One of the most frequent assaults on self-identified feminists (particularly by assailants who aren’t too familiar with feminism) is that we’re always trying to put men down to raise ourselves up, which we all know is patently untrue and basically exactly the kind of rhetoric that oppressors and the comfortably privileged use. However, I do think (based on personal experience) that a bigger problem is that women—feminist or not—have a nasty habit of putting each other down for making choices that they don’t agree with.
And wearing makeup is a big one.
I can’t tell you how many times at rallies, or readings, or within online communities my interest in cosmetics and fashion have gotten me eye-rolls (or the digital equivalent) and otherwise traitorous looks, as if to say “You can’t possibly believe that women deserve to be treated as equals so long as you are a painted lady who is so clearly a pawn in patriarchy’s army.”
But isn’t the ability to make choices based on my own reasons, just as men have been doing for centuries, sort of one of the main tenets of the cause? Does it help if I tell you I don’t wear makeup to feel more confident or to look more attractive to anyone else (of any gender), but because I think it’s fun? And does my thinking that it is fun erase any of my other work toward promoting a realistic standard of beauty and health and wellness?
And perhaps I am deluding myself. Maybe my enjoyment of cosmetics is rooted in some age-old subconscious message that tells me I should enjoy it. (Though it seems unlikely–my mom never wore makeup when I was a kid, and in fact, most of the makeup I was exposed to was pretty terribly done. If anything, it should have scared me away from it.) Maybe the fact that I like putting on makeup does, in fact, make me unqualified to talk about self esteem and positive body image.
But I dont think so.
Images: mine, of my actual face, with and without makeup, and Kevyn Aucoin’s amazing book that changed the way I looked at makeup, via Amazon