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The Red Menace: How Lipstick Changed the Face of American History

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In America, lipstick is the foundation of empires; it's a signature of identity; it's propaganda, self-expression, oppression, freedom, and rebellion. It's a multi-billion-dollar industry and one of our most iconic accessories of gender. This engaging and entertaining history of lipstick in America throughout the twentieth century and into the present will give readers a n In America, lipstick is the foundation of empires; it's a signature of identity; it's propaganda, self-expression, oppression, freedom, and rebellion. It's a multi-billion-dollar industry and one of our most iconic accessories of gender. This engaging and entertaining history of lipstick in America throughout the twentieth century and into the present will give readers a new view of the little tube's big place in modern America; marching with the Suffragettes, building Fortune 500 businesses, being present at Stonewall, and engineered for space travel. Lipstick has served as both a witness and a catalyst to history; it went to war with women, it gave women of color previously unheard of business opportunities, and was part of the development of celebrity and mass media. In the Twentieth Century alone, lipstick evolved from the mark of the underclass, to a required essential for well turned-out women; a sophisticated statement about race, class, gender, consumerism, and sexuality. How has this mainstay of the makeup kit remained relevant for over a century? Beauty journalist Ilise S. Carter suggests that it's because the simple lipstick says a lot. From the provocative allure of a classic red lip to the subtle sophistication of a neutral to the powerful statement of drag, the American love affair with lipstick is linked to every aspect of the female experience, from venturing into the working world or running for the presidency. Red Menace will capture all of those dimensions, with a dishy dose of fabulosity that makes it an amusing read for lipstick's fiercest disciples, its harshest critics, and everyone in between.


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In America, lipstick is the foundation of empires; it's a signature of identity; it's propaganda, self-expression, oppression, freedom, and rebellion. It's a multi-billion-dollar industry and one of our most iconic accessories of gender. This engaging and entertaining history of lipstick in America throughout the twentieth century and into the present will give readers a n In America, lipstick is the foundation of empires; it's a signature of identity; it's propaganda, self-expression, oppression, freedom, and rebellion. It's a multi-billion-dollar industry and one of our most iconic accessories of gender. This engaging and entertaining history of lipstick in America throughout the twentieth century and into the present will give readers a new view of the little tube's big place in modern America; marching with the Suffragettes, building Fortune 500 businesses, being present at Stonewall, and engineered for space travel. Lipstick has served as both a witness and a catalyst to history; it went to war with women, it gave women of color previously unheard of business opportunities, and was part of the development of celebrity and mass media. In the Twentieth Century alone, lipstick evolved from the mark of the underclass, to a required essential for well turned-out women; a sophisticated statement about race, class, gender, consumerism, and sexuality. How has this mainstay of the makeup kit remained relevant for over a century? Beauty journalist Ilise S. Carter suggests that it's because the simple lipstick says a lot. From the provocative allure of a classic red lip to the subtle sophistication of a neutral to the powerful statement of drag, the American love affair with lipstick is linked to every aspect of the female experience, from venturing into the working world or running for the presidency. Red Menace will capture all of those dimensions, with a dishy dose of fabulosity that makes it an amusing read for lipstick's fiercest disciples, its harshest critics, and everyone in between.

30 review for The Red Menace: How Lipstick Changed the Face of American History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Carla Remy

    A very entertaining, informative but funny cultural history centered on lipstick. I liked the focus on advertising. I love social histories. The Cultural Zeitgeist will always be interesting.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ilise Carter

    Of course, I'm biased but this is my forthcoming micro-history of lipstick in America. For more info and upcoming events tune in to https://www.lipstickbook.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/LipstickBook Of course, I'm biased but this is my forthcoming micro-history of lipstick in America. For more info and upcoming events tune in to https://www.lipstickbook.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/LipstickBook

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caitlyn

    I finished this book in one sitting. It was such an interesting microhistory of the U.S. through the lens of the cosmetics industry, and it was a great commentary on politics, feminism, race, and gender.

  4. 5 out of 5

    emma c. allen

    Even as a femme who considers lipstick a must, I never considered it’s place in American History until reading the Red Menace. Carter brings humor & wit, no dry corporate history this is an excellent exploration into our fascination with lipstick. Especially after 2 years of mask wearing!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I picked this up thinking it would be a light insight into American history from the focus of the cosmetics industry, and it was--until about the 1960's. After that, it became more of a paean to everything left-of-center politically with increasing amounts of Wokeism as it moved closer to present day. The development of the cosmetics industry early in the 20th century was quite interesting--the inherent tension between telling women they were beautiful, but still needed makeup, was something I ha I picked this up thinking it would be a light insight into American history from the focus of the cosmetics industry, and it was--until about the 1960's. After that, it became more of a paean to everything left-of-center politically with increasing amounts of Wokeism as it moved closer to present day. The development of the cosmetics industry early in the 20th century was quite interesting--the inherent tension between telling women they were beautiful, but still needed makeup, was something I hadn't thought about before. I would think that the influence of women's magazines (read: adverti$ing!) deserved more examination. Maybe it didn't need to be said? The struggle that African-American women had in even finding flattering colors, let alone obtaining them, makes sense too. Kudos to those entrepreneurs who saw a market and found a way to reach it (door-to-door trained salespeople? Holy empowerment, Batman! Take that, segregationist makeup counters!). But after WWII, huge swaths of American women are ignored by the author. In the 1950's and 1960's, there were women who were *not* part of the hippie movement who made cosmetics purchases. They were in secretarial pools, or young wives and mothers of the Baby Boom generation. I wonder if they simply were not worthy of mentioning? In the chapter on the 1970's, there is considerable space devoted Marsha P. Johnson. Was she the most profound influence on cosmetics for that decade, or was she included so the author could check that particular box of Inclusionary Bingo? It didn't get better through the 1980's onward, either. And... this might be a nitpick, but the fact that the word "cache" is used when it should be "cachet" three different times made me wonder. Do they not have editors at this publisher? This is an example of Spellcheck not being one's friend. Perhaps my standards are too high for a book that seems to have gone from conception, pitching, researching, writing, editing, publishing, and releasing in 18 months. I would hope this would be corrected before it's released in paperback.

