my fangirly rants.

As a long time fan, I'm always fascinated to see the ripples of LaChapelle's work in wider popular culture. Apart from the endless list of celebrities who have benefited from doing an "arty" shoot with LaChapelle, his influence on popular music is very easy to see. Rhianna just straight up ripped him off, Nicki Minaj is undoubtably a fan, and Lady GaGa's career has been built on a similar exploration of the intersection of sexy and grotesque. Whether it was deliberate or not, I think her clip for Telephone was a wonderful homage to his style, and his interest in re-examining standard sexy stereotypes - particularly the opening, where she takes the women's prison exploitation tradition so far that the ridiculousness of this sort of fetishisation becomes impossible to ignore.

Do you have suggestions of other artists you think have been influenced by this awesome photographer?

Don't forget to check out the other members of this awesome weekly challenge!

Elissa - Lissa’s Polish Addiction Bec - Nail Gun XS Marie - Marie’s Manicure Madhouse Sarah - Shatter Me Claire Chantelle - A Polished Prance Teneil -Shades of Phoenix Nicole - The Epitome of Superficiality Bec - Lacquer Dreams Naomi - NananaisNails Eboni - Enamoured With Enamel
Adelle - Adelle1985 (Instagram) Kelly - Kelly's Kolors Rebecca - Polished Peripherals Rosemarie - Every Little Polish Melissa - Mel My Issta Natalie - Walk In My Eyeshadow Jennifer - JennLojko (Instagram) Erin - Erinzi’s Nails Astrid - Lovessweetas (Instagram) Jasmyn - Jas’ Blingtastic Nails
Kate - Mckfresh (Instagram) Jessica - Maedaynails (instagram) Elizabeth - Lili_Bete (Instagram)
Tammy - Jibber Jabber Julia - Messy Mansion Ann - Nailovelogy Theresa It's All About The Polish
Katie - Pretty Polish Please

Thursday, January 17, 2013

We Need To Talk

I've gotten to a point with this blog where I'd like to hear more from you, my humble readers. We're 40 posts in, and that seems as good a time as any to pause for some reflection.

Firstly, now there are actually more followers on this blog than people I know in person, I'm going to go ahead and assume I haven't bullied ALL of you into reading personally. In this case, how did you find me? Did you find a link somewhere? If so, where? Were you randomly searching, "used pantyhose ebay", and found yourself here? (you laugh, but I know at least one person did. They're probably not still reading though)

Now you're here, and you're totally going to keep coming back (pleasedon'tleaveme),what have you enjoyed most so far? What annoyed you? What did you find boring? What would you like to see more of? What would you be happy to never see here again? Do you guys want to hear more about my crazy? About my nails? Would you be interested if I added more about my clothes, accessories, and how I put things together below my face? How about my queerness, and how that works into my femmeness? Do you have a favourite movie that you would like me to do some nail art of? What do you think I do that other bloggers don't? Why do you reguarly give me three to four minutes of your time, when there are a billion other blogs out there?
Please, feel free to be totally honest in your feedback. I can't promise to do everything you say, but I will take it all under advisement.

And lastly, tell me about you. Where are you from? How old are you? Do you have pets? What three words would you use to describe yourself? What's your favourite colour? Do you have any weird allergies? What gets you up in the morning? I'd love to know who I'm talking to when I send my words out into the howling abyss of cyberspace.

The Listen Lady is officially in.

This is my listening face.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Makeup of Madness

This post started out as a response of sorts to one written by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano over at The New Inquiry. She wrote some fascinating things about the gamification of beauty work (applying makeup, doing your hair, hair removal, etc), and the implications of that for feminism as a whole. I totally agree with everything she's saying, and think it's a fascinating insight, but I felt a little bit of disconnect from the whole thing. I couldn't quite put my finger on why at first.but it just didn't feel like it applied to me and my relationship with makeup.

