9 Different Textual Readings of a Makeup Advertisement

2015-06-25 14.52.01

Approaching Dillards at Baybrook Mall the other day my eyes immediately came across the above advertisement before I could even walk in the store.

There are several possible ways to interpret this advertisement. As a thought exercise (H/T to Aaron and Andrés for the challenge to look for and articulate more POVs occasionally), I am going to offer a variety of interpretations of this advertisement, all based on different perspectives of the same social constructions. Please comment with other possible readings of this text! My own personal opinion, informed by feminism, history, sociology, psychology, critical race theory, etc., revolves around the possible damage it does and how it perpetuates the status quo, but there are, naturally and of course, other readings possible. Which one is most valid, per se? Depends a lot on your perspective and place in the world.   

  • This ad is offensive with its suggestion that (White) Women do not look “amazing” and do not have agency and need said product to look “amazing” and that they can only look “amazing” with the help of said product. Said ad suggests that aging, dark circles, and fatigue–all natural biological occurrences–are wrong and to be avoided. This is one example of countless in our world today that promotes particular and rigid rules for how women (and men) should look. 
  • This ad offers encouragement to (White) Women. What woman wouldn’t want to look “amazing,” especially if said product is free (initially!!) and only takes five minutes? Given the pressures in today’s world, a new look or some product can do a great deal to give women a psychological boost. 
  • This is one of many such ads in a capitalistic world. Women can select to use this product or not based on experience, trial and error, cost, and availability. No harm is done by a sign alone. 
  • The authors’ intent, of course, is to sell products. They use what works to make a living, given our world requires money to eat and live, and to make a profit. Given these factors and the ad, obviously such factors work, are needed, and serve to make a productive economy. 
  • People have long, long been concerned about how they look. The world is still moving along. A poster such is this will not do any harm and will actually do good. 
  • This ad is exclusionary. From a Queer reading, this advertisement assumes and suggests we live in a world where all “females” identify as “women” and all of them use makeup, and it assumes we live in a world where are “males” identify as “men” and do not use (and shouldn’t use) makeup. The world, social contractions of sex and gender, and who desires to use makeup or not is far more complex and diverse. 
  • This ad is exclusionary. Only a White woman, “the ideal of beauty” in US cultural history, is featured, as is so often the case. This also relates to that makeup and film and photography were designed to project and emphasize White people as beautiful.
  • This ad is exclusionary. Similar to most such ads, this ad assumes that every one can see (and see in a color-normative way -colorblind people exist, too).
  • This ad is exclusionary. Only women who already have enough time and enough money will have the chance to “look amazing.” Classism and racism have no place in public places. 

Again, please comment with other possible interpretations of this text and which one most resonates with you. Doing this exercise was fun, for sure. While I do not think all of these readings are equally valid, e.g., we know from studies that makeup and sexualized/genderized mores causes hard, I came up with interesting readings and ideas that I would not have thought of if I had just posted a critique about the ad’s sexism, as originally planned. 

Thank you for reading.