Recently, I was watching a makeup tutorial on YouTube and stumbled upon an upsetting comment. It read, “I don’t use makeup, I’m a guy… I don’t give a fuck about makeup, but for some reason I always end up watching hypnotizing makeup videos. I literally put makeup videos on like it is TV background noise.” It was the most upvoted comment in the comments section. While most responded in support of the comment, other commenters responded saying the fact that he is a guy shouldn’t matter, and that it’s okay to enjoy watching makeup videos. I agree with this sentiment because makeup advertisements target women, fooling the general population into believing it is a gendered activity.
Makeup has an interesting history. In the Victorian era, for example, just a bit meant you were high-class, perhaps a member of aristocracy, while too much meant you were a theater performer or courtesan of some sort. Nowadays, makeup is considered a simple and superficial practice meant solely for women and TV news anchors.
However, this is not true. While women are the target market for makeup, products are used by people of all genders. That doesn’t stop society and the media from maintaining a toxic and derogatory view of makeup. Because it is seen as a feminine practice, it is regarded as lesser. Some would go so far as to say that regarding makeup as an artform would be disgracing artforms which require more skill like painting or woodwork. Of course, makeup artistry does require skill. However, artforms and practices considered more “feminine” have often been deemed only hobbies (for instance, sewing and jewelry-making) by society’s sexist standards.
Another bias against makeup is the idea that it is used as a tool for deception. A popular meme not too long ago said to “take a girl swimming on the first date.” The joke is the girl would be stripped of her deceptive mask and be left bare-faced and, presumably, ugly. Beauty bloggers, YouTubers and makeup artists across the internet responded by making videos and tutorials surrounding this premise and culminating in a new trend: waterproof makeup. As clever as that response is, it still missed the point; the point being that women wear makeup to please men –– again locking it in as a gender issue.
Anyone should be able to enjoy makeup, regardless of their gender or anything else. Wealthy women and men in the Victorian era used makeup to slightly highlight their features. Though perhaps along with the rise of commercialism and mass consumerism in the 1950s and 60s, the idea of makeup as a hobby for women grew immensely in popularity leading to stigma which is perpetuated by advertisements today. It doesn’t have to be this way, though. By experimenting with and embracing makeup, no matter what or who you are, you are making both a political and a fashion statement. You are stating that you reject the sexist ideals and values upheld by a patriarchal culture. You want to wear makeup and you don’t care who’s looking, dammit!
This article first appeared in the Friday, February 2, 2018, Edition of The Echo.