Category Archives: Government Watch

Is Sexual Harassment the New Normal?

ivillage herman cain virginia sole-smith

We interrupt our regularly scheduled beauty & body issues talk once again, this time to discuss the insanity that is Herman Cain and his inability to behave appropriately around women. So I guess, in a way, it’s still a body issue — especially if you factor in the way conservative pundits are going after Sharon Bialek’s obviously-asking-for-it hair. (They clearly haven’t been paying attention to Slut Walk.)

But what’s depressing me even more than yet another politician sex scandal is the study published this week revealing that 48 percent of 7th to 12th graders experienced sexual harassment in the past year. Which means we’ve normalized sexually aggressive and derogatory behavior — especially towards women and girls, though boys were harassed as well — to a frankly, alarming degree.

How has this happened and which cultural forces are to blame? I’m not entirely sure, but I tell you, worrying about this is taking all of the fun out of watching The Vampire Diaries. (Seriously. Is it just me, or is this season extra rape-y?)

Anyway, back to Herman Cain, and how we can use what’s left of his fifteen minutes to have a productive conversation about why sexual harassment has become so commonplace, Cain genuinely seems to expects us to believe him when he says he doesn’t remember doing anything wrong.

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Filed under Career Opportunities, Government Watch, Happenings

Blog for Fair Pay Day 2011: Why Part-Time Beauty Work Widens the Gender Gap

I’m excited to be participating in my second Blog for Fair Pay Day event (it’s also the theme of our latest Feminist Fashion Bloggers group post).

But, boy am I sad that things aren’t any better than they were when we did this last year. Working women in the United States are still making less than 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. We celebrate (mourn?) Equal Pay Day on April 12 because this is the day when women’s earnings finally catch up to what men earned in 2010. Yeah, that’s a heck of a gap.

So, what does this wage gap look like in the beauty industry? As you can see from this fun Bureau of Labor Department bubble chart, women both earn the least and take home the smallest percentage of male salaries in categories like “wholesale & retail trade,” “leisure & hospitality” and “other services.” Gosh, those sure sound like places I’d categorize jobs like “Sephora cashier,” “salon worker” and “freelance makeup artist.” What’s the deal?  Continue reading

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Filed under Fashionable Feminist, Government Watch

[Fun With Press Releases] Capitol Hill Cosmetics Party Was a Hoot.

Fun with Press Releases: Because sometimes the beauty industry just goes there.

So last Wednesday, the Society for Women’s Health Research hosted a Capitol Hill briefing called “The Make Up of Your Make Up” (see what they did there?) to discuss, “the science of cosmetics and its impact on women’s health.” They sent me a press release right after, so I could know what a great time they all had.

And my first response was: Color me excited! A great women’s health nonprofit getting Congress to pay attention to all the women’s health issues going on in the world of beauty? This is big stuff.

Linda Katz, MD, MPH, Director of the Office of Cosmetics and Colors at the Food & Drug Administration kicked things off with an overview of the FDA’s responsibilities. Which I’m sure was good times. And then they got to the rest of their speakers:

With FDA oversight defined, John E. Bailey, PhD, Chief Scientist and Executive Vice President for Science of the Personal Care Products Council, shared more information on the cosmetic regulatory system including hazard vs. risk and how products are developed. Bailey said the steps for product development are, “to decide on type of product, who is intended to use it, what do you want the product to do, what regulatory body does it fall under (over-the-counter drugs or cosmetics), and finally, selection of ingredients by formulator.”

Halyna Breslawec, PhD, Deputy Director of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), explained the approval process for cosmetics and how ingredients are deemed safe. The mission of CIR is to “thoroughly review and access the safety of ingredients used in cosmetics in an open, unbiased, and expert manner, and publish the results in open, peer-reviewed literature.” The most frequently used ingredients and ingredients of concern are given high priority from CIR for review. They found 1124 ingredients to be safe, 875 safe with qualifications, 9 unsafe and 51 with insufficient data. In total, 2109 ingredients have been reviewed by CIR to date.

Rounding out the panel, Tina Alster MD, Director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Georgetown University Medical Center, offered insight into the top dermatological concerns with cosmetics. Even though cosmetics are deemed safe, some women face adverse reactions, including irritant, allergic, photoallergic and other reactions. Dermatitis from topical prescriptions is common so women should be diligent in observing how their skin reacts to different products. Alster’s main take-home messages for consumers are “sun protection is crucial, know your ABCDE’s (have any and all suspicious lesions checked by a dermatologist), and topicals have great therapeutic efficacy but also potential for side effects.”

Following the presentations, guests were treated to a reception to learn more about cosmetics from various companies and to ask further questions of the panel.

Ground Control to Major Tom! Because, yeah, there’s something wrong. Apparently SWHR decided to discuss the impact of cosmetics on women’s health with… the scientists that the beauty industry pays to tell everyone that cosmetics are good for women’s health. Let’s review:

1. John Bailey is the “chief scientist” of the industry’s main trade association.

2. Halyna Breslawec works for the CIR, which is the industry-funded panel that reviews cosmetic safety (and shares office space with the main trade association).

