On being bare-faced

Posted on November 21, 2014 under Thoughts

There has been a lot of proverbial ink spilled over women wearing makeup to hide who they really are or to trick men. I hope it’s no surprise that I think this is utter bullshit, for multiple reasons.

  1. I regularly wear dark purple lipstick or colourful eyeshadow. That is the opposite of hiding. That is saying, “LOOK AT THIS AWESOME LIPSTICK I BOUGHT.”
  2. Makeup, for me and many people, is self-expression, not self-repression.
  3. I sure as shit don’t wear makeup for men. Men can’t even tell when you’re wearing makeup. Once one of my male friends told another friend that she didn’t need makeup to be beautiful, and used me as an example of someone who looked good without makeup. I had on concealer, shimmery eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara. There are stories all over the internet of men saying they like Kim Kardashian’s “natural” look. Yeah, nobody naturally has a smokey eye, dude.

But I think in our feminist outrage about self-expression and wearing what we want, we often forget that some people do wear makeup because they want to hide perceived “flaws”, or just because it makes them feel better. For every woman with thick winged liner and bright lips who even those “Kim K wears no makeup!” men can tell are wearing makeup, there are plenty who don’t want it to be noticeable, who wear it because if they’re not worrying about the things they think are wrong with their faces they can focus on everything else.

In a world that is so obsessed with women’s appearances to the point where Renée Zellweger only has to step outside of her house with her face looking a certain way to be the subject of headlines across the internet, can we really blame women for doing what they can to neutralize their appearances? If you want to be taken seriously, if you want to be able to get things done without worrying that everyone is noticing your zits or acne scarring or undereye circles, how can we act as though it’s not a valid choice for women to use makeup to eliminate these concerns? Men don’t have to make these choices; they don’t have to worry about not being taken seriously professionally or personally because of how their faces look.

Just look at this recent thread in r/makeupaddiction, “Why do you wear makeup?” The responses vary, but a lot of them definitely fall into the “It just makes me feel better about myself” camp, with no speak of self-expression or empowerment or any of that jazz.

2014-10-23_22h17_53

2014-10-23_22h16_55

2014-10-23_21h46_05

2014-10-23_21h45_47

2014-10-23_21h45_18

In some of these examples, there is a bit (or a lot) of insecurity expressed, or sense of obligation (not being taken seriously as a professional). In some of them, posters eloquently explain how they use makeup to feel a bit better about themselves, but that liking how you look with makeup doesn’t mean you hate your bare face. This isn’t a black and white situation. There’s a lot of nuance in any discussion of why an individual woman might choose to use cosmetics, or how she feels about her face.

Obviously, obviously, I hate to see women saying they hate their faces and that’s why they use makeup. I hate to see the negative side of something I love, that has been so positive for me, and that I have used to make others happy. I hate that the cosmetics industry has weaponized a woman’s own face to be used against her.

But that’s just it, assholes who want to judge women for “hiding”: nobody’s trying to “trick” you. If women want to hide their faces, it’s because we are told from birth that merely by existing we are doing something wrong. The way our facial features naturally settle when we’re not smiling? Resting Bitch Face. The way our bodies look if we’re not wearing undergarments and shapewear? Unsightly. And let’s not talk about our faces with no makeup. Haggard, ugly, tired, sick. If you want women to stop “hiding”, don’t attack them. Attack the industry that makes them feel like they have to hide in the first place. Or just stop being so obsessed with what women do.

Because here’s the thing: nobody calls men fake for presenting their physical selves in a way that makes them feel powerful, or cool, or just like themselves. Men buy $300 sneakers to look cool, but you don’t see anyone calling them fake, or superficial, or acting as if it’s any of their fucking business what someone else puts on their own body.

Unless you’re doing some extreme Kontouring, you do not look like a fundamentally different person without makeup on. Hell, I’m sure even the Kardashians are recognizable when they wash it all off. Sure, with a full face of makeup my skin is smoother, I have no under-eye circles, and my eyelashes are thicker, longer, and darker – but I’m still me. Makeup does not fundamentally change my face into something unrecognizable, nor does it change who I am as a person.

I don’t mean to downplay the difference makeup makes. Most pictures of me are not how I look when I first roll out of bed. For one thing, I’m not frowning at the fact that I’m conscious. But get past the zits and eyebags and realize that my face looks pretty much the same. I’m not lying to anyone. And if you think there’s anything wrong with my face with no makeup on, that’s on you for thinking there’s something inherently wrong with a woman’s natural face. We are raised to notice flaws in women and ignore flaws in men, which is why nobody thinks men need to wear makeup or that men just naturally age better than women. No – you’re just more critical of women.

That’s why you’re shocked when you see someone’s face underneath their foundation and mascara and eyeshadow and lipstick and a million other products. It’s not because they look so different. It’s not because they’re ugly. It’s because you’re looking for flaws. And, frankly, it’s insulting to say a woman is “hiding” her face when she wears makeup, because the implication is that there’s something wrong with her bare face, that when she takes her makeup off she goes from the pretty girl you fell for to an ugly beast that you wouldn’t have looked at twice if you’d known.