So I went and had a fiddle with the app she mentioned, and got bored SO quickly. Like, lightning speed. I thought I would enjoy fooling around with it for at least a little while, but practically before the picture was traced I was bored. This was pretty confusing, considering how much I enjoy putting on makeup.
Then it hit me - it's not about the end result for me. Some women I know love the process of buying makeup - trying things, searching out something they like, considering all the options. I find this part unbearably tedious. This is why I have so many eyeshadow palettes - the idea of putting the time into choosing separate eyeshadow shades just seems totally dull to me. I don't really go makeup shopping as such - if I decide I need a product, I'll look around online for reviews, and then go buy it. The makeup floor in a department store holds no joy for me, just overwhelming confusion which rapidly dissolves into disassociation and boredom. And I got the same feeling from this makeover app. I realised the reason I like makeup is the action of putting on makeup itself. It's the process itself I find comforting, soothing, and confidence building. The feel of the cream on my fingertips, the mascara wand between my lashes. It's these tactile, tangible elements that make makeup worthwhile for me. So fooling with an app is just...meh. It's totally without meaning for me.

Image from
I've suffered depression and anxiety to varying levels most of my adult life. Because of this, leaving the house has varied from difficult to impossible. I've literally lost jobs over my inability to leave the house. When I first wake up, as soon as I open my eyes, on the bad days my anxiety and depression is right there is my ear, telling me everything that's wrong with me and my life. It reminds me my house is small, and not very nice, and that even though I'm being paid relatively well I still end every fortnight with just enough money. It tells me I'm pathetic, that there's no point getting up because I'll just fuck my already fucked up life further. If I stay in bed, at least things can't get worse. But if I get up, lord knows what could happen!
For someone with my brain this train of thought can form a crushing weight, that makes it utterly impossible to move.

The only way I've found to work past my difficulty with getting up and about is to set up a little routine, that I've done so many times I can complete it without thinking. So long as I can muster the will to push myself out of bed and towards the kitchen, I've ground the grooves of my routine so firmly into my psyche that I can continue along the track once started like a clockwork doll, no matter what my brain is telling me. Coffee is naturally part of this. So is taking my meds. I have this routine so down pat I often have to struggle to recall later whether I did actually take my meds or not, and count them out only to find that I did. It's just that my conscious brain was busy beating me up, while my subconscious brain trundled me around the house and got the pills out and took them. Nowadays, putting on makeup for work has become as much a part of this routine as any other.

It's not really about how I look at the end. I know makeup won't make me thinner, or younger, or even really that much more visually appealing - not the amount I have time to do first thing in the morning anyway. It's about keeping my body moving, giving myself tasks to do that require enough concentration that I can drown out (or at least distract from) the discouraging monologue in the back of my head. It's about power, and taking control of my physical form. It's about saying to myself, "Yes, I have to go to this job when I would much rather stay home and play with the cat and paint my nails. But I can choose my makeup. I can choose to wear this necklace given to me by a dear friend. I can choose this dress. I can put myself together into an image of someone who wants to be at work, and by crawling inside that image, I can become it." It's about erasing the physical indicators of my madness - the sweaty hair from nightmare soaked sleep, the puffiness from the pills I take to make sure I get any sleep at all - and creating the image of the sane, capable person I need to be.

The soothing power of the ritual of makeup and beauty work in general was best summed up by Anaïs Nin, in her marvelous book A Spy In The House of Love. If you haven't read it, you really really should. Nin has the ability to capture certain aspects of being a woman so much more clearly than any writer I know. Also, A Spy In The House Of Love is pretty short, so you've got no excuse.

"Slowly what she composed with the new day was her own focus, to bring together body and mind. This was made with an effort, as if all the dissolutions and dispersions of her self the night before were difficult to reassemble.  She was like an actress who must compose a face, an attitude to meet the day.

The eyebrow pencil was no mere charcoal emphasis on blond eyebrows, but a design necessary to balance a chaotic asymmetry.  Make up and powder were not simply applied to heighten a porcelain texture, to efface the uneven swellings caused by sleep, but to smooth out the sharp furrows designed by nightmares, to reform the contours and blurred surfaces of the cheeks, to erase the contradictions and conflicts which strained the clarity of the face’s lines, disturbing the purity of its forms.

She must redesign the face, smooth the anxious brows, separate the crushed eyelashes, wash off the traces of secret interior tears, accentuate the mouth as upon a canvas, so it will hold its luxuriant smile.

Inner chaos, like those secret volcanoes which suddenly lift the neat furrows of a peacefully ploughed field, awaited behind all disorders of face, hair, and costume, for a fissure through which to explode.

