Some Thoughts on Makeup and Feminism

I was never one to wear a lot of makeup, so I don’t always read articles about makeup or beauty. But this one caught my attention today. Refinery29 published an article on “10 Ways to Find Feminism in Your Beauty Routine,” and I really appreciate everything it has to say.

Since I don’t wear makeup frequently, I’m already doing number 10 on the list: “go a week, or even a day,” without makeup. Done! I’ll go weeks without it because I usually only wear makeup when I have somewhere important or exciting to go. While I’m proud of this decision, I came at it not from a feminist or love-you-for-who-you-are way, though I absolutely believe that, but from a more self-deprecating perspective: I just figured it wouldn’t help, so why bother spending the time. I’m glad my end result is the same, but I still need to change my way of thinking.

Tricky thing is, I actually love makeup. I love playing with it (it ties into my love of costuming), and I especially love buying it, even though it’s expensive and I don’t use it enough to warrant the price. And I hate that it’s hygienically safer to buy new makeup every three months. That’s crazy, and probably something invented by the makeup manufacturers so I’ll give them more of my money.

I also find it difficult lately that the current makeup trend is more neutral colors, beiges and browns and tans, because that’s not what I think makeup is for. I love color! I like colors that bring out my blue eyes, and I love playing with different colors. Just like the walls in my apartment: why have white, off-white, or beige when you can have purple, orange, or green? I’ll never go back to white walls again.

I especially love numbers 3 and 9 in this list. Number 3 says to be aware of how makeup is advertised. “The images of women used in advertising and media write the script for our culture,” it says, and we can effect change if we promote the right messages. Number 9 warns us not to judge other women. Everyone’s entitled to wear whatever they want and hold up their own standards of beauty. I would also add that the opposite is true: don’t feel like you have to wear what other people are wearing just because it’s “in fashion.” Take that, neutral colors!

Women often have more power than we think, and the products we choose to buy and how we use them can do a lot for wielding that power. We should exercise our choices, while we have them, in every way we can.


(I know I promised a gif session today, but I ran into a couple complications. It’s coming though. Update: it’s here.)

3 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Makeup and Feminism

  1. Ah, cosmetics: the bane of far too many women. My mother was the worst kind of victim to this trend, even though she was one of the best make-up instructors to many, many women. You may not remember, but in the early 1980s, not long after she stopped go-go dancing, she got into make-up design and colour training for women (and the rare man) who wanted to learn what “season” they were and wear the best colours for their colouring. This is important: one of the reasons that Lupita Nyong’o looks so incredible. She knows exactly what colours to wear. She can also wear colours that us milky-white folks could never get away with: day-glow orange, turquoise, bright highlighter yellow, etc.. The reason? Her beautiful mahogany skin! Those colours accent her, whereas if I wore them, no one’d see me, just the shirt/dress/whatever. Fortuitously, I really couldn’t stand to wear orange anyway.

    My mother was never one to work, but this was a particularly good job for her! She loved it, was exceptional at it, and made a good living doing it. She had training through Jerome Alexander, one of the highest classes of cosmetics extant, and soaked up this knowledge. But these things tend to get out of hand so fast, and so it was for her. She became so obsessed with wearing cosmetics that she refused to leave the house without putting her “face on”, a process that took far longer than one would believe. We’d be late to just about every event under the sun because of this. And this process started with base make-up, astringents, layers upon layers of cosmetics. Oddly enough, she looked GREAT, not like Tammy Faye Bakker, but it was too much to go through.

    Ma also hated that I was the diametric opposite: no make-up. No one could ever describe me as a girly-girl. To this day, I only dust off my Jerome Alexander stuff for the very rarest events: maybe a wedding, if I really feel like doing this, or a funeral. Maybe to go into the city. On average, I wear cosmetics once every two years. But I have the fountain of youth: the oiliest damn skin ever. Of a system rating skin from -4 (dry as Antarctica) to 4 (wet as the Amazon), I’m a 4. I hated it when I was a teen – you could see the T-zone shining like the sea by 10:00! But I found that when I reached my 30s, I looked 20. When I turned 40, people couldn’t believe it. Even now (providing I don’t smile) I look 35. I’m actually just shy of 47. Oily skin? I love it! But cosmetics? No, I can’t be bothered.

    The other thing that is a bane about it is the “crap effect”, as I call it. If one wears this stuff all the time, and then one day one forgoes it, suddenly everyone says, “Oh, you look like crap! Are you sick?!” As a result, one is trapped into having to always wear X amount of cosmetics. But I look like me all the time. I am not attractive and quite frankly, I don’t have the time, interest or inclination to pull off the impossible and turn myself into Michelle Pfeiffer (not that I could!). This is the face you get, love it, hate it, or indifferent to it.

    Not very flexible, am I? Actually, I’m very much a fan of change and flexibility, just not about this particular topic.

    It is the Tammy Faye Bakkers of the world that really turn me off to the whole concept. Not that one MUST take it that terribly far, but it is surprising how many do. As for colours, not everyone is meant to wear neutrals. Those are some of the worst colours for me, and I am sure that as a Summer, they’re not meant for you, either. As a Winter, I’m very fortunate: I love all the colours that I wear: black, white, dark cold blues, purple, true red (meaning no orange/yellow tones), hunter green, burgundy, etc.. You’d have to look up Summer colours to know for certain, but if I recall correctly, light blues, lights colours in general are great for you. I don’t think warm tones are any better for you than me, but I look remarkably poor in the light, cool tones you can wear. But with few exceptions, I really don’t wear those colours.

    So there is no reason why you should ever wear neutral colours! Good news, eh? Fashionistas don’t know everything.

    • I remember when your mom was doing the seasons thing. That was quite the fashion then. 🙂

  2. […] more for her writing than mine). I tried my hand at writing How To’s, listicles, and hacks, and I wrote about and referred to something someone else wrote or created. There’s still more I want to learn, of […]

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