Cross-posted at Ms.

Maybelline’s brand of lip gloss, “baby lips,” is a straightforward example of the infantilization of adult women:

We should be worried about the infantilization of women for two reasons:

First, it’s directly related to the sexualization of young girls.  The two phenomena, when considered together, clearly point to the convergence of female children and adult sexuality.  As I wrote in a previous post:

…on the one hand, women are portrayed as little girls, as coyly innocent, as lacking in power and maturity. On the other hand, child-likeness is sexy, and girls are portrayed as Lolitas whose innocence is questionable.

Second, the need for women to look like babies to be beautiful (and the requirement for women to be beautiful), turns aging into a trauma for women.  Susan Sontag, in her (truly beautiful) essay The Double Standard of Aging, put it this way:

The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man… A man does not grieve when he loses the smooth, unlined, hairless skin of a boy. For he has only exchanged one form of attractiveness for another…

There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every gray hair, is a defeat.

A very lucrative defeat for Maybelline, if we buy into it.

More of the quote at a previous post.  And, for more on the infantilization of women, see our posts on baby teethlady spankingGleethis collection of examples, a vintage example, and the Halloween edition. Link via BagNewsNotes.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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