  6. 4 out of 5

    D.R. Oestreicher

    The Red Menace: How Lipstick Changed the Face of American History by Ilise S. Carter delivers exactly what it advertises. This extensively researched (25% of the pages are research notes), short (less than 200 pages) book delivers a history of feminism and civil rights from the point of view of lipstick with some nods to technology (patented lipstick dispensers) and war (metal lipstick tubes vs World War II rationing). A fun nostalgic (so much name-dropping) journey for anyone who wore lipstick The Red Menace: How Lipstick Changed the Face of American History by Ilise S. Carter delivers exactly what it advertises. This extensively researched (25% of the pages are research notes), short (less than 200 pages) book delivers a history of feminism and civil rights from the point of view of lipstick with some nods to technology (patented lipstick dispensers) and war (metal lipstick tubes vs World War II rationing). A fun nostalgic (so much name-dropping) journey for anyone who wore lipstick or kissed someone who did. For my expanded notes: https://1book42day.blogspot.com/2022/... “As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.” Check out https://amzn.to/2SpaDMN to see my books. Check out https://amazon.com/shop/influencer-20... for book recommendations.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Parker

    Didn't like it. This author is pretty self-important and I think all her works are self-published. Her biography, written by herself, refers to herself and a "noted wit." There was too much back-patting, thinking she is clever, throughout this book. The attempts at "wit" were not funny. The Red Menace is taken. It's a term for the Soviet Union, coined during the Cold War Era. It's the title a 1949 American film about Communism. I can assume the author knew this, and titled her book thusly to appe Didn't like it. This author is pretty self-important and I think all her works are self-published. Her biography, written by herself, refers to herself and a "noted wit." There was too much back-patting, thinking she is clever, throughout this book. The attempts at "wit" were not funny. The Red Menace is taken. It's a term for the Soviet Union, coined during the Cold War Era. It's the title a 1949 American film about Communism. I can assume the author knew this, and titled her book thusly to appear edgy, and to increase her chances of appearing in internet searches when people are researching Soviet Era Communism.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Toney

    A book about a beloved subject! I had to have it. There is a lot of work that went into this book, and I can see that this was a labor of love, but something about it didn't fully grab me. I found the little pops of humor that the were thrown in to be jarring, and some of the chapters meandered a little. It is wonderful to find a work by a fellow lipstick enthusiast, and the passion and interest are inspiring, even if I didn't gel entirely with the book. A book about a beloved subject! I had to have it. There is a lot of work that went into this book, and I can see that this was a labor of love, but something about it didn't fully grab me. I found the little pops of humor that the were thrown in to be jarring, and some of the chapters meandered a little. It is wonderful to find a work by a fellow lipstick enthusiast, and the passion and interest are inspiring, even if I didn't gel entirely with the book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Orly

    While I enjoyed the book, and recognize the research that went into it, I felt it was somewhat lacking. I knew some of the background stories from other stories, and was a little disappointed that she didn't delve into them (like the background of some of the cosmetic giants, i.e., Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden, the Estee Lauder company, etc.). While I enjoyed the book, and recognize the research that went into it, I felt it was somewhat lacking. I knew some of the background stories from other stories, and was a little disappointed that she didn't delve into them (like the background of some of the cosmetic giants, i.e., Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden, the Estee Lauder company, etc.).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chandra Powers Wersch

    Pretty decent historical context from a non-historian (BA in American Studies, but I was genuinely impressed with the contextualization Carter did without a graduate degree in history), with a lot of detailed research (a bit overwhelming at times) and inclusive of all different kinds of Americans.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dru Munsell

    What a fun read: informative, well researched, well written, and interesting! I’m really glad I picked up my copy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Carol Wheeler

    Fascinating look at history through the lens of the beauty industry, specifically lipstick.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Stoufer

  15. 5 out of 5

    Anubis

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marzi PECEN

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diana Marfleet

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emma

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Riot

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fiona James

  22. 5 out of 5

    Crystal

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

  27. 5 out of 5

    Douglass Hunter

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eddie

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Zaiken Sienkewicz

  30. 5 out of 5

    Todd

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