Restoration and Neoclassical Miscellanea
Posted by: Amy Warner
What does Jonathon Swift know about modern make-up struggles? The answer is nearly everything. In his poem, “The Lady’s Dressing Room”, written in 1732, he discusses the gross necessities a woman faces on a daily basis in order to be seen as desirable. The similarities between what most women go through today in order to go anywhere besides Walmart, and the procedure they went through in 1732, are shocking.
Women’s beauty routines were horrendously long, messy, and sometimes even downright frightening! Swift begins his poem by stressing the amount of time it takes for women to get ready: “Five hours, (and who can do it less in?)” (1). However, he is not the only male that can be seen commenting on women taking “Forever” to beautify themselves.
Andy Grammer, popular singer, uses an entire song entitled, “Forever” to discuss the amount of time and energy women spend on their appearance. His lines, “It’s amazing the time that it’s taking for you to come out here / I don’t know what you do in there” mirror the curiosity demonstrated by Strephon in Swift’s poem upon entering the Lady’s dressing room in the first place (Grammer). This curiosity leads to the discovery of all the beauty implements and harsh realities Strephon is trying to avoid.Grammer is confused as to why it would take so long for a woman to get ready when, “[she] only [has] two eyes, two lips,” and he cannot even fathom evertything she might be doing in there (Grammer).
In addition to singer Andy Grammer, Colbie Callait also comments on the issue of women and their need to wear makeup.
Swift and Caillat both use extensive lists of routines that women go through in order to be seen outside of their dressing rooms. Caillat sings, “Put your make up on / Get your nails done / Curl your hair … Do they like you?” in her song “Try”. Swift on the other hand, uses the male perspective of surprise and disgust as Strephon goes through each instrument used in Celia’s morning routine in order to draw attention to the gruesome expectations placed on women. He describes several vials, her sink, dirty clothes, and in this line, “Nor be the handkerchiefs forgot / All varnished o’er with snuff and snot” he emphasizes the sickening routine of Celia (49-50)
Despite the attention drawn to the horrible expectations that society had for women in 1732, Swift’s message also includes the fact that women are human too! He even goes so far as to bring attention to the unpleasant fact that, “Celia shits” (Swift 118). The humanity and realization that women are just like men, and they poop serves as a reality check in Swift’s poem. Another popular singer, Fergie, can be heard telling the same story in her song “Glamorous”, she says, “I’m not clean, I’m not pristine / I’m no queen, I’m no machine,” (Fergie). She is agreeing with Swift in that women are not always clean and made up as they appear, but rather they are humans just like men.
Today artists are still trying to create a change in beauty expectations, and it says something about our society that these changes have not succeeded over 100′ s of years. Will women ever feel free enough to walk outside without makeup on, or without having completed some beauty ritual?
Johnathon Swift may have started the trend of stating embarrassing truths when it comes to the matter of beautifying oneself, but many others throughout the years have fought the good fight on the matter as well. Our culture is encased in gender expectations and ideals, and it can be seen in our art, music, and poetry for several centuries. When will it end?
Caillat, Colbie. “Try.” Gypsy Heart. 2014. CD. 12 October 2015.
Fergie. “Glamorous.” The Dutchess. 2006. CD.
Grammer, Andy. “Forever.” Magazines or Novels. 2015. CD. 12 October 2015.
Swift, Jonathon. “The Lady’s Dressing Room.” n.d. Poetry Foundation. Web. 6 October 2015. <http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/180934>.