Thursday, September 4, 2008

Group Blog Topic: Chilean women

Today as I sat in a work conference and let my thoughts wander from IFRS to this topic, I came up with a variety of things that could spark inspiration for this blog post. I find there are many differences between American women and Chilean women, but I do not find them to be gaping differences, just little things that I have noticed throughout my time here. Most of them relate to girly things (obviously), like beauty, fashion, and “woman topics” if you catch my drift. I could write forever on these topics, and so to be consistent with my post on Chilean men, I will limit this post to a one pro & one con.

Behind The Times (aka the Con)

I would never say that Chile is any sort of fashion & beauty capital. In fact, I’m more likely to say it is the exact opposite. And one of the things that bugs me most about women here is how they “wear” their hair and “put” on their makeup. Let’s take each of these subjects separately because really it is a problem here.

Most Chilean women wear their hair long. And you would think that they would take care of their hair, washing at least every other day, brushing it before leaving the house, even styling it different every once in a while. Ha. Good luck finding any of that. I swear that the majority of women here wash their hair maybe once a week and definitely do not try and style it before leaving the house.* When I was studying at La Católica, it was disgusting to see how many girls wear their hair greasier than a McDonald’s french fry. And when you can see white pieces of I-don’t-know-what in someone’s hair, dirtiness has gone too far. Another thing with the hair here is that if they do fix their hair, 1. it is the same style every day, and 2. if it is in a ponytail, they put cualquier cantidad (any number) of barrettes all over the place and make their hair look like a rat’s nest. There is no such thing as a smooth, hair-sprayed ponytail...if you see one of these in this country, that girl is a gringa.

Moving on to the makeup issue, it is one of two extremes for the most part: or they wear absolutely no makeup whatsoever, or they wear it like Mimi on the Drew Carey show. Ok so in most cases, Mimi is an exaggeration, but really 99% of chilenas have NO idea how to apply makeup. How about inch-thick eyeliner under their eyes and a nasty green cream-based eye shadow (that you know they bought on the streets) on their eyelids. It really just isn’t a pretty picture.

And think about the hair and make-up (or lack thereof) together....eeek!!!

The Modernism the US Lacks (aka the Pro)

This is where most men might want to stop reading because we are going to enter in to the realm of “womanly” talk....and no, not about periods just yet (that might be another topic soon), but about depilación (hair removal).

Where as in the States, women are subjected to an everyday razor and shaving cream or products like Nair, the Chilean women have this topic under control with waxing and the máquinas de tortura (torture machines, which is my nickname for the electric depilatory devices). There are so many waxing locations here that you really do have to be choosy with the ones you go to, just to make sure you are getting a clean service. But let’s explore this topic a little further...

So, girls around the age of 12 or 13 begin to use the máquinas de tortura that their mother’s have. Or maybe they receive one as a gift from an aunt, abuela (grandmother), etc. Now, although I think these little machines are more painful that both of my tattoos, I think starting at an early age wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. Why you may ask? Because just as with waxing, this little device pulls out the hair from its root, achieving the same results as waxing, just a bit more slowly. Each machine has a rotating head with like 6 tweezer-like parts that rotate quickly to pull out the hair. One has to spend much more time going over the same spot in order to get all of the hair, unlike waxing which takes one (maybe two max.) times to remove a good section of hair.

Well, after years or using the máquina de tortura and waxing, these ladies are left with virtually no hair because they have effectively killed the root that grows hair. Not only that, but when the hair grows back, it at least comes back soft instead of course & stubbly like with a normal razor. It is so UN-popular to shave here, that it is difficult to find women’s razors and even harder to find shaving cream. It is mostly all men’s products.

And waxing here is much cheaper than in the States, which I think is an important “barrier of entry” for gringas to always wax their legs, bikinis, armpits, etc. Here, you can pay a nice & clean salon $20USD to wax everything I just mentioned. A Brazilian bikini wax is typically around $14-$20USD, more expensive than a simple bikini wax...but it’s nothing compared to the $60 Brazilians in the States.

While I have yet to jump on this waxing and torture machine bandwagon, I definitely like to take advantage of the cheap bikini waxes for the summer season. And I’m thinking about starting with the leg waxings...maybe then one day I’ll also be able to kill all the hair-growing roots and not have to worry about shaving/depilation when I’m like 50! Shout out to the women here who are WAY smarter when it comes to getting rid of body hair that we are!

*Most exceptions to this majority are the professional working women I have seen, but not even all of them fix their hair. They always wear it the same way every. single. freaking. day. BORING!