What she saw in the mirror now was a flushed, clear-eyed face, smiling, smooth, beautiful.  The multiple acts of composure and artifice had merely dissolved her anxieties; now that she felt prepared to meet the day, her true beauty emerged which had been frayed and marred by anxiety."

God, she's just so good. Just so good it makes me sick. Since any words I try to conjure will seem hollow next to hers, I decided to take some pictures to illustrate just how clearly you can see this process of smoothing, calming and straightening she talks about on my face.

Sure, the second one has kinder lighting and a better pose, but I think that helps make the point. The first is the face only my boy (and you now, I suppose) see. The second is the face I show outside. I don't even use that much makeup - eyeshadow, mascara, a swipe of lip stain and a teeny smudge of BB cream under my eyes. It's mostly the process that puts me together - the brush through my hair, smoothing my fringe, patting my face. I discovered this morning while I was actually paying attention to the process that I even stand up straighter once I feel sufficiently "put together".

I've heard other women talk about learning this association of makeup with comfort, and control from watching their mothers put on makeup. But my mother hardly ever wore makeup, and certainly didn't seem to get any pleasure out of it when she did. I think these associations, for me, largely came about due to my time working as a receptionist in the sex industry.

I'd been told I was supposed to wear makeup whenever I was on shift, but at first I took this rule pretty lightly. I was far too busy to be fucking around with adjusting my lipstick at four in the morning, and the boss could go fuck himself if he thought otherwise.
However, the thing about managing a brothel or massage parlour is that you have to appear in control as much as possible. When you're managing between five and ten workers, and however many dozens of clients come through, there are just too many moving parts for you to come across like you don't have things under control. Workers get scared, clients get pushy, and suddenly your workers safety can be at risk. This was a big responsibility for someone as naturally anxious as me. There were times I was coming in to a ten hour shift on five hours sleep, and not only was I not in control at all, my lack of confidence and control was absolutely clear to everyone who saw me. I was letting my co-workers down.

So I started watching the workers more closely, to see how they coped. They were in an even more complex situation than I was - all I had to do was take the clients money, make sure they knew the rules, and strongly encourage them to follow them. It was the workers who had to enforce the rules once they were in the room - all I could do was kick them out if they broke them. So I watched the workers, hoping to learn their secrets. I watched them trailing in at the start of a shift, in track pants or jeans, hair piled loosely on their heads. I watched them unpack their tools, and with makeup and hair tongs transform themselves. I watched them come in with their outside faces, and put on a new one, a face just for inside our walls - one that was perfect, beautiful, and in charge. I decided if this ritual of mascara and lotions and perfume could help them become so in control, maybe it could help me.

Happily, my co-workers were happy to teach me. They told me what to buy, what not to buy, how to use it all, and eventually I was pulling my tools out with them at the start of a shift. Sometimes I would do my makeup before I got there, but I always preferred to do it with them. It felt like we were a team, a gorgeous, confident team ready to handle anything the shift threw at us.

I don't care that it was dumb as a post, I loved this movie
How I left the sex industry is a long story, but the relevant part is that even now I'm just getting ready to go to an office where no one cares if I wear lip gloss or not, the association remains. I remember what the sex workers I have known taught me, and when putting on a slick of lipstick I remember the pressure I was under at those jobs, the things I handled. I remember what I'm capable of. Even for someone with a brain as determined to get in the way as mine, when I compare dealing with a coked up asshole waving a broken bottle at me to organising a visa on short notice, getting out the door and dealing with the day doesn't seem so hard anymore. 

What are your morning rituals to put yourself together? Do they involve makeup, or coffee, or perhaps your cat? I'd love to hear about your experience.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


After yesterday's seriousness, I think it's time for a palette cleanser. I don't know about you, but once summer hits, I become seriously addicted to slushies, or as our local 7-11 like to call them, Slurpees. Whatever you call them, I fucking love these barrels of cold, sugary bliss. I am the exact opposite of a lizard - put me in the cold and I will happily thrive, but if I get even a little too hot I melt into a puddle of uselessness. 

Happily there is a 7-11 just down the road from my house, so I can get my fix without dying of heat exhaustion. While I was on holidays, I decided to be all experimental and shit and fill the cup up with a cornucopia of flavours.

