Reading Our Lips: The History of Lipstick Regulation in Western Seats of Power
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CitationReading Our Lips: The History of Lipstick Regulation in Western Seats of Power (2006 Third Year Paper)
AbstractThis paper traces the history of lipstick’s social and legal regulation in Western seats of power, from Ur
circa 3,500 B.C. to the present-day United States. Sliced in this manner, lipstick’s history emerges as
heavily cyclical across the Egyptian, Grecian, Roman, Western European, English, and American reigns of
power. Examination of both the informal social and formal legal regulation of lipstick throughout these
eras reveals that lipstick’s fluctuating signification concerning wearers’ class and gender has always largely
determined the extent and types of lipstick regulations that Western societies put in place. Medical and
scientific knowledge, however, has also played an important secondary role in lipstick’s regulatory scheme.
Thus, lipstick status laws, primarily intended to protect men, long predated laws concerning lipstick safety.
Safety laws, in turn, long focused solely on human safety before very recently also branching out into
environmental and animal safety. In the future, Western societies should expect to see a continuation of
lipstick status regulations, albeit probably informal social ones, as well as increasingly comprehensive lipstick
safety regulations regarding human, environmental, and animal well-being.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10018966
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