Male Cosmetics Has Been Rising In Popularity, But It’s Really Nothing New 

Male cosmetics were previously thought to be exclusively for rock stars and punk individuals looking to rebel against their parents. As we’ve grown into the 21st century more and more, however, the beauty space has grown immensely, and the lines between gender and who can acceptably wear make up began to dissipate. 

Men in makeup is also nothing new, according to Dr Alun Withey, who claims that men initially began wearing makeup products back in the 1750s!

“The 18th century is actually the beginning of the market for men’s cosmetics that we see today. Back then there was a new focus on refining the body, so personal grooming became extremely important for everyone.”

Embed from Getty Images

Back in the 18th century, however, men and women alike didn’t have access to the information and ingredients that modern cosmetic products contain. In fact, Withey claims that musca fly, hog’s gall, and donkey genitals all were key ingredients in 18th century cosmetic treatments. For men, these ingredients were used as a means of soothing redness after shaving, or to thicken their hair. 

Within the last six months of 2020, a major cosmetic retailer claimed that they saw a 300% growth in men’s skincare when compared to the stats in 2019. Euromonitor projected that the male makeup industry alone could be a $49 billion industry based on how large the makeup and cosmetics sectors of our economy is currently. 

Today, it’s completely normal for men to be the faces of major makeup brands and movements. However, back in the 1700’s male makeup was less about artistry and more about economics, according to Withey.

“There wasn’t a ‘movement’ as such, so no celebrity advocated. It was more that men, and I think we’re talking about the middle class and elite men, had greater choice and opportunity to buy these things.”

Embed from Getty Images

Withey continued to explain that “before this period, men’s use of cosmetics was frowned upon because of its associative use with women. Satires depicted ‘macaronis’ or ‘fops’ who were sometimes described as using perfume, and the practice carried suspicions of effeminacy.”

In fact, Withey claims that the introduction of shaving is what really brought male cosmetics to the mainstream back in the 18th century. “Shaving was an inherently masculine act, so shaving products were perhaps an acceptable outlet for men to use ‘product.’ It was after 1750 that men began to shave themselves instead of visiting a barber. For men, shaving became very important in meeting new ideals of the ‘polite’ male body.”

The ingredients from the 18th century cosmetics world, however, was anything but glamorous.  “Donkey genitals were burnt to a powder, mixed with other ingredients and applied to the [shaving] rash. Odd as that might seem to modern eyes, the use of animal products in remedies was completely normal at the time,” says Withey.

Historians and scientists are currently both looking into if there’s any actual scientific evidence that these old-school treatments actually worked for what they were intended for. Regardless, Whitley believes that with the introduction of these products brought on an era of men wanting to present themselves as clean, which indirectly led to what we see now in terms of male cosmetics.

Gender Inequality

Report Suggests Gender Equality Still a Century Away

While the push for women’s equality has made substantial progress over the last several years, a new report released by the World Economic Forum suggests that civilization is still a long way away from ensuring equal treatment of the sexes. Entitled the “Global Gap Gender Report 2020,” the report analyzes 153 countries and ranks them according to how successfully they enable gender parity. While the report found many areas in which societies have made progress, such as ensuring that girls have access to educational resources in developing countries, it also remarks that the pace of progress has been slow, as only a handful of countries in the world were determined to even approach reaching full gender equality. The report predicts the milestone of achieving global gender parity to be 99 years in the future, with the areas of Economic Participation and Political Empowerment being where the gender gap will likely take the longest to close.

The countries ranked as the most gender-equal include Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, as the Nordic countries have some of the most progressive gender policies in the world. Finland, for instance, recently elected the world’s youngest female leader, Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and their Parliament contains an almost equal number of men and women. Finland and other Nordic countries also have policies like several months of paid parental leave, sophisticated sex education programs, and widespread access to abortion and birth control, which help to reduce the social gender gap in these countries. The World Economic Forum’s report focused on four main themes: economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment; and the Nordic countries were found to perform among the best in these areas.

Embed from Getty Images

On the other end of the list, Middle-Eastern countries like Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen were ranked lowest. In these countries, according to the report, women’s rights are severely limited, particularly in the areas of “divorce, inheritance, asset ownership, access to justice and freedom of movement.” In some of these countries, women are almost entirely absent from political life, and the rates of literacy are much lower for women than for men as a result of unequal access to education. And when it comes to employment, women in these countries are routinely discriminated against, resulting in a low level of female involvement in the workforce.