Because I am apparently that sort of person now, I looked at all those clashing colours swirling around, and thought to myself, "That would make a great manicure." And because I was on holidays, I went home and did it.

It's not the classiest, most restrained of designs, but that's kind of what I dig about it. It hurts your eyes, like the sun. Also, more to the point, I had a wacky idea and just went and did it, which is very unusual for me. I'm not normally a spontaneous girl, I'm not normally a colours girl, but there I was with multi-coloured splashes all over my fingersnails, because I'd bought an unusually bright Slurpee that day. I'd blame it on heat madness, but I think it might be...dare I say it...the tiniest, most fragile blooms of confidence!

Monday, January 14, 2013

So, You Have To Wear Makeup - Postscript

Because a couple of people have asked, here are the numbers for the responses I got to my anecdata collection. The question I asked was, "Have you ever been to a successful job interview without makeup on? If so, which industry?"

Out of 35 respondents (give or take, I might have missed a few on Twitter), 4 answered No. They had never been to a successful job interview without makeup, and they all clarified that they had never been to a job interview without any makeup full stop. The industries these women worked in were engineering, advertising, law, and cosmetic retail.

31 answered Yes, they had been to successful job interviews without makeup. Before my statistician friends jump in, I'm aware the way I asked the question created an enormous bias. I factored that into my conclusions :P
The industries these women worked in were surprisingly varied. Here's a brief list, where I've listed (multiple) next to any industry that had more than 2 respondents;

Fast food retail
Factory work
Accountancy Administration
Public Service Administration (multiple)
Call centres
Cosmetic retail
Libraries (multiple) but sample was heavily biased towards ladybrarians)
Banking and Financial Services, eg KPMG (multiple)
Tech Industry Administration
Research assistant/director
NGO Administration
Small business Administration

What are your conclusions from this data?

So, You Have To Wear Makeup - Part 4

In which we take some advice from Vanilla Ice, and try to sum up what we have learned.

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Flavia Dzodan once famously said on the fantastic blog Tiger Beatdown, "My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit."  In this context, she was talking about ensuring we include women of colour, trans women, poor women, women with a disability, non-neurotypical* women, all marginalised groups of women in feminism. But I propose we not only do this, but make the goal even broader still. We need to take the ultimate challenge and decide to include not only all these groups, but one more challenging still - people who disagree with us.
Photo by Pinti 1 on Flickr
Sometimes I feel like I’ve always been in the middle. I’m not gay or straight, but queer. I grew up in a household that was poor, but not destitute. I’m fatter than average, but not huge. My blog is very young yet, but it's already an odd creature, and very representative of my perpetual  view from the middle. There are entries showing off a pretty nail polish I bought next to posts discussing the sexist standards of appearance required of women in job interviews. There's a bit of shameless superficiality, a bit of serious philosophical pondering. It's like me - not any one thing, but pieces of many things loosely bound together. While this means it's not as popular as it could be if I just chose a side and stuck with it, I like it the way it is, because I think the middle ground has been too silent for too long, and I want that to change.

Twitter is an infophile's best friend
I got a comment  on my first “So, You Have To Wear Makeup” post, saying that reader had never worn makeup to an interview and had never had a problem. Being the nerdy little infophile I am, I decided to collect some anecdata, because this was totally contrary to my experience.
I got back some answers that were absolutely what I was expecting to hear, the ones that matched my own experience in the job market. People saying that when they were younger, and going for less financially rewarding jobs like fast food and call centre positions, that they hadn’t worn makeup, but now they were going for and getting more senior positions, makeup had become a necessity in job interviews. But there were also a lot of responses that  blew my assumptions clear out of the water. Dozens of women came back to me with tales of successful careers built while entirely rejecting makeup, and it has made me seriously reconsider whether I actually need to wear it to work after all. I heard from a lot of women who don’t ever wear makeup, and so had never considered that it might be necessary for a job interview, and it hadn’t held them back one bit. There were also responses from people that challenged my idea that “all women” think wearing makeup to job interviews is inherently unfair - some women put forward the opinion that it was ridiculous not to wear makeup to an interview, that I was just part of a workplace dress code, and no more oppressive than requiring you to wear closed shoes. One person put forward the idea that appearance was the biggest advantage women have in an interview situation, and you're an idiot not to use all the tools at your disposal to look as good as you can. Moreover, someone else suggested that considering the many studies proving that men are better at talking themselves up, and get better results when they do, it's only fair for women to use their natural advantage. Some women said they just enjoy making themselves up, that it made them feel confident, beautiful, and capable, so why wouldn't they for an interview? 

