Saturday, October 13, 2012

Makeup as Identity

To begin with, let me just say that I have watched the Miss Representation documentary, and I thought it was really good. Like, awesome. It should be shown in every school, everywhere. And although I knew most of what they were saying, I'm really really glad it's all there together in a resource that can easily be shown to people who don't know about sexism in the media, and it's all explained in simple language that everyone can understand. That is one of the most important things about feminism now, I think - because feminist theory can get very, very dry and dense. And no average person would be able to decipher it, if people who genuinely know a lot about it have trouble. So, hooray for that.

I also subscribe to the e-newsletter they send out every week/fortnight/something. And so far, so good - they are encouraging everyone to spread awareness, become aware of female role models and encourage them, and other awesome empowering stuff. They recently had a competition where people wrote in suggesting an action or campaign that they thought could benefit women/feminism. The action that won was from a school-age girl who suggested "Fresh-Faced Friday", in which anyone was encouraged to participate. It began with the idea that each Friday, women should go without makeup in order to lessen their addiction to wearing it, and to make them feel like they don't have to wear it. It has since grown into a "Take 5", where participants choose to lessen the amount of makeup they wear by taking five aspects away from it, for example; five products, five dollars, or five minutes.

While I can see where they're coming from, and there is an immense pressure on women to look a certain way based on society's ideals (duh, this is feminism 101) I feel the campaign is really making the issue look black and white, when it is very, VERY complicated.

When the idea is spread that it is the women themselves who need to change what they are doing - by wearing less makeup - I feel this is putting the pressure on entirely the wrong people. It is society who expects women to look a certain way. Therefore, the pressure should be put on society to change their expectations, rather than on the women who are the victims of expectation. Everyone should be taught not to judge women for lack of makeup or grooming. If this were some sort of event in a workplace, for instance, where the employees decided to all wear no makeup together in order to inform their bosses that they should not be required to wear makeup to do their jobs, then yes, this statement would make sense. But just asking random women to wear less makeup? What type of message does this send?

Sure, it should be encouraged that if you don't want to wear makeup, you don't have to. But nobody can possibly blame a woman for feeling like she needs to wear makeup, in a world that constantly tells her she needs to wear makeup.

Moreover, not everyone is the type of person who hates wearing makeup but feels obliged to due to social pressures. SOME people are like that. A lot more women feel that their makeup is self expression. Makeup can be fun, and empowering. Makeup is tied irrevocably to many women's identities. Makeup can be your armor (to quote Arabelle, one of my feminist heroes.) I mean, sure, there's pressure to wear makeup, but once you wear too much makeup, or the wrong type of makeup, there is another type of anger directed towards you, as any fan of black lipstick knows. In that situation, makeup can be a form of rebellion. And it is no one's place to make you feel like your particular form of rebellion is wrong and making women less empowered.

For anyone who has scarring or a visible disability, makeup can mean so much more than just 'looking pretty', and I feel like this campaign completely disregards that. I understand it's coming from a simple place, but I feel like the adults who run this campaign should maybe have taken more care to educate the high-schoolers who are being influenced by it. It is a very prevalent high school attitude to shame the girls who wear makeup and short skirts by exclaiming how "normal looking" and "indie" you are, and that type of polarising behavior does absolutely nothing to help feminism. It creates divides between women who judge each other based on their appearance.

That said... I mean, I get what they're doing. I just think they're going about it the wrong way.

Educate the CEO's, the bosses, the managers who fire women who don't wear makeup, and who make it part of their workplace agreement that women have to wear heels and skirts. Those are the people who need to change, not the women.


  1. I feel the same as you do. The video is the step in the right direction but there is much more that needs to be said and done. Instead of the wear less make-up message the message should be to question if you are wearing make-up for the right reasons.

  2. I agree on the making women wear skirts and heels thing. You look rad in the blue lipstick by the way.