“When we embrace something as only ‘natural,’ it means that it can’t really be changed — that it’s baked into who we are. Anyone then who strays too far from expectations that surround this naturalness is odd, deviant, and often deserving of punishment or exclusion,” Sarah Fenstermaker, the recently retired director of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women and Gender explains. To be a man and want to wear feminine flounces puts a crack in the theory that these classifications are inherent, which makes you question just how natural the power that comes with masculinity is. And in a male-dominated society, that question is a big deal. Which is why we weed out and ostracize anyone who deviates — femme gay men, butch lesbians, nonbinary individuals, trans people, and straight men who like skirts.
In 1910, Hampton’s Magazine perfectly described the female takeover: "Buying and selling, serving and being served — women. On every floor, in every aisle, at every counter, women...At every cashier’s desk, and the wrappers’ desks, running back and forth with parcels and change, short-skirted women. Filling the aisles, passing and repassing, a constantly arriving and departing throng of shoppers, women. Simply a moving, seeking, hurrying mass of femininity, in the midst of which an occasional man shopper, man clerk, and man supervisor, looks lost and out of place."
Her seniors didn't quite grasp that when it was time to work on the L'Oreal campaign. "They wanted to do something with a woman sitting by a window, and the wind blowing through the curtains. You know, one of those fake places with big glamorous curtains. The woman was a complete object. I don't think she even spoke. They just didn't get it," Specht told Malcolm Gladwell, author of Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius. Knowing the scene was a relic from a 1950s past, Specht decided to take the campaign in a different direction. "One of the best things I’ve ever written was done in a moment of anger. I thought, it’s not about men, it’s about ourselves. It’s not for you that we're going to do our hair," she explains. “I’m not making my hair so you should like me."