While I gathered a lot of information, I don’t really have a great many concrete conclusions to draw from it – this was such a casual study that trying to draw any definitive facts out of it would be ridiculous. However, I did discover that if you are against wearing makeup enough that you don’t feel like you could do it for an interview, it seems like the public service is the place for you. I’m pretty curious as to how this culture has come about, as opposed to the private sector where once your business hits a certain size, it does seem to be largely assumed the women will wear makeup. Nursing also seems to be relatively makeup free, although my anedata suggests this is changing and the younger generation of nurses are much more likely to “put on a bit of face”. Personally, I think I would need a little lipstick or a nice hair bow or SOMETHING to make me feel better after twelve hours of cleaning up other people’s puke, but that’s just my guess as to why it’s becoming more prevalent. On the other hand, advertising and PR seem to be industries where makeup is a requirement, and probably a fair bit of it. One source told me she’d been to twelve interviews makeup free in a row, and on the next one she wore makeup to see if it made a difference. This time she got the job. She’s an enormously experienced, confident, intelligent candidate, so while correlation is not causation, it seems like a pretty strong indicator that wearing makeup in these industries is not a choice for women. 

Not an accurate depiction of the nursing profession
I wasn't annoyed to by the information I gathered that conflicted with my own experience - I was delighted. I've long believed that if you only surround yourself with people whose views match your own, your social interactions just turn into a massive circle jerk. Besides if I only ever listened to people who entirely agree with me I would be listening to a recording of my own voice all the time.
I actually don't entirely agree with either end of the spectrum of responses I got. As with so many things my opinion is somewhere in the middle. I will continue to wear makeup to job interviews, because I think it gives me an advantage that outweighs my other disadvantages. But  I'm delighted to learn that women who fucking hate makeup and refuse to wear it have the option to do so and be successful. I’m also pleased that there are other women out there who don’t like wearing makeup, but are happy to do it for the sake of getting a job, that I’m not some massive traitor for doing so. I’m pleased to learn there are other confident, self assured women who enjoy wearing makeup as a bit of fun, just as I do.  

But I didn’t ask the question in order to try and form some sort of declarable conclusion - it's the discussion that fires me up. The fascinating influx of information I wouldn't have gotten otherwise, the viewpoints I had never considered. I didn’t exclude or dismiss the women who disagreed with me - I thanked them for their contribution, and added their anecdata to my research. I looked at ALL the answers I had gotten before trying to reach any sort of conclusion. If anything, I wish my question had been able to get out to a more varied sample of women. I feel like the more points of view I can get on something, the closer I can get to something like truth. 

However, I think we need to accept there is no such thing as one truth for all women. Caitlin Moran has been copping a lot of flak lately for some decidedly non-intersectionalist views she put forward in her book, "How To Be A Woman", and I think she deserves to be questioned about them. Her dismissal of pole dancers claim to feminism particularly got up my nose. But I also think she had an excellent point when she rebutted these arguments by pointing out that she never wanted to be a spokesperson for ALL women. As trans and whorephobic as she is, she's right about this. No one woman can speak for all women - there is simply too much variety in experience and situation for this to ever work. I have only ever worked in the private sector, so I’m not going to presume to tell women who have only worked in the public sector what they can and can’t do at work. Instead of only listening to ourselves and those who agree with us, how about we stop for a minute and have a listen to other women's truths, whether we agree with them or not? I want to encourage a conversation within feminism -  with this blog, I want to draw together the people who think lipstick is oppressive, and the people who never wear pants, and get them talking. It’s only a little topic in the grand scheme of things, I know, but it’s what I can do.

