How do the wealthy owners of the cosmetics and fashion industrues play on women's insecurities to sell products and rake in profits?
How are the standards of beauty determined in capitalist society?
Why do the employers, the media, the government, school administrations, and church heirarchies promote "the feminine mystique" and narrow women's "role" to family responsibilities?
How has the growing participation of women in the labor force changed their view of themselves and their potential? How has it affected the attitudes of men twoard women?
What does all this say about the relationship between the capitalist system and the oppression of women?
These are some of the questions addressed in a lively debate over the relation of the marketing of cosmetics and fashions to the exploitation of women. The controversy was sparked by Joseph Hansen's short expose of the cosmetics industry in the Militant, a US socialist newsweekly, in 1954. Included are other articles from that debate discussing the pressures bearing down on women - and men - in capitalist society, especially during periods of political reaction or retreat, and a related article by Evelyn Reed on the origins of the family and women's oppression. The introduction by Mary-Alice Waters places the "cosmetics controversy" in its historical framework. She assesses the political consequences of changes in women's social conditions since World War II, especially their increasing incorporation into industrial jobs and trade unions.