I have always found it bizarre that lipstick is supposed to make a woman’s lips more irresistible, yet kissing a woman with lipstick gets sticky red or pink smudge all over both faces. So women dress up and look all gorgeous and then their dates can’t kiss them. Or, it’s the end of the night and a woman wants her date to kiss her, does she put on lipstick or go for the chapstick? Gah, being a woman is hard. And I supposed it can’t be that easy being the person who wants to kiss her in that situation either.
It’s odd to me that this kiss-ability paradox is never addressed in lipstick advertising. So I was intrigued to see it in this vintage ad:
Now water cannot mar your lipstick… it’s protected by a coat of clear Lip-Stae. Just brush on its liquid lustre… lips stay brillint, alluring for hours. And clothes, cigarettes, glasses and the man in your life can’t carry lipstick’s tell-tale marks! Safe, economical, and easy to use. At cosmetic counters everywhere. (my emphasis)
There is so much to unpack here, but I think it all revolves around the fact that women are supposed to wear makeup, but pretend that the face that they put on is their real face. As the copy reads, lipstick leaves “tell-tale marks.” Those marks reveal a degree of deception regarding her true attractiveness and, in fact, this is exactly how makeup was characterized in the Victorian era. This is why a woman’s lipstick must remain on her lips (and be left nowhere else) even when swimming or kissing. Because, in principle, she’s not wearing lipstick at all.
This post originally appeared in 2009.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.