Do you know what we could do over those 3,276 hours? We could complete a pre-MBA course at Oxford Business School, become proficient at a music instrument, or learn another language.
But for me, this is the killer statistic. The American Time Use Survey looked over four years at the effect of grooming time on earnings. And what they found was this: That for women excess grooming time actually signals a negative work attribute rather than a positive work attribute. And guess what, it decreases earnings. If a woman doubles her grooming time, her earnings are decreased on average by 3.4%. Why? Because it’s a non-market activity.
Do you know the other big non-market activity? Housework, which we already do the bulk of. It’s an absurdity that we get caught up in all of this.
So what can we do about it? This is the difficult thing — how do we move forward from this? I’m not a well sought. You know, I love the girl power movement. I love getting dressed up from time to time. But that doesn’t mean that we should stop asking questions.
And the questions I would like to ask are these: Why does society expect this of us? Will this make happier and healthier? And is there a better way of doing it? The reason why I chose this as a topic to speak about today is because I’ve got a seven-year old daughter. Every time I get ready for my TV appearances, she stands next to me in the bathroom. And she always asks the same question: “Mommy, why do women wear make-up and men don’t?”
And for months I struggled about how to answer her. I thought I can’t say because, honey, it makes me look better, because that implies that women don’t like the way they look naturally. I can’t say, it makes me feel better, because that points to pathologically low self-esteem. What I do say to her is, “Darling, I don’t like it. It’s not right. But it’s what society expects of women. And I’m doing whatever I can in my very very small way to try to change that. Hopefully by the time, you’re a young woman, you won’t have to go through this”.
I remember when I was a young woman at my first job in journalism at a metropolitan radio station, I was breakfast news editor. And I’d come in at 3:30 in the morning, no make-up, wet hair, straight-up out of a shower. Sometimes I’d come in in my pajamas, because it was so early. But I still got the job done, you know.
And the boss came in one day and he said, “Tracey, I need to talk to you about your attitude”.
I said, “Yes, what’s this all about?”
And he said, “You need to tidy up your act. You’re not looking professional”.
And I was genuinely perplexed. I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Well, you can at least put on make-up once in a while!”
I said, “How does that make me more professional?”
He said, “Well, look, it’s just what society expects of the ladies”. And he stormed out and slammed the door. He couldn’t explain it, he couldn’t articulate it. It makes no sense.
I’ve been accused of a lot of things over my time in television and radio. Porking up, when I was a size 12. Being too long in the tooth when I was 37. And having limited intellect because I’m a blonde. I know that women on television and in the media more broadly are a microcosm of what is experienced by women in society more broadly. But the message is the same: you are valued for how you look, not for what is in your heart or in your head.
Well, I’d like to start a movement to change that. Like any big movement, it starts with small steps. And the first step is to deconstruct the problem. I am quite literal — I take things quite literally, OK. So I’m going to physically deconstruct the problem.
I don’t like wearing three-inches of make-up. It makes me feel — thank you – it sounds like I’ve struck a chord there. It sounds like it draws you guys not too. It makes me feel like I’m wearing a mask, like I can’t really be who I am. And yet every time I go out without make-up, the comments are always the same. And I’d try to not wear make-up when I’m not doing TV appearances or giving speeches. And these are comments from friends. They’re well meaning, they don’t mean it in a belittling or insulting way but they’re just comparing the way I look when I see them without make-up with the way I am on television. And I always say things, like oh, “You look a bit pale and you’re not feeling well. Are you a bit iron deficient? Here I’ll get you a steak”. “You look a bit washed out, are you coming down with the flu?”