Recently, a friend of mine had shared a video of a man applying makeup (and totally slaying it, by the way) on his social media. Despite keeping more open minded company, the post opened a can of worms in the comments that I’m all too familiar with. It started predictably enough, with some people expressing their distaste for men wearing makeup, a feeling rooted heavily in misogyny. Then, of course, the discourse devolved into what an acceptable amount of makeup for someone to wear is, what acceptable reasons for a person to wear makeup are, and other such nonsensical drivel.
Before I get into it, yes, this topic gets me heated very easily because not only is it an affront to the idea of bodily autonomy, but it’s also a topic that affects me very personally. When I was 10, I developed trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder, and pulled out all of my eyelashes and eyebrows. Until I was allowed to wear makeup in high school, I was bullied excessively by my peers and classmates for not having eyebrows, and was even made fun of to an extent by the few friends I had. Even when I started wearing makeup, I was bad at it, and continued to be an outcast. It wasn’t until adulthood until I really started to grow into myself and be able to make myself into someone I could look at in the mirror and not hate.
Some several years ago I attended makeup school, and we were required to show up to class bare-faced. It was scary at first, as someone who spent most of my adolescent and adult life not being able to leave the house without even a basic layer on. But that’s the experience that made me realize that, as an adult, I’m not some crazy looking freak without makeup on. However, it didn’t change the fact that I enjoy wearing makeup and I enjoy having the ability to make myself look exactly how I want to. And everyone should have that freedom and ability if they want to, whether it be through makeup, hair dye, fashion choices, or even other, more permanent means.
So, I absolutely wear makeup for the “wrong” reasons, to hide my flaws and be more socially acceptable. And those are my very valid reasons, they’re just as valid as someone wearing makeup because it’s fun. You don’t get to decide for me, or anyone else, what the “right” reason to wear makeup is.
But I don’t like when women wear makeup! They’re lying to me! First of all, that says more about you than it does about anyone else in this world who wears makeup or otherwise. I’m not to blame if you’re too stupid to realize my eyelids aren’t naturally sparkly and that skin isn’t naturally poreless and porcelain. You’re also assuming I’m wearing makeup for your benefit, which, spoiler alert, I’m not. If you don’t like it when other people wear makeup (an action that actually has zero effect on you), then don’t involve yourself with people who wear makeup. Simple.
Less is more and people should embrace their natural beauty. That’s fine and all if everyone were naturally “beautiful” (which is entirely subjective based on societal norms and individual preferences). But acne, unsightly birthmarks, scarring, hair loss, asymmetrical features, those are things that all exist. And while, ideally, we as a society should accept everyone as they are, we don’t in reality. It’s a sad truth, but even if it wasn’t the case, people should still be allowed to change what they dislike about themselves without criticism.
But look how beautiful (insert celebrity here) is without makeup on! Reality check, bub. You know that Rolling Stone cover featuring Adele that gained so much popularity because oh my god, look how gorgeous she is without makeup on? Yeah? You know she was actually wearing makeup, right? And that the image is edited on top of that? Oh. You didn’t know? You sweet summer child…
Look. I work as a makeup artist. I’ve worked on movies, commercials, editorial photoshoots, bridal parties, and proms. I can tell when someone is wearing makeup, even the most minuscule amount. Adele was wearing a lot of it on that Rolling Stone cover. Do you really want to see celebrities sans makeup? Look in a shitty tabloid, all those paparazzi photos of celebrity women looking sickly and pale, with dark eye circles and splotchy skin tone… that’s what they really look like without makeup on.
But we should be seeking to dismantle the oppressive structures that force women into wearing makeup! It’s nice to hate the societal structures in place that lead to my story, but kids will almost always be mean, and our heavily gendered, incredibly misogynistic societal views unfortunately won’t be going away any time soon. We can still always actively fight against it, but oftentimes the individuals get bulldozed in the process. I don’t think that telling someone the reason they decorate their body a certain way is not the right reason, or lamenting that an individual ended up in that situation, or anything like that, is the way to go about it.
The bottom line is that everyone should be allowed to wear makeup, if they so choose, without being scrutinized. The next time you find yourself criticizing someone’s makeup and not: their hair color/cut, their tattoos or piercings (yes, even ear piercings), their body (if they work out a lot or have had some sort of plastic surgery), the clothes they choose to wear, or anything else about their person that has literally no impact on your life, you need to shut up and check yourself. Remind yourself that their bodily adornments don’t affect you, that they probably don’t care about your crusty opinion, and move on with your life.
(cover photo from freeimages.com)