Lizzie Roberts criticises a recent Daily Mail article on female student beauty spending.
Recently, the Daily Mail published an article in their online “Femail” section with the title “Students spend more than £1,000 on beauty products a year despite spiralling debts.” My own place of study – Lancaster University – was ranked number one as “the vainest” university “where female students spend on average £1,109 on make-up, fragrances and skincare a year.” The tabloid has been known for its ability to scrape deepest depths of the vast barrel of journalism, however the inaccuracies of this article, with the blatant intention to slur female students’ spending habits, are a step too far.
My own place of study – Lancaster University – was ranked number one as “the vainest” university.
Firstly, the article states that the apparent high spending on beauty products of Lancaster University students “equates to 20% of their £5,500 a year student loan.” However, where they have sourced that figure is quite a mystery, as this estimate of an average student loan is way off the mark. Despite meeting students at University from all different social backgrounds, I have never met anyone who receives such an amount from Student Finance England (SFE). The typical sum received by UK students in reality is actually around £3,500 per year, the article therefore overstating the loan by a huge £2,000. The actuality for many students is that their SFE loan does not even cover their accommodation, so many are either subsidised by their parents or take up part time jobs. Also, the article fails to mention many of the other costs that students have, for example food, travel and books.
Furthermore, these mystery figures continue to crop up throughout the article with another one stating that “a double room near the Lancaster University campus can be rented for £65 per week or £3,380 per year.” Firstly, it is clear that Sarah Bridge (the author of the article) has not done her research, as you cannot rent a room “near” the Lancaster campus as it is a ten minute bus ride from the city centre and the campus itself is surrounded by countryside.
Secondly, to rent a double room on the University campus equates to £122 per week including bills as of next year, £57 more than the Daily Mail’s figures. Living off campus does come at a lower price, but a student would be very hard pushed to find a double room in town at £65 per week. The majority of student houses available, if you don’t want to live in a room the size of a shoe box or in a house riddled with mould, are at least £80 per week for a double room. It does not appear bills have been taken into consideration in this calculation either, as to get a room with all bills included off campus would cost in the region of £85-£100 per week.
The Mail states that “Lancaster students are spending up to the equivalent of one-third of their yearly rent on luxury beauty and grooming.” However, this assumption is incredibly vague, generalising and inaccurate, with the paper barely having any sound evidence to support such ludicrous claims. The source of the article seems rather ambiguous coming from the “online beauty retailer Escentual.com.” The validity of this source should be questioned, as one reader, Aimie Baker agrees in the comments “Who did this survey. It’s clearly not considering everyone. I’ve never heard of this site and maybe if they asked around in town they would get a much less biased sample.”
This assumption is incredibly vague, generalising and inaccurate, with the paper barely having any sound evidence to support such ludicrous claims.
Lancaster University’s female students were not the only ones to receive criticism over their apparent elaborate beauty spending, with York, Durham and Oxbridge all being mentioned for their average weekly expense on beauty. What is most striking about this article however, is the irrelevancy, patronising and belittling nature; it attempts to plaster female students across the country as “vain” and “in spiralling debt.” As far as I was aware, we lived in a free and fair democracy, where we may spend our money on whatever we wish, so I was most surprised or should I say angered, to learn that my personal finances were up for scrutiny in the Daily Mail’s “Femail” section. Perhaps the lesson to be learned from an analysis of this article is as we all know when readings the Daily Mail the need to treat their writing with caution. Their articles are often not based upon fact, but prejudice and exaggeration, highlighting invalid figures in order to denounce individuals personally rather than to inform the public.
Lizzie is a second year History and Politics student at Lancaster University, with a strong passion for American politics, equality and good old British sarcasm.