I am often questioned as to why I wear makeup – more specifically, the statement: “But you are a feminist, I thought feminists don’t wear makeup?” To answer that: ‘Everyone can be a feminist while presenting their bodies in whatever way they wish – whether that be with their eyebrows drawn on or not’. This is a conversation I wish I did not have to have. As someone who wears makeup almost daily, I find myself distraught when people tell me that my makeup wearing is a system of oppression. Their argument is that I am unconsciously oppressing myself because according to them, I am wearing makeup to “impress somebody” (And yet, people who do not wear makeup receive just as much commentary) – as if having this argument was not bad enough, now I have to deal with people deciding that my therapy is not for me but for someone else *insert appropriate eye-roll here*. Let us consider these questions:
Isn’t makeup a tool of the patriarchy to keep us so obsessed with narrow beauty standards that we can’t focus on revolution? And isn’t it a little frivolous and ridiculous of a hobby to find enjoyment in something so decidedly feminine? And how can one proclaim themselves anti-capitalist if they throw money toward thirty-dollar tubes of lipstick? (Fabello “My Makeup Isn’t Inherently Anti-Feminist“)
If I were to be honest with you, I don’t always know what to say in these cases, especially when they are said by other feminists. Sometimes I am told that I am wearing too much or too little makeup, or that I should put some on when I am not wearing any at all. Where do I draw the line? When I first ‘came out’ as a feminist, I was given the impression that it is something empowering, that it encourages body positivity, that it encourages confidence – I lacked a lot of that when I was younger. It was not until I reached my first year of university that I started wearing makeup on a daily basis however, it was not until two years ago that I discovered my true love for cosmetics. I had a lot of fears and hatred towards my skin. I hated my freckles and what little acne I had. I hated my dark circles and large pores and just about every minor blemish I thought existed.
These thoughts derived from the institutionalized ideals of what the media considers to be perfect, despite the fact that ‘perfection’ does not exist. These thoughts derived from images in advertisements, and comments made to me about my appearance. I have flipped through magazines quite a lot and more often the advertisements directed at those who have dark circles, include models with too subtle discoloration to notice. I have been told that I would look ‘better’ or ‘nicer’ if I covered those circles up. Makeup was said to ‘fix’ or ‘hide’ these blemishes.
However, when I started wearing makeup more often, it was not about hiding my blemishes – not anymore – it was about accentuating a part of me. The more comfortable I was with my new found identity (as a feminist) the more I found that makeup enhanced my features, I felt better wearing it- I felt more confident. Now that I am much older, putting on makeup is more of a therapeutic process (quality time with me, myself and my face) – my therapy if you will. I love the way the brushes feel against my face, the beauty blender dabbing against my skin, experimenting with color and glitter – lots of glitter – I love the finished look: highlighted and ‘brows on point’. It makes me feel good; it enhances the features I have come to call beautiful. I do not see the blemishes like I used to – those dark circles yes, even to this day I still hate them – rather, I see myself and my skin.
There are so many factors that allowed me to see myself in a new way. First, the act of wearing makeup and skin care enlightened the way I see my skin. I discovered new ways to treat my face with organic masks and scrubs and lotions that aided in smoothing and softening my skin. Second, my identity and experience as a feminist allowed me to come to terms with my body and the policing that surrounded it.