[Updated in order to publish links to the other fabulous stories that over a dozen gringas wrote!]


lydia said...

hm. i know nothing of these machines, but it seems like you know what you're talking about.
i'm totally curious what this multitweezery machine is haha

actually, i was under the impression hair removal was way less common than in the states, taken from the experience of spending every other weekend in a beach town, and locker rooms. but i suppose maybe i notice the execptions/theres nothing to really draw attention if they've removed hair. ill start paying more attention

Tyffanie said...

I definitely don’t consider hair removal here less common than in the States (just the opposite in fact!)’s just that they don’t really openly talk about it. My host mom introduced me to the máquina de tortura and waxing places in Viña.....and yesterday I was asking a million questions to my chilena friends from work about it! is definitely a very intimate thing to talk about in this culture!

Sara said...

Hmmm... I have also noticed the makeup and the hair issue, especially on the metro, but I think it has more to do with economics than bad taste. Because if the woman is poor she cannot afford to spend money on high quality makeup and maybe cannot afford the gas to heat the water for her shower so therefore cannot wash her hair as often. At least, this is what many Chileans have told me.

Mamacita Chilena said...

You're so right. There's not much of a middle ground when it comes to makeup. It's not even about not being able to afford high quality makeup, it's just that the look that women go for here is either totally bare or what U.S. women would consider nighttime makeup, totally inappropriate for the office.

Haha, as for waxing, yes, Chilenas are obsessed. I have yet to try it because I'm scared!!!

Shannon said...

I don't think it has anything to do with the prices of makeup. You can buy really cheap makeup and still make it look nice, I agree with Kyle that the look that they are going for is just crazy. As for the hair! It grosses me out that people don't even comb their hair. As for the dirty thing I guess having money can be an issue, but at our house, my sister in law will sometimes take a shower everyday and then sometimes go without for like a week. I think that has something to do with laziness.
I haven't tried waxing my legs yet either because I am scared I will scream so loud that the people on the streets will think I am being murdered. It just doesn't sound pleasant to me.

Maeskizzle said...

Interesting post Tyff. It's so fun sharing perspectives.

I like the pokemona hair cuts. The new line...that are all messy and with tons of barretes/pins in the hair. I tried doing it the other day, but I have a ton of hair and the pins just fell out.

Totally agree that people always have dandruff here. Being inches from peoples' heads in the metro just confirms that on a daily basis. I think its due to stress.

I think the reason you see women with hairy armpits, legs, etc. is because you have to let the hair grow a bit in order for waxing to work, like half a centimeter maybe. Also if you don't have time to go to the waxing place, the hair just keeps growing until you finally do. I don't even own a razor here. And in the winter I wax waaay less than in the summer because with all the layers of clothing, what's the point? I'll just wax my pits and keep my leg hair for warmth.

Also it's common for women to wax their own body here. I tried it, but it was a bit too saddistic for me, the self-inflection of pain. Plus it didn't work very well. I'll stick to my wax lady for now.

As for makeup, I don't even pay attention. I had to stop using makeup when I moved from Valpo to Santiago. The pollution is so bad here it just made my face break out with acne. I never had a problem with acne until moving to Santiasco.

Amanda said...

My stepdaughter never brushes her hair and neither her mother nor my mother in law make her. Every time she came to our apartment I'd make her go straight for the tub and I'd load on the conditioner. We had to work magic to make her get her hair cut, she hadn't cut her since for six years, since she was 2 years old! It was a rat's nest. It was a never ending struggle. I tried to explain to my husband that while it's not important that she focus on being "pretty" she at least needs to look clean and cared for! So ugh!

I hate the maquinas de tortura, too. My host mother and sister tried to get me to use one. It was the most painful thing. Thank god for only $5 wax jobs. That was amazing. But I was never patient enough to let my leg hair grow out enough!

PS thanks for your comment on my blog :)

Tyffanie said...

I definitely don´t think it´s a money driven thing to not brush your hair or put on make-up decently. I´m not saying it´s a bad thing they don´t wear make-up...I just think it´s strange that there is no middle ground between those who don´t wear it and those who do.

I totally agree with Amanda about the brushing-the-hair thing. I think it´s great that the girls don´t feel pressure to look like a model and start wearing make-up at the age of 11, but for god´s sake, look decent before leaving your house (ie. shower, brush your hair and wash your face!). Not that hard!

Disclaimer—La Chilengüita is a blog created upon my personal experiences and which expresses my personal opinion that in no way represents the views my employer, family or friends.