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187 Responses

  1. Barnacle Strumpet
    Barnacle Strumpet April 17, 2013 at 9:57 am |

    I tend to think of it as art form as well. (Even though I’m not much into wearing it myself). I’ve seen some of the amazing things people who are really into make-up (and hair as well) do.

    People have painted their faces and bodies for thousands of years. I don’t think we should have to give that up just because one industry has decided to capitalize on that and society has twisted it. We should question why we do it and examine it, but if we’ve done that and have decided that we’re coming from the right place (as far as what we personally find acceptable to ourselves) in doing it, then by all means we should be able to do it without guilt.

  2. A4
    A4 April 17, 2013 at 10:19 am |

    Fantastic. A joy to read. Thank you for writing it.

  3. Ashley
    Ashley April 17, 2013 at 10:35 am |

    This is the way I feel about modeling and competing in pageants. Other feminists want talk about how by doing these things, I am doing all these things that go against feminism. And because I’m not above admitting when I’m wrong, I have questioned myself over and over, should I be trying to compete for Miss USA while calling myself a feminist? Many other feminists would say no, that I shouldn’t, and that’s it a contradiction. At the same time, I wonder why I should limit myself to things I truly want to do and experience? That’s what feminism means to me: Not limiting myself to any one standard, not even the standards that other feminists try to raise.

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 10:40 am |

      I’m wrong, I have questioned myself over and over, should I be trying to compete for Miss USA while calling myself a feminist?

      Could you at least compete for Ms. USA instead?

    2. A4
      A4 April 17, 2013 at 10:54 am |

      That’s what feminism means to me: Not limiting myself to any one standard, not even the standards that other feminists try to raise.

      How is this brand of feminism to be separated from an attitude of total self-indulgence?

      1. Emolee
        Emolee April 17, 2013 at 11:26 am |

        I could be wrong, but I read her comment as meaning that she doesn’t limit herself by the dogma of any particular group, not that she doesn’t have any personal standards of morality/decency.

        Also, what’s wrong with self-indulgence, so long as the expression of it doesn’t hurt others? (serious question)

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 11:44 am |

          I could be wrong, but I read her comment as meaning that she doesn’t limit herself by the dogma of any particular group, not that she doesn’t have any personal standards of morality/decency.

          Also, what’s wrong with self-indulgence, so long as the expression of it doesn’t hurt others? (serious question)

          I believe the objection is that she’s saying that she’s weaving these qualities into a definition of feminism, not that there’s anything wrong with them per se.

        2. Emolee
          Emolee April 17, 2013 at 11:49 am |

          @fat steve- thanks. I don’t necessarily agree with the objection, but I understand it better now.

        3. A4
          A4 April 17, 2013 at 11:59 am |

          Also, what’s wrong with self-indulgence, so long as the expression of it doesn’t hurt others?

          Nothing. But isn’t it a tenet of feminism that the expressions of our actions often have harmful effects regardless of our intentions because of the way oppression is built into our social and political institutions?

          I read her comment as meaning that she doesn’t limit herself by the dogma of any particular group, not that she doesn’t have any personal standards of morality/decency.

          This is a great sentiment, and I think that feminism is most valuable when it’s used as a framework for informing oneself about the world rather than trying to use it as a framework for judging people’s actions.

          I think it is anti-feminist to say “You participate in beauty pageants and beauty pageants are a manifestation and vehicle for the encouragement and perpetuation of sexist norms and therefore you are a bad person and cannot call yourself a feminist. You are out of the club”

          I think it’s feminist to say “You participate in beauty pageants and beauty pageants are rife with sexist norms. What’s your perspective on that as someone who has experienced this institution first hand. I’m do glad there’s someone on the inside who wants to inspect these things from a feminist framework.”

          The above distinction isn’t airtight and is subject to the same theoretical problems as any binary, but I think it’s pretty solid when it comes to spaces of discussion like this one.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L April 17, 2013 at 11:38 am |

        How is this brand of feminism to be separated from an attitude of total self-indulgence?

        How is this comment to be separated from an attitude of total assholishness, and an almost stereotypical leftist judgmentalism (and misogyny) that intelligent people were making fun of at least 100 years ago?

        1. A4
          A4 April 17, 2013 at 11:48 am |

          Great point! I feel properly guilty and chastised.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L April 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm |

          OK. I apologize for the harshness. But I do get the feeling that you have no conception of the long and unpleasant history behind comments like yours. Never mind the ciscentrism.

        3. A4
          A4 April 17, 2013 at 2:46 pm |

          I do get the feeling that you have no conception of the long and unpleasant history behind comments like yours. Never mind the ciscentrism.

          You are right, but I hope you know I’m genuine when I say that I would like to hear what you have to say about it, and would also welcome any pointers to how I could find information about the history you’re referring to.

    3. TomSims
      TomSims April 17, 2013 at 11:26 am |

      “That’s what feminism means to me: Not limiting myself to any one standard, not even the standards that other feminists try to raise.”

      Applause!

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 2:12 pm |

        “That’s what feminism means to me: Not limiting myself to any one standard, not even the standards that other feminists try to raise.”

        Applause!

        This is why I understood A4’s objection despite finding the verbiage harsh. It is the sort of statement which would be applauded by an idiotic jerk in order to imply that there is something noble in ignoring the ‘standards’ of feminism, whatever there. What does ‘not limiting yourself to any one standard’ mean anyway? You can only limit yourself to one standard.

        1. TomSims
          TomSims April 17, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

          [Comment content snipped]

          [Moderator note: either send a moderator alert by calling a giraffe for problematic comments or let it go. Snarking about the comments policy by non-moderators is blatant flamebait.]

        2. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll April 18, 2013 at 1:28 am |

          Evidently it’s the sort of statement that requires a dude telling a woman how she’s doing feminism WRONG. Christ.

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 18, 2013 at 1:54 am |

          You can only limit yourself to one standard.

          Technically not true.

        4. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve April 18, 2013 at 8:49 am |

          Technically not true.

          How can you limit yourself to multiple standards?

  4. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 10:38 am |

    And there is a dark side to my makeup. While it’s true that I don’t wear my makeup to impress other people, it’s also true that I hate my face. I hate it. I hate the way I look and I hate it when people see me without my makeup because all I feel is ugly. I wear makeup to impress myself and change the way I look because I am ferociously disappointed with what I see in the mirror. And this standard of beauty I that I apply to myself is as much a construct as my face is, created by movies and television and magazines and even my own friends and family, and a few cruel ex-boyfriends. I have the right to decide what makes me look and feel beautiful, but my decision has a long history of baggage.

    While you, are of course, perfectly entitled to this attitude, I must admit your language of self loathing did make me step back. I could see how comments like that would really sadden your friends/family/loved ones, but as I’m not one of those I won’t get hung up on that.

    However, I might argue that you don’t really hat your face any more than a painter hates his canvas.

    1. Emolee
      Emolee April 17, 2013 at 11:46 am |

      I might argue that you don’t really hate your face any more than a painter hates his canvas.

      I’m a writer, and I hate the blank page.

      But the way I understood the OP was that she views makeup as artistic expression, but that it is complicated because she does hate her face – she *doesn’t* see it as a blank or neutral canvas. In other words, she does feel like she is covering or hiding something, and taking that opportunity to be artistic as well.

      I feel her, been there once upon a time. It was the ideas of fat acceptance that helped me stop hating my body, even the things that have nothing to do with fat, like my “imperfect” face, my scars, etc. It had something to do with realizing that the hate was coming from comparing myself to an invented standard (impressed on me through the media, etc.), so that what I saw in the mirror seemed “wrong”- and therefore ugly- *only* because it was different from my expectation, not because it was objectively ugly. And I still wear makeup a lot of the time, but feel comfortable without any, too. YMMV, of course.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve April 17, 2013 at 11:51 am |

        I feel her, been there once upon a time. It was the ideas of fat acceptance that helped me stop hating my body, even the things that have nothing to do with fat, like my “imperfect” face, my scars, etc. It had something to do with realizing that the hate was coming from comparing myself to an invented standard (impressed on me through the media, etc.), so that what I saw in the mirror seemed “wrong”- and therefore ugly- *only* because it was different from my expectation, not because it was objectively ugly. And I still wear makeup a lot of the time, but feel comfortable without any, too. YMMV, of course.

        Believe me I’m there as well. Look at my avatar…could I be covering my face any more? I totally understand the attitude, my reaction was probably as much down to my visceral dislike for the word ‘hate’ as anything else.

    2. pheenobarbidoll
      pheenobarbidoll April 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm |

      However, I might argue that you don’t really hat your face any more than a painter hates his canvas

      Seriously? You’re going to argue that your idea of how she feels is the real way she feels?

      So, you’ve gone from telling her that her feminism is wrong, she can’t limit herself to more than one standard (because you don’t know how that’s possible) and here you are telling her that it’s not really her face she hates, it’s more like a painter hating a blank canvas….wtf. Seriously. Stop it.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve April 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm |

        Seriously? You’re going to argue that your idea of how she feels is the real way she feels?

        So, you’ve gone from telling her that her feminism is wrong, she can’t limit herself to more than one standard (because you don’t know how that’s possible) and here you are telling her that it’s not really her face she hates, it’s more like a painter hating a blank canvas….wtf. Seriously. Stop it.

        I never said ANYTHING about Kara’s feminism. I also never discussed limiting or standards with regards to Kara’s OP. I thought Kara’s post was a perfectly reasoned feminist defence of wearing make-up.

        You are perhaps confused by my post above which defended A4’s criticism of Ashley’s single comment about feminism meaning ignoring what feminists have to say. However, that had nothing to do with Kara or her OP.

        You have accused me twice of saying that Kara has gotten feminism wrong, which bothers me not because it makes me look bad, but because it was an inaccurate description of my feelings toward an excellently written post.

      2. Francesca
        Francesca April 22, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

        Evoking a possible argument is not the same thing as arguing, the idea was to make an analogy. You might want to ask *yourself* whether the person is serious… try saying “seriously?” in your head instead of out loud. Wtf indeed.

    3. r
      r April 25, 2013 at 12:54 am |

      If I could stretch this analogy a bit, I’d suggest that the painting begins from the time you were born. I know it sounds cliché, but time and experiences give your face character, go to any place where the standard artificial construct of beauty perpetuated by magazines hasn’t reached yet, and you’ll see beautiful women, their faces with ridden, with moles, scars, wrinkles, even time-worn tattoos and they’re frikking gorgeous, and I suspect they don’t give rat’s ass what anybody thinks. It’s all about owning it. You **need** to **begin** to love your face, it’s your canvas, with make up or without.
      “guileless and without vanity,we were still in love with ourselves then. We felt comfortable in our own skins, enjoyed the news that our senses released to us, admired our dirt, cultivated our scars, and could not comprehend this unworthiness.”
      ― Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

  5. Julian
    Julian April 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm |

    Honestly, i doubt most men really want a “natural looking” women…and i say that as a guy myself. If most guys really enjoyed seeing girls completely natural, the pic of Shailene Woodley from the Spiderman set without makeup that leaked wouldn’t have caused such a uproar.

    Also, i don’t mean wearing makeup means you can’t be a feminist. if it makes you happy, i think you should have the right to do so without being judged for it

    1. Emolee
      Emolee April 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm |

      i doubt most men really want a “natural looking” women…and i say that as a guy myself.

      Thanks for the notes from your boner. I know it is shocking, but this post is not about figuring out what men like. Did you read this?

      Occasionally, someone will wander by and talk about how guys like “natural girls” and the unanimous response pretty much goes, We don’t give a fuck what you think we should do. We wear makeup because we want to, not to please men.

      But to address your point: What was impressed on me as a teenager (largely through magazines like Teen, 17, etc.) was that boys won’t like you if you wear a lot of makeup because they will wonder what you have to hide; boys like natural girls. And I wondered where that left me, as someone who *did* have something to hide (acne). I figured what they meant was that guys like naturally *conventionally beautiful* girls, girls who look like they are wearing makeup when they are not, which leaves a ton of people out.

      I also have observed *repeatedly* men (including one in my family) criticizing women for wearing makeup, then turning around and acting disgusted when they saw a woman without makeup. This is nothing other than misogyny.