Though different parts of the world are making progress in closing the gender gap at vastly different rates, the overall social gap between the genders is gradually narrowing, albeit very slowly. The report found that the world has almost achieved 100% gender parity in the categories of Health and Survival and Educational Attainment, but has only achieved 58% parity in Economic Participation and Opportunity and 25% parity in Political Empowerment, leaving the Global Gender Gap Index at a combined percentage of 69% of full parity between the sexes. The report stresses the urgency of increasing the pace of progress towards gender equality, saying, “without the equal inclusion of half the world’s talent, we will not be able to deliver on the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution of society [or] grow our economies for greater shared prosperity… at the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept.”

Embed from Getty Images

Even developed, industrialized countries like Japan display shocking deficiencies in the area of gender equality. Women in Japan, for instance, perform four times the amount of unpaid labor as men do, and despite government initiatives to expand female participation in the workplace, women often have difficulty advancing into senior work positions. There’s no question that the project of achieving gender equality is a difficult and complicated one, as gender issues stem from social, economic, and political factors, but countries like Finland show that with enough effort these barriers can in large part be overcome.


Netflix Documentary Affects Yoga Industry

While yoga has been a discipline of many for several centuries, the concept of “Bikram” yoga has seen a huge increase in popularity since its creation during the 1970s.

However a recent documentary on Netflix, focusing on claims of sexual abuse against founder Bikram Choudhury, has forced many yoga studios to invest thousands of dollars on rebranding in an attempt to keep hold of their share of the $16 billion Americans spend on the industry each year.

Family-owned yoga company Bikram Yoga Scarsdale has received many emails over the past year from clients asking why they have not changed their name and if they are even going to. Co-owner and yoga instructor Nicole Pike spoke about the effects the sexual abuse claims and company name has had on her business, confirming that they have had to rebrand. The company will now be known as Sweat Central and offers “original hot yoga” rather than Bikram classes in a further attempt to distance themselves from Choudhury.

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator is currently available on Netflix and takes a look at the life of Bikram Choudhury, who made a fortune thanks to his trademarked Bikram hot yoga empire. However the main focus is on the numerous sexual abuse claims from women against him.

Embed from Getty Images

When allegations first started to appear over six years ago many yoga studios changed the names of their classes and studios in an attempt to distance themselves away from Choudhury while staying true to the original teachings, with Pike confirming that:

“While the classes themselves are amazing, Bikram the person has done terrible things we in no way want to be associated with. We want people to feel comfortable at our studio, and confident that their money is in no way supporting him.”

With this in mind she is spending around $20,000 on rebranding to keep her customers’ faith and trust in her business rather than stopping providing the actual classes.

Choudhury was once seen as a leader of mental and physical healing among the world’s yogi community, thanks to his form of hot yoga, which involved a sequence of 26 postures carried out for 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees. According to research the exercise has provided many benefits to students, including improving endurance and lowering stress levels as well as aiding mindfulness and mental strength. It is also practiced to help improve balance, tone muscle and increase your flexibility.

Yoga as an industry has seen a massive growth worldwide with the sector now worth a staggering $80 billion in America alone, with $16 billion being spent each year not just on the classes but also on equipment, accessories and specific clothing. With over half of us using yoga as a much needed stress relief aid a further 59 percent claims it helps them to sleep better.

Still Hot Yoga in Druid Hills, Georgia used to be called Bikram Yoga Decatur until assault allegations started to surface in 2014, prompting studio owner Cleve Willis to change the name making sure his students would not link his studio with Choudhury.

Embed from Getty Images

Willis spent $1,500 in preparation for the backlash he said he could see coming. However, while he changed the studio’s name, signage and accessories, Bikram classes still appears on the schedules so as not to confuse clients that may be searching specifically for these classes online.

“They can still see we’re not associated with the guy, but we do the actual traditional class. Someone new coming into town may not know what it is. That’s why we didn’t change the name of the class.”

With roughly 36 million Americans taking part in yoga, an increase from 20.4 million in 2012, 72 percent are women. This has led to a #metoo style movement throughout the yoga community with many teachers as well as students coming forward to discuss unwanted touching in classes as many instructors are providing hands-on corrections without the student’s consent.

