Sisterhood Blog

Woman Fired for Not Wearing Makeup

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share
At What Price Beauty?

Melanie Stark was forced from her job in sales at Harrod’s in for refusing to wear make-up. After five years of employment at the British department store, the company confronted Stark with a “Ladies’ dress code” which included the following strict instructions: “Full makeup at all times: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all times and maintained discreetly (please take into account the store display lighting which has a ‘washing out’ effect).”

Stark refused to comply. The 24-year-old told The Guardian, “I was appalled. It was insulting… It’s not like wearing black trousers, or a black shirt. This is my face. Make up can change your features completely, especially if I was to wear all of what they were asking. I would look like a different person to me. And I never chose to look like that.”

While Stark is considering her legal options, the blogosphere erupted with some surprising reactions. Liz Jones at The Mail wrote a scathing attack against Stark: “An unmade-up face tells me you find it hard to get up early enough to attend to your maquillage…Women who feel no compunction to improve what nature bestowed upon them are, in my experience, arrogant, lazy or deluded, and frequently all three.”

This is a new low for women.

For several years already, women have been expected to adhere to extreme standards of thinness, blonde-ness and hairlessness in order to keep our jobs. Now, to add insult to injury, a woman who decides to forego that regimen risks not only being fired but also being obnoxiously chided and baselessly cast as lazy, arrogant and a whole host of other ridiculous monikers.

The message is that a woman’s natural face is by definition so ugly and repugnant as to drive customers away. The idea of a woman liking her face, enjoying her body as it is, is apparently unthinkable.

The emotional implications are obvious, and they start frighteningly early. When adult women are socialized into being disgusted by their own faces, it is hardly surprising that these messages filter down to girls earlier and earlier. Pre-teen girls disapprove of their bodies in frightening proportions, and we clearly know why.

Moreover, there is a serious economic side to these expectations, The New York Times reported a few years ago that it is not uncommon for professional women to spend 10 hours and $1,000 a week on beauty treatments to maintain her look.

Women are wasting their hard-earned salaries on appearances. “If you took that $100 a month you are spending on manicures and pedicures and invested it starting at age 25 in stocks that went up 10 percent a year, you would have over $500,000 by the time you were 65,” Manisha Thakor, a financial analyst and co-author of “On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance,” told the Times.

Thankfully, there have been some voices of reason in the blogosphere as well. “Why must ‘well-groomed and presentable’ equal full make-up and high heels?” Asks Bryony Whitehead in IAfrica. “With this kind of thinking, we impose an archaic beauty ideal that was meticulously followed in the 1950s but that might not be quite so at home in the new millennium.” On a forum debate on MSN, many women chimed in about being successful without having to spend fortunes on grooming.

But troubling signs remain. As one commenter on the MSN forum wrote, “Despite all of the outward signs of women’s liberation, some, consciously or not, still link a woman’s value as a worker to her perceived attractiveness… I am taking it as an ominous sign of how little we have achieved if a female filing clerk or accountant has to go through a ritual not demanded of their male counterparts in order to be deemed a satisfactory employee.”

Ellie Krupnick at the Huffington Post summed it up best:

“We’re kind of thinking that Stark’s refusal to wear makeup means she probably has great pores and an excellent complexion. Oh, and knows how to stand her ground.”

Maybe she is even happy with her own natural beauty. Couldn’t we all use a bit of that?

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.