The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday June 8th

Column: Harry Styles’ beauty brand reveals some unpleasant truths

Harry Styles accepts the award for Best Solo Performance at the 63rd Grammy Award outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA, on Sunday, March 14, 2021. Photo courtesy of Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS.
Buy Photos Harry Styles accepts the award for Best Solo Performance at the 63rd Grammy Award outside the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA, on Sunday, March 14, 2021. Photo courtesy of Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS.

Harry Styles released his new beauty brand, Pleasing, Nov. 15, and its predicted success reveals men can succeed in the beauty industry. So, why is that not the same for women? 

I am a vehement Styles fan. His album "Fine Line" likely has a permanent position on my Spotify Wrapped for years to come. However, supporting an artist doesn’t prohibit me, or anyone else, from evaluating their actions. 

There are some positive elements of the brand. Styles and other male celebrities embracing femininity helps empower men to reject oppressive gendered expectations of dress and can help to dismantle the gender binary that disenfranchises men, women and nonbinary people. Furthermore, there is representation for different ages and races displayed within the few images on the website.

However, Pleasing highlights a problematic tendency within the beauty industry and other female-dominated fields that is worth discussing. 

Men, such as Styles, succeed in female-dominated industries — like the beauty industry — more easily than their female counterparts. Pleasing launched a week ago and already has almost a million followers on the brand’s Instagram. 

To put this into context with the success of a female celebrity, Selena Gomez launched her beauty brand, Rare Beauty, over a year ago and the brand account has only garnered 2.8 million followers, despite her having 232 million more followers than Styles on her personal account. Regardless of Gomez’s personal success, her business endeavors, even within a female-dominated field, are not nearly as successful as Styles'.

This trend is observable within many professions. 

For instance, on YouTube, the most popular beauty content creators are men. James Charles (24.5 million subscribers, started in 2015) and Jeffree Star (16.2 million subscribers, started in 2015) dominate the scene. Creators like NikkieTutorials (13.8 million subscribers, started in 2008) and Michelle Phan (8.8 million subscribers, started in 2006) are in the lead for female beauty creators.

A phenomenon known as the glass elevator or escalator is at play in these scenarios. This is a sociological concept showing that men succeed more quickly than women, even in female-dominated fields. 

The problem, however, is not those male celebrities, or any men, working or succeeding in female-dominated fields. Instead, the problem is business models disproportionately favor male success, internalize inadequacy — which is perpetuated by systematic misogyny that discourages women from pursuing advantages — and the consumer market’s asymmetrical response to male businesses. 

This collective problem requires a collective solution — and can be counteracted with active efforts by companies and consumers. 

Men will apply for a job when they reach 60 percent of the qualifications for a job, whereas women only apply if they reach 100 percent of the qualifications, according to a Hewlett Packard internal report cited by the Harvard Business Review. 

In addition, men are four times more likely to ask for a raise. When women do ask for a raise, they typically ask for 30 percent less than their male counterparts would ask for, according to research cited in the World Economic Forum.

Companies need to be aware of these realities and take them into account when making hiring and promoting decisions. Hiring women means hiring qualified candidates and expanding the perspectives to drive and inform important business decisions.

Understanding the privilege men have in our society and recognizing the advantages that are produced from the patriarchal structure we operate under is crucial. Spreading awareness and supporting female-owned brands is a definitive way consumers can contribute to helping women succeed in business despite the challenges they face.

So, certainly, support Pleasing if you’re interested in the brand. But be sure to support female-owned businesses and their successes as well.


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