Earlier this week, I wrote about how much I dislike the way that beauty products are exploitatively marketed toward women. This is especially true of advertising about cosmetics, which preys on manufactured insecurities and purposefully-manifested low self-esteem. And while the expectation or assumption that women must wear oodles of unhealthy, pore-clogging, lead-filled makeup to look and feel beautiful and confident is certainly absurd and needs to be shaken apart, I am torn…because there’s still a part of me that that just loves makeup. Like a frilly, dress-wearing, PMS-blaming, gender-norm-loving, Lilly-Ledbetter-denying traitor.
I didn’t say that I require makeup. Or that I won’t leave the house without it, agree with the horrible practice of animal testing, or think women are more powerful when painted. Hell, I’ve personally called out organizations that use makeup as a way to falsely equate strength with beauty because I think it’s problematic, constricting, gender-biased (and binary) and generally misguided.
But I also don’t shun the idea of cosmetics entirely. I believe that people of all genders should be able to wear makeup if they so choose. As a young teen, I pored over books by the late Kevyn Aucoin, whose work with faces was truly, truly artistic. I think, perhaps, regardless of my gender, I would be interested in makeup, because it falls in line with other interests of mine; I like beautiful articles of clothing and fantastically designed furniture and exquisite works of visual art, whether they be in a gallery or on the side of a boxcar.
Which is not to say that I think women are objects like a dress or a chair, because clearly, we are not. But it is to say that there are times (many times) when I look in the mirror and see that my face, aside from being my face (which I like quite a bit and wouldn’t change), is also a super-fun grown-up playground, where I, as a liberated adult woman who works and votes and volunteers and demands equal pay (with or without makeup, damnit), can use colors and brushes and tools (that are eco-friendly, not tested on animals, and not filled with toxins) for my own delight.
I enjoy makeup. If you don’t, that’s fine. If you do, isn’t that fine, too?
When I use makeup (which isn’t every day), I’m not trying to cover things up. I’m not trying to dramatically change my appearance. I’m not trying to please anyone. I’m not even trying to make myself look better–I’m just trying to make myself look a little different, depending on my mood. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with individuals who do use makeup to make themselves look better. If it works for you, who is anyone else to judge it?
What I am against is the predatory way that advertisers and media outlets and the various industries (tv, film, fashion, etc.) have made women feel like they only have one choice: Wear makeup, because you’re less human/pretty/smart/confident without it. I take issue with the idea in general, and the fact that it’s become so normalized and pervasive. So normalized that many of us are unfazed when commercials tell us that we even need products to make our armpits look beautiful. That’s what’s wrong. Not my own enjoyment of liquid eyeliner because, let’s be real, that stuff looks pretty cool.