Every morning as I walk the two blocks from the subway to work, I stare at the ground, attempting to avoid eye contact with the men who seem to see my gaze as an open invitation to comment on my body. They narrate my curves and discuss "sexy" red lips. I've been followed on foot, by cars, and by vans. I've been honked at, screamed at, approached, and uninvitedly touched. It's always been bad, but ever since Nov. 9, it's gotten exponentially worse.
Though some thought it would, the world didn't end the day following the election. The sky hadn't fallen, though it was pretty gray and gloomy in New York City. I was emotionally and admittedly physically hung over as I crawled out of bed, sat myself on my chair, applied my makeup the same way I had just 24 hours before.
Makeup has been, at least in the past year, my own form of therapy. The singular act of painting on a wing allows me to meditate. Chiseling my cheeks clears all worried thoughts from my head. When I focus to create the most perfectly clean lip line, the outside world just melts away and I am at peace. Makeup is a very small artistic outlet that makes me very happy in a big way. And that was enough for me.
But the day after Donald Trump was elected President, I didn't want to do it. On Nov. 9, my hand actually shook while applying my eyeliner. I mindlessly blended my highlight and contour, leaving behind a muddy mess on the side of my face. I accidentally smudged my red lip as I took a tissue to my eye. For the first time in a long time, I didn't put my makeup because I wanted to. I put it on because I had to for work. The last thing I wanted to do was attract extra attention to myself. But I took a deep breath, and set my face.
To be fair, I get catcalled whether I wear makeup or not. I'm catcalled when I'm on my period walking to the bodega in a ripped up, stained shirt and old yoga pants. I'm catcalled when I'm wearing a skintight black dress with wobbly stilettos and a smoky eye. But in my personal experience, when I wear makeup, I get catcalled more. Of course, Trump has a theory about society's perception of beauty initiating uncontrollable physical magnetism. Remember this quote, stated by Trump to Billy Bush when he thought he was off the record?
I'm automatically attracted to beautiful [women]. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. I just kiss, I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything — grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.
Words like these are why I was afraid to do the things that make me look "beautiful,” like wearing makeup. According to the logic presented by our President-elect, heterosexual men see beautiful women and touch them instantaneously and uncontrollably, like a parasite sucking the blood from a viable life source. By this logic, the men on the street can physically touch me if I look beautiful, as long as they have the urge.
All of that considered, perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was catcalled more on the day following the election than I had been in the entire previous month. The first time it happened, I told myself I'd confront the next man who did the same. Anger, depression, and frustration were swirling together inside of me, reaching full on tropical storm status. I was dangling by my last nerve and my patience was worn so thin it was sporting full-on holes. Yet when it happened again, I didn't have the strength to react. I barely had the strength to keep walking. It happened several more times following on the hour-long commute from my front door to work. Each passing incident just made me more and more tired.
When I arrived home and checked social media, I discovered I was not alone in experiencing this phenomenon. Countless female friends were posting on every possible platform about their numerous experiences being catcalled all over our "great" country. My YouTuber friend Tessa Netting was grouped and verbally harassed in all the way across the country in the Sunshine State of California:
She also made this video about her experience:
Simply put misogyny seemed to be #trending.
Despite it all, I'm not afraid of Trump. He is only one person. But I am afraid of our culture — and the culture that Trump’s presence in the White House could empower to grow and thrive. Our society is indoctrinating heterosexual men with a script to assert dominance over a woman by using the things she chooses (in my case, makeup) as a weapon against them, by turning it into an invitation instead of an expression of choice.
I debated wearing less makeup. For a couple days, I embraced a less-put-together version of myself. I was afraid to express myself the way I wanted for fear of backlash. I abandoned my makeup warrior mask and tried to fade into the background instead. Slowly but surely, over the course of the past couple of months, I came back to my normal persona. I realized, if I don't wear makeup, I still get catcalled. If I wear makeup, I just get catcalled more. If I stop, I'm surrendering what makes me, me. I'm giving up the thing that makes me purely and peacefully happy due to someone else's demeaning words and insulting actions. Personally, I don't want to give anyone that kind of power.
Trump's America has arrived. But we do not have to compromise our identities over the next four years. I understand if you rather not put on the paint right now. It's a divided world we're living in, and it can feel safer to blend in with the hustle and bustle. Attention can feel threatening. In a week from now, I might have to take a break as well. But at this present moment in time, my makeup is my protest and I won't let it be taken away from me.