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Makeup at Work: Negotiating Appearance Rules in the Workplace

Kirsten Dellinger and Christine L. Williams
Gender and Society
Vol. 11, No. 2 (Apr., 1997), pp. 151-177
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/190541
Page Count: 27
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Makeup at Work: Negotiating Appearance Rules in the Workplace
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Abstract

This study seeks to understand women's use of makeup in the workplace. The authors analyze 20 in-depth interviews with a diverse group of women who work in a variety of settings to examine the appearance rules that women confront at work and how these rules reproduce assumptions about sexuality and gender. The authors found that appropriate makeup use is strongly associated with assumptions about health, heterosexuality, and credibility in the workplace. They describe how these norms shape women's personal choices to wear makeup. Next, they examine how some women transform the meanings of wearing makeup and, in rare instances, attempt to subvert the institutionalized norms. Although many women find pleasure in wearing makeup, the authors conclude that the institutional constraints imposed by the workplace effectively limit the possibilities for resistance.

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