Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Oh, if you just put some makeup on....."

I am not anti-makeup. On the contrary, I do like the ability to hide my zits and show off my eyes and lips. I see it as somewhat artistic and fun. It also never used to be a female only activity. Men in many cultures would do it to show masculinity and power (btw, same with long hair). What I do hate, however, is the expectation that I must wear makeup to look attractive. Especially when that looking attractive determines important decisions such as, you know, your career and your spouse.

I understand the need to look presentable. Even if you were at a party the night before, you should still show up to work clean, well groomed, and ready to hit the deck. That goes for men and women. For an interview, you should take extra time to take care of your hair, make sure your clothes are pressed and that you coordinate appropriately. For a first date, it's good for each party to spend some extra time on their appearance to make a good first impression. However, the expectation we seem to have for women is that they should appear no less than stunning at all times. Whether we face airbrushed ads selling unrelated objects such as cars or celebrities who can afford to have makeup artists, hairdressers, plastic surgeons and personal trainers live with them, we're given the illusion of competition. Rather than competing with our intelligence, our personalities, and our good will, we're competing with our images.

OK, world, how fucked up is that? We tell our little girls that appearance (so long as you're clean and healthy) doesn't matter, that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up and that they shouldn't focus on boys so much. Yet, when these little girls grow up, we're shameless in our hypocrisy. You "need" makeup and constant change of wardrobe to get that job, that guy (what if you don't even like guys?), to impress people. If you're not one of the few natural stunners, then you especially need makeup to "show off those pretty eyes/smile of yours." If there's one thing that makes me doubt our praise of meritocracy (and there are many), it's this one.

Think of how much money we spend, trying to look good. Think of what that money could have been used for. We could be investing that money. We could be using it to pay for our grad school education, to save for a wedding or a house, give it to good charities, or travel. Think of the time we spend fretting over our looks, time that could be spent reading the news, organizing advocacy events, and finding ways to make a difference in our communities.

Makeup in and of itself is not bad. We like to be creative with our appearance. However, our societal attitude toward it is quite disturbing. And that's just putting it mildly.

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