Fake is a Feminist Issue

On Saturday, Gareth took me on a tour of the finest pick-up joints in Cork. We spluttered together, evil Dublin and Limerick spies, watching the crowds that split girl/boy as neatly as if they were still under the thumb of the Christian Brothers and nuns. Cork men wear those Tin-Tin quiffs–bless–except for the brave types who go for bizarro boyband spikes. They orbited the gangs of women, who focused all of their very confident attention on each other, tossing hair and comparing tops. The women wore halternecks, straight-ironed hair, and tans, and they looked much better than we did ten years ago, when UCD girls shrouded ourselves in bulky sweaters and jeans for fear a provocative curve might show. They also looked better than Irish lads, who tend to wear beer bellies scarily young.
    “She asked for a six-pack and he gave her the whole keg,” says Gar with a smirk.

The tan thing, though. This bothers me. Irish skin is clear and fair, but no longer good enough for local breeding purposes. My beautiful youngest sister never heads for a night on the town without tinting her skin. Our female TV presenters are orange, and so are the Aer Lingus flight attendants. At Irish dancing competitions, a subculture that has become as creepy as the junior beauty pageants of Jon-Benet Ramsey, fake tan is obligatory for seven-year-old girls. I asked Gareth, my one-man poll of Irish singles, if he liked fake tans. He shrugged. They looked fine, he supposed, but he didn’t know why they did it.

Last week I read that Accuvue is launching a new range of coloured contact lenses for daily wear in Ireland. All kinds of colours will be available, they said, but they expect the most popular choice to be Chestnut Brown. Brown eyes: double-dominant genes that are the default setting across 95% of the world. We Irish are a potato-faced lot, but from even the spuddiest faces shine jewel-coloured eyes. Yet our bias is pronounced. It is the _Brown-Eyed Girl_ that Van Morrison serenades.

Imagine a streaky Molly Bloom. Picture Jennifer Connelly with fake brown eyes and an orange tan, and weep. We have few enough natural resources as it is. Listen, lads, buy Irish. Don’t put out for these homegrown Donatella Versaces, and they’ll soon see sense.

6 thoughts on “Fake is a Feminist Issue”

  1. My mother tells me that the girls in her First Communion classes get sunbed tans for their big day, and wear makeup.


  2. Technically speaking, does a ‘brown colleen’ have brown eyes?

    I spent two years in Dublin (having lived the rest of my life in Canada), and was really struck by the fake tan thing (and the number of tanning salons). I heard a number of horror stories about both the application and removal. I always wondered what happened if you got lucky, brought the lad home, and he wanted to keep the lights on?

    I have a meagre theory on the fake tans and the contact lenses. Forgive me, but relatively speaking, there’s not a lot of differentiation among Irish people. They tend to have similar skin, hair colour, build, etc. So, perhaps women are trying to stand out from the crowd. Of course, then the whole crowd starts applying fake tan, and things go south.

    I come from Vancouver, which has more diversity than it knows what to do with. So, I may be biased.


  3. Very true.

    I too noticed the alarming increase in orange toned ladies when I was home for Christmas – the first time in 18 months. At some clubs i was expecting some of the smaller ones to break into an impressive rendition of the oompa loompa; giving the clubgoers some personal advice, in song, about the perils of excessive gluttony, watching too much TV, and over-pampering kids.

    (If we were wise, they’d sing. We’d listen to them)

    I was at a friend’s wedding in Mexico last year, and relegated to the singles table at the back I got talking to quiet, pretty Dubliner who was fretting that after 2 weeks in the sun she had not gotten a tan: it was too hot, and too humid, most times cloudy. I imagine that it would be social disaster to return home to Ireland untan, while your friends mysteriously brown at the first appearance of sun in August.

    She was taken aback when I said she didn’t need to tan, and that she had fine coloring anyway with her raven back hair, and blue eyes. Aragorn wouldn’t have been so quick to fall for that lovely eleven girl, I said, did she not have to those liquid blue eyes, and pale skin. Orange skin would have been a relationship breaker.

    It’s strange that Irish women have not noticed that a lot of modern Hollywood stars are untan. In his commentary on the Moulin Rouge DVD, Baz Luhrnann mentioned Kidman’s skin as being almost blue in the white light when she first entered on the trapeze to “Diamonds”.

    Anyway we need to government campaign to stop orange people on TV telling the Irish lasses how to get even more orange. Lets hire Nicole Kidman, Ms Connelly and Liv Tyler to explain how to wear makeup for their skin coloring. A government program is needed, and the stars can give their services for free.

    It’s that serious.


  4. Twenty years ago in Japan, I remember staring out over the sea of black haired people trudging along the sidewalk in front of me. These days in the train, I can look through the car and see that out of one hundred people, there are only three or four of us who have no added in color whatsoever in our hair. Do you know what happens to black hair when it is bleached? It turns orange and looks like scarecrow stuffing, and many Japanese sport this “look”. Of course I have seen some very attractive hair colors.

    The daughter of my landlord has the scarecrow look and wears a pair of lightbrown cats eye contacts that make me want to scrunch my own eyes in pain. Outside trappings, yes, but what is on the inside that engenders such transformation? Is it bucking the system, a bid for individuality or an inferiority complex, a love, awe and esteem of things foreign?


  5. Hi, I’m a producer on The Last Word programme on Today FM. We are doing a piece on younger women of the Tiger generation on our programme today. If you get this in time perhaps you could give me a call on 8049023. Interesting website!


    Kieran Garry


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