Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Blanche Wiesen Cook

Subject Categories

Behavioral Economics | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Women's Studies


Feminism, Cosmetics, Empowerment, Exploitation, Capitalism, Advertising


Feminism has become a trendy cultural identity, leaving it open to exploitation by capitalists. Notions relating to “women’s empowerment” are used by capitalists to sell products to women, and yet many of those capitalists fund political campaigns that directly seek to quash or inhibit the advancement of women’s rights. With a little effort, any consumer can find out who their big purveyors are supporting politically. For example, Procter Gamble, who makes many products bought by women, gives the majority of its political contributions to republicans who oppose women’s reproductive rights. The same is true of McAndrews & Forbes, the parent company of Revlon Cosmetics, which despite its breast cancer awareness initiatives and various women’s philanthropy, was founded by men, continues to be run primarily by men, and gives the majority of their campaign contributions to extreme conservative anti-choice candidates. Their fundraising for breast and ovarian cancer research is nothing more than a marketing tool. Many might argue that if money is making its way to funding research, we should not be too concerned with what is happening on the other side of the curtain. But what if women put their feet down and refused to buy Revlon products until the company and their parent corporation pledged not to give money to anti-woman candidates? What if women refused to buy Tide and Crest until Procter Gamble pledges to support woman friendly politics?

Women uphold a massive economy and unfortunately receive very little in the form of reciprocity from the companies and corporations that they support with their hard-earned dollars. Meanwhile, feminism is touted as a great thing by the mainstream, and yet the real fight for women’s rights is mixed up with a lot of nonsense “empowerment” that has more to do with selling products than having a real impact on policies that affect women. Simply declaring, “all women are beautiful” and “all women are sexy” does not grant real rights to women.

It is the responsibility of women, as the world’s main consumers, to know where our money is going and what kinds of politics are funded by our purchases. Publications aimed at women, particularly magazines, which serve as the vehicle for advertising, and, by extension, the capitalist culture that exploits women, simultaneously sell feminism and more political content in what might be called an unholy union. Women’s magazines play a very strong role in setting positive standards and examples for women and supporting feminist notions, yet they simultaneously participate in the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and help to create many of the problems that they then purport to challenge/solve by waiving the feminist flag. Women need to really examine what they can do personally to challenge a system that uses them for massive gain and gives them very little in return, starting with their pocketbooks.