There’s a lot of emphasis in mainstream feminism on being pretty. Which might sound strange – after all, you’d think feminists would be the least likely group of people to care about being pretty – but it’s true. Whether it comes from women trying to dispel the myth that all feminists are hairy lesbians; or whether it’s women claiming back their right to wear lipstick, mainstream feminists are convinced that their ability to draw the perfect eyeliner wing will save the world.
It’s an idea that’s become known as ‘weaponised femininity’. The idea that by embracing the beauty standards forced upon women and using them as a form of powerful self-expression, women are somehow one-upping the patriarchy. The idea that the ultimate women is sexy AND strong. It’s an incredibly problematic idea.
[bctt tweet=”There’s this idea that the ultimate woman is strong AND sexy. That idea is bullshit.” username=”oawoodward”]
I’m sure it comes from a good place. It’s meant to encourage women to dress, and subsequently behave, however they like. It’s meant to dispel the myth that girls who wear makeup are ditzy, vapid, and vain. It’s meant to reduce the dichotomy between pretty girls and strong, intelligent, fierce girls. It’s meant to reclaim this patriarchal tool as our own – turning it from something forced upon us to something we have embraced, in the same way that other oppressed groups have reclaimed slurs.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.
Yes, women are allowed to wear makeup. Hell, I myself spend large amounts of time and money on makeup. I enjoy the wonder of seeing my face transform using powders and creams and glosses. Doing my makeup is the one time that I can kid myself I’m artistic. But I’m fully aware that my decision to wear makeup is not my own. Not really.
It is impossible to remove a personal decision to wear makeup from the context of the world. As much as I would love to believe that I only wear makeup because I like it, I know it’s not true. I wear makeup because it makes life easier for me. It gets me better service in restaurants. It makes me more likely to get a promotion, or even a job in the first place. In a world where celebrities are slammed for going to the supermarket without foundation on, it’s no wonder that my self-worth is so often defined by how much mascara I’m wearing. As as long as we’re living in a world that’s weighted in favour of girls who wear makeup, my decision to powder my face will not be my own.
So wear as much makeup as you like. Walk around Waitrose as if you’re walking down a runway. Spend an hour every morning trying to get your eyeliner flicks even. That’s fine. It’s allowed. But remember that it’s not a feminist action. Your makeup is not liberating anyone and your lipstick is not powerful.
[bctt tweet=”Your makeup isn’t liberating anyone, and your lipstick is not powerful” username=”oawoodward”]