      (And I realize that not all men do this; that men don’t all have the same taste; and that some even value women as more than a body!)

      1. matlun
        matlun April 17, 2013 at 12:55 pm |

        It is somewhat complicated by many men not even noticing subtle make-up. Ie not identifying it as make-up but actually classifying that as the “natural” look.

        Whatever the “natural look” really is. Why should we analyze make-up from a different perspective than any other type of personal grooming or decoration? Is the natural look someone going around in clothes that are just functional, not taking care of their hair, and wearing no jewelry or personal decoration? In that case no culture in human history has gone for the natural look.

        1. Emolee
          Emolee April 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm |

          It is somewhat complicated by many men not even noticing subtle make-up. Ie not identifying it as make-up but actually classifying that as the “natural” look.

          Agreed. It is also complicated by the “natural” makeup (that actually takes a lot of skill and time) and airbrushing that goes on in so many media depictions of women.

          One of my major pet peeves is movies/tv shows in which a woman character goes through some version of hell, but her makeup is still perfectly applied. I feel like the implication is that *this is what women look like naturally.*

        2. EG
          EG April 17, 2013 at 1:46 pm |

          Is the natural look someone going around in clothes that are just functional, not taking care of their hair, and wearing no jewelry or personal decoration?

          I think I’ve been on more than one blind date with these guys.

        3. Willard
          Willard April 17, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

          Why should we analyze make-up from a different perspective than any other type of personal grooming or decoration?

          The fact that only one side of the binary is expected to use it springs to mind. There deserves to be a bit more critical analysis since women are expected to use enough, but not too much and men are expected to notice the results without understanding the process.

          Cross either of those lines and the gender police move in. Clothing and other personal decoration are blurred in distinction apart from the deeply gendered ends of the continuum, but makeup has no continuum that crosses the divide. My choice in women’s jeans garner no comments or sideways looks that I’ve noticed, but miss the tiniest bit of eyeliner on my lower lid and you’d think Joe McCarthy was alive and well.

        4. Willard
          Willard April 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

          Clarification:

          I agree, we shouldn’t need a special perspective on makeup as it should be viewed as just another facet of personal expression, not a tool to shame or force conformity. We don’t live in that world though.

        5. Donna L
          Donna L April 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm |

          movies/tv shows in which a woman character goes through some version of hell, but her makeup is still perfectly applied.

          That annoys me too. Also: women shown with makeup on when they’re supposedly at death’s door in a hospital.

        6. matlun
          matlun April 17, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

          The fact that only one side of the binary is expected to use it springs to mind.

          I do not know. I do not think it is problematic for being gendered per se. That is true for many (most?) body ornamentation such as jewelry, dress, hair style etc.

          It is certainly true that the social pressure is not balanced and there are more pressure on women to follow the beauty norms. Which is a real issue and is something that can be discussed. But specifically make-up still seems to me to be only a specific area of body ornamentation.

        7. Willard
          Willard April 18, 2013 at 1:34 am |

          We’re basically in agreement then, but the discussion isn’t (I think) about ornamentation in general, it’s about a specific facet of that larger class that is singular in its gendered elements.

          Like I said, those aspects you mention exist on a continuum. We could anchor the end points in the deep-space of the two binary camps and move towards gender neutrality in the middle. Fashion is all highly contextual, but take jewelry for example. Earrings can be worn by anyone along the jewelry axis but the acceptable styles will be determined by the gender presentation of the wearer, unless you’re in fancy dress as a pirate, men can’t get away with gaudy hoop earrings. Makeup really doesn’t have a similar bridge behavior, it stops before it gets into man territory.

          The unique divide makeup exhibits merits attention. Again, I think we’re maybe talking past each other a bit, all this personal ornamentation stuff should be on an equal and non-coercive footing, but it’s not.

          Makeup occupies its own special beauty norm that only women really need to worry about, and it hold the high ground of a person’s face. The face and its features are hugely important since we’re measuring and comparing ratios every time we see them, forming opinions in split seconds based entirely on the content of someone’s facade, and it’s all happening basically without any portion of our conscious mind noticing. As a specific area of body ornamentation this has got to be the heavy hitter.

        8. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie April 18, 2013 at 3:35 am |

          Is the natural look someone going around in clothes that are just functional, not taking care of their hair, and wearing no jewelry or personal decoration? In that case no culture in human history has gone for the natural look.

          Well, I look like that almost every day, depending on what you mean by “not taking care of” my hair. I wash it and comb it and let it air dry. I wear comfortable clothes, and never wear make-up. So what?

          I don’t think I understand your implication, except that “cultures” might not “go for” me based on my looks. Again: so what?

        9. matlun
          matlun April 18, 2013 at 5:01 am |

          @tinfoil hattie: There was not much of a hidden implication.

          I was referring to body ornamentation being one of the human universals. It is done in every known human culture. Perhaps using make-up and other types of fashion is actually the “natural” human state?
          (Not that it matters, since nothing says that “natural” = “good”. That is just a fallacy)

          The actual norms can of course vary enormously between cultures and between subcultures within society.

        10. Willard
          Willard April 18, 2013 at 11:38 am |

          The actual norms can of course vary enormously between cultures and between subcultures within society.

          Yup, and mea culpa for not prefacing my arguments with “within the patriarchal norms of mainstream USian society.” Outside of a comparative history or study of makeup as body ornamentation I do think critical analysis of fashion expression needs to be focused on the society in which is it acting though.

          Just like music is a human universal but you wouldn’t be able to figure out what a symphony’s structure is by studying Balinese drum music. It is definitely valuable to pull in those comparative analyses since they shake up the idea that these norms are immutable and predestined.

        11. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie April 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm |

          @matlun, I didn’t say your implication was “hidden,” I said I didn’t understand it.

        12. matlun
          matlun April 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm |

          @tinfoil hattie: I see how that could have come off as defensive. But there were honestly no hard feelings – I did not mean it like that. I have no complaints about your post above. I just wanted to explain myself.

      2. Julian
        Julian April 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm |

        The last part of my comment should have said “i don’t think.” And just to clarify i would like to say i believe everyone should be allowed to express their creativity through whatever means they wish,including makeup. And i don’t believe in judging women based on what makeup they do or don’t use.

    2. Henry
      Henry April 18, 2013 at 12:28 am |

      off topic all of it, also you can’t post “what most men like” without some stats to back it up. I see this done over and over and it usually means “what I like” or what “my peer group likes”

  6. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll April 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm |

    I watch hours and hours of make up tutorials on youtube. It fascinates me how one can literally change their entire face with shading. I’m currently on a Halloween make up marathon because that shit’s just awesome.

    Look, everyone lives in this Patriarchy and make up does fit into that feminine performance crap, but you also have to do what makes YOU happy and helps keep YOU sane and safe. At the end of the day no one can live your life but you. And no one else has any say in it. I control my body. From the top of my head to the tips of my toes, inside and out. If anyone has a problem with that, they can book it on down the road for all I care.

    1. Willard
      Willard April 17, 2013 at 2:05 pm |

      My Amazon wishlist grew by a couple hundred dollars after a youtube binge. That shit is dangerous for the credit card.

      1. Mariucel
        Mariucel April 17, 2013 at 4:27 pm |

        amazon? Wait, are we talking about book recs? Pleeeease share!!!

        1. Willard
          Willard April 18, 2013 at 12:54 am |

          Well, not exactly. You can buy all sorts of stuff on Amazon these days.

          But I love this book: Starflight Handbook cuz of science.

    2. konkonsn
      konkonsn April 17, 2013 at 3:18 pm |

      Same. I love watching people doing funky stuff with their nails or eye shadow. When I see these people in real life, I kind of stare in wonderment at how awesome their stuff is.

      Of course, these aren’t the people that I think of when I think of make-up as an oppression tool. I more think of the women like my mom and sister who put on a light foundation to get that “flawless skin” look and maybe add some mascara or shadow. And then have to buy special washes because they have acne problems from touching their skin so much. And you know, I’m not trying to shame them for doing that because that was makes them feel comfortable. There are lots of times I’ve looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh. I bet if I used a foundation, I could look like those girls on the TV, and people would stop thinking of how homey I am. They might respect me more as an adult.” But then I have the memory of a goldfish, apparently, because that thought goes away after I’m done looking in the mirror.

      1. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
        The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 17, 2013 at 10:22 pm |

        I hope this isn’t OT but if your mum and sister want to wear foundation and not having acne play up, I really recommend looking at the articles on roseaca on the Paula’s Choice website. I have acne roseacea that didn’t respond to antibiotics. It’s cleared up completely since I read what ingredients to look for and, just as importantly, to avoid, in foundation, powder, moisturiser and so on. (One example: I use a tinted sunscreen whose only active ingredient is zinc.)

        I know this sounds like a testimonial but I’ve never bought any Paula’s Choice products, just used the knowledge for my own shopping. :)

    3. TomSims
      TomSims April 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

      @pheenobarbidoll;

      ” but you also have to do what makes YOU happy and helps keep YOU sane and safe. At the end of the day no one can live your life but you. And no one else has any say in it. I control my body. From the top of my head to the tips of my toes, inside and out. If anyone has a problem with that, they can book it on down the road for all I care.”

      Spot on!

    4. wembley
      wembley April 17, 2013 at 10:48 pm |

      I love this comment. We gotta deal with the Patriarchal hand we were dealt with — we can’t fight every single battle. I like that this comment (and the OP) acknowledge that this isn’t just I Choose My Choice, that it’s more complicated and that our choices don’t happen in a vacuum, but at the same time, we don’t need to beat ourselves up for not choosing to die on EVERY SINGLE HILL. For me, make-up takes too much time and feels icky on my face. But I’m too afraid of the backlash I’d get for displaying unshaven legs, so I do that if I’m gonna be showin’ them stems. It’s too draining to be the Platonic Ideal Of Feminism (as if there’s only one!) 24/7, plus there are pleasures to be had in these things that have (oh god the P word) problematic elements to them.

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie April 18, 2013 at 3:37 am |

        And my legs are currently extremely hairy, too. Uh-oh!

      2. Jordan
        Jordan May 1, 2013 at 5:26 am |

        “…we don’t need to beat ourselves up for not choosing to die on EVERY SINGLE HILL.”

        ^ THIS. Sometimes you need to take a stand, and sometimes you just need to survive another day.

  7. Emolee
    Emolee April 17, 2013 at 2:28 pm |

    The fact that only one side of the binary is expected to use it springs to mind.

    Yup, I hate hate hate that my natural face is considered unfinished and “unprofessional.”

    In my first job (administrative), I was told constantly to put on lipstick. Funny how the guys could do the job just fine without it. I am still told (not by my employer thank god) that I shouldn’t show up for work as a lawyer without makeup… yet I do sometimes, and it doesn’t affect my getting good work done (commenting here, on the other hand…)

    I think its totally fine (not that it is my business anyway) for women, men, and non-binary folks to wear makeup for whatever reason. What I hate is the expectation, as well as how gendered it is.

    1. xenu01
      xenu01 April 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm |

      Yup.

      As a restaurant hostess making $10 an hour and later, a waitress, my “acceptable, professional” appearance included:

      Skirt or slacks (mostly skirt preferred, though unofficially- and I was sent home to change once because my skirt was “too casual”- in other words, not fashionable enough). There was also some weirdness with shirts- jersey material allowed, as long as the neckline was low-cut, which somehow made it fancy. I once saw a server sent home because she was wearing the same H&M shirt that we all wore only had chosen the higher neckline.

      Nice, feminine shoes (although I was repeatedly upbraided by the young male managers at one upscale downtown restaurant because of my stubborn refusal to wear high-heeled shoes- I finally toed the line with mary janes).

      “Well groomed appearance, including facial and other visible bodily hair”- this is actually a direct quote from one employee manual, although it was pretty standard across the board, even when I was on a lunch shift, ie casual. What does this mean? Well, my male co-workers had everything from hairy caterpillar eyebrows to scruffy beards. Women, though, were expected to shave or otherwise remove leg and sometimes arm hair, to keep our eyebrows plucked or waxed, to keep our head-hair regularly cut and otherwise maintained, and to wear jewelry unless we had a really good excuse, e.g. religious reasons. Earrings or a necklace was standard protocol. Oh, and let me not forget that our fingernails must be cut and attractive although not polished- because of nail polish chipping fears and food service- that one is understandable.

