Long flight to Hawaii, an anti pink world–the case against Mary Kay


July 29, 2012

First day in Hawaii

Let’s just say this was not the easiest day of travel I have experienced in my life.

4 am, Sunday Nebraska time, 11 pm Sat night HI time, I get up in Nebraska

7 am, Sun Nebraska time, 2 am Sun HI time, Plane took off for Denver.

8 am, Sun, Colorado time, 4 am HI time, Plane took off for Seattle

11:30 am Seattle time, 8:30 am HI time, Plane took off for Kona

Arrival time in Kona—2:35 pm Hawaii time. 7:35 pm Omaha time.

If I go to bed at 11 pm, I’ll have been up for 24 hours.

Nebraska was good. I liked the swimming and the students. The other faculty are very cool and accomplished.

I made the mistake of packing my plane food in my suitcase, so I starved to death on the plane but it was better than purchasing their expensive silly little Alaska Airlines food, I just had to bear with their-we-don’t-have TVs because your personal comfort is not our priority. On a 6 hour flight, they give you one cookie. Actually, just when I was starting to think they didn’t care at all, they came by and gave us all a free Mai Tai. Not bad. When you fly to Europe, they feed you so much, I had to pass on the last meal. I thought I would pop in my seat.

Harpers has this article which I read on the way here about Mary Kay as the “pink pyramid scheme,” and how they prey on desperate housewives.

Interestingly what they don’t talk about is the products they sell. Many women use skin products and the more urban you are, the more likely you are to care about the condition of your skin. There are a ridiculous number of skin products: Obagi, Cquence, Philosophy, Dr. Denese, and hydrolyzer to name a few. And of course there’s the Clarisonic face cleaner. And that’s just stuff you can do at home. There are facials and microdermabrasion, peels and oxygen treatments. And that’s before you get to Botox and fillers.

Don’t yuck on my yum. People like what they like.

I’ve never been a fan of Mary Kay because it doesn’t agree with my skin care plan which is—exfoliate, cleanse, hydrate, moisturize—and stay as makeup free as I can stand at my advanced age –so far over forty that I could tip the scale any minute. I’m a fan of Philosophy, Dr. Denese, Clarisonic and hydrolyzer, but that’s just me.

The article centered on the idea that Mary Kay women—unlike Avon—are encouraged to take on credit card debt to buy $1200-1800 worth of product to get to a certain level. Unfortunately, if they can’t achieve their sales goals, they will have to keep going into credit card debt to buy more products. Obviously, that seems like an unwise business practice. And in fact, the “Mary Kay women,” since they mostly have no other source of revenue, are, one would assume, using their husband’s money to buy the products. So the business model seems to be flawed for the individuals at the bottom but working for the corporation.

Problem two for me was that the belief of Mary Kay is that God is first, then family, then career. Seriously? Are these people in the 19th century? The women interviewed talked about how, when their husband comes home, it’s “his time.” Are you kidding me? His time? What is he? God?

How about this? When you’re with your kids, they come first, when your with your spouse, your spouse comes first, when you’re at work, work is first, when you’re by yourself, you come first. And if you go to church, then God has his time to be first.

Here is my understanding of the article which seemed somewhat troubling. This country has a red state/blue state bias which is mostly an urban/rural bias. Almost a coastal city bias. Cities/places with a significant blue state population include LA, SF, NY, Austin, Portland Oregon and Portland Maine, most of the state of Vermont, Seattle, Chicago.

And in these cities, the hip and the urban, the intellectual and the creative, the thinkers, the readers, the theatre goers, the music lovers, these people do not use Mary Kay. Here are some generalizations about this group: They mostly don’t go to church. They’re progressive and some of them drive eco friendly cars and many of them have stylish clothes and they don’t use Mary Kay. They don’t shop at Wal Mart. They believe in sustainable living. They don’t have time shares (too middle class) or go on cruises (doubly middle class) or eat at Olive Garden or Red Lobster.

So here’s the thing. I’m not defending Mary Kay. Hey; I’m a snob too and I never denied it. I am one of those urban creative intellectual types. And the business model does seem flawed but all pyramid selling models reward certain kinds of people and unfortunately gouge the people who get into it but don’t have the skill to sell on a one on one or small group basis.

I don’t like to buy anything with that model. If I want to buy something, here’s what I do. I order it on Amazon. Or I go to the store. I do not want to buy anything by going to some party. Not financial services or makeup or Tupperware or pots and pans.

But, I’m still not sure if this article about Mary Kay with its sneering attitude isn’t partly about class. The references to the women’s big hair, the pink bathtub, the cakey foundation, the houses that seemed grotesquely out of proportion, the revival tent meeting methodology of stirring up the little Mary Kay workers.

I’m not sure if Mary Kay isn’t working for some people in some parts of the country. In fact, Virginia Sole Smith doesn’t seem impressed by the emphasis on women staying in traditional roles.

I certainly wouldn’t want to be a woman in a traditional role and let’s face it, I would last in that role about two hours as long as I was sleeping, but I rather think that the idea is supposed to be– whatever floats your boat. You aren’t better than someone else because you eat differently, drive a different vehicle, eat at a different restaurant and you certainly aren’t better if you use different skin products.

My friend Karen’s sister sells Mary Kay. I understand she likes her chosen profession. I wonder what she would make of this article with its elitist tone? Is Mary Kay as a company evil? Are they preying on desperate housewives? Maybe. But I’m not sure if this author would know the truth from where she stands in her anti-pink world.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Interesting post. I ran across it while trying to find someone to buy some MK from because they have a product I like. I’m blue-state-sustainable-living-won’t-go-near-a-Wallmart type person myself and this article gave me pause. But don’t be fooled. There’s a dark side to shopping online too: http://www.motherjones.com/rights-stuff/2011/07/ohio-warehouse-temps-unemployment and http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor?page=4

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