The beauty Industry
The one American Industry unaffected by the general depression of trade is the beauty Industry. American women continue to spend on their faces and bodies as much as they spent before the coming of the slump - about three million pounds a week. These facts and figures are ' official' and can be accepted as being substantially true. Reading them, I was expended. From the prodigious number of advertisements of aids to beauty contained in the American magazines, I had imagined that the personal appearance business must stand up among the champions of American Industry- the equal, or only just less than the equal, of bootlegging and racketeering, movies and automobiles. Still, one hundred and Fifty six million pounds a year is a tidy sum. Rather more than twice the revenue of India, if I remember rightly.
I don't know what the European figures are. Much smaller, unfortunately. Europe is poor, and a face can Cost as much in upkeep as a Rolls-Royce. The most that the majority of European women can do is just to wash and hope for the best. Perhaps the soap will produce it's loudly advertised effect; perhaps it will transform them into the likeness of those ravishing creatures who smile so rosily and creamily, so peachily and pearlily, from every hoarding. Perhaps on the other hand, it may not. In any case, the more costly experiments in beautification are still as much beyond most European mean as are high-powered motor cars and electric refrigerators. Even in Europe, however, much more is now spent on Beauty than was ever spent in the past. Not quite so much more as in America, that is all. But, everywhere, the increase has been undoubtedly enormous.
The fact is significant. To what is it due? In part, I suppos, to a general increase in prosperity. The rich have always cultivated their personal appearance. The diffusion of wealth --- such as it is ---now permit those of the poor who are less badly off than their fathers to do the same.
Bit this is, clearly, not the whole story. The modern cult of Beauty is not exclusively a function ( In the mathematical Sense) of wealth. If it were, then the personal appearance industries would have been as hardly hit by the trade depression as any other business. But, as we have seen, they have not suffered. Women are retrenching on there things symptomatic of change that have taken place outside the economic sphere. Of what changes? the change, I suggest, in the status of women; of the change in our attitude towards the merely physical.
Women, it is obvious, are freer than in the past. Freer not only to perform the generally unenviable social functions hitherto reserved to male, but also freer for exercise the more pleasing, feminine privilege of Being attractive. They have right, if not to be less virtuous than their grandmother, at any rate to look less virtuous. The British Matron, not long since a creature of austere and even terrifying aspect, now dose her best to achieve and perennially preserve the appearance of what her predecessor would have described as a Lost Women. She often succeeds. But we are not shocked at any rate, not morally shocked. Aesthetically shocked--- yes; we many sometimes be that. But morally, no. We concede that the Matron is morally justified In being preoccupied with her person appearance. This concession depends on another of more general nature--- a concession to the body, with a large B, or the Manichean principle of evil. For we have now come to admit that the body has its rights. And not only Right, duties, actually duties. It has, for example, a duty to do the best it can for itself in the way of strength and Beauty. Christian ascetic ideas no longer trouble us. We demand justice for the body as well for the soul. Hence, among other things, the Fortunes made by face cream manufacturers and Beauty-specialists, by the patentees of hair-lotions and the authors of books on the culture of the abdomen.
"Thanks for reading"