      In terms of make-up, we were never told we HAD to, but we all did. Part of looking “well-groomed” for women seems to always involve covering up acne and other imperfections (cold sores, for instance) and each and every one of us wore some kind of eyeshadow or mascara.

      Currently, I am delighting in my office job, for which I can wear comfortable shoes and no makeup whatsoever (though I still have to get regular haircuts and not have long curling fingernails).

      1. xenu01
        xenu01 April 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm |

        “later”= less. Oops.

      2. xenu01
        xenu01 April 17, 2013 at 3:24 pm |

        My correction is wrong, actually. I was fine.

        But! Anyway, if you read my original comment and are all TL;DR think of this: for women, the time investment involved in prepping for work is often enormous. Not to mention the financial investment, which is also enormous (did you know you can spent upwards of $30 on something called “Eye Cream”? WTF is Eye Cream?).

        1. Donna L
          Donna L April 17, 2013 at 3:34 pm |

          It’s something you apply beneath and to the sides of your eyes, for the purpose of preventing and/or alleviating wrinkles, dark shadows, etc.

          Not that I would know anything about such things personally, of course.

        2. xenu01
          xenu01 April 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm |

          Haha now I want some. I have some epic dark circles.

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve April 18, 2013 at 7:36 pm |

          But! Anyway, if you read my original comment and are all TL;DR think of this: for women, the time investment involved in prepping for work is often enormous. Not to mention the financial investment, which is also enormous (did you know you can spent upwards of $30 on something called “Eye Cream”? WTF is Eye Cream?).

          I have bought Mrs. Fat Steve eye cream that was upwards of $100 (Creme Ancienne by Fresh.) For me it wasn’t even at all about looks, as I have strong suspicions that stuff like that doesn’t actually work, it was more like ‘I love you, here’s something really expensive,’ which is an unfortunate trap I tend to fall into a lot, especially silly as after 18 years of marriage, I know full well the heartfelt presents are always better appreciated than the expensive ones.

    2. shfree
      shfree April 17, 2013 at 3:52 pm |

      I think that is perhaps the one advantage of having the crappy deli job. It’s better to not have make up on, my hair is always entirely covered so a fancy haircut or style for work is an utter waste of time, and we are flat out not supposed to have fancy nails. This doesn’t mean that some of my co-workers aren’t wearing a full face of make up each and every day, but there has never been an expectation that I should wear any.

      Looking back, however, it does make me wonder if I should have worn some on job interviews I have gone on in the past. THAT, however, irritates the fuck out of me.

      1. Angie unduplicated
        Angie unduplicated April 18, 2013 at 10:02 am |

        I’ve always liked to tailor the adornment to the wage scale. Minimum or near gets bare face and utilitarian clothing, with increases on the same sliding scale as the raises. I actually had a female coworker claim I was too cheap to wear makeup, to curry favor with cheapskate bosses.

      2. Tyris
        Tyris April 18, 2013 at 7:29 pm |

        We work in a pharmaceutical plant, and it’s the same only more so – makeup isn’t just “not expected,” it’s forbidden. But there’s a good, solid, oppression-neutral reason for that, which is that it sheds particles like nobody’s business. We’re making things that get injected into people’s bloodstreams here, and allowing wiggle room on pretty much anything gets people dead. Anything that could increase the airborne particle count, or detach and fall into something – makeup, fake nails, nail polish, hair, wounds – is either removed or covered. Clothes and shoes are replaced with these generic thin, light overalls that generate very little static. Voice becomes the best way of telling people apart.

        Consequently, almost nobody who works on-plant comes to work in the traditional smart dress; mainly what’s hung up in the changing room are jeans and t-shirts.

        That doesn’t seem to affect the prejudices of the folks doing the interviewing, though. Dammit, employers. You were doing so well!

        (Tangential note, answers to which are probably spillover material: is stuffing curly hair into a hairnet an absolute nightmare for anyone else?)

    3. Nimue
      Nimue April 17, 2013 at 11:37 pm |

      This! I don’t like to wear make up; it makes my skin feel yucky to hve stuff on it and yeah, I’m aware that if I don’t get any sunlight I look like a decaying mushroom with freckles, but I would rather look unhealthily pale than feel gross all day because there is crap on my face. I HATE the idea that a woman “needs” to wear some make up to look professional or to look like she’s the sort of person who cares about her appearance. I care about my appearance; that’s why I use things like soap and deodorant and a hairbrush (sometimes. I’ve got wavy hair that is oddly behaved, depending on the humidity. Not really relevant here.) I want to be able to touch MY OWN face without worrying that I’m wrecking some patriarchy-inflicted oily facade that will probably ruin my skin and is covering up my freckles. (I LIKE those. I don’t care if other people don’t; they’re mine and I like them!)

      1. tinfoil hattie
        tinfoil hattie April 18, 2013 at 3:39 am |

        Three cheers!

  8. Anoia
    Anoia April 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm |

    I don’t see make up as contrary to feminism. Feminism includes that women decide how they want to live, that includes i.e. SAHM’s. It’s not feminism if someone else wants to tell me how I must live or how I have to look, that includes wearing or not wearing make up. My life, my choice.

    I wear make-up practically every day, when I was younger I only did my eyes, but since I got rosacea I do full make-up. Beside liking it and hiding my rosacea, I also wear it to make myself look more my age, I am 39, but thanks to being short and having a babyface I look VERY young (teen), with make-up on, people take me more seriously/treat me like an adult, so in my case I also wear it “for” other people, too. (I am also a nail polish junkie, and wearing attentiongrabbing nail polish works better if your face matches. :P) A nice side effect to MU is that the skin on my face is in better condition to when I don’t wear MU.

    P.S. If you don’t know her yet, try watching lisaeldridgedotcom on Youtube. She’s awesome. And she has a nice series on the history of make up.

    1. TomSims
      TomSims April 17, 2013 at 4:14 pm |

      ” It’s not feminism if someone else wants to tell me how I must live or how I have to look, that includes wearing or not wearing make up. My life, my choice.”

      Spot on

  9. Kes
    Kes April 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm |

    Yeah, I just don’t buy the whole “we can’t criticize the problematic and sexist aspects of certain portions of the culture because some feminists do it” school of thought. Nor do I buy into the “everything is a choosey choice and if you choose it it’s totes feminist!” line of thinking.

    We all live on this planet together, and none of us goes out into the world in a vacuum. Whether I like it or not, my decision whether to shave my legs/armpits before wearing a skirt DOES affect other people’s lives, because it’s reinforcement of a sexist and patriarchal standard. If I choose to do that, I have to accept that my consequences have actions for other people. I wouldn’t think of defending those actions as some sort of principled feminist stand. What a joke!

    We all need to capitulate to the patriarchy in some form or fashion. But that doesn’t mean we should expect cookies for it.

    If this post was about how feminists shouldn’t judge others for the forms of capitulation we feel we need to make, then okay, but I don’t really see that in the post.

    If pointing out that make-up is problematic is “torturing” to the OP and gives her serious anxiety about herself, then that’s a whole other kettle of fish which is more about her own triggers and insecurities than about how to define feminism. Sympathies to her for her struggle, but no more than I’d give to a religiously conservative woman who feels excluded or judged because her “choice” to give her husband total financial control isn’t considered a “feminist” choice, either. I don’t have to judge her in order to consider the context in which she’s making that choice, and I don’t have to consider a choice “feminist” just because a woman made it.

    1. Kes
      Kes April 17, 2013 at 3:30 pm |

      Argh! That should read, “I have to accept that my actions have consequences for other people.”

    2. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl April 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm |

      Whether I like it or not, my decision whether to shave my legs/armpits before wearing a skirt DOES affect other people’s lives, because it’s reinforcement of a sexist and patriarchal standard. If I choose to do that, I have to accept that my consequences have actions for other people. I wouldn’t think of defending those actions as some sort of principled feminist stand. What a joke!

      This…is kind of silly to me. Shaving my legs because I don’t want to end scratching them bloody and raw because of how itchy they get, or wear a skirt so that I don’t roast with heatstroke in the summer or even wear powder on my face to sop up its oiliness is not anathema to feminism. Nor does it require me to explain myself in a sufficiently regretful manner to pass feminist muster.

      The whole yardstick of feminism being based on skirt wearing or leg shaving and/or make-up wearing reminds me of those folks who make much noise about being very good, super Christians because they tithe and go to church every Sunday and don’t drink alcohol. Forget about how they actually conduct themselves and treat their fellow humans. Feminism is the fight to have women’s equality with men acknowledged and respected. It’s one thing to fight patriarchal norms that adversely affect women and not men, but interrogating individual women’s conduct that may (or may not, depending on the viewpoint of the beholder) be inconsistent with feminism.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl April 17, 2013 at 7:01 pm |

        Sorry, hit submit to soon.

        It’s one thing to fight patriarchal norms that adversely affect women and not men, but interrogating individual women’s conduct that may (or may not, depending on the viewpoint of the beholder) be inconsistent with feminism is not necessarily the feminist thing to do. Interrogating individual woman’s conduct and demanding an explanatory apology from them is already done far too often by the sexist and misogynist corners of our society. Eschewing leg and armpit shaving, make-up wearing, or skirt wearing as the one true path to feminism is what sounds like a joke to me.

        1. Nico
          Nico April 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm |

          Try epilation! It has a somewhat deserved reputation for being uncomfortable (read: painful, like waxing, but much slower), but the first time is by far the worst, and after that it quickly recedes. Really. The hairs grow back like peachfuzz, with a tapered end. And epilating those hairs is fairly painless… I recall there actually being something pleasant about it. Eventually they pretty much just give up and stop growing back altogether…. what remains is super fine with tapered ends, and doesn’t grow long at all. It’ll vary from person to person of course, but for me I think it took maybe two years, doing it about every 2 or 3 months. Not religiously. It’s an interesting process. I can’t remember the last time I had to shave my legs. There’s basically nothing there to shave.

        2. Nico
          Nico April 18, 2013 at 10:09 pm |

          sorry… I meant that to go at the end of this sub-thread…

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune April 17, 2013 at 9:00 pm |

        Shaving my legs because I don’t want to end scratching them bloody and raw because of how itchy they get

        Oh, fuck me, I thought I was the only one who started shaving for that reason. D: I hate the itchy, I hate it.

        1. igglanova
          igglanova April 17, 2013 at 10:01 pm |

          Anecdote alert: back when I used to shave regularly, I used to feel the same terrible itchiness when the hair regrew. But, when I decided to quit shaving entirely, I discovered that the itchy / prickly feeling was not permanent. It went away in a few weeks. Most of the discomfort was caused by the ‘unnaturally’ sharp edges on hair that has recently been cut – once the hair reestablished its natural taper, it ceased to scratch uncomfortably against the skin.

          No idea if this applies to anyone else’s situation, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw it out there.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 17, 2013 at 10:20 pm |

          @igglanova,

          I know the itch you’re talking about, and it’s not quite the same as the kind of grody stuff that used to happen to me; I get the stubbly-itch, but it goes away. (I’m really half-assed about shaving, and I’m hairy-legged more often than not, so I can feel the difference.) I think my own skin hates the hair because it has a nasty tendency to erupt in awful heat rashes if my skin’s greasy or overheated, and the hair traps heat/oil better – I have the full-on desi mat o’ thickness, so it’s not an inconsiderable difference.

        3. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll April 18, 2013 at 1:11 am |

          Yeah, not at all willing to deal with it for a few days much less weeks.

        4. Willard
          Willard April 18, 2013 at 1:52 am |

          Leg hair + long underwear + biking = Firey burning hell on wheels.

          I have less follicle irritation in winter with shaving and exfoliating than I do if I get lazy and let the hair grow to where the long johns will start to snag and pull at it.

        5. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl April 18, 2013 at 8:48 am |

          Nah, I’ve tried wait it out approach to not leg shaving. The insidious itchiness did not go away, despite promises to the contrary.

        6. Computer Soldier Porygon
          Computer Soldier Porygon April 18, 2013 at 8:49 pm |

          I shave once every few months, and I never get itchy, butttt… I just don’t think my leg hair is attractive! It’s all patchy. Like, some people have nice leg hair. It’s all over. Mine is like, a little here, a little there, a big random thatch of it here for no reason, etc. I would like it so much more if it would grow all over.

