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Women and men have been painting their faces since ancient times, gradually writing off men who wear makeup as gay and promoting women who wear makeup as beauty queens. Now, some men dare to wear makeup, and women dare not to. Our consumption-based society hammers out our gendered appearances every day. Men are essentially asked only to take a shower and shave, but women are asked to become the better versions of themselves.
This is just ludicrous. We mix waxes and oils together to enhance our natural skin tones, elongate our thin little lashes, plump out our lips, brighten our cheeks, on and on until we are merely a step closer to self-satisfaction.
Here’s the tricky thing: I love wearing makeup. I started wearing makeup in seventh grade, just eyeliner that I would keep in my backpack and put on during the morning snack break so my parents didn’t see. And now, at 20, I have my daily routine down. I’m in sleep mode until I’ve put my face on. When I leave the house for class or work or a night out, I feel confident because I have manipulated my features to represent myself in a way that makes me feel good in my skin.
I am addicted to seeing my “true” self as one made by makeup, and I don’t want to stop. On days when my hair is clean and my post-period skin is lookin’ fresh, I push myself to just wear mascara — that’s the no-makeup-version me. I don’t want the feeling of overpowering bushy brows and a blemished nose to occupy my day with insecurity; I want to cover it up and feel good enough about my appearance, so that my other qualities can take action throughout the course of my day.
I know, I know — accepting the whole beauty thing is, in part, submission to patriarchal standards and obedient to housewife-tradition portrayals of women. The true feminist in me wants to say, “Fuck the patriarchy. I’m a natural bombshell.” But the girl in me — who has plenty of insecurities and is challenged by the reality of socialization — feels that makeup has given me a small solution.
So, I’m not telling you to throw out your makeup brushes, because even those who don’t wear makeup put on a brave face in some kind of way every day. But I believe it’s crucial that women begin working with one another to build a higher stature of confidence for natural beauty, by eliminating hateful language in regard to other women, and ceasing to use self-deprecating language in regard to themselves.
My limple (lip-pimple, I know you feel me) doesn’t disappear because I gossip to my girlfriends about another woman’s acne. My hair isn’t less greasy because I mock another woman’s black roots coming into her red-dyed hairdo. I won’t lose that last pound by calling you fat, or by shaming your eating disorder. I am not less of a product by making you more of one.
I won’t stop trying to feel good about myself, even if my effort comes from a historical point of oppression. I won’t deny myself of simple tricks to feel confident. I can’t do that until women stop shaming me for what I look like without makeup. I can’t just put down my paintbrush. But I can work to regain sight of who I am without it.
I feel, just as much as the next girl, how hard it can be to get up in the morning, feeling like you’ll never appear to be the person you so badly want to be. The crooked nose, the big chest, the pancake butt, the big thighs, the pointy chin…we all have these socially-established imperfections. It’s okay. You’re not alone in feeling unworthy at times, or less desirable than the woman next to you. And sure, we have makeup, but no cover-up is so good to alleviate the true pains of the feminine beauty ideal.
The best thing women can do for each other is lift one another up. We are each other’s greatest allies. We could feel so much more beautiful if we could pledge to redefine what that really means. I am not bound to Maybelline mascara, and neither are you. You are more than a plastic cylinder of carbon black pigment and wax. But we won’t solidify this demand without supporting one another to get there.
You are so beautiful, and it’s probably (definitely) not Maybelline. Say it over and over again. You are unique, exuberant, indestructible and important. The makeup you wear does not have to define you, nor do your insecurities. A makeup wipe cannot remove the depth of your character.
If a brush of blush and swipe of liner make you feel good in your skin, there’s nothing wrong with that. But encourage yourself; really push yourself to recognize the beauty within you. It’s more infectious than unkindness towards others or self-deprecation — if you choose to prioritize women and recognize the beauty in our natural selves.