Lipstick, Lipstick - Is It All About Image?

Barack Obama during his first presidential campaign made the following statement, "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig. You can wrap up an old fish in a piece of paper and call it change. It's still going to stink after eight years. We've had enough." The Republican ticket had a female candidate then for vice president so Obama was accused immediately of sexism. Obama did not apologize. Instead, he reiterated the context of his statement. He was accusing then the McCain campaign of copying his promise of change, an impossibility according to Obama, given the strong link between McCain and the eight years of Bush presidency.

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Image is indeed important. It helps create impressions. During times of distress, an image of calmness and normalcy may be sought. The idea is to avoid making the situation worse. It is foolish, however, to expect that image alone can in fact bring solutions to a problem. Solutions provided by projecting a certain image are plainly make-believe.

Katrina Stuart Santiago recently wrote an article on Manila Times, "Stop the Caravan". Below are excerpts:
It is unclear when exactly this government, through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), decided that the wheels of the Diskwento Caravan should start rolling in the direction of the storm ravaged Visayas.
What has become clear is that government thinks this caravan to be a public service: it allows people access to goods that might be beyond their budget, while at the same time allowing manufacturers to reach segments of the population that might not have access to their products.
Selling manufacturers’ goods at a discount, this government caravan bridges the gap between the public and the capitalist. The public is finally able to afford products they might otherwise not even buy, the capitalist earns from this public even as they sell at a discount given sheer number of goods sold. According to one of MalacaƱang’s employees over on Facebook, “DTI is facilitating engagement between manufacturers and communities.” We must really thank the heavens for that, we are told.
Not the right time
Unless of course one is the victim and survivor of the strongest storm to hit the world. Unless of course you are now without house and home and land, and cannot but live within the realm of grief, in the ground zero of the city you grew up in.
On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan hit. By November 14, six days after, the government’s discount caravans started selling goods in Ormoc City Leyte, one of the hardest-hit by the typhoon. Since then they’ve traveled through the cities of Maasin, Baybay and Catbalogan, and on December 27, 19 days after the storm, they sold goods in Tacloban.
The government asserts that there was a need to “jumpstart” economies in these places of tragedy, and this caravan was a way to do exactly that. “Restart and energize commercial activities in calamity areas where public markets and retail stores were destroyed,” Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. says.
And yet one wonders: this soon? Six, eight, 19 days after the strongest storm to hit the world? Why couldn’t this kind of capitalist intervention wait? Why couldn’t we let people mourn and grieve, grapple with their losses first? Why could we not let them live, without having to think about money at all?
Why make survivors and victims think about money, when we can be kind and take on their needs, food water clothing shelter, no questions asked? Why can’t we give them a reprieve, a time to mourn—40 days, at least, as per the Catholic novena we do for our dead....
It is not only the Department of Trade of Industry that is trying to portray an image of returning to normalcy in the devastated areas. The Department of Education (DepEd) secretary apparently has his own strategy. A commentary, "Lipsticks Today, Books Tomorrow", in the Philippine Star by Neni Sta. Romana Cruz describes an idea from DepEd secretary Armin Luistro:
"And what about the teachers who may themselves be displaced? Brother Armin is sensitive to their own needs and knows that they must also be prepared to resume teaching. That is why he was heartened by the sight of a teacher who was all made up, lipstick and all—standing out in the midst of the devastation. The teacher said she needed to put on makeup to feel good about herself and the situation. And what a ray of sunshine her physical appearance brought. 
That encounter, and Brother Armin’s quick research into the Great Depression in America when women were reported to have taken extra efforts to improve the mood of the times by focusing on their physical appearance, led to his lipstick crusade. He even distributes lipsticks to his teachers. I had no time to ask him what brand and what color he hands out."
The DepEd secretary has being doing "quick research". This is the problem with "image". It is only on the surface. It often fails to touch the substance. There is indeed a correlation between lipstick purchase and difficult economic times. The insinuation that American women took extra efforts to improve the mood of the times, however, is an extra leap outside a mere correlation. It is suggesting a reason why lipstick sales go up during a recession without evidence. There is indeed a "lipstick theory" that says during an economic crisis, consumers tend to buy cosmetics. To answer the question why, here is a paper from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology:

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The above study not only reaffirmed the correlation between cosmetic purchase and difficult economic times but also attempted to determine what drives women to buy beauty products especially during hard times. Several studies with elaborate controls and study designs are included to pinpoint correctly a causal relationship. The following is the paper's conclusion:

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Amazing, the authors even used a story of a teacher as an ending to this study....


  1. Incidentally, I just saw this post from Joy Rizal on Facebook:

    "In the last week of November and The Philippine Department of Education decided to deliver two (2) more of the second grade books that were suppose to have been delivered by July. As well finally issue the student's report cards for the first time this year. (No report cards were given to the parents of many schools for the first quarter of the school year. The current report card has first and second quarter grades on it.)

    This brings the total number of Books AND learning materials delivered to the second grade students of DepEd's Bukidnon Malaybalay City School District to Three (3).

    Just to refresh everyone's memory the following is the list of the material that DepEd promised that every public school second grade student would receive at the beginning of the school year.

    edukasyon-sa-pagpapakatao - at this time NO TEXT BOOKS OR MATERIAL RECEIVED FOR STUDENT USE.
    araling-panlipunan - at this time NO TEXT BOOKS OR MATERIAL RECEIVED FOR STUDENT USE.
    Filipino - text book received in august. (three months into the school year)
    mtb-mle - Text book received last week of November. (Six months into the school year)
    mapeh - Text book received last week of November. (Six months into the school year)


    Interestingly it seems that the internal philosophy of The Department of Education is not concern about the delays delivering material nor do they seem to be the least bit concerned about correcting their department's short comings, but rather they seem to believe that they are going out of their way to do us a favor by delivering ANY books or learning materials.

    That assessment is based on recent instances that we have been informed of that occurred while parents were being given the new materials.

    We have been told essentially the same story by parents of different schools saying that while they were being given (signing for) the new text books they asked when we can expect to receive the text books, or learning material, for the rest of the courses?

    The common response was apparently, in essence, that the parents should be grateful for the materials they are getting, they are LUCKY to get anything at all AND that the parents should stop making trouble.

    This response was obviously from lower level employees of The Philippine Department of Education (instructors, school heads, principles, etc.). However over the years I have noticed that, in most cases, the lowest level employees tend to reflect the "governing attitude" of the senior heads of an organization.

    This causes me to wonder:

    How can our education system ever improve as long as we continue to employ people that believe teaching our children is a casual favor bestowed upon our children at the convenience of The Department of Education rather than a serious responsibility?

    How can our education system ever improve as long as we employ people that believe giving excuses and covering up problems is better than taking responsibility for problems and seriously trying to fix areas that need improvement?

    How can our education system ever improve as long as we continue to employ people that believe that our children are not important enough to be given a decent, honest, quality education?"


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