          I guess I make up for the empty spaces on my legs for being hairy as fuck everywhere else on my body.

    3. Buttered Lilies
      Buttered Lilies April 17, 2013 at 8:16 pm |

      There doesn’t appear to be any middle ground between “reinforcing patriarchy and anti-feminist” and “totally feminist”. That troubles me. So does the way wearing makeup is apparently the same as giving your husband total financial control.

      I don’t think “x reinforces patriarchy, therefore x is invalid and everyone who does it is reinforcing patriarchy” is a helpful, working, feminist model. For example, the standard for women under patriarchy has been to have to bear children, and lots of them. If we were to extend your attitude towards makeup to bearing children, then every woman who had a child would have to accept that she was reinforcing patriarchal standards by having children and child-free women would be seen as the Real Feminists (TM). Except that seems less really feminist, and more like a violation of reproductive rights and a great way to kill of the species. And that “x reinforces patriarchy” is a very narrowly applied lens makes me think its not about being serious theorists who critique patriarchy, so much as judging women and policing their bodies.

    4. Alexandra
      Alexandra April 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm |

      I disagree with most of your comment. I honestly do not think that the most important or significant way to change beauty standards is by abstaining from all beautification rituals endorsed by patriarchy. There are a lot of them, and a lot of those beautification rituals have positive along with negative connotations. But I also think that the correct attitude to take is less that, “I must religiously fail to adhere to any beauty norm imposed by patriarchy,” and rather, “I must try not to judge anyone around me for failing to uphold some patriarchal beauty norm.”

    5. Drahill
      Drahill April 17, 2013 at 9:43 pm |

      We all live on this planet together, and none of us goes out into the world in a vacuum. Whether I like it or not, my decision whether to shave my legs/armpits before wearing a skirt DOES affect other people’s lives, because it’s reinforcement of a sexist and patriarchal standard. If I choose to do that, I have to accept that my consequences have actions for other people. I wouldn’t think of defending those actions as some sort of principled feminist stand. What a joke!

      Ah, but your reasoning flaw is that you’ve already attached a moral/ethical value to the act of shaving your legs. In reality, shaving your legs is no more ethically loaded than not. It’s a neutral act. The only reason it merits any discussion on a feminist website is because patriarchal standards have attached such a loaded ethical/societal value to the act of leg-shaving. But doesn’t that mean that by ascribing positive value to things the patriarchy discourages (not leg shaving = good, because patriarchy says it’s bad), you’re still allowing the patriarchy to dictate your value system in full? Feminism isn’t supposed to be about “do everything in direct opposition to the patriarchy so we can show ‘em” (at least not the way I learned it). Feminism is about abolishing the patriarchal standards to allow neutral acts to return to their neutral state, free of expectations. Your logic that leg shaving has adverse consequences for others effectively positions it as the “wrong” choice for feminists. But that still means you’re decision-making is beholden to the patriarchy, just on the opposite side.

      1. Nico
        Nico April 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm |

        I agree with that. The only thing that makes these practices sexist is that the culture defines them as being appropriate for only one sex, and that this appropriateness then gets transformed into an expectation of compliance, with non-compliers subject to one or another type of sanction. The sexism is not in the practice but in the uneven distribution of the expectation. It’s another manifestation of essentialism: girls do this, boys don’t, and vice versa.

        The way to break sexism is to break sex-essentialist expectations.

        But that still means you’re decision-making is beholden to the patriarchy, just on the opposite side.

        Yep. The more proscriptively rigid feminism becomes in these matters, the more it complies with “patriarchy.”

        Not all feminism is progressive.

    6. Aaliyah
      Aaliyah April 18, 2013 at 12:55 am |

      Whether I like it or not, my decision whether to shave my legs/armpits before wearing a skirt DOES affect other people’s lives, because it’s reinforcement of a sexist and patriarchal standard.

      And what about trans* women who shave their legs and/or armpits? You do know that, for many of us trans* women, having tons of long body hair makes us feel highly dysphoric. Right?

      1. Aaliyah
        Aaliyah April 18, 2013 at 1:09 am |

        Eh, I’m sorry if that sounded unnecessarily abrasive. I’m just saying that context matters.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L April 18, 2013 at 1:26 am |

        I just wanted to let you know, Aaliyah, that I had exactly the same reaction to that comment, and several others on this thread.

      3. Dawnbreaker
        Dawnbreaker April 18, 2013 at 3:45 am |

        I don’t think Kes was saying that you can’t shave your legs and be a feminist (although that’s what others have assumed). I think it was more about them rejecting that choice as a feminist decision – “it is not act promoting feminism to shave your legs”, as opposed to “you are out of the club if you do so”. Kara K seems to be saying that her make-up wearing is an active feminist choice. I actually think Kes is right, that make-up wearing is not an active promotion of feminism, and is primarily due to social and patriarchal pressure. That doesn’t mean if you do it (as I do) you’re a bad feminist, it just means you need to recognise the context in which you do so.

        1. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters April 18, 2013 at 7:58 am |

          I agree and am a bit confused as to how people can get to the conclusion that someone is arguing “if you shave your legs and wear make-up you aren’t a Real Feminist” in this thread. Just because every decision made isn’t a “feminist” one doesn’t mean someone isn’t a feminist. While context matters, for the most part, I think very few everyday decisions can really be matters of advocating feminism in the sense that they do not either defy cultural norms or do something to help the liberation of people oppressed by the kyriarchy. I don’t think of individual decisions being matters of feminism for the most part because they usually do little to change the lives of other women one way or another. When people start criticizing other women for not wearing make-up and calling them unprofessional for not shaving their legs, or telling people their gender presentation is inappropriate, I consider those feminist matters because they involve someone pressuring another person into patriarchal compliance. I think a lot of backlash is built around the idea that if someone says a choice isn’t feminist then they are attacking the feminism of the person making that choice. Some choices are not feminist, but feminists still make them.

        2. Denise Winters
          Denise Winters April 18, 2013 at 7:59 am |

          Also meant to add that just because a choice isn’t feminist, that does not mean it is anti-feminist which is another assumption that appears to be floating around.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L April 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm |

          I don’t think Kes was saying that you can’t shave your legs and be a feminist (although that’s what others have assumed).

          I think you pretty much missed the point of Aaliyah’s comment. The argument about “reinforcement of a sexist and patriarchal standard” has been used against trans women — and the things trans women do to try to relieve dysphoria, including, for many, body dysphoria — forever. And it’s repugnant and just plain wrong in any number of ways. If not affirmatively transphobic, Kes’s statement was incredibly ciscentric.

        4. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll April 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm |

          Not just that but also it ignores the fact that many WOC are ridiculed and shamed for their body hair, and shaving it can be attempt to survive a lot of racism thrown at them. The choice is often shave or be compared to an animal or man.

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm |

          The choice is often shave or be compared to an animal or man.

          Don’t I know this.

          Hell, internalised racism is so much fun that I used to think that about myself, even though I don’t really apply that to anyone else who has that much body hair.

        6. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah April 18, 2013 at 3:12 pm |

          I don’t think Kes was saying that you can’t shave your legs and be a feminist (although that’s what others have assumed).

          No. The problem with hir statement is that it assumes that leg/armpit hair shaving itself always reinforces kyriarchal norms. The only thing that reinforces kyriarchal norms here is the kyriarchal normativity behind leg/armpit hair saving – that is, what’s actually oppressive is the idea that women must shave their legs and armpits.

          But it’s different when many trans* women shave that hair because it’s a means of alleviating their dysphoria. I mean, I can’t afford to shave my body hair these days as it will be too easy for the wrong people to find out, but when I used to shave my legs (as well as my chest and back), I did it because it made me feel much better about my body. I understood that I didn’t have to shave it in order to “become” female (I always have been), but shaving made me feel more comfortable with my body. Just like shaving my beard and mustache.

          Hence my assertion that context matters.

          The way to oppose this kyriarchal normativity is not to categorically label body hair shaving itself as pro-kyriarchy, but rather advocate the acceptance of women who choose to keep their leg/armpit hair longer and, it goes without saying, the acceptance of trans* women.

        7. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah April 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm |

          Having seen the posts from Mac and pheeno, I’ll add that working for the acceptance of WOC who choose to not follow that norm is equally important. Same goes for anyone else negatively affected by that norm.

        8. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

          @Aaliyah

          Exactly. And for you, as a trans WOC, well, fuck…I think everyone should probably just get out of your business forever. How’s that sound?

        9. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah April 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm |

          And for you, as a trans WOC, well, fuck…I think everyone should probably just get out of your business forever. How’s that sound?

          I’m all for it. ^_^

        10. Buttered Lilies
          Buttered Lilies April 18, 2013 at 8:17 pm |

          Kes didn’t say you were out of the club for wearing makeup, but she did say it was harmful to other women and an anti-feminist act. Of course people are put off of the idea that, sure, they can be in the club, but only if they agree they’re the bad members.

        11. Li
          Li April 19, 2013 at 4:09 am |

          Kes didn’t say you were out of the club for wearing makeup, but she did say it was harmful to other women and an anti-feminist act. Of course people are put off of the idea that, sure, they can be in the club, but only if they agree they’re the bad members.

          Yeah, look, on the list of things likely to make me consider you a bad member of the feminist club, engaging in some kind of make-up practice actually ranks way lower than say, failing to apply intersectionality to your analyses.

        12. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah April 19, 2013 at 1:19 pm |

          Kes didn’t say you were out of the club for wearing makeup, but she did say it was harmful to other women and an anti-feminist act. Of course people are put off of the idea that, sure, they can be in the club, but only if they agree they’re the bad members.

          I’m not a bad member for wanting to be more comfortable with my body FFS. It’s not like I’m saying that all cis and trans* women must shave their legs, wear makeup, etc. whether they want to or not.

    7. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah April 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm |

      And I understand this approach, Kes, but ultimately who does get to make the choice about whether to shave, wear make up, have long hair, wear skirts, etc? Society by means of a vote? Vocal feminists that have blogs? A person’s partner? An attempt at a feminist consensus on the topic? Practically and morally speaking, the only appropriate answer to that question is: the person themselves. Right? I mean, who else should be the one to make that choice? Everyone has their own reasons for shaving or not shaving, wearing make up or not, wearing skirts and wearing bras…and no one knows those reasons better than the people themselves. So I don’t really get why other feminist women get to criticize those choices from the outside any more than I understand why a religious leader should be able to criticize those choices. One of the important ideals of feminism, to me, is the idea that women are capable of making their own decisions about their bodies and their lives. I believe that a woman is the person that is BEST suited to make choices about her own body and her own life. No one else is better positioned to make those choices. Not even another feminist.

      1. (BFing)Sarah
        (BFing)Sarah April 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm |

        And I’m saying this as a person who has hairy legs and an face without make up right now…my hair is combed, though, and I’m wearing a bra. Oh, and my toes are painted purple…whoops!

        As for whether all of those things should be up for a feminist round table, there are so many things that people do on a daily basis that are not “feminist choices.” Like the occupations we choose and don’t choose, like the clothing and the colors of clothing we wear, the way we wear our hair, the jewelry we wear or don’t wear, whether we have children and who cares for them, whether we partner and who we partner with, what establishments we patronize and which we boycott, our footwear, our names, etc…who has the time and energy to scrutinize the Proper Feminist Choices for all of those things? And what if the choices have inter-sectional implications? Do we all have to justify every single thing we do to both society and to other feminists? Its so fucking exhausting. I understand WHY the discussion is important, but could it not have such judgie “Explain yourself!!” undertones? Could it maybe be understanding of the fact that everyone makes choices based on a thousand factors and that they are the only person that knows all those factors? Just….sigh.

  10. Drahill
    Drahill April 17, 2013 at 3:57 pm |

    Being a feminist means I question why we have the hangups we do, without torturing the people who have them.

    Isn’t this that biggest takeaway from the article? Listen, the beauty industry does thrive on an idea that the human face is flawed in its natural state and needs correcting. Sure. Does opting out of that by refusing to wear makeup help anything? Maybe, I don’t know. But does it help any at all to place the burden on the buyers and users of the product when the producers are really the originators of the problem? No. I wouldn’t buy into a form of feminism that placed the burden for change on individual behaviors (without even bothering to know their motivators) over addressing systematic problems with the industry the product originates in.

