Beauty Myths & Charm Schools: Constructing Femininity

black and white collage of a pyramid made up of women’s faces and a scattering of open lipsticks.
$8.00 digital

From the history of Avon and Mary Kay to the current state of “respectability politics” for Black women, the social ideals of femininity have offered numerous ways of assessing women—and, of course, noting where they fall short. The six pieces in this reader look at how these ideals have been constructed, perpetuated, and challenged.


Sisterhood is Powderful: Inside the feminine history of direct sales | Erika L. Fricke 

Hell is Older People: Aging as the ultimate cinematic horror | Alan Prochuk

Forever Your Girl: The legacy of Helen Andelin’s fascinating womanhood | Holly Welker

In Richness and in Wealth: What does it mean to be a modern-day trophy wife? | Gretchen Sisson

No Disrespect: Black women and the burden of respectability | Tamara Winfrey Harris

Laugh Trap: When women’s voices are judging, is it the sound that’s so scary—or what they’re saying? | Abby Paige

Study questions

Additional reading

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Back Issues

93: Touch
92: Wild
90: Legacy
88: Power
86: Sick
83: Heat
82: Broke
80: Ghosts
79: Travel
76: Facts
73: Chaos
71: Money