feminism and makeup

Every morning after I take my shower, I drag my worn out makeup case from the top of the bathroom cabinet and proceed with the same beauty routine I’ve had for more than 10 years. I slather heaps of moisturizer on my face followed by my primer, foundation, concealer, eyeliner, mascara, blush and I lightly color in my eyebrows because they are so blond they are practically invisible. I feel exhausted just typing it out. I hate applying it. It is boring applying it and I am not creative or artistic with it so it looks pretty yawn- inducing on my face. I am transformed from tired looking to… Less tired looking. Yet I can’t fathom leaving my house without my face on. Years of damaging blows to my self-esteem and the patriarchal beauty standards play up my insecurities and have left me feeling unworthy of being seen without my painted mask. Can you imagine the string of questions that would come my way without it? “Are you feeling okay?” “Is everything all right?” I’m not just pulling these questions out of thin air. I have a friend who sometimes go bare-faced and she is asked these same questions. She’s beautiful, too. A natural beauty. It’s just that there is an expectation on women to always look complete, whatever that means.

At one of my previous jobs, it was a requirement to wear makeup. No, I didn’t work in the fashion or beauty industry. Just a doctor’s office. It was roped in under the category of Hygiene, though I can’t for the life of me understand why it would be considered unhygienic to go without wearing makeup. Without a full face of makeup, we are considered unpresentable to the world.

People are kinder to you when you have your face on, too. I feel the difference every time I make an outing wearing what I would consider my “weekend makeup” to make myself invisible. This usually consists of only foundation and nothing more. When I say I use it to make myself invisible, I am not kidding. People whisk by me and bump into me without so much as a “sorry”. But when my war paint is on, the world is my oyster! “Can I help you with that?” “Let me get this for you!” The difference is astonishing.

My daughter watches me apply my face sometimes and she asks for some, too. Without thinking, I dot her cheeks with blush and she gazes in the mirror at herself and tells me that she is beautiful. She’s 2. Of course I worry about how the media and our culture will impact her. I vow to teach her all the lessons I am just now learning for myself. In the end, it is hard to pinpoint all the reasons why we wear makeup. And I’m not suggesting you stop wearing makeup (although if you do that is pretty awesome as well!). I don’t plan to do so. I just think it requires some critical thinking. Wearing makeup isn’t a choice made in a vacuum so I think it deserves your thoughts.


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