    1. Jennifer
      Jennifer April 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm |

      Fem 17apr13
      What Drahill said.

      I don’t wear any makeup, but I don’t hold anything against people who do. I didn’t give up makeup until I was in a social context in grad school where it was unusual to wear it, and then I got used to how I looked without it. I’ve been lucky enough to stay employed in occupations/industries (nonprofits, universities) where going without it is not a hindrance. In many cases, women have to wear it—that’s what I don’t like. Good luck getting anywhere as a television personality or most corporate sales/marketing positions without it.

      So, please don’t beat yourself up for wearing makeup.

    2. R J K
      R J K April 17, 2013 at 8:58 pm |

      I wouldn’t buy into a form of feminism that placed the burden for change on individual behaviors (without even bothering to know their motivators) over addressing systematic problems with the industry the product originates in.

      That’s totally fair, but isn’t urging consumers to change their consumer behaviour a legitimate path to addressing those problems? If opting out denies the beauty industrial complex additional financial resources with which to promote toxic beauty standards or reduces their revenue, does that count for anything?

      1. Drahill
        Drahill April 17, 2013 at 9:18 pm |

        I believe that counts for very little from a purely economic perspective. It might if we were talking about an industry where pulling one’s dollars had a discernible impact, maybe. But the beauty (and, to be more specific, the cosmetics industry) is, nationally, a BILLION dollar industry. If you stop buying, I can assure you, they will not notice. There’s also the problem that those so inclined to do what you suggest are most likely those who weren’t buying a ton of cosmetics in the first place. The number of people you’d have to convince to opt-out to make a discernible dent would be staggering, and one you’d likely never achieve.

        The other flaw in your argument is that, as others have pointed out, a large number of buyers of cosmetics do not have the ability to opt out even if they wanted to do so. Many have jobs in which cosmetic-wearing is a stated (or unstated) condition of employment. Asking these people to opt-out is, in effect, asking them to take great economic risk to do so. Asking so much of a person is, to me, totally flawed reasoning, when the actual blame lays elsewhere.

      2. Drahill
        Drahill April 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm |

        Let me clarify – I can support encouraging consumers to, if they economically can, support smaller companies or sole producers (like those on Etsy and elsewhere) who, as far as I know, don’t engage in destructive advertising. However, even that has its problems (especially given how messed up corporate structures are, you might never be totally sure of whom you’re actually buying from). Also, that really only works from a diverting standpoint if the company who you won’t buy from knows why. There are many reasons not to buy from major cosmetics companies – and destructive advertising is only one among them. In order to send an actual message, not only would you need a sizable group refusing to spend with a company (which I’m skeptical you could ever actually get), you’d need a unified message that broadcasts WHY they are refusing. That is why I find the strategy largely unworkable.

        1. R J K
          R J K April 17, 2013 at 10:55 pm |

          You’re right, of course. It just sucks.

          I was going to mention seeking alternative suppliers and such, with the caveat that oligopolies can obscure the fact that there are few, if any, legitimately alternative options.

          I didn’t mean to imply that there’s a binary choice in consumer behaviour either. And I accept that some people find themselves in positions where certain consumer behaviour is effectively mandatory.

  11. Stephanie
    Stephanie April 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm |

    I don’t wear makeup, but I still enjoyed this article. It has never bothered me when other people choose to wear makeup – their business, not mine. The hardest part when I was younger was getting the same respect. These days, I think everyone is just used to the fact that I don’t wear makeup, so I don’t get the comments anymore. I’m still waiting to see what happens when people notice I’m not dyeing the grey hairs on my head either.

    This wasn’t a consciously feminist thing for me. I just never liked the feel of makeup on my face. Other people can wear it, they feel better about themselves, and that’s good. Beauty standards can be problematic, but there’s also a problem with telling people they have to ignore them.

    1. Emolee
      Emolee April 17, 2013 at 6:48 pm |

      Beauty standards can be problematic, but there’s also a problem with telling people they have to ignore them.

      Yes. Teling a person ze must wear makeup and telling a person ze must *not* wear makeup are both icky because they involve policing people’s bodies.

  12. xenu01
    xenu01 April 17, 2013 at 6:08 pm |

    Can’t we support other women in the choices they make without making like those choices happen in a vacuum? I mean, it’s like marriage & names, removal of body hair, SAHMs, etc. Always comes down to the same questions, doesn’t it?

    1. theLaplaceDemon
      theLaplaceDemon April 17, 2013 at 10:34 pm |

      Yes. Thank you.

      I wear make up almost every day that I leave the house. It’s not a feminist choice, it’s an aesthetic one – and I couldn’t tell you with certainly where my sense of aesthetics comes from, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to guess that the patriarchy had something to do with it. It is reasonable to say that I am perpetuating stereotypes with how I wear makeup – I won’t argue with you. But I can only fight so many battles a day, and dealing with both the personal psychological and job-related ones attached to makeup do not seem worth it.

      I have no problem with the OP wearing makeup, or enjoying makeup – I admire the artistry of many makeup wearers more skilled than I. I also do think that there are ways that makeup can be worn subversively by people of all genders. I also think it’s really, really fucked up that we live in a world where women are so harshly judged for not wearing makeup, and men are so harsh judged for wearing it.

      I also think it’s *really* unproductive to argue about The Very Specific Definition of Feminism and List Of Feminist Activities. It derails from the more pragmatic point, which is: What is the context and societal & personal implications of X action”?

      I don’t wanna argue about whether feminism is all about choices or all about patriarchy smashing. I want to talk about how we create a world where it is equally acceptable for all genders to love and practice makeup art the way the OP does, and equally acceptable for all genders to never wear makeup in any circumstance.

      1. Miriam
        Miriam April 18, 2013 at 12:23 pm |

        Yes, thank you. This is exactly the response I tried to write but couldn’t find the words to embody the sentiment.

  13. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 17, 2013 at 8:59 pm |

    Excellent and really honest article, Kara. Thank you.

    Although now I’m wondering, for the rabidly-anti-makeup/shaving/jewelry group… if I shave my legs sometimes, but always wear full-length trousers or jeans so no one except my wife actually knows if I shave my legs or not, am I Schroedinger’s Feminist?

    1. Alexandra
      Alexandra April 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm |

      LOL yep.

    2. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 17, 2013 at 10:28 pm |

      You could even have Schrodinger’s Legs! :O

      1. Arctic Ape
        Arctic Ape April 18, 2013 at 7:43 am |

        *Insert joke about shaving pubic hair and schrödinger’s cat*

    3. Arctic Ape
      Arctic Ape April 18, 2013 at 7:39 am |

      Kinda like when no one knows if you’re wearing makeup under your niqab … oh wait.

  14. Datdamwuf
    Datdamwuf April 17, 2013 at 9:09 pm |

    I went through a phase in my early 30s when I wore makeup for a few years and it made me feel more beautiful, I think that is the key. But I always hated how it felt and the time it took to put it on and to take it off. And that natural look, the makeup must be subtle for a “natural look”, meaning that supposedly you are wearing nothing more than some mascara. That’s BS, that natural look is not natural at all and it takes a long time to do it.

    I wonder if we are making progress when a % of men are now doing the same (and growing numbers I think); makeup, plucking, shaving, waxing etc? instead of everyone coming to appreciate truly natural beauty? Or should I say accepting each other and ourselves as beautiful without measuring against some norm? I guess it makes no difference, after all, if we are all equally unhappy with our natural state then it’s all good because it’s equal?

    I happened to see this right before reading the article today and I think it is appropriate (I know Dove but really);

    1. Donna L
      Donna L April 18, 2013 at 1:23 am |

      truly natural beauty?

      I’m not sure there is such a thing. As a famous philosopher once said, we’re born naked, and all the rest is drag. And despite the obviously problematic and highly gendered aspects of cultural pressures and expectations with respect to both, I see no inherent, objective, qualitative difference between clothing as adornment and makeup as adornment. Both have been around not for thousands, but for tens of thousands of years and more.

      Of course, it’s a little difficult for me to be objective, given how many years I spent wishing that it were “permitted” and culturally acceptable for me to buy and wear makeup. (As a teenager, I even once shoplifted a tube of lipstick.) And even now, I very much appreciate that it’s something I’m allowed to do. Even though it’s no longer something I need as much psychologically as I used to, as a kind of gender security blanket, I still like the way it looks.

      Also, there are certainly things that require more time out of my day than used to be the case — like figuring out what to wear to work — but spending 5 minutes every day putting on makeup (beyond which the returns would unquestionably diminish) isn’t one of them. I used to spend more time every day shaving my face, speaking of an unnatural, time-consuming act.

      1. Datdamwuf
        Datdamwuf April 18, 2013 at 9:11 pm |

        Hey Donna, I guess my idea of truly natural beauty is simply the way we are. I can’t think of anyone I think of as ugly so it’s hard for me to translate that thought. Examples maybe. The most beautiful woman I have ever seen was on a nude beach in Jamaica, she came out of the water looking like a goddess. She was a giant, ponderous in her beauty and shining and completely part of the world, I cannot explain it better. When I told my companion to look at her awesomeness? he said she was fat and other shitty things. I see people like this all the time, beautiful people, sometimes there is just a particular thing that makes them shine to me, eyebrows or lips or simply a way they move, the roll of a hip or the light in their eyes. I cannot remember ever seeing anyone that was truly ugly to me visually, though I’ve met plenty of people who are visually beautiful and ugly as hell inside.

  15. AthenaH2SO4
    AthenaH2SO4 April 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm |

    THANK YOU. You have basically articulated many of my own thoughts and experiences on this, and done it far better than I could have. Can I print this out and hand it to every dude who tells me “you look better without makeup!”?

  16. theLaplaceDemon
    theLaplaceDemon April 17, 2013 at 10:41 pm |

    Also, I want to add a solidarity “fuck you” in response to the “but you look so much prrrettttttierrrr without makeup!” Right along with their cousins, the “But I think small breasts are hotter!” dudes and “Real women have curves” dudes, they have Missed The Fucking Point.

    1. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah April 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm |

      LOL! I love that! Someone the other day said something like, “Well guys like girls that have curves, because real women have curves” to me, a woman who most certainly does not have curves (unless you count the curve of my chin). I was like, “Um. Apparently not all guys like that…and I’m pretty sure I’m “real,” too!”

  17. Fake name for this
    Fake name for this April 17, 2013 at 11:44 pm |

    So, I wear makeup because it helps me get laid. Makeup makes me more conventionally attractive and ensures more people I’m attracted to notice me and are attracted back. This is completely and utterly a product of the patriarchy. But I like getting laid.

  18. Nico
    Nico April 18, 2013 at 2:44 am |

    I enjoyed reading this post. It’s on one of my favorite subjects, and also one of the most depressing.

    One of the saddest things in the the history of feminism is that makeup & fashion became an issue in the manner they did. It’s hard to find any good that’s come from it. It has colored the perception of feminism in damaging ways, and in itself that might not matter much, because at the end of the day feminism per se doesn’t matter much, BUT at the end of the day, feminist issues DO matter, a lot, and when a movement is tainted, movement on its issues suffers. It’s ironic how feminism’s theorization of images of women damaged the image of feminism, making it less able to accomplish its goals.

    But it’s not simply the image of feminism that suffered at the hands of “beauty myth feminism.” By effectively institutionalizing a negative evaluation of makeup and fashion at the center of feminist theory, feminism put a large chunk of contemporary femininity in its cross hairs, and unwittingly undercut its ability to theorize and deal coherently with modern (post-second-wave and beyond) media culture, which puts it at a serious disadvantage as an agent of (direct, non-accidental) cultural change.

    Feminism today, that is, the thing that presents itself or gets presented (the difference between the two is largely moot) on the cultural stage as “feminism,” walks a line between celebrating progressive sexuality, which is something that it must do, and the regular condemnation of some of modern sexuality’s most prominent representations, which is at time entirely justified, but in doing so it staggers forward in a blurry mess that appears, at best, too much trouble to keep track of (much less believe in and follow) and at worst disingenuous and hypocritical. The damage this has done to feminism’s credibility and its perceived integrity in the political marketplace has been enormous. It is this public image of feminism that attaches itself to feminist ideas and policy proposals. (This is how reproductive rights slipped from feminism’s grasp.)

