Saturday, August 20, 2011

In Which Our Heroine Rambles about Makeup

I've been wearing makeup regularly since I was a teenager. Sometime around ninth grade I discovered mascara and black eyeliner and never looked back. I went through phases where I wore this horrible blue winged eye liner that I thought was the bomb (god it was awful), and phases where I wore really light makeup. I also went through extreme phases with my clothing. From 70s plaid bell bottoms to arms covered in bracelets, it took me a really long time to figure out a way of dressing and wearing makeup that felt authentic to me. Even now, I change the shade of my hair to better match my mood and wear false eyelashes just for the hell of it. I guess part of me is a little theatrical and I've always felt like glitter ran in my veins.

My point in all this is that there are a lot of misconceptions about makeup that really annoy me. Instead of arguing why makeup is a feminist issue though, I just want to say a few things. Keep in mind, I'm not saying my choice is any more valid than any other. In fact, it's that very attitude that bothers me. This also isn't about any particular comment or post. It's just the culmination of a general attitude that drives me bonkers.

1. Makeup is no more "fake" than any of the hundreds of other ways we alter our appearance. Tattoos, clothing, heels, tanning, nail polish, plastic surgery, hair dye, grooming, and jewelry are all examples of how we change/enhance our appearances regularly. They are no more "authentic" than makeup.

2. Most people don't spend hours putting on makeup every day and the color of my eyelids does not change my appearance as much as some people seem to assume. I wear a lot of makeup and yet you'd still know who I am completely barefaced. Even if this wasn't the case though, who cares? I never wear sweats out in public since I like to dress nice. Dressing nice is a distinct part of how I express myself in fact. Does that mean people should think I'm not being true to myself if someone is surprised to see me in sweats? Obviously not.

3. I'm me when I'm wearing makeup. That is the "real" me. I'm not wearing a mask or being dishonest. This type of thinking is problematic for a lot of reasons.

4. While there are definitely societal pressures to wear makeup (though it usually focuses on wearing "natural" looking makeup that must both enhance and be unnoticeable), this is not the only reason people wear makeup. I don't wear makeup to enhance anything but my invisible eyebrows (seriously, I look like Sean Patrick Flanery in Powder). Makeup is an art form for me. It's one of the ways I express myself. I feel like I'm putting on a costume in a way actually. (Retro or rocker?) My makeup depends on my mood and often reflects my inner feelings about myself and the world.

5. Makeup makes me feel nice. It's like that extra bounce you get after a getting a great haircut. I like knowing I was able to perfectly wing my eyeliner or make my eyelids look like glitter incrusted disco balls. Makeup is indulgent in that way and it can also act like a suit of armor. If you're sick or have bad skin, makeup can provide you a measure of peace and solitude from prying eyes. Also, I'm pretty good at applying makeup (this is what happens when you practice for years). Who doesn't enjoy doing something they're good at?

6. It's one of the ways I take care of myself. A lot of people say they don't want to "waste" time putting on makeup, but for me that's akin to saying you don't want to waste time bathing. It really doesn't take that long, but it's my time to waste either way. If I want to spend it doing something that makes me happy then what do you care?

I could say more, but I think I've made my point. When people say "you're beautiful the way you are" I can't help but get annoyed because it sounds incredibly judgmental (even though the intentions are usually good). It's like when people say "real women have curves." This is the way I am and deciding not to wear makeup doesn't make a person any more authentic/genuine/true than people who decide the opposite. The only people who aren't being true to themselves are people who wear or don't wear makeup because they feel like they don't have a choice. While no one should ever feel forced to wear makeup, or be fired for not doing so, I'm tired of being told I'm somehow wearing a mask or hiding my true self. Do what makes happy. I do. And it involves lots of makeup.

Also, I like knowing I'm giving a big "fuck off" to people like this:


  1. I concur.

    I just wanted to say, in response to the video, that many many girls look 'worse' without make-up.

    We just become accustomed to the way they look with their faces painted up. We don't like change. We're creatures of habit. If we know someone who typically wears classes, we may think they don't look 'right' without them when they switch over to contacts. Or braces. Or any other thing we see them using or wearing regularly. It's just different, not bad.

  2. That's a great point. There is nothing more trippy than seeing someone who usually wears glasses without them and yet we'd never say they were wearing a mask.

  3. Just wanna say, I love this post. (catching up on lots of bloggy things right now)


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