And I guess part two to this post is that I don’t want my blog to be a contribution to this idea that makeup makes you worthy as a person. Makeup, for me, is an art form, a way that I express myself, and just an interest of mine that I want to share. I have friends who love makeup just as much as I do, I have friends who wear just a bit of makeup every day, and I have friends who wear no makeup, ever. I love them all. I don’t judge any of them. I never think any of them are fake, or ugly, or that that they should wear more or less makeup. In the end, it’s just smearing shit on your face. If you’re into that, cool. If not, also cool.

So let’s de-weaponize our own faces. I know it’s easier said than done, but let’s do that cliché fake-it-till-ya-make-it thing of looking in the mirror first thing in the morning and saying, “You’re beautiful,” or, even better, “Your face does not determine your self-worth. But it’s still pretty rad.” Let’s look at pictures of ourselves with no makeup on and think about the positives instead of fixating on the parts of our faces that we don’t like.

10584044_808204595879991_1639706022922487971_n

On this day, I was hanging out with a bunch of my favourite people. I don’t know who said what, but clearly I was enjoying it. After this photo was taken I put on a full face of makeup, had my friend curl my hair, and went out for sushi. Best day ever.

10561683_808203622546755_8041249856891659376_n

This was a beach day with three people who I love (and miss). We splashed around, played Twenty Questions in the sun, and had lunch at a touristy café.

10425177_868899309806840_1395475312854102706_n

Who has time to worry about eyeliner when there are small children to chase around?

So men (and women) who act like women are “fake” or “hiding” who they are for wearing makeup: wake up and realize that not everything is about you. There are so many of us out there who do it for reasons entirely unrelated to insecurity – but there are women who wear makeup because they’re insecure, and they shouldn’t be blamed for that. If you really care, target the heads of cosmetics companies. (You don’t care. You just want another reason to control women.)

Bare faces are just as good as made-up faces, and vice versa. I hope that one day we will live in a world where we all embrace our makeupless faces, and where we only wear makeup because we truly want to and not because we feel obligated to. Until then, I’ll keep rolling my eyes at people who disparage women for putting makeup on, as if it isn’t our right to do what we want and feel how we want about our own faces.

Why start this blog?

Posted on October 20, 2014 under Thoughts

There are a lot of beauty blogs on the internet.

Creating a new one is sort of like shouting into the void. I suppose blogging in general is; it’s assuming that anybody wants to hear your voice, that you have anything to add to the mix.

I want this to be the beauty blog I always wanted to read. One day I realized that I could sit around waiting for someone to create the exact blog I’ve always wanted, or I could do it myself.* Considering that the first scenario seemed extraordinarily, overwhelmingly unlikely, well – here we are. Sometimes you really do have to be the change.

I am interested in cosmetics. I didn’t say “I like cosmetics”, because I think it goes beyond that. I’m interested in the cosmetics industry, in the function of cosmetics in the lives of individuals and in society at large. I’m interested in the marketing and consumption of cosmetics. And, on a more basic level, I just like buying lipstick and smearing things on my face. Sometimes it’s as simple as that!

I know the bad sides of the cosmetics industry. Most of us do, by now. It’s racist, it’s misogynistic, people get rich making women feel bad about ourselves. Hell, I’m even wary of beauty blogging and vlogging. What started out as a hobby has turned into a marketing tool for cosmetics companies. These things are real, and they are insidious.

But, of course, most things aren’t black and white. I worked in cosmetics, and it was the best job I’ve ever had. I’ve seen what makeup can do. I’ve seen the artistry, the creativity, the immense technical skill people possess. I’ve made people’s day simply by helping them pick out their perfect red. And, personally, I’ve gained a new set of skills, a hobby, and another tool I can use to express myself.

Perhaps some people use makeup to cover up their “flaws”, to hide, or to appeal to men. But there are so many of us out there who love the colours, the textures, the formulas. We love collecting knowledge, we love trying new things, we love putting red and green and gold on our faces. And I can’t speak for every other person who wears makeup, but I know that when I put dark purple lipstick on, I’m not hiding and I’m definitely not trying to appeal to any man. (I wouldn’t blame someone for doing that anyway, when it’s pushed on us that that is our value.)

I want this blog to be critical when that is required, but more than anything I want it to be bursting with my genuine love for cosmetics. I don’t want it to be another cog in the marketing machine; I want it to be engaging and genuine. I want my voice to be unmistakable. I want the feminism that permeates every aspect of my life to be present here.

Like I said, I want this to be the blog I was waiting for. I hope it’s one that you like too.

*This blog would not exist without the work of Aisling Brock, my very talented and exceedingly generous friend who designed, hand-drew, and coded it. Isn’t it lovely?