    Why should anyone have to contort themselves to justify an aesthetic practice on their own body, regardless of that practice’s supposed origins? That seems fundamentally anti-feminist. I identify deeply with large portions of the OP, but in that identification it feels a little too much like an apology. To who? Feminism? Fuck that.

  19. FYouMudFlaps
    FYouMudFlaps April 18, 2013 at 3:52 am |

    Great. But if you were socialized male, would you think this way at all?

    1. Li
      Li April 18, 2013 at 5:00 am |

      I have been socialised as a man (and am being still socialised as a man, since socialisation doesn’t just happen once and then stop) and I enjoy make-up. I don’t have the same relationship to it that Kara K. does, but I do use make-up as a form of creative expression like she does and I do love a good make-up tutorial vid on youtube even if I can’t afford/don’t prioritise a large makeup collection. So, like, in answer to your kind of bizarre hypothetical, yes?

      And I’m not even going to start parsing the problematics in “socialised male” as it applies to trans* women, but I am assuming that you are using it in its standard sense, which is normally intended to include them, and there are already several trans* women on this thread discussing their relationships to make-up.

      1. FYouMudFlaps
        FYouMudFlaps April 18, 2013 at 5:20 am |

        Yes, I can’t believe I forgot to mention that… literally 10 seconds after I posted it I cursed to myself for not including a disclaimer about being cis or trans. So I will now:

        If you were raised in this culture and/or still presented as a cisgender male, do you think this attachment to make-up would be there?

        See to me make-up isn’t INHERENTLY bad. The problem is only one half of the binary (as someone above said) is tasked to use it. And only a certain way, “natural” as in made to look as if it’s not there, but would be called “hideous” if actually not there (e.g. the old chestnut about how girls look in the morning).

        It stands to reason that any girl or woman THIS impassioned about defending make-up is either very into the “Choice Feminism” phenomenon, and/or is trying to rationalize that even though the impetus for make-up in the first place is sexist, she liked it anyway for x and y reasons.

        1. Li
          Li April 18, 2013 at 5:54 am |

          I’m trying to point out that even among cis men (and I am on the cis spectrum when it comes to my gender), relationships to make-up aren’t monolithic. There’s a long history of make-up being used by men, even restricting ourselves to vaguely contemporary western cultures, especially men who are members of various subcultures. And because of those subcultural factors (or indeed, professional, if they’re working in media or entertainment), men’s experiences of make-up use can’t be easily explained in terms of a man/woman binary, because the relevant identifications might actually be with say, goth or emo or queer cultures.

          And if that logic can apply to men, then it can certainly apply to women. Just as men can have reasons to engage in make-up practices that aren’t explained just by gender norms, so women can have reasons to engage in certain make-up practices that aren’t explained just by patriarchy.

        2. Willard
          Willard April 18, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

          See to me make-up isn’t INHERENTLY bad. The problem is only one half of the binary (as someone above said) is tasked to use it.

          Gaah…I hate morning clean up. Yes that was me, and no I didn’t set it up with the proper caveats. I was speaking in terms of expectations imposed from the patriarchal norms of mainstream USian society. In my mind there’s a three dimensional representation of my one dimensional example above that encompasses what Li is saying, but I doubt I could verbalize it.

          the impetus for make-up in the first place is sexist

          The foundation of the modern marketing of make up in the US is sexist, but makeup itself? It’s a tool, and like any tool it can be used and abused.

          Just as men can have reasons to engage in make-up practices that aren’t explained just by gender norms, so women can have reasons to engage in certain make-up practices that aren’t explained just by patriarchy.

          Emphasis mine. Last try to get my point across, I was talking about expectations. Just because an action is expected by someone and and agent does it doesn’t necessarily mean that the expectation was the driving factor. Attacking the individual (the false Choice feminism and rationalized sexism dichotomy) over the system (predatory marketing, sexist workplace presentation standards) plays in to hands of the latter.

          It erases any possible reason outside of the systematically imposed rules and requirements for the person to be taking that action. What Li said about actions outside the norms is right, there are ostensibly normative things people do where the root reason doesn’t fit the patriarchal narrative. That doesn’t necessarily make those actions “feminist,” but it doesn’t make you a quisling either.

          Also, wtf wall of text?

        3. Li
          Li April 18, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

          Attacking the individual (the false Choice feminism and rationalized sexism dichotomy) over the system (predatory marketing, sexist workplace presentation standards) plays in to hands of the latter.

          Yeah, this is basically my view also. I totally think that systemic pressures on women to wear make up need to be addressed, I just don’t think the appropriate response is to rank individual make-up practices by a standardised (white, cis) woman on a feminist/notfeminist scorecard.

          And look, I just tend to be really suspicious of analyses that mark femininity and feminine-coded practices as bad/conservative/anti-feminist/non-feminist when practiced by women but radical/good/transgressive when practiced by men, because I’ve been in queer spaces long enough to know where that road leads.

  20. damigiana
    damigiana April 18, 2013 at 5:19 am |

    “I once had an art teacher frankly tell me that I was unable to meet the minimum standard in her class, but she would pass me on the grounds that I did sincerely try. ”

    Hi! Me too! (waves) I enjoyed make-up as a teen, and then I got bored with it. Now I go without, and I don’t let others (individuals or society) tell me how I want to look like – which is the same you do.

    I think the real feminist viewpoint is to insist (as you did) that the key point is thinking with one’s own head. If the results are different, so much the better. Bravissima!

    PS I don’t know how old you are, but it took me until my thirties to like my face. We’re socialized to hate it, however it looks like.

    1. Angie unduplicated
      Angie unduplicated April 18, 2013 at 10:28 am |

      Forties. I never hated my face but had serious anger against anyone who hated any aspect of my physical appearance. Kara’s face hatred makes me want to bring her in for coffee and catheads, so we can discuss why faces are lovable even if they are socially inconvenient at times.

  21. A4
    A4 April 18, 2013 at 11:50 am |

    The crux of these “body adornment” issues as I see it is the widespread notion that is it reasonable to expect people to prioritize other people’s experiences of one’s body over one’s own. This leads to things like:

    “Well what did she expect wearing that shirt?”
    “Why did he dress so gay if he didn’t want to provoke people”
    “You shouldn’t be wearing that much makeup if you don’t want people to notice you”
    “If you didn’t want to be videotaped you shouldn’t be dancing in public.”
    “Beauty is pain”

    This is a basic problem of objectification of our bodies, wherein their value is judged from an external perspective. It is also an attitude that forces people to objectify their own bodies and invalidate their unique perspective as owner and occupant of themselves.

    Instead of celebrating each person’s ability to reason and choose for themselves how they want to present, we expect each person to use their faculties of observation to adhere to widespread rules of presentation. This allows us to hold them accountable for our reactions to their bodies.

    That’s totally bullshit.

    1. Francesca
      Francesca April 22, 2013 at 11:03 pm |

      This is the most intelligent, insightful comment in this whole thread, and I don’t come here that often but I think it’s the most insightful and comment I’ve eve read on this blog, period. And no one is answering (save me obviously). Some people don’t really want a happy and reasonable conclusion, they want to argue it seems…. Thanks for this.

    2. K.M.
      K.M. April 27, 2013 at 10:54 pm |

      I think your argument relates to one I believe: variability is good. It’s not so much that women shouldn’t wear makeup (or bras/skirts/etc) but that there are societal rules that are forced on everyone so everyone looks the same. This means that we see people who don’t follow these rules less and then, because we don’t see that as much and it becomes less familiar, we don’t have as many good associations with it as people who follow the rules that we see more (i.e. a mere exposure effect). So the argument shouldn’t be “women shouldn’t wear makeup” but rather “women (and men, and others) should be allowed to choose and decide for themselves whether to wear/how much make up to wear so there is a greater diversity of make up wearing.” So the more we are

      celebrating each person’s ability to reason and choose for themselves how they want to present

      the more variability we will see, the more we see the more we will begin to accept it and not

      expect each person to use their faculties of observation to adhere to widespread rules of presentation

      . So basically, I agree with what you’re saying but you said it more elegantly and I will shut up now.

  22. MH
    MH April 18, 2013 at 6:03 pm |

    Very good read. Beauty (and standards thereof) is such an interesting thing. Thanks for posting!

  23. Funty
    Funty April 19, 2013 at 8:02 am |

    I am a feminist and I have acne, almost every day and have done for over ten years.

    Would be more inclined to believe makeup is about individuality and self expression if women here weren’t using it to look so wretchedly similar.

    As it is, you all look a bit like a character selection selection screen on a slightly misogynist video game, one that offers “three unique female playable characters” who’ve all got the same face, only one has lipstick and one has a tan. Maybe there’ll be an expansion pack with a different shade of lipstick.

    There are propaganda departments set up to tell the people that “the enemy aren’t like us, they’re all the same and they’re taking our stuff”, because we generally find it easier to harm identikit drones than other individual human beings.
    Only women are expected to be polite enough to do that to ourselves.

    Yes, humans use a lot of makeup, for a lot of different things but it’s only really women (in this society and others like it) who’re using it to reduce the nose and jaws, emphasize the eyes and distract away from those bits.

    It’s a neat perspective trick, makes a face appear less of an imminent threat by seeming further away and attached to a smaller, less dangerous creature. It’s why nature does this to juveniles, telling the rest of it’s species that attacking it is a waste of effort really, as baby’s no significant threat to them and their territory.

    And the patriarchy doesn’t like threatening, uppity women.
    Thing is, it’s had a long history of rewarding (or at least…punishing less) nice, compliant “good” women and so we’ve had to get really good at appearing non confrontational. Change the environment, change the available technology and women have found ways to appear non threatening with it.
    To such a degree, a really, really, competent woman, the best of the best on woman terms, is one who looks like she couldn’t hurt a fly.

    It’s power derived from surrender.

    It’s why we’re damned when we do, damned oh much more so when we don’t.

    “Do”, and the status rewarded from wearing the surrender paint is both paradox and hindrance to you.

    “Don’t (or can’t or won’t , my sisters on the intersection) and you’re doubly shat on, rendered both lower in status and a dangerous, confrontational non conformist. And we all know how hierarchies overreact when “the lower orders” start doing things it finds threatening…

    You are contour shading your noses away and it spites all our faces and I’m hearing those of you say our objections are all terrible acts of body policing in the exact same tone I hear the NRA call Gabrielle Giffords a bully.

    Kara K, you were right to feel bad, as shows you’ve still got your empathy. Perhaps if you were better at art, you’d see how unbalanced the bigger picture is and better understand why it is you’ve felt that way to begin with.

    I really worry about a feminist movement that prefers self serving over making things easier for other women.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L April 19, 2013 at 8:14 am |

      The Stalinist wing of feminism strikes again.

      1. A4
        A4 April 19, 2013 at 8:37 am |

        A+ would LOL again

    2. Donna L
      Donna L April 19, 2013 at 8:54 am |

      if women here weren’t using it to look so wretchedly similar.

      As it is, you all look a bit like a character selection selection screen on a slightly misogynist video game

      And a hearty go fuck yourself for the generalized personal insults about the appearance of people you don’t even know. For all your rhetoric about “making things easier for other women,” you represent an ideology that’s done very little but hurt other women.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L April 19, 2013 at 8:55 am |

        And I don’t only mean trans women, either.

    3. EG
      EG April 19, 2013 at 10:14 am |

      Kara K, you were right to feel bad, as shows you’ve still got your empathy. Perhaps if you were better at art, you’d see how unbalanced the bigger picture is and better understand why it is you’ve felt that way to begin with.

      I really worry about a feminist movement that prefers self serving over making things easier for other women.

      Go fuck yourself. I rarely wear make-up. When I do, it’s lipstick and mascara and glitter. I couldn’t contour shade if my life depended on it.

      You do not speak for me. Kara is not injuring me. She is not making things harder for me. Patriarchy and misogyny make my life hard, not other women doing what they want to and have to in order to have happiness in their lives.

