My mom didn't start letting me wear makeup until about tenth grade, and when she finally did it was like all hell broke loose. I bought so many eyeliners, blushes, lipsticks, bronzers, primers, eye shadow palettes, application brushes, finishing powders, mascaras, and foundations, and while improperly caking them on every day, filled with delight at my new adult status, I couldn't figure out why the hell women would elect to not wear makeup. At the time, it was not only fun, but it made me look older and more mature in a way high school students sometimes crave. With makeup, I was a version of myself that looked a little more like girls my age on TV and in movies. It's really all I wanted as a tenth grader, with otherwise few immediate hopes and dreams for myself.
But my relationship with makeup evolved. I grew out of the need to put it on to look older, or to meet a beauty ideal set for me by the media and advertising industries. I stopped wearing all of it at once — the powders and eyeliners and shadows — every day, and instead let my makeup use vary with my mood and outfit choice. I learned that just because I like to wear makeup doesn't mean every day requires the full lipstick-moisturizer-primer-foundation-concealer-setting powder routine. I learned about the downsides of it, like mascara tears and break outs from not washing up before bed. Wearing makeup became a deliberate choice instead of something I did just because it was there and I had permission.
I wear makeup because it makes me feel good and allows me to express myself and enhance my style — and it's just so much fun to apply. Still, some people find it valid to question the values and motives of me and other women who use makeup. Here are some irritating reactions to my beauty routine that I am tired of hearing:
1. But You're Already So Beautiful Without It!
Trust me, I know. But that doesn't also mean I can't be beautiful with it, too. There are a lot of ways for one person to look beautiful and a lot of ways to do yourself up (or down) to achieve a physical way of being that makes you comfortable and happy with who you are that day.
2. But Boys Prefer Women Without Makeup!
Oh, wait, really? Oh my goodness, someone should have told me what boys prefer so I could make all my decisions based on their needs and desires and completely arbitrary opinions about how women should look! Gee, I guess I'll just throw all my makeup into a fire pit now and just wait for the men to flock!
3. But You Don't Need Makeup, Why Spend So Much Money On Something So Arbitrary.
Look around you. You don't NEED that iPhone. You don't NEED that smart watch. You technically don't even NEED those boots in a city with paved streets and good infrastructure. But you spent money on all those things. The only thing people truly NEED is water, an energy source, and TV marathons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, but that doesn't stop us from buying things we want so much it almost feels like a necessity.
So why do I spend so much money on it? Because makeup helps me express myself and my style, and in a system where money is exchanged for goods and those goods can determine the way you live (which is a conversation for another time), I make an active decision to spend that money on one of the things that lets me practice autonomy over my body and feel confident in myself.
4. But You Shouldn't Need to Use Your Image to Express Yourself. Use Your Character.
I don't only use my image to express myself. Makeup is one of the many facets of my being that creates my identity. That being said, we live in a really visual society where aesthetics can be important for all sorts of things, especially visibility within certain communities. When I was in seventh grade I wore all black as a way to express my solidarity and inclusion within a certain group of people who made me feel safe. Now, I wear makeup as a visual marker of my femininity. You shouldn't necessarily rely on any one thing to express yourself, but you're sure as hell allowed to rely on your physical image as much as you want.
5. But Why Do Women Spend So Much Time Doing It? It Takes Up So Much Time!
Listen, my face is a living, breathing canvas and I am a careful artist. Careful artists execute their masterpieces with precision and care and sometimes that takes time, OK?
6. Women Who Wear Makeup Are So Self-Obsessed and Vain
The Biblical obsession with refraining from vanity really has no practical use. Be vain if you want, be proud of yourself if you want, paint your face with liquid liner and lip stain and post a selfie because you look damn good. What's wrong with self-love?
7. But Aren't You a Feminist? Didn't You Know the Patriarchy Invented Makeup?
Yes, I'm a feminist and for the millionth time that means I believe women can do what they want with their body, including reclaiming things for themselves that were created by the patriarchy.
For me personally, refraining from wearing makeup for the reason that it was meant to appeal to men is a fundamentally un-feminist pursuit, because it feels, then, like I am letting men/The Patriarchy police the actions I take with my body. This defense of makeup might not be true for everyone, because feminism has malleable and case-by-case definitions, but my feminism unapologetically promotes shimmery lids and matte-red lips.