Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Makeup: A Rad Fem's Dilemma

Makeup was my right of passage to womanhood. My parents absolutely refused to let me wear it until I was thirteen, and then only in muted shades and small amounts. Looking at the over-sexualized images of pre-teen girls in the media and my younger brother's yearbook, I can honestly say that I am grateful to my parents. Makeup wouldn't have made me less self-conscious, and would have taken a sizable chunk out of my allowance--and when I was 16, wages.

Now, I do not wear anywhere near as much makeup as I used to at 16, and even 18. Although I am in my 20s, I am often mistaken for a teenager because of my short stature and lack of "smoky sex kitten" makeup; even while bar-hopping I prefer light makeup.

However, my guilt over buying and wearing eye liner, blush, powder, and mascara persists. Am I a bad feminist because I sometimes like how I look with makeup better than au natural? Given that I self-identify as a radical feminist, am I somehow falling sort of the label? Do I invite men to look upon me as an object or sexually available?

I know that people perceive me as stereotypically feminine the more makeup and gendered clothing, like mini-skirts, I wear. More doors are held open (literal, not metaphorical), I am addressed as "honey" instead of "ma'am", and men smile at me more. Although, I never get the respect I want from co-workers and professors no matter how little makeup I wear, or how much. Professors that are enthusiastic about taking my male peers under their wing hesitate to do the same for me and fellow female classmates because we are female. A male professor, and most of mine are male, sponsoring a female student is rare simply because the professors are afraid of the perception that they are sleeping with us, or they simply don't think of us in any sense other than a sexual one. Even in sweatpants and no makeup, my male professors will not invite me to lunch to discuss further the symbolization of Aristotle's classical dilemmas because being female means that I am always potentially a sex object, never a peer or a prodigal student. All of my sponsors in my field have been female. I am lucky that my university employs many female Philosophy professors, because otherwise, I sincerely doubt that I would have had the opportunity to do as much as I have.

This constant perception of being a sex object: am I only fueling it by wearing makeup and gendered clothing? If I'm not dressed up, am I still responsible for the actions of others because of my female mannerisms?

My answer is a resounding no. My choice of clothing and face-paint should not affect my opportunities in life. How much eye shadow I do or do not wear does not affect the poignancy of my thesis. In my ideal world, men and women would wear as little or as much makeup as they please, and it would not affect any situation outside the contexts where makeup and gendered clothing are relevant.

Besides, I am kept at a distance professionally by male superiors regardless of how little makeup I wear or how long my skirt is. Feminism, I think, is about choices. I choose my gender-identity. I like being pretty and female. What I do not like is being patronized, belittled, and sexually objectified in a context in which such attention is entirely inappropriate.

In the same way that "promiscuous" women are responsible for the bad behavior of their male peers, every woman is held responsible for the sexism of their colleagues because of how she dresses or acts. Too frumpy and she is a slacker or a frigid bitch. Too feminine and she is a sex object or a coy flirt. I am always defined in terms of "fuckable" or "not fuckable" every second of the day because women, regardless of how they dress, act, or look, are members of the sex class and thus may be belittled, shamed, over sexualized, and harassed with the justification that anyone with a vagina is simply "asking for it".

My choice to wear makeup is my business. A woman's choice to get breast implants is her business. It should be obvious that the choice to sexualize women out of context and act like sexist dog is precisely that: a choice.

How people attack women who choose to do something perfectly legal that makes her feel good about herself and defend those who choose to be assholes is completely illogical. The phenomenon of blaming the victim saturates every justification of harassment, violence, and injustice that women and even young girls suffer daily.

I say, enough already! If the choices I make are always wrong and the injustice I suffer is always right, then what choice do I have? I choose to please myself, and only myself. Fuck everyone else. I sharpen my eye pencil and apply it to my upper lid because I think I look good when I do. If my best male friend thought he did too, I would let him borrow mine without a sideways glance.

Treating women like objects is also a choice. The idea that it is the fault of the evil female temptress, her gender fallen from grace by the actions of her ancestor in the garden of Eden, is nothing but unadulterated bullshit and should be treated as such.

1 comment:

E-Visible Woman said...

It totally is a dilemma, and one I am luckily free of, as I am completely allergic to make up.

I'm really glad I am allergic, because I have really low self-esteem, and I know I would wear it and spend a lot of time and money on trying to 'fix' my face and it wouldn't help me, and it would make me poorer. At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with my face, and there's nothing I can do to change it or to make me like it any better. I can only hope and fight for a future when patriarchy is dead and gone, and girls won't grow up hating their faces (or their bodies) anymore!

My choice to wear makeup is my business. A woman's choice to get breast implants is her business.

Of course it is, and no woman should ever be condemned for the choices that she makes in this shitty patriarchy... however, I think it's really vital to look at the context of the choice. I think that right now, the choice to get breast implants isn't a free one, and the choice to wear make up often isn't either.