i feel like the narrative on women and makeup has become so muddled and confused and misguided. there is honestly an industry at this point based on denying that makeup has anything to do with patriarchy in any way, shape or form. despite the obvious fact that, no, the vast majority of men do not wear makeup–and yes, we still consider many of them beautiful without it, and without even thinking about it.
the beauty industry has become attuned enough to the change in culture and women’s increasing liberation over time that they can no longer get away with marketing all their products as “fixes” for your “flaws.” no, they’ve actually co-opted feminist/activist rhetoric to sell their products to you. this imbues their product with a significance and a weight that, without this language, it simply does not have. sadly a lot of this language is similarly used by makeup blogs/vlogs/instagrams/etc without understanding that the capitalist machine has pushed this nonsense on us for years to dupe us. let’s actually take a look at some modern advertising in the beauty industry:
wow! it’s almost like “having it all” sounds familiar? hm, where have i heard that?
this is just one of dozens of products that compare their makeup to a revolution.
the beauty industry has been steadily using rhetoric to suggest that cosmetics bring women power and the like, such as:
but when all else fails, don’t convince women that beauty products will empower, change, enliven them, or make them assertive. just tell them it’s a part of who they are!
because how could the real you shine through without the help of some new foundation or lipstick?
there is such an absurdity to these slogans and such a sexism to the idea that these products are going to change women’s lives, bring them confidence, give them power or anything else. these products, nine times out of ten, are going to paint women’s faces in order to make them more appealing to the patriarchy.
it’s even gone far enough that women online have recently created a hashtag #thepowerofmakeup (?) to insist that makeup is not due to insecurities or a desire to please boys, but simply a personal choice and pleasure that exists in a vacuum and has nothing to do with anything else ever. this is the extent of the brainwashing. i don’t condemn these women in any way because their lack of understanding is not their fault and is a product of growing up in the society they have. to make myself perfectly clear, i do not condemn any women who wear makeup in any context. however the hashtag creator’s notion that “nowadays…it’s almost a crime to love doing your makeup” is literally baffling. makeup has never been more popular or beloved than it is right now, and the small group of people criticizing its misogynistic origins are nothing compared to the millions of women who feel compelled to spend hundreds every year on these products. it’s incredible to see women who do wear makeup portrayed as the outcasts, while women who don’t wear makeup know that they’ll have a tougher time getting jobs, be consistently assumed tired/upset/having a bad day, and be generally considered less desirable and inadequately feminine on the whole.
speaking of the growing prominence of youtube channels, instagrams, tumblrs, etcetcetc centered around makeup and makeup products, i want to make a point. can makeup be art? absolutely! can makeup be fun? absolutely! can makeup exist totally separate from male dominant spaces? i’m not positive, but i think it’s possible. however, it is the dominant culture’s obsession with and need for these products which is harmful to women and girls. many will proclaim that, “i like how i look without makeup too!” and “i can still leave the house without it!” but, as someone who once constantly reiterated these phrases, unfortunately i know them to be denials in many many cases. i felt myself, over the years, insisting that i could leave the house without makeup, yet found myself doing that, at most, five times in an entire year. i told myself i liked how i looked without makeup, yet after two days in the house without a drop, i looked in the mirror and felt ugly, dirty, incomplete. and i know i am not alone. sure makeup makes you feel beautiful, but why?
if we want to talk honestly about makeup and the enormous influence it has on women and girls, we have to rid ourselves of patriarchal notions and delusions that makeup “just makes me feel good!” and embrace the idea that we can feel good, all the time, be beautiful, all the time, no matter what we look like, without makeup in any form. our choices do not exist in a vacuum, and there was a reason i cried hysterically to my mother at 13 for not being allowed to wear mascara. all women are beautiful, all the time. it’s okay that women wear makeup. we just need to start examining why we want to, and patriarchy’s role in that “choice.”