Not a feminist, not particularly surprising.
I think that infighting and "oppression olympics" (a style of arguing where everyone else's experience is invalid because no-one has ever had it as hard as you) within the feminism community is totally counterproductive, and has lead to the rise in younger women rejecting the title of feminist altogether. I think we need to not only tolerate dissenting voices, but really consider what they have to say. When a woman - ANY woman - says, “Don’t call me that,” your response should be simple - stop, listen, and then don’t call them that. Don’t tell them to get over it because you don’t understand why they’re upset. Try and understand why they’re upset. Ask questions. Listen. Maybe they are picking fights for no reason, or as we on the internet say, troll-lol-lol-ing. But maybe they have an objection based on a point of view you hadn’t considered. When this culture of dismissing the unfamiliar extends to a situation where people like Julie Birchall feel free to write out-and-out hate speech addressed at trans women just because they asked a friend of hers not to say things that made them feel like shit, feminism has a serious fucking problem.

Other people with much more experience than me have discussed this disgusting situation elsewhere, so I will make my analysis short. This "war" started because Suzanne Moore wrote a column in which she made what I feel are some excellent points about the state of feminism currently, but also included an off-the-cuff dig at trans women. They understandably asked if she could not use that word next time. Instead of taking a minute to listen to them, she launched into a series of justifications for her language, and then her BFF dogpiled on and said these women should be grateful that they weren't called worse.(Serious trigger warnings on this link, BTW. It's some hateful, vicious stuff.) All it would have taken is for Moore to stop, listen, think, and then say "Hey, sorry about that. I didn't realise my word choice was so hurtful. I won't use it in future." That's it. Instead of complaining that no-one saw the point she was trying to make past her use of a word they found really upsetting, she needed to deal with the fact that she made a mistake. But she wouldn't. And now it's a shit fight, becoming more vicious every day, all because she simply refused to listen to experiences other than her own.

Image from xojane
I am honestly baffled by her reaction - I've been wrong before. I've fucked up. I've said and thought things that were based entirely on my own experience that, as it turns out, were totally wrong. For example, when I first went into the sex industry I didn't realise some sex workers had a problem with people who were not sex workers using the word hooker. I heard them calling each other that, and thought it was okay to do it myself. When I was asked not to, I asked why. The workers I spoke to explained that it was their word for each other, and they didn't feel I had the right to use it. I didn't tell them I would say what I wanted because there was nothing wrong with the word from my point of view. I didn't tell them to get the fuck over it because other women have bigger problems. I apologised, and referred to them as sex workers or working girls from them on. I just cannot grasp why Moore couldn't just own her poor choice of words, apologise, and then not fucking do it again. It's not rocket science. 

Don't be this guy
There are so many questions to be asked of so many different women with so many different experiences, and I sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who actually wants to hear what everyone has to say. If I can take the time to stop, collaborate and listen on a topic as relatively minor as whether to wear makeup to work, then I really feel like more prominent voices than mine can take the time to listen to other women about crucial, life changing stuff. While the internet has been an incredible boon in terms of finding allies, it also means we have an unprecedented ability to limit the number of dissenting opinions we hear and engage with. All too easily your Twitter feed can become the psychological equivalent of a manky hotel room somewhere in nothing but socks on to protect your feet from the sticky floor. And if that's your thing, well, I suppose go for it. But I would prefer my social world to be more like a great big party - some people are arguing, some people are getting it on, some people are just enjoying each others company. Will you come to my party and at least have a drink with us?

*neurotypical refers to anyone with a "normal" brain, ie no discernible emotional, mental, or learning disorder - non-neurotypical is everyone else. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Alanna Renee Review - Black Cherry, Milky Way, Mardi, Pacific

Glitter for all!

To be honest, I'm not normally a fan of big chunky glitter polishes. I've seen a lot of other bloggers go weak at the knees for things like Lynderella, and there are a lot of indie makers apparently going by the rule that if the glitter will fit in the bottle, it's never too big. I just can't get behind that. As much as I love OTT fashion, the reality is that I will only wear a polish if it's not going to look, well, messy. I love the idea of indie polishes - supporting someone else in doing what makes them happy makes me pretty damn happy - but a lot of them just end up looking cluttered to my fussy eyes.

Happily, Alanna Renee has changed my mind about chunky glitters, and indie polish in general.

Full disclosure - I do know the founder of this brand through a nail community I'm part of, and she's lovely. I will admit that apart from Black Cherry, which I knew I would love, I bought the others to give them a go and support her, not because I thought I would love them. But I was quite, quite wrong.

Speaking of Black Cherry, let's start with that one.

