The other day, I saw this image on one of the many evil no-fun humourless online feminist groups I frequent:
After I’d finished giggling, I started thinking about my own relationship with makeup, and how it’s changed as I’ve got older and become more involved and interested in feminism. (I realise the “can you wear makeup and still be a feminist?!11one” discussion is so very overdone, but eh, I’ve never claimed that this blog would be full of fresh exciting hot takes. I’m not even sure what a hot take is.)
When I was little, I hated makeup. I mean, seriously hated it. I once swore a deadly oath that I would never, EVER wear makeup. (I guess this makes me an oathbreaker. Oops.)
You can’t deny it’s a good look
Why was I so against makeup? Well, because at that time, George from The Famous Five was my role model in pretty much everything. And George hated girly stuff like makeup, pink and dresses, so I hated them too.*
The problem with idolising George is that George is a giant misogynist, who thinks very little of other girls:
George glowed. She liked Julian to say she was like a boy. She didn’t want to be petty and catty and bear malice like many girls did.
(And yes, I know that this quote implies #NotAllGirls, and that Anne immediately speaks up and tells George “It isn’t only boys that can learn to give in decently, and things like that…Heaps of girls do.” Nevertheless, George’s perspective on life is unshakeably anti-girl, and her efforts to be more like a boy are always coded as making her better and more interesting than other girls in the series – including Anne).
I drifted into makeup as a teenager, mostly because it was just A Thing You Did, but I was never enthusiastic about it. I may never have owned a Malibu Stacey, but I assumed that you wore makeup to look pretty so boys would like you – except I didn’t look pretty and boys didn’t like me, so what was the point?
It wasn’t until about ten years and a lot of engagement with feminism later that I finally got it. Makeup isn’t for anyone else. It’s for the person wearing it, and them only. And it can be a goddamn art form.
I started looking at makeup blogs and tutorials, and marvelling over the creativity and talent I saw there. And then I saw these, and my geeky little heart grew three sizes:
Credit to Jangsara
I don’t wear makeup every day – it’s something I do when I want to – but I’ve been experimenting with different styles, and even come up with a few geek-inspired themes of my own. For example, this is today’s, my Vampire Queen makeup:
Not the best picture, I know (my camera is strictly amateur), and not the best makeup, either (I’m strictly amateur, too) – but I’m still proud of this. I chose the colours carefully; the eyeshadow is red, grey and black, because…
…those are the colours of a Vampire Queen.
Here’s how it looks with my actual face, and I’m pretty pleased with it. It makes me feel like I could make foolish mortals cower with just a glance, which is my general aim in life. (I’ve also got a Princess Bubblegum and a Flame Princess theme planned. If only I had more eyes…wait, no).
Hel Gurney wrote a fantastic poem that I always think about whenever I’m having these thoughts on makeup, or clothes, or other things that have been coded in a way that makes it difficult to separate them from stereotyping, but which can be an important and powerful part of self-expression. When I wear makeup, and when I don’t, I’m not thinking of anyone else – in both cases, I’m doing it for me.
Sorry, Damian. It sounds like you need a better way to pass your time on the train. I’d recommend knitting.
*An aside; I don’t actually think that makeup, pink and dresses are “girly stuff” – they’re not for any gender in particular. But they’re coded as “for girls” in current society, and at the time, I didn’t think any further than that.