Tag Archives: Empowerment

The Sexy Lie

23 Jan

This is a pretty great TED Talk about sexual objectification and beauty.


Make Me Up

3 Jan

So I was perusing Slate magazine this afternoon, and they did a piece on makeup and whether or not it was degrading or empowering to women. Actually, they did a piece in response to a recent New York Times Room for Debate bit on the same issue.



Slate criticized NYT’s for not really landing hard on either side of the issue. Actually, they basically stated that this is a non-issue, which is why no one could land on a side. They also criticized the bit for getting opinions from men, as if men have any insight into how it feels to be a women in today’s society. I agree here.


I do however disagree with the idea that this is a non-issue. Anyone who’s read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth knows just how much of an issue this is. The struggle to fit a standardized beauty image keeps women down emotionally, psychologically, and financially as we continue to strive for some out of reach ideal. The problem is that it is an issue so deeply ingrained in our society that it is difficult, if not impossible to come up with a solution.

I myself have recently started steering away from using makeup. But not everyday, I have my days where I wear it too. I get a zit- I cover it up. My skin looks a little dry, pasty, etc., I cover it up. Sometimes I just want to mix things up, I throw on a little eyeliner, a little mascara, hell maybe even some eye shadow. There is nothing inherently wrong or degrading about any of this.

It does suck however, when as a women you feel like you HAVE to put on makeup before you leave the house. Not because you lack self-esteem, or think you aren’t pretty (not that this doesn’t happen as well) but because for whatever reason the society that you are apart of makes you feel like you have to, that if you don’t you are somehow less of a woman.

I think the peak of my makeup wearing days were my first two years of college. I didn’t wear it at all in high school, and I don’t wear it much now. But those first two years I was dying to fit it. I joined a sorority my sophomore year because I wanted to make new friends. This was when I really felt the pressure to wear makeup. We had to, and we had to do it right. I remember showing up to an event with a bit of eyeliner and some blush on, and one of the girls in charge came by and FIXED my makeup. She added more blush, more eyeliner, and some mascara. I thought I looked like a clown, but I kept it because she said it looked better.

This wasn’t what caused me to leave the sorority, there were many other factors, but this was a contributing one. And to me this is an example of one of the kinds of communities that pressures women into feeling inadequate if they aren’t ultra-feminine. I have no problem with ultra-feminine women. I think it can be empowering in its own right, but I am not one of them. And I think those differences should be admired and celebrated, rather than marginalized to the point of shame.

My point is, I think makeup can be empowering. Not just for women, for men too. If a guy wants to put on some eyeliner to feel a little extra sexy one day he should be able to. That doesn’t mean he is. And I think that’s partly where this idea that makeup is degrading comes from. If its only a female thing, how can it not be a form of oppression? I think it can be a tool of empowerment, and a tool of oppression depending on who wields it.

If a waitress feels like she has to wear makeup to make decent tips, while her male cohorts go without, that is a form of oppression. But it doesn’t have to be. I can’t really offer a solution here, except to say that if more communities celebrated all kinds of women, then the women who chose to wear makeup would feel more empowered and less like they were conforming to societal norms.

I’d love to hear any thoughts on this.


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