Under office flourescents - it won't always bubble like this, I just got over excited
and decided insisting on putting it on in +40 degree heat was an awesome idea.
 Buying this was a total no brainer for me. Pretty much everything I own is black and red, and I was really interested to see how the red glitter would look in person. It turns out it's not really glitter as such - it settles into the dark jelly base like bright drops of blood in a dark night, and I fucking love it. I put a layer of black under it, and I think that really helped the red stand out so beautifully. having said that, it's surprisingly subtle and tactful, for a polish full of three different kinds of glitter. I wore it to work and it was halfway through the day before someone asked if I had red or black on my nails today, so if you're looking for something a bit different that doesn't scream LOOK AT MEEEE, this could be for you.

If you DO want something that screams LOOK AT MEEEEE, then Mardi is for you.

Both under lamp light - I wanted sunshine, but the weather won't play nice
with me this weekend.

Macro so you can see ALL THE GLITTER
I actually put a layer of red under this because I thought it might be a bit transparent, but it turns out that was a totally unnecessary step. This polish is just pure glitter, all the way through. It's like she literally liquified a drag queen's favourite dress and then put it in bottles. While not something I would wear every day, it's out and out fabulous, and will be proudly worn next time I need a bit more fabulous in my life. Unfortunately, this is out of stock currently, but Alanna Renee assure me there will be a restock in the coming weeks.

This next polish is currently out of stock too, which is kind of heartbreaking because I can think of at least three people I'd like to buy it for now I've seen how stunning it is in person. I bought Pacific largely as a challenge to myself to try something I didn't think was "me", and it ended up being my favourite out of the whole collection.

This one I did manage to get in the sun

The rock is from the Pacific Ocean!

The bottle shots made it look a bit...well, tacky and overly shiny, like tinsel. But on your nails it's just beautiful. The jelly base makes the glitter float like it's in the ocean, and the way it sparkles in the sunlight reminds me perfectly of the parts of the Pacific I actually like, ie. the parts where no-one else goes. I recently took a trip to Milton on the coast, and spent the most relaxing week I've had in a long time roaming around beaches like this;

While I hate beaches, especially beaches with other people on them, I ADORE the clear, beautiful blue water you get around this area of the coast, and the way the sunlight twinkles on it like a diamond. This polish makes me think of these amazing nooks every time I look at it, and for that I dub it my favourite of the collection so far. It surprised me so delightfully, and I love surprises.

Which brings me to the last, Milky Way, which I thought I would love, but have ended up feeling pretty ambivalent about(in the dictionary definition of the word). I tried it first over a dark base, as the sale page reccomends.

I have a sneaking suspicion I should have used a base colour that was less transparent, because I don't feel like it really made the Milky Way "pop" the way it could have. So I tried it over a light base, and was pleasantly surprised with the results.

It gives the pink a really subtle, secret princess sparkle, and I dig that. Unfortunately, I don't know when I would actually wear this look. I also found the glitter looked a lot more chunky in this polish than the others. As I said at the start, some people just LOVE that look, but I prefer the glitter to blend with the base to create an overall impression. Pacific and Black Cherry both do this really well - the glitter and the base work together, instead of the base just being there to make sure the glitter sticks. Mardi can't be compared because it's ALL GLITTER. but Milky Way looks a little too Lynderella for my taste - the glitter is lovely, and much more tasteful than a lot of indies I've seen. But it's just kind of...there. There's no overall look. I'm planning on using it to add some subtle glitter tips to a solid colour in the future, but I think that's probably all I'll end up using it for.

Matters of individual taste aside, I was really blown away by the quality of these polishes, from formula to packaging. I've long been wary of glitter polishes because I've heard you often have to "fish" around with the brush to really get a decent  amount of glitter out, and that sounded like a disaster waiting to happen in my hands. I had to fish a tiny bit with Milky Way, but the others were no problem at all. Just dunk, slather, and BAM bitches. You will however want to put a nice thick topcoat over these, especially Mardi. The sheer volume of glitter means they can dry a little textured otherwise.
The labels are incredibly professional, even compared to other mainstream brands, and I love that an indie label has taken the time to consider the visual impact of the packaging as well as the product. This is a tactic that has served Cirque extremely well so far, and given that her polishes are at least as good, and the packaging just as lovely, I believe Alanna Renee can reach the same heights of success.