When people wear makeup, nothing universally true happens except for judgement.

The New York Times, in what is perhaps so characteristically simple-minded it’s almost surprising, published an article on “The Power of the Rouge Pot” two days ago.

The article is in response to a survey that came out recently. It said that when women wear makeup in the workplace it makes them more competent and likable. The Times is suspicious, as they should be, because otherwise there’s nothing else going on in the world to write about. Anyway…it is possible to ask a stupid question and here’s one example:

Some would argue that makeup empowers women, others would say it’s holding them back from true equality… If makeup has indeed become the status quo in the public realm, does it ultimately damage a woman’s self-esteem, or elevate it?

A few things, the first being that using a term like “public realm” does not trick me into believing this article has any academic and/or critical analysis happening, it mostly just draws attention to the negative space in between words like “equality,” “empowers” and “elevate.” My third point, which I will jump to before my second because I just realized this and it’s weird, is that all of these words start with the letter “e.” Was that intentional and is that a requirement for the NYT’s Room for Debate section?

I don’t even know why I read this crap anymore. Wait! I usually don’t. I was referred to this article by Vanessa’s Autostraddle article, “Let’s Queer the NYT ‘Debate’ About Women and Makeup.” She wrote it because, like usual, no one asked any queers what they had to say about makeup but, like, we should be the first people asked because we are the nation of omni-gendered glitter people.

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GLITTER POLITIC

I tried reading Jezebel’s response, but realized I didn’t have enough time after accidentally reading this, “Maybe there are women who truly indeed wear makeup ‘for themselves’… It’s just that I don’t think I’ve ever met any of these women.” I guess you should get yourself on OkCupid and do some goddamn research!

My second point, which I have forgotten, probably had something to do with the actual question the NYT’s article poses, which is something about women, insecurity and makeup. Personally (and obviously), I think it’s crucial we note that lipstick is an inanimate object that some people use but no one can have a conversation with. So, NYT, when you ask if makeup damages self-esteem, I say marketing does because it reflects larger expectations about women and socially acceptable gender presentation that are way beyond anything addressed in your stupid fucking article.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, maybe I should read more than just the introduction. Let’s begin with Natasha Scripture’s “Red Lips Can Rule the World.” It’s starts off well enough, she never leaves the house without makeup and loves red lipstick. My initial concern is that she responds to the NYT’s inquiry as if it were valid, “The point is that a harmless touch of makeup makes me feel better.” Why can’t she just write that it’s no one’s fucking business why she put on concealer today so STFU? But wait… something even more terrible happens, she drops the m-word:

I’ll always be a proponent of a more minimalist approach…I’m fairly certain my first makeup experience involved glitter, sparkle is something I generally eschew these days.

In what might be the biggest tragedy of the entire discussion, Scripture reveals she’s a minimalist that rarely uses glitter. Image

I want more than a pop of color, I want fireworks on my face! Why so judgy, Scripture? Better yet, why so homophobic? Jusssst kidding.

No, I’m not.

Yes, I am.

Moving on to the next article, Scott Barnes’ “Look Your Best, Feel Your Best.” He writes that wearing makeup leads to confidence which “is a good thing to have on the battlefield.” But then he ruins everything in writing, “Don’t give up and fall into self loathing; if you look your best, you feel your best.” I dislike the concept of ‘giving-up,’ particularly when used in a condescending gay dude tone (versus a condescending queer dude tone). Perhaps women can be upset and not up to your beauty standards at the same time, however, life is challenging and threatening a fall into the self-loathing pit is not empowering at all. Why does this conversation have to be about women and self-esteem, why can’t we take the gesture of women wearing makeup at face value and not project pity, suspicion and saccharine self-empowerment buzzwords? Sit down, Scott. I’ve had enough of you. Also, you’re wrong… men can look wonderful in skirts. I bet you would look wonderful in a skirt. Go ahead, put on a skirt. It will make you feel better, don’t give up by letting yourself slip into self-loathing.

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Rebecca Havemeyer

Moving on to Mally Roncal’s “Using Makeup Shows Love for Yourself,” wherein she tells a true story about the assumptions people make about women, confidence and presentation:

Once an acquaintance described another woman to me in this way: “She wears makeup, so you know what that means – she’s insecure.” My immediate reaction was “Do you know who you’re talking to? You’re not only saying that my choice of profession is hurting womanhood, but also that as a female sitting here with, yes, a full face of makeup, I’m also insecure.”

Wait… people make assumptions about women based on how they look? I have never heard of such a thing happening ever. Not. Ever. Thank you, Ms. Roncal, for pointing out what should be so abundantly clear to the NYT’s Room for Debate section editors. I mean this sincerely. Yes, I’m sure wearing eyeliner makes a difference in how people perceive women in the workplace. Yes, if you wear that tightly tailored dress some dick might assume you’re looking for sex, because historically people feel qualified to pontificate about women’s bodies as if they’re experts. Therefore, the issue is not eyeliner, nor blue eyeshadow, but everyone else. If you meet a woman that’s wearing glitter-encrusted fake eyelashes and you assume she’s feeling low today, or that she wants to sex with you, or that she is classless, perhaps you should think about something you’re more qualified to analyze…yourself.

That’s right! When I’m out to coffee and wearing my “Candy Yum-Yum” Barbie-colored lipstick, I expect you to divert your judgment and ask yourself about yourself. “Hello, self! She looks like…she’s having fun! Am I having fun? Maybe I should go for a hike today.”

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2 comments
  1. transboyinterrupted said:

    yes, great article. I am a trans boy who is far too often misread as a woman. my boyfriend said to me yesterday, ‘you’ll be read more as a guy if you stop wearing eyeliner” (I might add that he wears eyeliner too and is never read as a girl, but he’s cis, so he has more leeway than I do). While I admitted that he was right, I asked him if he thought this was fucked up. He readily admitted that it was, and that it sucked, but there was nothing I could do about it. I’m very frustrated. I love boys in eyeliner (I’m a glam rock devotee) so I like the way I look in it (AND the way he looks in it) but I despise being “ma’amed”. The whole situation is enraging.

    • Thanks for your comment! Do you get misread as a woman by other queers or is it more often than not straight people? It says more about the person/their limitations than it does about you, but fuck yeah, I can imagine that’s enraaaaaging.

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