Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Spending £30 on a moisturiser doesn’t mean that I’m stupid

Aren’t women ridiculous, the BBC asked (not in those exact words) on Monday, introducing a news story about women shunning budget skincare lines in favour of more expensive ones.

According to recent research, we are currently more likely to pay more than £30 for “snake oil for gullible idiots” as my (male) friend put it, than seek out a low-price alternative.

Over on 5Live, the news presenter spat out the story, his voice dripping with contempt. It was clear he regarded the women in question as deluded desperados in a class with Holocaust deniers and creationists.

I know there are some women who feel similarly, who would no more dream of paying more than £10 for a face cream than they would trim their proud beard.

Outside the fashion and beauty magazines, women who pay good money for make-up or skincare are generally ridiculed as superficial, vain, needy and stupid, tricked into investing their children’s inheritance in golden potions mixed by angels and sprinkled with fairy dust.

Such women, it is implied, are unlikely to know who Vince Cable is, or to have read the novels of Dostoevsky.

They probably spend their lives floating around in a swirling mist of sparkling face powder dreaming about their next Botox appointment, leaving their forgotten tear-stained children to roam the school playground at 3 o’clock, and the family dog to die of malnutrition.

The truth is not quite like that. In fact — deep breath — my name is Jane Graham and I often spend more than £30 on a moisturiser.

It’s pointless trying to explain this habit, though I know numerous women who do the same.

It has something to do with not embracing the tyranny of ageing, the death of hope, of enjoying the fantasy of a miraculous discovery.

Deep down I know that four weeks’ use of my new £45 serum may not transform my face into the one I had 10 years ago but I also know it feels rather lovely imagining it might. And that’s worth £45 to me.

This might be silly nonsense but I get a bit irritated when I see how derisory men, and the male media, are about the comforting superstitions and daft peccadilloes of women.

Men often complain about how today’s TV adverts and sitcoms are full of hapless men who refuse to ask directions and get competitive about who’s best at barbecues.

But, though these archetypes certainly exist in popular culture, women are rarely genuinely scornful of such traits. Rather, they’re affectionate about men’s vulnerabilities.

When we roll our eyes and say “boys will be boys”, we’re speaking with love and even admiration that men can hang on to their lovable boyish peculiarities in a way grown-up women find it much harder to do.

Maybe the reason women do find it so much more difficult to maintain their girlishness is that contemporary culture doesn’t indulge female silliness with fondness, but attacks it with withering disdain.

Other women are sometimes complicit in this, arguing that we didn’t throw ourselves under horses to look weak and whimsical in the boardroom.

I disagree — feminism is about equality, not just in business but on the bus, in the pub, in our living rooms.

There is an inherent air of superiority when men mock women for being fluffy or ‘blonde’, which belies a deeper belief that they’re more serious beings than us.

When they can grin at our £20 lipsticks as cheerfully as we roll our eyes at their £90 home-and -away football kits, we’ll be on a proper par.

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