A friend of mine says that he likes girls better when they don’t wear makeup, and that girls look prettier without makeup. On one hand, this perspective is refreshing; he doesn’t seem to hold the stereotypical opinion of many that women must wear makeup in order to be beautiful. However, on the other hand, him having any opinion at all on the matter is a judgmental expectation in it of itself.
I like wearing mascara. I think that I look pretty without mascara, but, in general, I like to wear it. It makes me feel confident, and it’s fun to put on. However, his statement made me feel self-conscious. Does wearing makeup make me trashy? Do I look like I’m trying too hard?
Rationally I know that wearing makeup is my choice, and anyone who is at all worth my time will not judge me for doing so. Despite knowing this, it’s hard to always feel self-assured. Women are constantly judged, seemingly for whatever choices they make. If a woman dresses down she is seen as a slob, but if she is too dressed up she is seen as being fake. These thoughts are ones I’ve had since middle school, when girls in my grade started wearing makeup. Both of my parents made it very clear to me that I didn’t need to wear makeup in order to be pretty. In fact, they made their point so clearly that I often thought wearing makeup would make me less pretty, at least by their standards. When I wanted to wear makeup, I felt like I had to hide it from them.
As I got older, my family became more comfortable with makeup, although my dad still thinks it’s dumb. While I understand that he is largely coming from a place of encouraging women to “fight the patriarchy,” he, and any other person who has opinions about whether women should or should not wear makeup simply don’t need to make a statement. It’s judgmental and undermines the agency women have in making choices about what they wear.
Yes, women wearing makeup is, in many ways, a result of societal expectations that were dictated by men, but there were other factors too, and there still are today.
It’s important for people, regardless of their gender, to know that they do not need to do anything in particular—dress a certain way, wear a certain hairstyle, or use makeup—in order to be beautiful. However women must not be judged for “conforming” to traditional beauty standards, such as wearing makeup, because, in this case, conforming does not necessarily indicate oppression. Rather, it should be viewed as a form of self-expression.