loving makeup in spite of patriarchy

by Sophie Anderson

I have always loved makeup. It’s like a socially acceptable form of face paint, and my inner child savors every bit of it. But like any wild, raging feminist, I think critically about why it exists and why I feel compelled to wear it.

Usually the answer I come up with is this: more than it is a way for me to brighten my features or enhance my complexion, it is an art form and a ritual that I revel in.

But of course, I’d be lying if I said there haven’t also been times that I’ve reached for makeup as a means of concealing my perceived flaws or imperfections. There are even times that I’ve felt “less than” being barefaced – more times than I can count actually.

That’s pretty screwed. No one should be made to feel incomplete for merely exhibiting their natural appearance. Unfortunately, the reality is that as much as I truly enjoy discovering new makeup products and practicing new application techniques, to a certain extent, I know that at least a part of my interest is rooted in a pressure I feel from society to look a certain way. And can anyone really blame me for that?

After all, according to a recent study conducted by scientists at Harvard and Boston University, the makeup you wear (or do not wear) can affect your chances of getting a promotion at work. Apparently, to the executives studied, “beauty has a significant, positive effect on judgment of competence,” and too much or too little makeup could cause a woman to be perceived as less competent.

In other words, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. It’s a double-edged sword that slays any woman who cannot find the perfect, centralized balance between too sloppy and too glam – as deemed by those ruling execs.

But, the idea that any woman should have to wear any amount of makeup to progress her career, while men do not, is totally bogus. To think that some perfect, pinky-peach shade of blush can prove my knowledge or trustworthiness is ridiculous. Not even the most coveted of the lipsticks in my collection can speak to who I am as an employee, a colleague, or a person. In fact, they are completely irrelevant to my character.

Not to mention, makeup is expensive. And, since women are already paid 75 cents for every dollar that our male counterparts are paid, the last thing we need is to feel some sort of unspoken obligation to pour X% of our salaries back into looking the part (lest the people we interact with everyday find themselves unable to make that judgement call on their own).

But at the end of the day, I still love makeup. I look forward to applying it in the morning when I wake up or alongside my girlfriends before a night out.

Better yet, the beauty industry offers unprecedented opportunities for women to take on leadership roles and become experts in their field. Just look at Bobbi Brown, Charlotte Tilbury, Jessica Alba, or Emily Weiss—all of whom have created not just empires of their own, but countless jobs for fellow female makeup lovers, like myself.  

No, I don’t need a cat-eye to lead a conference with grace and authority. And who I am on a fundamental level is in no way affected by my appearance. But I can still respect and appreciate the makeup industry while upholding my role as a feminist.

To be clear though, when I am up for my next promotion, bitch better have my money.