      Women like you, who turn feminism into a joyless practice of attacking individual women for how they look, or how you imagine they look, who do nothing but alienate women whose lives are hard enough, who obscure feminism’s potential for joy and liberation, who insult other women’s artistic capacity and understanding, you do far more damage to me and the things I care about than a squadron of women who use make-up to control how they are perceived as best they can. So fuck right off.

    4. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 19, 2013 at 10:18 am |

      Would be more inclined to believe makeup is about individuality and self expression if women here weren’t using it to look so wretchedly similar.

      Okay, so here’s the thing. I don’t have the ability (literally) to do makeup, and I’ve worn it >10 times in my life, once willingly, and due to neurological things, it takes actual effort for me to notice someone’s face. But if I can tell that statement is full of shit, it’s…

      well.

      Really full of some quality shit.

      For the rest, what Donna and EG said.

    5. LotusBecca
      LotusBecca April 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm |

      Funty, you’re right that one of the structural functions behind why most women have to wear makeup every day is so that the patriarchy can divide and conquer females. Interesting how you’re going along with the script and turning on other women right on cue.

      1. kyria
        kyria April 19, 2013 at 8:52 pm |

        You mean like you’re turning on Funty? Here’s an exercise: for every time Kara K. writes ‘makeup’, substitute the word ‘burka’. Makeup is just the Western equivalent of the veil.

        1. karak
          karak April 20, 2013 at 2:17 am |

          So what if it is? There are feminists in burkas, and niqabs, and kimonos and ao dai. Their cultural costume does not make them less a feminist, it does not make them a colluder, and it does not mean they are in need of saving.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune April 20, 2013 at 9:18 am |

          Here’s an exercise: for every time Kara K. writes ‘makeup’, substitute the word ‘burka’. Makeup is just the Western equivalent of the veil.

          Congratulations on assuming that the veil is inherently anti-feminist. That’s not some prime imperialistic shit at all or anything.

          You know, I didn’t reject the patriarchy’s screechings about what (not) to wear just so I could bow my head to a subset of feminists screeching about it instead.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L April 20, 2013 at 10:10 am |

          Yes, poor Funty, innocent truth-teller that she is; we’re all just “turning on her.” But what do you expect? We’re all just a bunch of delusional “fun feminists,” aren’t we?

        4. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah April 20, 2013 at 11:26 am |

          Makeup is just the Western equivalent of the veil.

          Wow.

          First of all, neither is inherently anti-feminist because not everyone wears makeup or veils for the same reasons. Second, of course the idea that women have to wear makeup is oppressive, but the reason* many women are told to wear the veil is so that they aren’t sexually harassed or assaulted. I hear that not only from highly-esteemed Islamic scholars, but also from quite a few Muslim women I know. There’s a huge difference.

          I said it before and I’ll say it again: what’s wrong is the normativity behind these practices, not the practices themselves. How is that so hard for people to understand?

        5. matlun
          matlun April 20, 2013 at 11:43 am |

          the idea that women have to wear makeup is oppressive, but the reason* many women are told to wear the veil is so that they aren’t sexually harassed or assaulted.

          I am not sure I get what you were trying to say with this.

          Surely to have to wear the veil to avoid harassment or sexual assault would be an extremely clear example of oppression? Since I thought you were trying to point out how the veil is sometimes worn for non-oppressive reasons this sounded very odd to me (?)

        6. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah April 20, 2013 at 11:55 am |

          Sorry for that. What I’m saying is that the reasons imposed on women for wearing makeup and the reason imposed on women for wearing the veil (which aren’t necessarily their own reasons) aren’t comparable even though both the veil and makeup aren’t problematic themselves. To say that makeup is just like the veil is absurd because it requires that one completely ignores context.

        7. A4
          A4 April 20, 2013 at 11:59 am |

          what’s wrong is the normativity behind these practices, not the practices themselves. How is that so hard for people to understand?

          It is difficult for me to understand because normativity is constructed through both normative thought AND normative practice. The two cannot be easily separated because they are not separate. Thought is an action, and actions are thoughts as well. All of the arguments applied to why it is wrong to tell women not to wear makeup can be applied to an argument for why it is wrong to tell women to not think that women SHOULD wear makeup. Patriarchal norms do not compel only action, but thought as well, an inevitability due to their unified nature.

          What if a woman enforces normativity as part of her job which she relies on for the financial assistance necessary for her independence from an abusive family? Is she wrong or is it wrong to judge her?

          I think the answer is that feminist discourse is far more powerful when it focuses on accurately portraying the power dynamics and identities and the ways they contribute to oppression. Then I can inform my own actions and decisions using a framework that has the goal of deconstructing patriarchy instead of attempting to make blanket judgements about the morality of the behavior of others.

          If my goal is a satisfying judgement, I will only learn enough to pronounce something Good or Bad. If my goal is informing the basis of my decisions then I will not find it useful to end inquiry in favor of moral judgment.

        8. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah April 20, 2013 at 12:13 pm |

          It is difficult for me to understand because normativity is constructed through both normative thought AND normative practice. The two cannot be easily separated because they are not separate. Thought is an action, and actions are thoughts as well. All of the arguments applied to why it is wrong to tell women not to wear makeup can be applied to an argument for why it is wrong to tell women to not think that women SHOULD wear makeup. Patriarchal norms do not compel only action, but thought as well, an inevitability due to their unified nature.

          Here’s the thing. In the case of makeup, the normative practice is to tell women that they must wear makeup. Something that doesn’t happen by a person wearing makeup hirself. A person wearing makeup is only enforcing the norm when ze engages in policing.

          We can counter the normative practice by advocating for the acceptance of anyone who doesn’t conform to the makeup norm. That way, the practice and thought are both rendered meaningless.

          What if a woman enforces normativity as part of her job which she relies on for the financial assistance necessary for her independence from an abusive family? Is she wrong or is it wrong to judge her?

          The latter. Who in the world would say otherwise?

        9. A4
          A4 April 20, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

          In the case of makeup, the normative practice is to tell women that they must wear makeup. Something that doesn’t happen by a person wearing makeup hirself.

          This is simply not true. Children, in particularly, learn what is expected of them through imitation of others, particularly related to normative gender performance. A child can easily internalize the norm that women must wear makeup by seeing that mommy puts on mascara every day and daddy doesn’t. This is a reason all makeup advertisements combine both images of women wearing makeup as well as policing language: because they are both essential to the perpetuation of the norms that require women to buy makeup.

          As another example, television shows are a great source of normative images of women, as pointed out in other places in this thread. For example, DonnaL pointed out that women on tv are wearing makeup even when gravely ill in the hospital. These images are disseminated widely and have great cultural power to bolster the norms that you call out for being wrong.

        10. Aaliyah
          Aaliyah April 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm |

          I get what you’re saying in that there’s more to the perpetuation of the norm than what I stated, but that normativity can be opposed through an opposition to gender essentialism. There is no other way unless you think that telling people to never wear makeup is acceptable.

        11. A4
          A4 April 20, 2013 at 1:11 pm |

          There is no other way unless you think that telling people to never wear makeup is acceptable.

          There is another way. I can centralize understanding other people’s experiences of patriarchy to inform my own understanding of it rather than centralizing my desire to judge the morality of other people’s individual decisions.

          I don’t need to decide whether or not a woman wearing makeup is “acceptable” because I feel no desire to attempt to control her decisions or evaluate her character based on her makeup choices. I understand that women would have no reason to center my judgment of their life choices, and I have no use for blanket judgements of another’s behavior without any context.

    6. Aaliyah
      Aaliyah April 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm |

      There are some aspects of femininity in this culture that are problematic (e.g. the cultural assumption that femininity is always passive), but it isn’t makeup itself that contributes to them but rather the idea that women must wear makeup (assuming that what you say about the patriarchal function of makeup is true – which I’m highly skeptical of). So yeah, your case against makeup is full of shit.

      Again, the only meaningful and helpful way to oppose this normativity is to advocate the acceptance of people who don’t conform to the norms regarding makeup. That way, no one is judged or left out for conformity or non-conformity.

    7. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 20, 2013 at 7:29 am |

      So where is “here”? You think women reading this blog are all from one country, or that your country = all countries, or is even typical of all, say, Western countries?

      Funny, I think of my US friends, and none of ‘em looks remotely like the others. And yes, they all wear makeup of some sort or another. Oddly enough, even the makeup is different!

      Even if you’d said “teen girls are making up to look so much alike” it’d be way too generalised, and teens are much more generally prone to peer pressure and a strongly conformist dynamic in their age group.

      As for me, I’ve never contoured or shaded in my life and don’t even really know what that means. Trying to paint out my nose and chin and jawline? LOL wut? Doesn’t happen. Never has. I had a makeup phase twenty years back, and that sort of blanking out isn’t a thing with Goths, or not the ones I knew. My current makeup phase is for moisturising and preventing roseacea, with mascara and eyebrow penci added, and that’s IT.

      Who the hell are you to tell me or any woman you’ve never laid eyes on we all look alike? You’ve got a damn nerve.

    8. Li
      Li April 20, 2013 at 8:17 am |

      I was going to write a substantive response but instead here is my friend Anto wearing her “surrender paint”. (linked site includes flashing colours for people with impairments triggered by such things)

      1. Alexandra
        Alexandra April 21, 2013 at 5:50 am |

        Seriously. I wear makeup maybe once or twice a month, and I am partial to shades of lipstick that make me look like I’ve been drinking the blood of my enemies. I learned about makeup while in high school theater, and some of my favorite experiences with makeup have been transforming my face to become a Maenad (Thracian moon “tattoos” on my face and bloody arms!) or a Fury (enormous warts!) or other avatars of ancient female power… so even now the experience of putting on make-up is the experience of changing my face to present a specific, useful mask of the feminine… if I’m going to a party, I am putting on war paint.

  24. Lovely Links: 4/19/13
    Lovely Links: 4/19/13 April 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm |

    […] “Asserting control over a woman’s body—her face, her uterus, her breasts—is a betrayal of feminism. If we, as feminists, believe that women deserve autonomy, then I am allowed to have my face without being shamed for it. My makeup represents to me control. I can’t stop people from looking at me—but I can absolutely control what they see when they look….” […]

  25. Nice
    Nice April 20, 2013 at 4:36 am |

    I find myself party agreeing with Aaliyah.

    I do not wear make-up. I do not shave any part of my body. I never wore and do not wear a bra and the occasions during which I wear any sort of other underwear are extremely rare. I do not wear gender-attributed kinds of clothes, I don’t even own a skirt or high-heeled shoes, instead I wear comfortable clothes or none. I have short hair cut for ease of keep rather than fashion.

    The above makes me a freak in current society.

    I’m getting the flak and peer pressure from all sides, be they male or female, feminist or not – simply because I do not conform to ANY of the outwardly gendering attributes. In fact, when I read such an avid ode to make-up I actually cringe. Not because I rue the author her use of make-up. No. It’s because there’s one chance less to point out that people do not “have” to conform. That it is quite okay to not accept any of these pressures. And that it is quite okay to refuse atrificial gendering.

    1. karak
      karak April 21, 2013 at 12:49 am |

      I strongly object to the idea that makeup can’t be subversive–that seems to me to be what you’re suggesting, that by not participating you’re subversive and by participating a makeup-wearing-feminist is not.

      As time has gone by, I’ve become less interested in “natural” makeup, instead going for dramatic looks with bright colors and intense lips.

      People tell me my makeup is ugly or alarming (usually by using homophobic, transphobic, or slut-shaming words) because of the colors I use and the way I use them. Makeup can be completely subversive when it interrogates notions of beauty, and so can hyper-feminity, as seen here:

      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-3QhIcLw8wzw/TyBgyZ-QjMI/AAAAAAAAAKI/SgGG6LUHImc/s1600/Ott_sweet.jpg

      http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-EnrIShug_9Y/UU529mAFz-I/AAAAAAAANCA/L9lBrtmThxM/s1600/url-9.jpeg

      These kinds of styles make people very uncomfortable and the criticism is relentless. Okay, you want me in a dress and wearing makeup with perfect hair? I FOLLOWED YOUR RULES AND STILL RUINED YOUR EXPECTATIONS. YOUR MOVE.

      1. A4
        A4 April 21, 2013 at 2:05 am |

        I really don’t think either of those images is at all subversive.

