Presenter sparks outrage with comments on daughter’s “alarming” beauty routine

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb has sparked outrage with a slew of toe-curlingly sexist comments about his 17-year-old daughter’s “alarming” beauty routine.

The presenter of the Today programme lamented the fact that his “clever, funny, resourceful girl” should spend time on – gasp! – applying make-up, while seemingly blaming the entire beauty blogging industry for “luring” her into watching their “meaningless demonstrations and soul-sapping narratives”.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Webb said, “There is an industry out there — a booming and highly sophisticated industry — trying to capture their sweet, unspoiled faces and lure them into a world much older than their years.”

Continuing in this vein, he proved he has absolutely no concept of the myriad reasons why women choose to wear make-up and watch beauty tutorials with the statement, “Once you’ve worked out how to put on the lipstick and brush the hair — it’s never taken my wife very long —what’s the point of tuning in again?”

Adding that his daughter has aspirations of becoming a lawyer, Webb wrote that it was “too late” to save her from the apparently vice-like grip of the beauty blogging industry, while lamenting the fact that she – a teenager – would even own any make-up.

“She may be about to embark upon her A-level year, but if her dressing table is anything to go by, she looks as though she’s fully enrolled at beauty school,” he wrote.

“Pots and tubs, brushes and wands, sponges and serums jostle for space. If only I could say the same for her textbooks.”

But surely teenage girls can like make-up and excel at school?

Webb pegged his thinly-disguised bash at women’s enjoyment of make-up on comments made by Zadie Smith earlier this month, naming her his “hero” for “calling time on make-up madness”.

Smith had spoken at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 19 August to say that young girls are “wasting” their time on beauty routines, and that she had imposed a crisp 15-minute time limit on how long her seven-year-old daughter can spend looking in mirrors.

Of course, it’s worth encouraging young women to think critically about gender roles, and to make sure that they’re wearing make-up because they enjoy it – not because they feel like they have to. But Smith’s comments proved controversial, and Webb’s are certainly following in the same direction, with numerous people taking to Twitter to vent their fury.

“I love it when men explain what make-up means,” renowned beauty journalist Sali Hughes wrote, sarcastically.

“If only it were possible for women to care about more than one thing at once,” replied another Twitter user, equally sarcastically.

Other comments shared a similar theme.

“Newsflash: you can be successful & smart and wear makeup,” wrote one woman.

And another summed up our feelings perfectly with the following statement: “Isn't this the most ridiculous article you've ever seen...”

Perhaps in future people could think twice about shaming others for their beauty routines – and we have to applaud Webb’s daughter, Martha, for her response to his comments.

“Make-up makes you feel good. Putting it on is fun and wearing it is fun,” she wrote below the article. “Feminism ought to be about choice and not being ashamed to do what you want.”

Our sentiments exactly.

Images: Rex Features / iStock