The Cosmetics Debate – Should Feminists Wear Makeup?
I have always been a fan of makeup. Not because I think I particularly need to wear it; not being smug about it but I’ve been blessed with fairly clear skin and even skin tone. No, I wear makeup because I like the way I feel when I’m wearing it. I feel confident in it. I feel like a motherplucking rockstar to tell you the truth. By this I don’t mean a little concealer under the eye; when I do things I go big. I have bleached blonde hair, very fair skin and bright red lips. In short, if Debbie Harry and Marilyn Monroe had a very unfortunate looking love child that would be me. I’ve been dying my hair since I was about 14. Now at 21 my shock of over sized 80s style blonde is as much a part of Laura as my penchant for tea, hatred of the patriarchy and smug satisfaction gained from correcting other people’s grammar.
I recently read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf and this got me thinking: as a feminist, should I really be altering my appearance? Have I really been socialized in to believing that every hair should be plucked from my body, the hairs on my head should be bleached to within an inch of their lives and my spots concealed under a semi-permanent layer of concealer? Yes, I have.
This is terrible. I am a victim of a society in which women strive for an unrealistic perfection. In every shop window there’s a digitally enhanced image of unhealthily thin young women with absolutely perfect skin, tits, hair and clothes. I stand there in the rain in my £23 Primark parka and ripped jeans with my mascara running down my face, hoping against hope that one day soon I’ll have a flash of motivation and actually go to that gym I’m paying Richard Branson £50 a month for membership of. Maybe if I work my little backside off and use fake tan I too will look these ethereal creatures. This is an industry that destroys the self esteem of women on a daily basis – we spend a ridiculous amount on cosmetics in this country. I wager you will not be able to find a woman who is not in some way dissatisfied with the cards she’s been dealt in the looks department.
What have I done since making this realisation? Well, not a whole lot to tell you the truth. I can’t remember where I heard this quote but I feel its fitting: “You can wear makeup when you realise you don’t have to.” I don’t have to wear makeup. I can go out without it, although I do feel a bit naked. The first thing I did was go in to university without makeup on for a bit. There were few “are you okay? You look very tired” conversations but if that’s the worst they can throw at me then that’s okay. Maybe I should just sleep more. It was uncomfortable at first but after a few days I got used to it. I stopped feeling so naked. I don’t need to wear makeup any more. Personally, I believe that women are unfairly subjected to the expectation of perfection but as long as you’re happy in yourself then a little bit of lippy can’t really do any harm. It’s when you begin to rely on it that it becomes problematic.
I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people, particularly with people who also describe themselves as a feminist. One of the arguments is that, to quote one particularly ardent acquaintance of mine: “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem! We should all boycott the industry and break the vicious cycle! No women should wear make up! Ever!” Whilst I see his point I have to disagree. We have been socialized for the whole of our lives. You can’t then ostracize women for doing what they’ve been brought up to believe is normal. That is the exact opposite of feminism as far as I’m concerned. We are here to promote the freedom of choice: if you want to choose to be a stay at home mother then that’s fine as long as you’ve made an informed decision on the matter, I’m not gonna judge you for that. Equally, if I want to wear my MAC Russian Red on an unusually regular basis, leave me to it. I’ve made my decision.
Live and let live mon amis. Fight for our rights to political, economic and social equality. And let me wear mascara if I want to. Rant over.
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