Female Cosmetic Coalitions: How to be Women Together Through Direct Sales Cosmetics

PhD Thesis

Fejdiova, Elena 2018. Female Cosmetic Coalitions: How to be Women Together Through Direct Sales Cosmetics. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Social Sciences https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.7537
AuthorsFejdiova, Elena
TypePhD Thesis

This research is based on ethnographic fieldwork amongst women purchasing direct sales cosmetics in Slovakia. To interpret the data I use concepts from social as well as evolutionary anthropology. In the thesis I examine the closely bonded female collectives that emerged during the purchasing of cosmetics from direct sales companies. I show that while the company sales representatives were trained in the network selling marketing to make a profit, under specified conditions women’s collectives emerged that encouraged the shared ritualized purchase of cosmetics which undermined the sales representatives’ incentives to make a gain. I identify and explain the mechanisms that intensified the relationships amongst the women who created collectives of allies. In this ritually forged environment the women created small collectives based on mutual trust, sharing, egalitarianism and cooperation that extended beyond the context of attractiveness enhancement. In the ritual mode women generated a resistance culture that opposed the individualistic and competitive practices of the cosmetic companies and favoured the leveling of beautification through ritual egalitarianism. From the energetically costly ritual performance ambivalent ritual gender emerged that incorporated both female and male characteristics and was controlled by the female collectives. Endowed with ritual power women employed their ritually created collective agency by claiming their ritual space and time. In the process of ritualization the women transformed economic relations into gift-like relationships that through a web of social obligations created bonds of solidarity and cooperation amongst them. As a result of the collective ritual practice cosmetics became a signal of commitment to the cosmetic coalition. They were invested with the meanings of morality, cooperation and equality of quasi kinship ties. Through regular participation in the collective cosmetic rituals women learnt a ritual template that enabled them to enter any such female collective across Slovakia. These collectives provided their female members with benefits beyond the ritual context. The thesis contributes to the body of work on female competition and cooperation. It shows that once women are united through collective rituals with cosmetics and beautification at their centre they create a safe environment where cooperation rather than competition through beauty prevails. Through recognizing and interpreting the mechanisms for bonding and group commitment the thesis also develops the model of female cosmetic coalitions within the setting of direct sales cosmetics in Slovakia

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/PUB.7537
Publication dates
PrintJan 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Oct 2018
Publisher's version
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