The problem with surveys sponsored by cosmetics companies

Is – you guessed it – they tend to be bullshit. Like this one: Sydney women high maintenance, more sophisticated – survey:

SYDNEY women are high maintenance and superficial and spend more money on their appearance than other Australian women, a new survey reveals.

Women spend about $78 on beauty each month in New South Wales – almost $10 more than the national average, the survey of more than 1800 women found.

Given that there is no more information in the article about these figures, it could also mean that cosmetics are more expensive in Sydney. Which is more than likely. But that certainly doesn’t lead to the claim that “Sydney women are high maintenance and superficial”. That sentence is there just to get readers saying ‘yes, that’s true, I can’t get a date with a hot woman, so therefore Sydney women are high maintenance and superficial bitches’, which completely ignores the fact that someone likely to make such a statement (and to only be interested in “hot women”) is usually an arsehole and is single for a reason.

Now, this story comes from the Nutrimetics Beauty Lab Report which, no doubt, is more bollocks about why women should buy Nutrimetics products to feel better about themselves. Anyway, I enlisted my Google-finger, and this is from the media release:

Some of the specific findings were:
• For 60.3% of Australian women, ‘beauty’ is not only about physical attractiveness, but also personality, achievements and sense of self
• 95.4% of women agreed that ‘inner beauty’ is what is most important
• Rural residents of Australia think less of the physical aspects of ‘beauty’ (56.3%), compared to the national average (60.3%), indicating that city slickers are more self conscious
• Aussie women enjoy spending time perfecting their appearance with the average beauty routine taking each woman 24 minutes a day or 146 hours a year
• 89.4% of women ranked successful Australian women as positive influences whilst three quarters (74.4%) agreed that celebrities and models had a negative impact upon shaping perceptions of beauty.

It’s a bit different, huh?

It’s easy to see why these stories get the coverage they do – they’re “fun” stories that get clicks. But they’re not fun. They are, as Bitch Magazine rightly calls them, sexist media stunts:

Sexist Media Stunts reinforce stereotypes about women under the guise of being “provocative”. Of course readers are going to get pissed about an article comparing adult women to predatory jungle cats – that’s the whole point. The writer, and often an editor, then responds to ensuing outrage by claiming their SMS was an attempt to “provoke debate”—though dollars to doughnuts the “debate” being exploited is a tired stereotype about women that’s been disproved decades ago. And it’s a one-two punch when publications (and readers thrilled to see their misogynist worldview reflected in the media) are quick to accuse detractors of tweaking out on political correctness.

Now, journos don’t sit around and work out how to frame stories in a misogynistic way. (Or if they do, they keep these meetings very quiet and they don’t invite me. Which would make sense because I’d be the annoying person ruining their plans.) The problem is that nobody thinks about this stuff. Journalists all write the same way and no one thinks about what their words actually mean.

7 responses to “The problem with surveys sponsored by cosmetics companies

  1. You are spot-on about this. Good luck with your campaign. I worked at ABC for twenty years, and found the journalists there, generally speaking, to be lazy, ignorant and thoughtless.

    • Hi Michael, welcome to the News with Nipples. It could just be because I’m a little biased, but I don’t think journos are ignorant and thoughtless. Lazy, yes. But also really busy, so whatever makes their life easier is more likely to get their attention. Just like “studies” like this, where all the info is in the media release and you just re-write it.

  2. (aside from the studies and journalism issues you have already addressed that I echo in sentiment completely.) The problem I have with this article is the implication that a woman must adhere to a certain standard of dressing and trappings to be considered ‘urbane’ and ‘sophisticated’.
    I’m not sure the writer understands the meaning of urbane or sophistication. Otherwise, that’s a pretty shitty statement to make that women who live outside Sydney are clearly none of those things.
    Since when did make-up become synonymous with sophistication?

    • This is true. Women can’t win – if they don’t spend heaps of money on make-up, then they’re not sophisticated, but if they do, then they are superficial.

      • at least if they’re superficial they are urbane and sophisticated. Women who choose not be superficial by that reasoning are not only unattractive but they are also “bush-league plebeian uncouth”. (One can only assume the author is using sophisticated as an adjective rather than a verb. Either way though it’s still pretty shitty)

        You are certainly right though. We cannot win.
        Can I blame faux-celebrity for this?

  3. Hmm, it is one of those studies (or abuse of stats) that doesn’t exactly reveal a radical new finding. It says women in cities spend more on cosmetics or spend more in general.

    Really??? erm, is this cos there are more people in cities, there is more variety including well paid work in cities offering higher levels of disposable income, there are more employment opportunities for women in cities, there are more retail outlets in cities for women to visit, goods cost more, expensive brands tend to locate in cities rather than the country (cos of all those extra women around) and so forth…is this the dramatic finding? Well I’m shocked. I never considered any of that I just thought it was cos city women are plastic mares! As you say, how exactly do they draw a tenuous link between demographic spending patterns and women being superficial (aka nasty bitches), talk about subjective. pffpt

    and its NOT journalism – its an infomercial.

  4. plus the photo is just an excuse to show boobs and women ‘licking’ ice cream (dirty sluts, I wish it was my penis they were licking type imagry).

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