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If bloggers were cool enough to engage in a rap battle and had the lyrical-spitting capability to drop a mic, they would have done what Farhad Manjoo did this morning. Slate's tech writer, in his last column for the publication before he departs to The Wall Street Journal, penned a (trolly) defense of men wearing make-up. At the same time Manjoo also showed that why the beauty industry is one of the greatest frauds perpetuated on women in the 20th Century. Manjoo looks at his face and is converted into an enthusiastic advocate for male makeup. We look at his face and can't tell the difference.

Manjoo is handsome. He's not just blogger handsome, he's like real person-handsome. "You know, you don’t really need makeup," the makeup artist told him when he came in, yet she promised "You’ll just look better. It’s a big difference." Did you catch that? Manjoo's makeup artist created a false need. If Manjoo was handsome enough that he didn't need makeup, how much of a difference could it make? Not much. But what it did was make Manjoo look at his imperfections and found things that we didn't even notice: 

Mostly I looked OK. But there were some obvious places where my face could be improved. My forehead has a few light blemishes, and there are a few more under my eyes. I’d just shaved, and there were some red marks across my skin, plus some nicks. I had a just-visible pimple under my left eyebrow.

What Manjoo proved is that no one looks at your face as closely as you do, unless you have the (unfotunate?) luck of being a famous actress. The Wire staff, (which includes six women) could barely tell the difference between Manjoo's untouched and made-up face: 

The person who noticed Manjoo's new face, as Manjoo's makeup artist promised, is Manjoo himself: 

... the differences are enough—overall, with a light layer of foundation, my skin looks more even, less patchy, and less shiny. The red spots and blemishes are still visible, but they’re more subtle. I look more put together; the effect is roughly the same as if I’d combed my hair or put on a well-ironed shirt. 

But the point of makeup is to make yourself attractive to other people. Manjoo even tries on other, cheaper makeup brands and found they made him look more orangey and not as good looking. The question it all comes down to is: what's the point if the only person who notices these small changes is the person whose face is made up?

It's proof that the industry is built exploiting people's insecurities about flaws no one else can see. And it's also proof that men and women are equally susceptible to the will of a make-up company. The only thing that's standing in their way is one thing: men are allowed to age. 

"The great advantage men have is that our culture allows two standards of male beauty: the boy and the man," wrote philosopher Susan Sontag, explaining the idea that people can both be attracted to a skinny, wonderful young man like Zayn Malik and at the same time lust after the skinny, wonderful older man that is Roger Sterling John Slattery.

Women aren't as lucky. "There is no equivalent of this second standard for women. The single standard of beauty for women dictates that they must go on having clear skin. Every wrinkle, every line, every gray hair, is a defeat," Sontag also writes. Changing that idea so that it applies to both sexes, is something the beauty industry will have to work on if it wants to open a floodgate to new customers. As Manjoo has shown us, it can be done. 

Photos by: SlateAMC

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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