The Young Women Program and the Emphasis on Beauty: Lessons in makeup?
I don’t remember a whole lot about my YW experience, but I do remember one activity (fireside?) in particular. We went to a woman’s home in our stake. She was in her late 30’s and was a stay at home mom. She was dressed in a nicely fitted suit, beautifully coiffed and wearing a lot of makeup. She was attractive, and she sat us down and talked to us about her journey toward attractiveness.
It all started when she overheard her mother in law talking to her husband one day. Her mother in law was complaining about how this woman didn’t make an effort to look attractive, didn’t wear nice clothes, didn’t wear makeup. Her husband replied to his mother, “Mom, some people just don’t have that much potential. Leave it be.”
This woman felt awful. Her own husband thought she didn’t have potential to be beautiful! She set out to prove him wrong. After buying new clothes and getting expensive makeup and hair cut, her husband was surprised and joyous over the transformation. She was beautiful after all, she told us girls. It just took some effort and some makeup.
By the end of the night, I had resolved in my mind that I would never get to the point where my husband would just shrug and think that I didn’t have that much potential physically. Like this woman, I was going to make sure I looked good for him.
As a 13 year old, I was intrigued by this woman’s story. As an adult looking back on it, I am more troubled. Is this what my YW leaders were trying to teach us girls? That it was important for wives to wear makeup and look attractive on a daily basis? If not, what were they trying to teach us? And should this even be part of the YW program – to teach girls about the importance of beauty?
I suppose one reason (among many) that I’m uncomfortable with this practice is because concerns about this kind of manufactured beauty seem so culturally situated in middle to upper middle class American mores. I can’t imagine this emphasis on beauty resonating to some women in the developing world, women who work hard every day in back breaking labor to put food on their family’s table, women who have little access to cosmetics or hair stylists. I imagine these women might have a completely different idea of what it means to be beautiful, and even then, may not think that teaching that beauty to young women should be a high priority.
I also worry that such emphases alienate those Mormon women in our immediate areas that simply choose (out of principle or necessity or whatever) to not enter into that world of makeup and expensive clothing. I wonder how much we should be trying to homogenize a particular look for Mormon women.
- What were your experiences with lessons on beauty and makeup in YW’s? What do you see as the positives and negatives of teaching YW about female beauty?
- What are the responsibilities of a spouse to look attractive for the other spouse?