Make Up & I
Make up and I have always had a pretty straight-forward relationship – we don’t get on. Now sure enough, I went through the same stage as I envision most other teenage girls do. Everyone else was wearing it so shouldn’t I?
So I asked my mum and her reaction was, looking back, pretty reasonable.
‘You’re 13, you don’t need make up… and especially not for school’.
At the time, this seemed like a horrendous injustice, something, on principle, I couldn’t abide by.
Therefore, every morning, the second the school bus was out of sight of my house, I’d apply cheap mascara and eye shadow I found free inside a Mizz Magazine… So cheap you could barely see it. This lasted maybe a month until the bus went over the bus a bump and I discovered that mascara in your eye is an ultimately unpleasant experience. One that left me suspected of having pink eye by my class mates.
The truth was my half hearted attempts left me with clumpy mascara and eye shadow that resembled a faded black eye more than anything else. Make-up was making me look worse rather than better and therefore completely undermining its original purpose.
Since I couldn’t justify spending any hard earned pocket money on better quality products, I simply stopped wearing make-up and the truth is I haven’t since.
This started off as just blind indifference but eventually I started to really object to it. I’m sure every eldest child is totally aware of the unfair treatment and entitlement given to younger siblings. When my sister of two years younger began to wear make-up, my first reaction was, ‘hold up, this isn’t fair’. My second reaction was, ‘you don’t need it’.
As any younger sibling will probably know, when the older tells you not to do something, the best and most rewarding response is to do it anyway. So my sister wore make up and I did not. I still wasn’t happy.
As my teenage years progressed, I was increasingly exposed to the world of politics and issues like feminism suddenly became so obvious and important to me. One day, at around 15, I read a somewhat radical article somewhere on line that argued make-up was the ultimate offense against feminism as women were openly changing themselves to impress others, or more importantly the article argues, to impress men.
At the time, the strong language and seeming logic caught me completely. Righteously, I lectured my sister on the argument who didn’t really seem to care.
‘I wear it because I want to’ she said, ‘it’s my choice’.
I spent about a year sticking to my guns and firmly disagreeing. Then I read a bunch of articles and quotes by Caitlin Moran and other feminists and sheepishly realised the philosophies I’d so firmly stick to were completely and utterly misguided.
Feminism is not about women being told not to do things; it’s about women being allowed to do things because they want to, and not because they’re expected to. My sister, at the grand old age of 13 had unwittingly been incredibly insightful into a massively debated issue – can you wear make-up and still be a feminist?
The fact is, she’d been totally right when she said it was her choice. The fact is, women should be able to wear and do whatever they want to and feminism should be defending this. My sister wears make up and I do not. The way I see it, her choice to wear make-up is like my choice to paint my nails. I do it because I enjoy it, because I like the way it looks on me and because I can express myself with it. For the exact same reason, she chooses to wear make-up.
Now, make-up and I haven’t totally made peace. I do find it sad when I see 12 and 13 year olds pencilling their eyebrows simply because everyone else is doing it and they don’t want to be the odd one out. I can sympathise, but others shouldn’t define you. I hate it when some friends refuse to go out without it because ‘they’ll look bad’. Women shouldn’t need make-up to feel confident or accepted, they should wear it to express confidence, or simply because they want to. The point about make-up is that women don’t need it to look ‘better’ or ‘improved’ and society shouldn’t make them feel that way. At the same time, if a woman wants to wear make-up, there shouldn’t be some opinionated, so called feminist telling them they can’t. The answer is, they can do whatever the hell they want.
To any 13 year old girls looking at a tube of cheap mascara and wondering, like I did, whether it will make you feel any more accepted, the answer is maybe it will, maybe it won’t. But more importantly, if you opt to go make-up free of your own accord, or choose a sassy blue mascara instead as a way of expressing yourself without the dictation of the status quo – how much more awesome will you feel about yourself?
I don’t wear make-up, mostly because I don’t have time in the mornings and I have painful memories of having mascara in my eye. My previous misconceptions however were just that – misconceptions. The fact is make-up is a choice, one that you have the right to make just like any other. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Piper Booth is an English Literature student studying at Aberdeen University.