- Sticky gunk, desperate girls pile on their faces to alter their outward appearance in order to compensate for their lack of self-worth.
- The devil of all things natural, wholesome, and God-made; it is an intentional deception.
- A ploy to sexualise women to being the objects of chauvinistic male desires.
Growing up, I was surrounded by two opposing views on wearing make-up. On one hand, I watched some of the women around me use make-up as a daily routine. It was not acceptable to walk out of the house without having your face on, your hair set, and your clothes ironed. The other side was of the strong opinion that “natural” is better; make-up is a form of deception and it undermines the concept of “God-given beauty.”As a lover of aesthetic and beauty, I dove into cosmetics as soon as I could possibly get my hands on a product, whether allowed or denied. It was a topic of many arguments and a source of tension during my adolescence. As with so many issues, if pushed onto people, the more heels are dug in and the less effective communication actually takes place.
Opening this post, I have contrived a few underlying, social definitions of make-up, which I have faced throughout the years. I want to discuss each of these mentalities a bit further to discover what it is that people are opposing or promoting. I want to start this off with a little disclaimer. Firstly, this is not a discussion as to whether or not someone should wear make-up, nor is it how much make-up they should wear. It is merely to discuss the root of these definitions. Secondly, I am not an expert on the topic of psychology, nor do I want to infringe on parental judgement; meaning, if you are a parent and you have your rules about make-up for your children, that is your prerogative and not what this post is about. Thirdly, this post is about women and the sexism/objectification they face. If you are a man who wears make-up, I applaud you, but I want to keep this about women, since I am a woman who has experienced the following mentalities and cannot speak for men.
Expanding on the first given definition that a woman who wears a noticeable amount of make-up is simply seeking attention and affirmation to compensate for her own low self-worth is deeply concerning. This is not to say there are not women who do this. Same is true for anyone; we all have areas we lack for which we compensate. However, to evaluate a woman solely based on the amount of product on her face in this light, is extremely presumptuous, not to mention a grossly inaccurate measurement style. My question to people who think in this manner is, “what is the ratio of make-up amount to self-esteem?” The answer is, there is none.
The second given definition of make-up is that it is “unnatural” and thereby, it discourages a woman to embrace herself without it. An interesting discussion point, brought up by a friend of mine and co-author of this blog, is the idea that women should love themselves without make-up. However, even that statement by itself still emphasises the outward beauty notion, which nullifies the point that is merely frivolous and insignificant. Although, I agree that women should love themselves beyond their appearance, not putting effort into how one looks can be just as shallow as applying make-up. On the contrary, the time and energy spent on looking a certain way can also be a testimony to our deeper identities. Loving oneself is a mentality which only that person can define for oneself. If taking a relaxing bath is enjoyable to a person and gives them a sense of inner peace, it is not up to their neighbour to say it is not fulfilling to said person.
A common subcategory of this definition is that make-up is “deceptive”. What about purple eyeshadow is deceiving? I find this mentality not only insulting to the intelligence of people in general, since no one truly believes women are born with full winged eyeliner and purple eyeshadow, but it also plays into this idea that a woman is defined by her looks, and can perpetuate this poor evaluation style labelling her as “promiscuous” or “pure” in proportion to what she puts on her face. Is it deception when a woman who wears make-up is not overtly promiscuous? What about the ones who wear little to none; are they presenting an inaccurate portrait of virtue if they’re not actually virgins? This notion dangerously comes close to the same root as the one which blames women for being raped due to their clothing choices.
Thirdly is the view that make-up somehow affects men. It is interesting to look at this via commentary from heterosexual men who find it necessary to label a girl wearing make-up as one who is seeking their attention/approval. The idea that women are automatically more worldly, sexual, and/or insecure because of the amount of product on her face is ridiculous. I find this a common occurrence in my own experience, and I have received remarks concerning this. It usually takes the form of a backhanded compliment to say I am prettier without the make-up, or it comes from a sexual view as if I was aiming to please. Quite frankly, both mentalities are sexist and objectifying. It is sexist because these men would not tell another man, “dude, the beard makes you look desperate.” It comes from a place where a woman is there to look the look and walk the walk for a man’s advantages, and he has the obligation to define and address this.
Newsflash, the world does not always revolve around men, least of all does my lip colour.
So what is it about women wearing make-up that incites unsolicited judgement on her character? In my humble opinion, people are constantly striving to understand the world around us, to decipher one another as a means to understand ourselves. When we see someone who exerts a certain style and/or attitude, we immediately make evaluations about them. This is both natural and neutral. However, when it crosses the boundaries of our own personal thoughts into words to try to change someone else’s choices, that can be a problem, especially when it is unsolicited. There is a fine line between giving someone constructive criticism to help them on their journey to becoming happier and healthier people, and merely manipulating them to fit into our ideals.
Whether a woman wears make-up or not, in whatever capacity, it is a choice of her own discretion. She has the right and the privilege to do so without scrutiny. If it seems she is “trying too hard to impress,” that still is her prerogative. As a lover of make-up, it is my suit I wear every day for the the business to which I attend, much like a uniform worn for a job. It is the face I choose to show the world. It is the same idea that we put our best foot forward, and everyone is more than their looks. The same is true for those who do not wear make-up; their identity is far deeper than the clothes they wear, the hair they sport, or the make-up they choose not to wear.
In conclusion, to wear or not to wear make-up is up to the individual, and it comes down to personal reason and method. I want to encourage this notion I have said before, dig deeper; try not to look at what someone is, but actually see them for who they are beyond the box of ideals into which you want them to fit. It is another way to break the mentality of objectifying people. By humanising them, you too, will be more human.
Dialogue: Both Literal & Hypothetical
“Wow, your eyeliner is so thick, you can barely see your beautiful eyes.”
- Thank you for your opinion. I’ll file it in the section of passive-aggressive judgements on my life decisions.
“Why do you wear so much make-up? You’re so pretty without. You don’t need to feel insecure.”
- No comment because I’m too insecure to waste my breath.
“You don’t need to try so hard. If a guy likes you for you, the make-up doesn’t matter.”
- If it doesn’t matter, then why is this even a conversation?
“Just because everyone else is…”
“I prefer natural girls, like next-door neighbour girls.”
- That’s wonderful, I’m sure there is a girl next-door to whom you can give your unsolicited preferences.
“Make-up is so expensive and bad for your skin anyway.”
- Let’s not point fingers at one another for how we spend our money. I am sure all of us have “unhealthy” guilty pleasures that drain our banks from time to time.
“You take way too long in the mirror; you could be doing so many better things.”
- I also could be doing worse things like drinking late last night because I thought I’d only need 15 minutes to get ready… oh wait, people actually do this.
“Careful, you don’t want to give men the wrong impression.”
- Are we going to come back to the notion that men rape women because of what they wear or put on their face?