Do You Agree With Zadie Smith That ‘Girls Are Fools To Waste Time On Beauty’?

zadie smith

by Rebecca Cope |
Published on

Author Zadie Smith has revealed her concerns about the amount of time that her seven-year-old daughter spends looking in the mirror during an interview at the Edinborough International Book Festival. In particular, she has compared her daughter Kit's behaviour with that of her older brother, who in contrast was 'out the door' going about his day quicker.

'I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this,' she said. 'Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a shit if you waste an hour and a half doing your makeup.'

Smith goes on to cite the rise of the contouring trend - which can take hours as girls use different shades of powder and foundation to highlight their bone structure - as one of the factors that led to her imposing a 15-minute mirror rule on her daughter.

'I saw that she had just started spending a lot of time looking in mirrors. It was infuriating me. I decided to spontaneously decide on a principle: that if it takes longer than 15 minutes don’t do it,' she explained. 'From what I can understand from this contouring business, that’s like an hour and a half and that is too long. It was better than giving her a big lecture on female beauty, she understood it as a practical term and she sees me and how I get dressed and how long it takes.'

WATCH: 11 inspiring career quotes

There is a definite and worrying trend for the high street - and society at large - oversexualising pre-teens. Who could forget the Tesco pole-dancing kit that appeared in the toys section, or the Next T-shirt for under-6s that said 'so many boys, so little time'. A recent survey found that girls as young as nine are asking for labiaplasty, while one of the most talked-about plays at the Edinborough Fringe this year focuses on a mother getting breast enhancement surgery for her 8-year-old. Katie Price has frequently come under fire for the way that her 10-year-old daughter is often pictured wearing lipstick and mascara.

It is unsurprising that Smith is keen to ensure that her daughter doesn't place too much importance on her looks (or, indeed grow up too quickly). In fact, her own beauty has frequently been commented on throughout her career. During her appearance on a 2013 episode of Desert Island Discs, the White Teeth author revealed that an Italian newspaper had once claimed she couldn't be a good writer because she was too attractive - with the two qualities being mutually exclusive.

'It is a really misogynistic and fascinating thought,' she said at the time. 'Because what it means is that if you are beautiful, then you have no need to be intelligent – it is a very sinister thought actually.'

Naysayers will sceptically argue that a naturally beautiful woman like Smith - who is frequently pictured without a scrap of makeup - don't need to spend as much time as other women arduously applying foundation and mascara. Indeed, we spoke about the growing trend around 'makeup shaming' in May, and the stereotypes that surround women who wear 'too much' makeup.

Societal pressures to look a certain way - and for girls to be 'pretty' - make this at its heart a feminist issue. Until we learn to focus on what's inside, rather than outside, it's unlikely this debate will get settled - or at least until more men are also stocking up on Kylie Jenner's latest lip-kit.

What do you think? Let us know on Twitter @GraziaUK now.

READ MORE: Why Is Makeup Shaming Not Taboo?

READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know Before Glossier Launches In The UK

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us