Whether or not wearing makeup is a feminist act has been disputed for centuries. Modern feminism generally emphasizes the right to choose whether or not to partake in traditionally feminine activities, but how do we know if our choices are influenced by sexism? How can feminists today hold our beautified heads high when our grandmas protested beauty pageants by tossing cosmetics and other so-called symbols of female oppression into “freedom trashcans?” It’s time that we analyze why we wear makeup and express ourselves in the way we do, and how misogyny influences our self-expression.
As a makeup loving feminist, I feel like I have some responsibility to defend my right to lipgloss. I love using makeup to showcase different aspects of my personality and create new looks. And, I can’t help but relate to Cher from Clueless when Dionne says “Cher’s main thrill in life is a makeover. Okay, it gives her a sense of control in a world full of chaos.” Painting my face is empowering because it allows me to control how I am seen.
But, I refuse to wear makeup out of a sense of obligation. I know that I don’t owe cosmetic beauty to anyone, so I only wear makeup when I genuinely want to. Unless it’s used to hide behind and conform, makeup isn’t inherently bad.
However, my beef with makeup is how it is sold as perceived in the status quo. Makeup is exclusively marketed to women, which maintains patriarchal gender roles. Compulsory femininity is enforced upon women and we’re all expected to beautify ourselves to attract men. Males, however, are expected to conform to the bullshit macho man ideal and not care about their own beauty, which alienates men who want to express their feminine side. Gendering makeup as an inherently “female” item hurts everyone because it limits choice and promotes stereotypes.
And, giving my money to an industry that relies on female insecurity to churn a profit is definitely a struggle. In order to create demand for unnecessary cosmetic products, the beauty industry promotes an unachievable beauty standard then markets their products as a way to fix women’s flaws. If makeup was marketed as an art form and not as an obligation, it wouldn’t make as much money as it does now.
Now, does that mean I’ll stop dropping hella cash every time I wander into Sephora? probably not. The reality is, I’m going to have to deal with the problematic system in order to obtain my prized winged eyeliner. Besides, I need to stock up on war paint for the inevitable feminist revolution.