Is Wearing MAKEUP a FEMINIST Issue?

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Sparked by women being looked down up on at work for wearing too much makeup, our ANA MARKOVIC questions why this has shifted into an issue of feminism, and points out the inherent irony that makeup has any bearing whatsoever on our power as women.

Makeup should not be a feminist issue, we’ve had it since the down of time, yet only in the recent decades it become a subject to debate. You want to look young, more confident and radiant, you wear it. For some women nothing, not even extreme skin problems, will stop them from wearing makeup. A survey by the American Skincare Medical Association found that 48 percent of women would wear makeup even if it cause them discomfort. So, why five decades after our feminist sisters burnt their bras, is makeup suddenly being argued about as if it was the very act of of something men had enforced on us. This is not about them against us, it us about us against us.

However in the warfare of gender neutral treatment of both sexes, makeup has become a useful weapon. When a British flight attendant, a friend of mine, turned up for work at London airport she was told to come back wearing minimal and code biding makeup, sent to wash her face and re-apply her makeup. While the issue is about forced codes, and us as women judging what is too much or too little makeup, it mutated to feminism. Is being asked to wear the exactly “proscribed” makeup as a flight attendant or a receptionist, so controversial? Not as the big picture, especially as social moral codes vary from country to country. However there is a massively obvious point which has so far been put aside, which is that, in the last few years, fashion has embraced a lot more freedom, and a bare faced look is now considered just as chic. Alicia Keys for example, now looks arguably more modern than when she sported a full on heavy makeup look, and has on her own been the ambassador of a no-makeup beauty look.

Us as women, are often the biggest enemies of feminist movements. Just scroll through any single tweet of America’s FLOTUS, Melania Trump, and you will see an endless tirade of other women calling the first lady all sort of names. At the same time, every single post of Mrs Trump is to hold a naked modelling photo from her past, almost by a rule of thumb posted by another woman. Another woman, upset America never elected their first female president.

Still, feminism and an angry generation fighting the rules is very much at play. Scrolling on the daily through articles on both sides of the pond, it is easy to conclude the argument has become conflated and confused. More issues such as vulnerability and femininity have shaped the conversation. We are no doubt in danger of sounding narrow minded. So why are we discussing wearing makeup as an argument of discrimination? While I am not a fan of makeup myself, I see my friends for who from the early days, wearing makeup was the right of passage that signaled that the boys would now take notice. Absolutely that is the main reason for mothers shaming other mothers allowing their pre-teen daughters to wear makeup. To many of my girlfriends, starting to wear makeup was a part of becoming a woman. Starting to wear makeup for a young girl is still a thrill, but actually, until recently, there has never been a stronger defense of a non-makeup choice.

The stigma that women impose on themselves that say she is not ready to step out in public without wearing makeup thankfully no longer exists. Or is a misalliance girl who forces the full-makeup look the one who takes the freedom of other and ridding them of their human rights? Egalitarianism is no doubt a good thing, but this endless fight for political correctness is also a tiring thing. Is the makeup code, no doubt set by other women, an act of aggression? In my research, I found numerous women complaining about the skin problems, and the agony of their daily makeup routines. As somebody who prefers to wear none, I can only sing to the tune and agree. However a friend of mine told me some women will wear makeup even if their face starts to bleed, and most of us know exactly what she is trying to say. However what is undeniable we are going through a peculiar period of transition, where long accepted norms, including what is acceptable are being erased. Everything to do with sexuality, gender, pay is being called into question, so why not makeup?

Still, I beg you, let us not use something which we know is a basic female choice, like makeup, and blame for it onto men. We the women are the oppressors, man have as a long history with makeup as women. The courts of Egypt had men wear makeup on the daily, they were buried with their makeup kits, all the way to the Louis XIVs court where it was illegal to come without a makeup and a wig in front of the king. Today, when men wearing heavy makeup they are practicing the art of drag, and sadly for men such behavior would not fare well in a working environment.

This is an issue of our own making because most of us, I am not saying all of us, love wearing makeup. Even some of the most prominent feminists, are confused on the subject. Not being able to signal oppression or empowerment. Does saying SHE often wears makeup, let us know where she stands?

Text by Ana Markovic
Photography Javi Salinas @mrjavisalinas
Makeup & Hair Estibaliz Otero for MAC Cosmetics
Model Lada at Trend Models

Originally published in DESIGN SCENE issue 019, available now in print & digital