At the moment everyone seems to be posting some variation of the ‘makeup vs feminism’ debate which, don’t get me wrong is great to read but, majorly infringes on my attempts to be original. It’s not like I have much else going for me. From now on if you want to write about anything vaguely feminist, you have to consult me first otherwise I’ll have to sue. Sylvester.
Before we begin our makeup chat (it feels like that part in the Fimbles where Roly Mo used to crack open a top-notch story and check you were sitting comfortably before he began. Ultimately, I am feminist Roly Mo) I think it’s important to read this with two things in mind:
- I wear makeup
- I study philosophy
Therefore while I spend half an hour in Boots deciding whether I’m shade 02 or 03 in Bourjois AirMat (I know I’m 03, I’ve always been 03, I will always be 03 yet every time I go to buy 03 I feel the need to swatch 02 just in case) I can simultaneously contemplate if my decision is linked to Plato’s Cave. Because all philo kids know that apparently somehow for magical reasons that they don’t understand everything links to The Cave. Due to these traits this posts stems from a seed of curiosity, not the intention of criticising for how much/little makeup you wear.
With that said, I’ve noticed that all the ‘pro-makeup’ posts I’ve read- no disrespect to the authors (but I’ll probably accidentally disrespect you so sorry in advance)- come to the conclusion: ‘I wear makeup because I like it.’ And although we all mega preachy arms emoji to this statement, when you break down the argument, it seems pretty… weak. Honestly, I’m not trying to piss on the body posi bonfire here, many people (inc me) wear makeup because they like it- I mean would you really spend £15.50 on a MAC lipstick, if you didn’t?- I’m just struggling to see any other situation in which the extent of ‘liking’ something affects whether it’s a feminist decision.
For example, between reading Lena Dunham and advocating for Girls Not Brides, I may really like catcalling women in Aldi. There’s nothing that makes me feel more confident than sauntering over to the crisps aisle, spotting a spicy chick and shouting ‘Ooh nice tits darlin’ across the Cheesy Curls (Aldi babe, just admit they’re Quavers). Now obviously, I
don’t do that (at least out loud) but how come we deem ‘liking’ in this context as selfish and ignorant, yet when it comes to makeup ‘liking’ it is empowering? And if you think this situation differs from the first because it directly affects another person, then aren’t you ignoring the effect of makeup on, well, everyone?
I like makeup but it’s a ridiculously weird concept: the women will spend hundreds on sponging chemicals onto their faces while the men moan at them to hurry up in the bathroom because they need a wee. Why are we so quick to defend something that could actually be oppressing us? And this forces me to think, do I really wear makeup because I like it or do I justify wearing makeup by liking it? The reasons behind endorsing it seem a lot darker than my shade 03 Bourjois foundation.
For example: Why do I enjoy applying it? Because it makes me feel more confident. Why? Because I look better. Why do I want to look better? Because society told me I should be pretty in order to be successful and makeup is pretty. So why do I ‘like’ something that is used to change me, to mould me into something ‘better’, when men aren’t expected to wear it? Does that mean men are good enough without makeup and women aren’t? In fact men that wear makeup are mocked due to its feminine connotations, which indicates it makes us weaker. Caitlin Moran called this ‘patriarchal bullshit.’
Makeup seems to be assuming that women need to have their purpose added, as if it doesn’t come inherently from being a human being. When you put your makeup on you’re putting on a mask that hides all the ugly bits and depicts something else instead: red lipstick’s sexy, dark eyeliner’s antisocial, sparkles are outgoing. How come a man can express all of these without help from Estée Lauder, yet a woman can’t? I know women that’ve been disciplined at work for not wearing makeup, has that ever happened to a man?
Even when a cosmetic is taken out of context or reclaimed, like when the suffragettes wore red lipstick to get attention, it still had a purpose. It’s as if women’s right to vote wasn’t enough to drum up support and they needed the lipstick to embellish their existence. I hate that. And I also hate how, even though I have some cracking stories about my roll on body glitter and teal eyeliner pencil free with Mizz magazine, the option of makeup encourages teenage girls into insecurity. After all, why love yourself when you can just love the Rimmel-ed up version? It’s as if we have a get-out-of-ugly-free card that boys don’t.
I don’t think the answer is a simple as ‘liking’, just like the shaving debate is more than liking the smell of Veet. There is huge significance in the fact that women are expected to makeup themselves up and men aren’t and I feel like that is often ignored because people start using their emotions to justify the difference. The first step in discussing makeup has to be distancing yourself from the debate. Discussions about cosmetics aren’t synonymous with the contents of your personal Jack Wills makeup bag and people forget that you can do something you oppose (like when I listen to Kanye West). I don’t see why this conversation should be shut down just because everyone at the table has a full face of Bourjois AirMat shade 03 on.
I’m only here to start the conversation: I wear it, I like it, but probably only because that’s what I’ve been told to do. Thoughts?