As part of the BBC’s ‘100 Women’ feature, they have an article up on their website entitled ‘Is make-up a feminist issue?’. I was immediately drawn to it, and it is certainly a very interesting and thought-provoking topic.
The article, found here, is short but concise, and covers differing viewpoints. However, the writer pretty much sums up my view in her opening sentence: ‘I see make-up as a natural extension of self-expression, but not everyone agrees wearing it is so straightforward’. I see make up as exactly that – a way to express myself and in order to have an effect on me and my actions. Harriet Hall, the author of the article, is definitely right though when she adds that not everyone sees wearing make up in this way.
I’ve noticed this myself, especially as I didn’t start wearing make up properly until I was about 18. Now, I wear it every day to work, and my family will always comment if they think I’ve got too much on, because it has negative connotations. A woman who wears lots of make-up can be seen as trying too hard, trying to cover something up, or perceived as having a questionable profession. Despite none of these applying to me, people around me still feel they can comment on my make-up, lest other people perceive any of these things to be true. Similarly, when I was about 15, an older member of my family questioned whether I was wearing lipstick, in a shocked tone. I wasn’t – I just have quite dark lips – but that has stuck with me. The idea that a teenager might be wearing lipstick is normal to me, but obviously not for others. It is perceived as being ‘mature’ and even ‘feisty’ by some people, and this then reflects on their opinion of people.
This simply shouldn’t be the case. In the vast majority of cases, a woman (or a man) wears make-up for their own reasons, whether that be for confidence, to alter appearance, or simply to feel like you look good. The idea of wearing make-up to impress others, in particular men, is from a very limited time in history, as shown in the article. It is not the case now, and it was not the case in Ancient Egypt – where both genders wore kohl eyeliner – nor in Ancient China and Japan, where both men and women stained their nails. Even in a more modern France, men and women both wore wigs, powdered their faces, and drew on beauty spots until the French Revolution in 1789.
The negative connotations that go alongside wearing make-up seem to be a remnant of a largely patriarchal society. However, as feminism, or equality between the genders, is becoming ever more the norm, shouldn’t these preconceptions be fading out? It is understandable that things will not just change with immediate effect, although that would of course be good. But there’s a general feeling that we probably should have come a bit further by now, that anyone should be allowed to express themselves through their make-up (or their hair style, or whatever), without being judged or having others form unfair misconceptions about them.
There are so many people on YouTube and in the bloggersphere who are really expressing themselves through make-up, showing that wearing it doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone else. This is admirable, even brave, in the society that we live in. And we should all be more like that – myself included – because at the end of the day, it should be your own opinion that matters, NOT anyone else’s.