This morning I washed my face, brushed my teeth, combed my hair and walked out the door. "I'm such a rebel," I thought, laughing at my lame joke. For men, this is a standard morning grooming routine. For women, this regimen is deeply rebellious.
Women Must Be Beautiful - Or Else
Women are expected to look a certain way: smooth skin, brilliantly white teeth, long eyelashes and lustrous hair. We're supposed to have an athletic body with curves in all the right places that says, "I do yoga but eat hamburgers." If you don't have these characteristics naturally, you better fix it, or else you'll be less valuable. There, I said it. The truth is ugly. Just like you. (Kidding!) Don't believe me? Then explain why Debora Spar, the president of Barnard College, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times describing her struggle to reconcile plastic surgery and feminism. Ms. Spar is a smart and accomplished woman. And yet, she faces peer pressure to conform her appearance to a youthful standard. Her professional success is not enough. She still has to be beautiful.
The Ultimate Sexism Test
If you're not sure if the dark hand of the patriarchy is at work, ask yourself if men are doing the same thing. Do men add 15 minutes to their morning to make their eyes look bigger? Do they worry they will betray their ideals by erasing a frown line? Are they worried that flaunting grey hair will make them less appealing? No, the vast majority of men do not do these things. Therefore, women should not wear makeup either, right? Wrong. It's easy to say that women shouldn't wear makeup because men don't. It's simple math: same = same. But women and men aren't the same. Feminism means equality between men and women. Men are allowed to choose their lives; why shouldn't we?
Wearing makeup became a choice instead of a requirement because of the feminists who came before me. I choose not to wear makeup on a daily basis because I don't want to. It's as simple as that. I battled severe acne for most of my life. Now that my skin has cleared, it feels like a miracle. I feel beautiful. Sure, I've got freckles and acne scars and dark circles under my eyes, but that's okay. Those "imperfections" are part of my story. That's who I am. I'm not saying I'm perfect and never feel a moment of insecurity (heck, even Beyonce is insecure) but not wearing makeup has changed my perspective. When I face my boss, or my boss' boss, without makeup I feel exposed, like they caught me doing something wrong. But a not-so-small part of me also feels pretty brave. Ironically, the less I wear makeup, the more confident I become.
In Defense Of The Beauty Industry
Lest you think I'm completely anti-makeup, let me make this perfectly clear: I will never cut anyone down for wearing makeup. You can be a feminist and still wear makeup. I know what it feels like to be deeply ashamed and embarrassed by your face. Makeup is a godsend during those situations. I was lucky. I received Kevyn Aucoin's Making Faces when I was 16 and practiced every look in the book. I learned contouring, concealing, and highlighting at a young age. By the time I went to college, I was so skilled with makeup that no one knew I had bad skin. Do what you need to do to feel good. I took two courses of Accutane to clear my skin. Use makeup, plastic surgery or fillers if that helps. Dye your hair. Pierce your nose! There's no shame in taking actions to improve your self-esteem.
Just make sure you love yourself, too.
When I was deep in the throes of cystic acne, I hated my skin. I deeply rejected myself for this failure to be beautiful. I was lucky, though; my husband kissed my cysts and told me I was beautiful regardless of my skin. I also found a medicine that worked for me. When my skin cleared, I found a deep well of strength and confidence. Now, I am free to use makeup just for fun. Or not. I kind of like being a rebel.