3. Tina Alster sounds all impartial in the write-up above — Georgetown, ooh fancy! — but is also “the consulting dermatologist to Lancôme” according to her official bio over here. I’m guessing she doesn’t do that pro bono.

Now, I don’t mind giving the industry a place at the table when we’re talking about what’s going on with their products. They make ’em, they get to talk about ’em. And they’re super convinced that their safety review process is awesome. (Even though they’ve only reviewed about 20 percent of the over 10,000 chemicals used in cosmetics today. What? They’re being thorough, don’t rush them.)

Fair enough.

But where were the impartial scientists and doctors, you know, the ones who don’t get paid to say beauty products are safe? Where were the activists like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics who have spent years researching why they might not all be so safe? Where were the salon workers, who are experiencing health issues from breathing this stuff in all the time? And where were the consumers who’d like get some actual straight answers for a change?

And most of all: Why is a reputable women’s health nonprofit throwing a singles mixer for a $330 billion industry* that seems to need no help finding its way into the government’s snuggly warm embrace?

“The safety of cosmetics is an important issue for women’s health,” said Phyllis Greenberger, MSW, President and CEO of SWHR. Oh… nope, still confused.

*Estimate of industry value per Harvard business historian Geoffrey Jones.

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Filed under Fun with Press Releases, Government Watch, Happenings, Ingredients

Breast Implants are Bad For You. But Here’s What’s Worse.

Fiona Project silicone breast implants

We should probably talk about this news that the Food and Drug Administration is investigating whether silicone breast implants are linked to a specific, rare type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

So far they’ve only identified 60 cases of ALCL among the 5 to 10 million women who have these breast implants worldwide. (Including, as Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner pointed out in the comments on last week’s Price Check, just 9,000 British women to over 350,000 Americans. Ponder that.)

Still, ALCL is diagnosed in just 1 in 100 million women without breast implants. So the ratios are concerning. Especially because these are the same silicone breast implants that were just brought back to the market in 2006, after they were originally banned for displaying this pesky tendency to rupture. And even though the manufacturers reformulated and did tons of safety studies, the FDA still requires you to get an MRI every other year post-breast implant, to check for something called “silent rupture,” where your implant implodes, but you and your doctor can’t tell just by feeling you up.

So. Here’s why I remain supportive of women who choose to get breast implants. Continue reading

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Filed under Beauty Labor, beauty standards, Government Watch, Ingredients, products

[Ingredient Watch] Makeup in Your Breast Milk

So, here’s something new and fun from our scientist friends: A new study analyzing the chemical body burden of 54 mom/baby pairs detected the presence of UV filters in over 85 percent of breast milk samples.The more moms reported using cosmetics and sunscreen, the higher their levels of detected chemicals.

What are UV filters? Chemicals like 4-methylbenzylidene camphor and octocrylene, which are added to a big range of — you guessed it — cosmetics and sunscreens. Oh and are potential endocrine disruptors, which can wreak havoc with babies’ developing bodies.

But that’s no big deal since babies don’t wear cosmetics or sunscreen or drink breast milk… wait, crap. Continue reading

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[Beauty Overheard] Should We Regulate Photoshop in Youth-Directed Media?

Considering Rachel Leigh Cook is best known for playing the we-hid-her-hotness-under-glasses lead in She’s All That, I am loving this quote from her, via Jezebel:

Nothing that you see is real, even if you look at what looks like a candid photo of someone, anything can be done. It is false advertising and false advertising is a crime so why isn’t this a crime? I’m just up in arms about it. People need to know that there are actual lenses that are put on cameras that make people stretched out. If you saw these actors in person, you wouldn’t even recognize them as the people you see on TV. It’s just all a complete illusion and maybe it should be viewed as art, the way that art isn’t real. The way that a picture of a rose can be beautiful, but it’s not a real rose.
Cook made this speech at last week’s Healthy Media for Youth Summit, organized in Washington DC by our friends the Girl Scouts, who are continuing their push for the Healthy Media for Youth Act, which I wrote about earlier this month over on Lemondrop. She also said: Continue reading

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Filed under Beauty Overheard, beauty standards, Government Watch, Happenings

A Flapper Daughter Responds.

In her latest column “Feminist Mothers, Flapper Daughters,” Katha Pollitt* admits that she sometimes finds young feminists irritating:

I’m tired of their constant use of teeny-bopper words like “amazing” and “awesome,” the lazy use of obscenities and the way they refer to themselves as “girls” and “chicks.” What’s wrong with “woman?” Is “woman” too fat for them? I don’t get their obsession with ads and women’s magazines and pop culture and celebrities — to me, feminism is about getting that stuff out of your head, not coming up with yet more reasons to object to it while remaining in its thrall. I’m tired of “body issues” getting so much more emphasis than economic and political ones, and the endless fetishizing of “choice” where anything a woman wants to do is sacrosanct, including stripping, prostition and porn, which are simultaneously obscurely troubling and perfectly OK!

Pollitt goes on to defend young feminists (against Susan Faludi who accuses us of ritual matricide) giving us credit for volunteering, mentoring teens, organizing conferences, writing books and blogging. Which I appreciate. So I’m hoping she won’t mind me taking a minute to look more closely at her objections to us. Continue reading

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Filed under beauty standards, Career Opportunities, Government Watch