Wearing makeup has become a habit for many of us in our daily lives. It is a ritual, something that we hardly think about as we struggle out of bed in the morning and head to the mirror for some primping. It was only recently that I began to be more conscious about applying makeup. The more I began to identify with feminism, the more I wondered whether or not I was submitting to patriarchal expectations each morning.
Women are often shamed for their choices about makeup, and we seem to be fighting a losing battle. If you don’t wear enough makeup you aren’t considered “pretty,” yet women who wear too much makeup are called whores or are said to be “trying too hard.” After deliberating for quite some time about the reasons that I wear makeup, I finally decided that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman wearing it, feminist or not.
Of course, makeup can be worn for the wrong reasons. If you put on mascara each day hoping that it will make people like you, or that it will make someone more attracted to you, perhaps you should re-evaluate your beauty routine. If we mess with our looks in order to suit others, we are putting time and energy into being something we are not, rather than relying on self confidence.
In examining my own habits, I noticed that I don’t have any direct thoughts as to what others will think about my makeup. It probably has something to do with my strict avoidance of cosmetics until my freshman year of college. Wearing makeup has never landed me a boyfriend, and I don’t think my eyeshadow will do that for me any time soon, so why would I wear it for that reason?
The thing I like the most about wearing makeup is the confidence it gives me. I get the same feeling from a well-chosen set of clothes or an interesting new hairstyle. I like to go out into the world knowing that I look good to myself.
I can feel this way without makeup on as well, but the effort and creativity involved in applying makeup and creating unique looks adds an extra layer of fun. Knowing that I think I look great is all that really matters to me anyway, because I will never know what others really think of me and therefore cannot get satisfaction from their opinions.
Confidence is a commodity in a society that constantly rewards and punishes us for the choices we make. Yet here we are, in a society that says if women want equal treatment and rights, they must assert themselves with confidence — but only without making fashion choices that may appear to support patriarchal ideas about what women need to be.
Those who tell women to forsake makeup and certain types of clothes in order to be a “better” woman are using the same tools of oppression that exist within our patriarchal society by telling women that their behaviors and choices are wrong in some way.
Lipstick feminism is a movement that attempts to dislodge the idea that traditional ideas of femininity undermine women. This movement encourages women to embrace things like makeup and feminine clothing, including revealing clothing, in order to show that having qualities that are defined as female does not make one inferior.
Lipstick feminists have no problem with you putting on a ton of makeup, because makeup does not make you any less legitimate. Such logic suggests that women should sacrifice feminine qualities to achieve equality.
In the end, the decision to wear makeup is not about the product itself. It’s about us not letting other people make decisions for us about our bodies and preferences. Don’t let anyone tell you what wearing makeup says about you.
You are the only one who gets to decide what your fashion choices mean. As for me, I will continue to run around spouting feminist facts and sporting red lipstick while I do it.
Kate Haddock is a sophomore in English. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.