Make up is fascinating stuff. There is a strange kind of freedom in it being socially acceptable to apply a painted mask to your face before you head off into the outside world each day, but it is also rather odd that this is only widely acceptable within certain gendered restrictions. Adult women without make up are sometimes frowned upon, and men with even the slightest hint of eyeliner or lip gloss wouldn’t be able to show their face in most work places. Although many feminists frown on the use of make up – or, more specifically, the social pressure on women to wear it – I have no such qualms because I realise that wearing cosmetics is a choice. Like many things, a lot of women don’t realise it is a choice or don’t yet have the courage to challenge the norm, but I have met many successful and beautiful women who get on just fine without the stuff. Hopefully many more will realise this over time.
In addition, I totally agree with Laura Barnett who pointed out in a post about make up in The Guardian’s Women’s Blog last month that she believed most women don’t go through this expensive routine simply to please men. They apply the stuff for themselves, or in order to impress other make-up-wearing females. As a teenager, I used to hate cosmetics and would rarely wear anything on my face other than moisturiser. Then I tried mascara and discovered I had very long lashes which hardly show normally because the tips are blonde. Then I discovered concealer for my spots and powder to dull the shine of my freshly moisturised skin. Then I found out that eyeshadow in the right shade made my eyes stand out and, when I dyed my hair red, darkening my eyebrows with brown pencil made me look a bit more… finished. Every little thing I have tried over the years has now been condensed into a short morning or evening routine that helps me to prepare myself for what’s to come. It’s five minutes of painting that, like a child with a colouring-in book, helps me to switch my brain off a bit and focus. I don’t have to do all the steps, but even just doing one thing is as much a part of my morning now as having breakfast.
I have to admit though, one part of my make up regime could indeed be a response to the reactions of others, including men. Part of the reason I rarely wear lipstick is because I get fewer kisses when I’m wearing something that will leave its mark. To be honest, it’s also because I like it perfect and am too lazy to reapply throughout the day – I already spend quite enough time looking in the mirror as it is! – but the lack of kisses was the last straw. This is, however, still a purely selfish reason. If I wear my MAC Ruby Woo lippy, it’s because I want to get noticed, hide my tiredness, or compliment my outfit – if I don’t, it’s because I’m lazy. Either way, it’s a little feminist ‘fuck you’ to anyone who tells me what to do with my face. My make up is still a choice, which makes it even more of a shame when it’s not to some people.