This post is one in a short series about makeup, femininity, and feminism.
“God, it’s so ugly when girls put on mascara without eyeliner.”
My friend said this to me in passing one day at school. We were sixteen. I watched as the other girl passed, thinking that had my friend not said anything, I wouldn’t have noticed her lack of eyeliner.
That weekend, I looked at a photo taken of me, eyeliner-less, and wondered if she thought me less beautiful then.
“I just don’t get why you would put on foundation without blush. You just look so fake like that.”
I sat with two friends at a table, thinking about my makeup bag and its lack of blush. I just couldn’t figure out how to put it on without looking like a Raggedy Ann doll.
In that moment, I wondered if my friends thought the same of me.
“I didn’t put on makeup at all today. Well, except my eyebrows. I’m not a savage.”
I opened up this snapchat on a lazy afternoon. I laughed in the moment, and sent my friend a photo of my usual naked face.
Later that night, I stared at my rarely plucked, never-made-up eyebrows in the mirror, wondering if she saw me, too, as a savage.
I don’t wear much makeup, and I never really have. This is partly because I don’t really like how I look with a lot on, and partly because I just don’t know how to do it. But statements like this still manage to sting, even though I’m 22 now and pretty confident in my appearance.
Makeup is such a personal thing for so many people. For some, doing their makeup gives them confidence. It gives them the opportunity to control how the world sees them, allows them another way to project who they are. There can be so much personal power in the ways we use makeup.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of destructive power in it, too. It gives us the power to make others feel insecure. In the wrong hands, it can be a tool of oppression, like when women are told that they are not beautiful without it, or when men are told they are weak with it. And a lot of times, it’s tiny little things from the mouths of our friends and allies that leave us feeling like this.
We’ve got to watch ourselves for statements like this. There is no reason to pick at minuscule parts of each other’s appearances. Those tiny little comments pile up, and make us look at ourselves as less than the perfect, beautiful people that we are.
It stings for me to hear other people judged for how they’ve put on their makeup. I was never taught how to do mine. And sure, you could argue that YouTube and beauty bloggers exist, and there’s no reason for me to not know. But it’s still kind of painful for me to watch those videos, and I’m content with the way I do my makeup now. I think I look beautiful with makeup on. I think I look beautiful without makeup on, too. But it took me a very long time to get to that point, and for a lot of other people, it’s a struggle to have to get up and look at their naked face while they put on their makeup.
What I’m saying is-be gentle. And think about how what you say affects those around you.