Mona Chollet

Mona Chollet

Premium Beauty News - You show throughout your essay, how women’s relationship to beauty is ambivalent. It should be marked by pleasure, instead it is often marked by suffering.

Mona Chollet - When it comes to beauty, most women have an ambivalent attitude. Of course, some of them are not too troubled by their appearance. But among all those for whom it is a major concern, many question themselves. They want to look beautiful and attractive, and as such, this is no problem, quite the contrary, it is very positive! But this concern is accompanied by great frustration, involving permanent dissatisfaction. In front of the mirror, one is never beautiful or thin enough. How come what should be a source of pleasure, frivolity and of lightness of mind, becomes a source of worries and suffering? That is what Beauté Fatale [1] is all about.

Paying attention to one’s appearance, trying to have a pleasant presence, ideally, this translates into a concern for others, a form of politeness, of keen interest to one’s entourage. Moreover, women sometimes blame men for not thinking enough of the show they offer! What is alienating, is not to want to look beautiful: it is that it should become the most important, the essential thing, that it should takes the whole place and that women’s identity and self-esteem should depend on that. This is what generates the feeling of moral decline if one does not reach his goal. A feeling all the more frequent that the standards of ideal beauty seem to be increasingly stringent and, as such, unattainable.

Premium Beauty News - You say about this alienation that it is also a plus, a skill that many men are deprived of.

Mona Chollet - It’s hard to say. An aesthetic concern is in itself quite positive, but it is one of those positive values in oneself to which women are confined, trapped. What the feminist discourse is stressing on, quite rightly in my opinion, is first confinement!

Nevertheless, as part of this confinement, women have developed special skills. When one learns very early to take care of oneself and of his environment, but also to develop its sensitivity and subjects of interest in certain directions rather than in others, one develops skills which are different from the men’s. Let us be clear, this has nothing innate, it is merely the result of education, of transmission. The main strength of the fashion or of the cosmetic industry, just like women’s magazines, is to consider this "women’s culture" seriously.

Premium Beauty News - Precisely how do you analyse, in this context, the breakthrough of men’s skincare products?

Mona Chollet - I have the feeling that the desire to develop the men’s cosmetic market still faces many obstacles. The brands discourse still seems to have little influence on many men.

When it comes to their appearance, women are in a situation of psychic insecurity which does not seem to have any equivalent in men. Concerning for example the use of cosmetic surgery, which remains a predominantly female practice, we observe that men have a much more distant, more technical approach than women. Women address cosmetic surgery as a much more intimate matter, like a truly existential, personal stake.

In our society, it is primarily the role of women to embody beauty. Even if pressure is increasing on men, it is far from equalling the burden hanging on women’s shoulders. And since, at the same time pressure is also building on women, the gap remains!

Premium Beauty News - You insist a lot on the this obsession with thinness and the increasing number of anorexia cases. Is there not a contradiction between this obsession and the desire to be attractive? For a number of men extreme thinness is not very appealing.

Mona Chollet - According to the theories of American feminists, this obsession with thinness arises when women start leaving their traditional place to set foot into the domain of men. In short, when they leave their homes to enter the active work force. For them it implies conforming to an image of professional efficiency, forged by men, and which devalues the housewife, the mothering woman. To which comes in play, I believe, a element of female guilt, a feeling of not being in their place, and also some aggressiveness versus the female body.

Premium Beauty News - You mention at the end of your work a broader conception of beauty which could reconcile many women with themselves.

Mona Chollet - It seems to me that the image we have of beauty is very naive. In short, it boils down to a set of ideal physical criteria that must be met as closely as possible. It is pretty well summed up by the fetishism of measurements. All this ignores the reality of relationships where seduction comes into play or of the many ways of inhabiting a body.

Often people reduce my discourse to a simplistic opposition between "inner beauty" and "outer beauty". But what I mean in fact is that boundaries between appearance and psyche are much more blurred than what is generally thought. Beauty, has obviously to do with outer appearance, but also in the way we express ourselves with our body and the way we interact with others. There is no joy in perfection and it is much more desirable to be fantastic than to be perfect!