John Lewis and Mac Cosmetics have cancelled a “back to school” makeup masterclass after criticism from parents.
The event had been advertised on Facebook and was scheduled to take place later this month at John Lewis’s store in Bluewater shopping centre, Kent. Advertised as a “mini masterclass”, it reportedly cost £30 – redeemable against Mac purchases – and offered a lesson in how students could “ make the best of skin and brows” ahead of the new school year.
The event, which has since been removed from Facebook as well as the Bluewater website, attracted online criticism from parents.
One mother, Clare Harvey, said it was “encouraging girls to break school rules as most have [a] no makeup policy”, according to newspapers.
“I’m not sure how I feel about this,” wrote Hayley Webb. “I love makeup and definitely love a Mac product, and as a woman in her 30s I am entitled to do what I want with my face and body. But a ‘back to school’ beauty event, with a focus on skin and brows for 12+ year olds? Not sure that’s appropriate.”
Several charities said the event was inappropriate.
“It’s what’s in girls’ heads that counts, not what’s on their faces,” said Ella Smillie, the head of policy and campaigns at the Fawcett Society. “As our kids go back to school, John Lewis and Mac are sending a wrong and worrying message. Like Fawcett, parents will be justifiably angry that companies are adding to the pressure their children are under to conform to gender stereotypes around appearances, instead of focusing on their education.”
Bex Bailey from the Young Women’s Trust said: “If we are ever going to achieve gender equality we have to focus on the talents and skills young women can contribute, not on a prescriptive beauty ideal.”
Bluewater referred the Guardian’s request for comment to John Lewis, which said it had not arranged the event.
“This was an isolated event organised at a local Mac counter,” a spokesperson said. “As a brand Mac does not market to anyone under 16 so this event should not have been arranged. It has been cancelled and we are very sorry for any upset caused. We’re looking into how it happened to make sure that this type of event doesn’t take place again.”