Warpaint

9 Aug

Local FG celebrity, The Yankee himself left a comment on this post the other day that made me think.

I’m sorry that you feel like women look better without make-up. Post Second-Wave feminism there have been lots of dudes (and some ladies) who try to establish either their supposed feminist ideology or “good guy-ness” by labeling makeup and other tools of self-presentation (e.g. clothing, accessories and jewelry, style) as tools of oppression. Unfortunately, most of these tools (and they are tools) are linked to a femme or female identity, and criticism of them really comes from an anti-woman place. You don’t hear as much folks telling dudes that “You’d look so much better without that beard or muscles”, or “I think men look better without penises”.

Femininity is criticized in our culture as inauthentic, and dismissed as unserious. Why? We all do things to affect our self-presentation. Sometimes wearing makeup is a tactic that women choose to gain some form of power in an unjust world. Sometimes wearing makeup is done for pleasure or to emulate other powerful Femme women (think Dolly Parton, who embodies femininity but also maintains a ton of real world power in most every sense). No decision to wear makeup makes a person less serious, less authentic, or less powerful.

Maybe you really do have aesthetic reasons in your brain for preferring women without makeup. But those reason don’t exist in a vacuum. They come from socialization and a culture that dismisses Femmes, and has for a long time.

And I’m making no assumptions about you as a person, but I will say that in my own experience I have been in lots of non-mainstream communities where dudes use aversion to makeup, or porn, or sex work to prove their feminist street-cred as a means to sleeping with women. I’ve done it myself. And I think it requires a lot of self-examination to stop doing it.

Having women in my life is a privilege, and with that privilege come the responsibility of looking at where my ideas about their appearance come from, and often criticizing my responses.

It got me thinking about what I use makeup for.

Last summer when I fell of my bike and tore half the skin off my knees I enjoyed walking around in the least attractive outfit I could wear. Some awful khaki shorts and a fantastically clashing green shirt. My color-blind-camp-counselor look.

Similarly when I’m nervous about something at work I’ll load on the mascara and wear actual lipstick. The same way football players put black streaks on their faces to intimidate their enemies, I bust out the liquid liner when I want everyone to know I’m a badass.

The problem of course comes in when men assume that whatever choices I make are purely for their benefit. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes they are. The dress I wore to opening night, with the matching undergarments and heels, that was purely for the benefit of my date to that event. And no one else. And he knew it. Which in turn benefitted me of course.

Pro tip: If you don’t know very clearly that it’s for your benefit then it’s not.

And if you like my choices for the day, or if you dislike them, I still don’t care. I like them. And I matter me to me a whole lot more than you matter to me.

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