Unfortunately for 29 year old instructor Kelsey Lowe from Bikram Yoga Harlem in New York, she has had first hand experience of this abuse. Working with a male instructor at a different New York City studio she says this backlash has not come as a shock to her. Talking about her experience she says:

“He was coming to adjust me, but it was a little too close for comfort. You can feel someone’s body up against yours and it’s like, “I don’t even know this guy’s last name” kind of thing.”

After the incident she chose to change studios and works within her current studio, both practicing and teaching yoga. However she believes leaders gaining “cult-like followings” – such as Choudhury – aids sexual misconduct as “you can’t give all this power to one person.”

It is hoped that the backlash from the Netflix documentary will not affect the business in a negative way, rather making sure that unwanted actions are eradicated for good.

Doctor with Patient

Researchers Argue Sex and Gender Analysis Improves Science

It has long been understood in scientific circles that unconscious biases, particularly those relating to sex and gender, can have a negative impact on the objectivity of scientific findings. While the goal of science is to discover the truth in as objective a manner as possible, scientists are prone to the same unintentional, biased assumptions as anyone else, and the quality of scientific work can be affected. For instance, the appropriate dosage for a medicine may be devised with the assumption that the patient is male, leading to suboptimal dosage recommendations for women. As another example, safety equipment too can be designed with the physical concerns of men in mind, negatively affecting women who use the equipment. And as machine learning technologies advance, engineers are realizing that machine learning programs are capable of picking up on human beings’ unconscious biases and replicating them, perpetuating the problem.

In light of these realizations, much conversation has taken place regarding how best to correct for sex and gender bias in science. This concept is explored in an article posted in Nature entitled “Sex and gender analysis improves science and engineering.” The article’s authors argue that taking sex and gender into consideration while conducting science not only benefits less-advantaged individuals by recognizing the institutional challenges they face, but also improves the quality of science itself, as unconscious biases are identified and corrected. This approach, the authors claim, benefits multiple scientific fields, including medicine, artificial intelligence, and even climatology. 

Embed from Getty Images

While many consider the terms synonyms, the researchers explain the difference between sex and gender, defining the former as including mainly biological attributes, whereas they define the latter as “psychological, social and cultural factors that shape attitudes, behaviours, stereotypes, technologies, and knowledge.” This distinction is important because sex and gender interact in complex ways; for instance, there exist physiological differences relating to the experience of pain between the sexes, and gender impacts how patients communicate pain with doctors and researchers. The researchers point out several improvements which have been made in this area over the past several decades; for instance, crash test dummies were originally based on a male physique, but now represent more diverse body shapes, allowing engineers to design vehicles that are safe for a larger number of people. However, they also point out areas for future improvement. 

As advanced technology continues to influence society, ensuring that it doesn’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes takes on additional importance.

In their paper, the scientists focus on the surprising and complicated ways sex and gender manifest across a variety of disciplines, with the most focus placed on marine science, biomedicine, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The authors discuss how sex impacts science even in non-humans, as male and female marine life react differently to the effects of changing ocean temperatures, an observation which has generated insights about more accurately modelling the effects of climate change. In human beings, sex differences account for disparities in responses to various medicines, such as vasopressin and cancer immunotherapy, for biological reasons including differences in amounts of testosterone and estrogen and overall body composition.

Embed from Getty Images

Perhaps more surprisingly, artificial intelligence is a field in which unconscious biases can make their way into technologies, unintentionally perpetuating cultural biases and stereotypes. For instance, advertising algorithms are more likely to automatically serve ads for high-paying jobs to men than to women, and automatic image captioning algorithms tend to misidentify pictures of men in kitchens as women. As advanced technology continues to influence society, ensuring that artificial intelligence doesn’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes takes on additional importance.

The authors conclude by proposing solutions to many of the problems with sex and gender biases in science they identify. One suggestion is to foster greater interactions between the scientific community and the humanities, including social scientists. Allowing for interdepartmental conversations in this way helps scientists to learn about how biases emerge and affect human reasoning, and can incorporate this knowledge into their work. Additionally, the researchers advocate for greater transparency in scientists’ reporting by including variables relating to sex and gender in their data analyses.