Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Why make up is bad

A while ago, a friend invited me to chair a book group meeting on Catlin Moran's How to be a Woman. I was very chuffed, partly because I was flattered to be asked, and partly because I love the book to bits. It turned out to be pretty hilarious; all the women there (it was a women-only book group) were vaguely feministy in some degree (up to and including "I'm not a feminist but" where the but includes a belief in equal rights for women, but I was the only hardcore, unreconstructed, 1970s radical feminist - well, there may have been one other, but I was definitely the only person present who didn't shave my armpits (why should you? Men don't. If armpit hair is disgusting, why isn't it disgusting for everyone? Plus I think shaved armpits look horrid), which some people found so intriguing - they'd never seen an unshaven female armpit! Imagine, sisters! - that I stripped to show them. Shame nobody was interested in my pubes, really.

Anyway, as usual I digress. Next morning the friend asked me why I objected to make-up and as I wasn't really awake I said I just thought it wasted a lot of time. Sensibly - some people are so alert int eh mornings, it's really unfair - she asked me what I thought I achieved with the time I saved compared with her, as she wears a bit of make-up, every day I think. I rambled on dopily about all the stuff I do, and realised very quickly that I wasn't making much sense, plus she does loads of stuff too so it was pretty patronising. Ever since, I've wanted to think of a better answer. Here it is.

When I get ready in the morning, I have a wee, wash my face in cold water, get dressed, brush my hair and leave the house. When I get dressed up for a concert I wash, put on floor length sequins, brush my hair, and leave the house. So long as I remembered to wash and I brushed my hair (and it was reasonably clean - I've recently started washing it twice a week instead of once, but I reckon if you wash it more often it simply needs it more often) , I know I'm presentable. Now obviously this is time-efficient, and that can be bloody useful. But I think there's a more important, and that's that as long as I'm neat and clean, I'm happy. I don't have to doll myself up to feel I've made an effort. I don't feel that I can't face the world without my mascara. I don't fret that people won't take me seriously if I haven't got mascara on. I don't worry that I can't sleep with someone I fancy (harking back a bit here) because he'll see me in the morning without my hair straighteners, my lip gloss, my special bra, whatever. What you see is what you get. I'm good enough. I don't have to make an extra effort to look extra nice. That seems to me to be truly liberating.

It's also how it is for men. They wee, they wash, they shave, they dress, they're ready to go. Why would things be really different for women unless something weird was happening? Unless the rules for men and women were oddly different?

Another friend says she likes to put on lipstick when she's going out - it's a trigger: the act gets her into a going-out mood. That makes sense. That's not a need or an obligation; that's for fun. What I worry about is when it's not for fun, it's a necessity. If you can't got out without it, then it's a crutch, maybe an addiction. Certainly an inconvenience.

I have also never, ever ever ever, seen a woman I thought looked better with make-up on than without it. Call me a diehard old radical feminist, but smearing greasy crap into your face just seems bloody weird to me. It looks funny. You look great without any of that stuff. Honest.


Anthony Atkinson said...

Most women look better with make up. If they don't then they don't know how to use make up.

Beck said...

Firstly, I think they look worse, and I think it's subjective. Secondly, if they do look better, who cares, if it's more effort? Thirdly, if women look better with make-up, then men probably would too - so why don't men wear make-up?

Danananananowar said...

Some men DO wear make-up. These men are pursuing a certain aesthetic in the same way that the women who wear make-up are.
Likewise some men shave their body-hair. It's not 'stupid' or 'pointless' to do so if it makes you feel more confident in yourself.
You're very lucky to feel body-confident without make-up. I know a lot of incredibly clever, talented and beautiful women who don't.

I think maybe some of the problem people have with 'unreconstructed 70s feminist' ideas is that they haven't expanded beyond the 70s, whilst the rest of the world has. You give new voice to old views as if nothing has changed in the last 40 years.

Additionally, I can't help but feel that societal constructs like gender are there for more reason than as some outdated method of control, like cliches they retain relevance because there is some grain of truth in them.
As a man it helps to have a real sense and understanding of traditional ideas of masculinity alongside a similar understanding of traditional femininity. It helps to understand certain instincts and thought-processes ones hormones lead one to, especially during adolescence / puberty.
I think you guys are being a little myopic about your son's development, but I guess the proof is in the adult he will become.