        1. Li
          Li April 21, 2013 at 2:28 am |

          Which out of “no make-up” and “make-up in a similar style to the second of karak’s images” do you think would be more readily accepted in a corporate workplace? Would result in a higher level of commentary from strangers? Because whether you personally find something subversive is kind of immaterial to how discomforting other people find it.

          And karak has already stated that she routinely gets criticised for her make-up choices. The point here is that if women not-wearing make-up despite expectations and reprimands to the contrary counts as subversive, so women wearing make-up styles that transgress broad social mores (especially outside of subcultural spaces) should count as subversive.

        2. karak
          karak April 21, 2013 at 2:28 am |

          I disagree, but then again, I don’t see how t-shirts and sweatpants are “fighting the system” at all, like Nice claims it is.

        3. A4
          A4 April 21, 2013 at 2:37 am |

          The fact that people criticise the presentation of these women does not mean that presentation is subversive and combatting patriarchal norms of gender presentation. It’s just more of how all women are critiqued for the way they look by somebody. Somebody always has a problem with the way a woman appears in public because everybody thinks that the appearances of women are Very Important to Evaluate.

          If you wore that Nicki Minaj makeup to the corporate office then that would get more comments than not wearing makeup. And if you wore fishnet boots and high heels to the corporate office then you’d get more comments than jeans and a t-shirt. Sexy clubwear is not appropriate for the corporate office. That doesn’t make it subversive and patriarchy defying.

          You know what is subversive and patriarchy defying? Not centering the viewpoint of others when deciding what to wear and how to wear it.

        4. Nico
          Nico April 21, 2013 at 3:41 am |

          What Li said.

          Subversion is in the eye of the offended. It isn’t always obvious. Nor does it need to be extreme. Or announce itself with a bang. It doesn’t even need to be intentional. It can come accidentally from the strangest places, including the “wrong” places, and for the “wrong” reasons. Ditto progressive effects.

          When CoverGirl gives millions of dollars to Ellen DeGeneres to represent its brand, building an entire campaign and placing the success of an entire product line on her shoulders and, literally, on her face, it functions subversively at some very real level. When they pair Ellen up with Sofia Vergara, it becomes even more so. Ditto Latifah.

          The idea that CoverGirl, the quintessential cosmetics company and a subsidiary of P&G, can do anything of a subversive nature doesn’t sit right at all and probably sounds as heretical as it does delusional. But that doesn’t make it any less so. It moves the needle.

          Feminism will continue losing ground until it recognizes and allows for and learns to exploit these kinds of nonbinary effects and incongruous complexities.

        5. Li
          Li April 21, 2013 at 3:47 am |

          Criticism of Nicky Minaj aren’t just generic criticisms. They’re typically along the lines of calling her a tr*nny, a drag queen, likening her to a blow up doll or otherwise associating her performance of femininity with unrealness. Her appearance gets a very specific kind of pushback, and it’s because it doesn’t just display femininity, it displays visibly performative femininity.

          When I’m talking about subversiveness here, I’m talking about cosmetic practices designed to highlight the performative nature of gender. They’re designed to be discomforting.

  26. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 20, 2013 at 12:51 pm |

    I think that you can accept the narrative of “cis women wearing makeup is not feminist” while still not hating yourself. That reaction is extreme, and not healthy. I do non-feminist stuff fairly frequently, and I’m still a feminist and don’t hate myself. So what makes makeup so special that it needs an exemption from critique? Because it’s so vital to some people’s lives? That’s the part that needs critique!

    Yet again people have devolved into the camps of “I choose mah choice!!” and “Fuck your choice!!” and damn if this doesn’t remind me why I don’t visit Feministe much anymore. :/

  27. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune April 20, 2013 at 2:34 pm |

    “cis women wearing makeup is not feminist”

    I don’t think that that’s how it’s presented, though. Your statement’s a statement of fact. But what I see elsewhere is more like “women wearing makeup are being antifeminist”. I think makeup is not feminist, because makeup has zilch to do with feminism. Cultural shit around makeup has everything to do with feminism.

    It’s sort of the difference between saying “hamburgers are not vegetarian” and “hamburgers are anti-vegetarian”. The former is a fact. I suppose the latter is a statement one could make, but I’ve never felt assaulted by an angry beef patty…

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm |

      Well, that was supposed to be a reply to Bagelsan, but I can’t visually parse threads, apparently. fffffuuuuuu.

  28. Nice
    Nice April 21, 2013 at 4:35 am |

    And obviously none or very few of you can think outside of your own boxes.

    I wasn’t stating this because I was or am trying to be subversive or combating patriarchal structures. Nor am I doing it because of that. I do this because I disliked artificial gendering methods (for anyone and any gender by the way) from the get-go just as much as I dislike the practical wearing of these things. No amount of bras or make-up can tell me I am female, no amount of cravats or suits can tell me a man is male. Historically both have been worn on the other shoe, literally, and meant the opposite thing too. It’s just 200 years ago that baby boys wore pink dresses rather than blue pants.

    But you should try going to a British secondary school without wearing a bra. You should try NOT wearing make-up there as a girl. I am positive you’d have a quality fun time (you may keep the abundant sarcasm and a hint, it’s not the boys who’ll bully you the most). How about looking for an office job wearing an unisex outfit in flat heels without pantyhose or skirt (and of course still no bra)? Worse in summer when you do not shave, and adults suddenly leave disposable razors on your desk? How ludicrous can things get? Oh and genderised dresscode anyone?

    Whenever I stumble onto discussions and articles like this I blink, hard, and ask myself in what sort of ivory tower some feminists reside. These horses have left the barn a while ago. Quite a while ago, and they are the ones which count. They not only left fierce bullying and peer pressure in their wake, or brazilians for 12 year olds, they also left boob jobs, labiaplasties, bulimia, cutting and what not else. I doubt there are as many discussing the feminist approach to make-up, as there are girls and women right now being bullied or bullying other women, because they do not conform to current gender norms. Norms which are back in FULL BLOODY FORCE – quite opposite any musings here. ;) That is what I wanted to say. Thank you for the opportunity!

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune April 21, 2013 at 9:50 am |

      And obviously none or very few of you can think outside of your own boxes.

      But that’s okay, because you’re here to enlighten us, right, Ascended One?

      Look – from your description of yourself, you and I present pretty much identically. (I shave my legs and arms sometimes, but I’m almost always in long sleeves and pants, so it’s not like anyone who doesn’t live with me even sees that.) But I pretty much disagree with you point for point on makeup and its purposes.

      Whenever I stumble onto discussions and articles like this I blink, hard, and ask myself in what sort of ivory tower some feminists reside.

      It’s probably the one where everyone’s white, European and has access to office jobs. You know. The exact same ivory tower you’re living in.

      They not only left fierce bullying and peer pressure in their wake, or brazilians for 12 year olds, they also left boob jobs, labiaplasties, bulimia, cutting and what not else.

      Hi. I’m from India. Where none of my friends growing up knew any of those terms, and… all of us had disordered eating of some kind, and many of us self-harmed, and clothes/bodies were ruthlessly policed even though the only makeup any of us ever wore was a bit of powder on our skin to soak up sweat. Not all gender policing happens exactly along the lines you’ve experienced. If you’re going to generalise from your own niche experience, that’s your blinkered vision issue, not the fault of the rest of the world for being insufficiently pigmentally challenged.

      I doubt there are as many discussing the feminist approach to make-up, as there are girls and women right now being bullied or bullying other women, because they do not conform to current gender norms.

      If you’re going to resist gender norms, good on you! I do so in pretty much the same way as you do. I just also manage to take a deep breath and remind myself that not everyone has exactly the same experience/interpretation/understanding/practice of gender norms that I do, and maybe I should listen for a bit before sneering at them and “cringing” at every “one chance less” or whatever.

    2. EG
      EG April 21, 2013 at 11:27 am |

      And obviously none or very few of you can think outside of your own boxes.

      Whereas your box is the important one we should all be inside, right?

    3. EG
      EG April 21, 2013 at 11:31 am |

      I doubt there are as many discussing the feminist approach to make-up, as there are girls and women right now being bullied or bullying other women, because they do not conform to current gender norms.

      I really don’t understand what point you think you are making here–that feminists shouldn’t discuss feminist approaches to make-up because women are shamed for not conforming to gender norms? Make-up is part of a gender norm; are you really suggesting that feminists shouldn’t discuss feminist approaches to gender presentation? That’s absurd.

    4. Nico
      Nico April 21, 2013 at 3:15 pm |

      Whenever I stumble onto discussions and articles like this I blink, hard, and ask myself in what sort of ivory tower some feminists reside.

      Hi, Nice. When I’m not wearing my glasses, it looks like we have the same name, but our points of view are different. ;) To the extent I followed your post, I think I disagree with what you said. But let me have a go at the question of “in what sort of ivory tower some feminists reside.”

      The feminist ivory tower of today is built on a foundation of theory now approaching 30 to 40 years old that doesn’t take into account (because it could not have, obviously) changes that have since taken place in the media culture through which gender norms are represented and consumed, which leaves the guardians and residents of the tower unequipped to deal with new contexts that superseded the context in which the tower was first erected, so it just kind of bobs and weaves and sways and twists against the winds and little earthquakes.

      Outdated theory is what keeps feminism running a circular treadmill against changing backdrops where the real action is. Today’s internal feminist makeup/fashion/body mod wars are a replay of last decade’s makeup/fashion/body mod wars, which were a replay of the makeup/fashion/body mod wars of the 90s, which all followed the same theory template of the internal sex/porn wars of the 70s and 80s, the difference being that instead of the issue being focused on “porn” as a distinct category of sexual representation that could be identified relatively easily (you know it when you see it), today the issue encompasses the full spectrum of mainstream gendered representation in which (nearly) everyone can honestly claim to be “sex-positive” while still trying to separate the bad sexuality from the acceptable sexuality.

      The same cultural processes that “pornified” the mainstream have transformed feminism from a political movement into a reactive media genre driven by clockwork controversies over which it has minimal direct influence, because its second wave theory, devised in its own context, cannot effectively analyze or account for or get a solid grip on the contemporary contexts it’s being asked to fit.

      Is that what you’re referring to when you say….

      These horses have left the barn a while ago. Quite a while ago, and they are the ones which count. They not only left fierce bullying and peer pressure in their wake, or brazilians for 12 year olds, they also left boob jobs, labiaplasties, bulimia, cutting and what not else.

      ….that those horses and their wake correspond to what I’m calling “contemporary contexts”?

      Maybe there is a little common ground here….?

      1. EG
        EG April 21, 2013 at 3:27 pm |

        What theories in particular are you thinking of with respect to this discussion?

        I wish I lived in an ivory tower sufficient to shield me from media culture. One does one’s best, though.

        1. Nico
          Nico April 22, 2013 at 10:47 am |

          EG, I’m not saying that anyone is *shielded* from media culture. Not at all… that’s hardly possible.

          I’m saying that feminist theory has grown disconnected or out of sync with the culture it seeks to analyze. With respect to this discussion, I’m thinking of feminist representation theories, and objectification theory in particular.

          As I and others have said above, the problem is not makeup itself but that (currently, in advanced consumer culture, the only context for what follows) makeup has been designated… normalized… essentialized as a female thing. As such, makeup functions as a tool of objectification and is inherently sexist, in line with a theory of representation designed to identify sexist objectifications. And so under the influence of 2wf objectification theory, today’s feminism continues to operate on the principle that objectification is in and of itself an evil. And that does make sense — except that the principle is itself gender essentialist, which is always antifeminist.

          Given the rapid development of media technologies and the spread of sexualized culture in the post-second-wave period, it’s necessary to factor in that the disproportionate distribution of objectification towards women starts to slowly correct itself under the influence of an ever-expanding, generalized, cultural sexualization and the ongoing changes in the role and status of women towards equalization with men — both of which were, in large part, a positive consequence of 2wf influence.

          Let’s stipulate that there is nothing remotely like parity between female and male “objectification,” nor has gender equality been achieved, so we don’t have to waste energy belaboring that point. But: as non-normative sexualities and gender identities become more visible and accepted, the redistribution of objectification to incorporate men in addition to women will become increasingly commonplace, which advances the normalization and de-stigmatization and disessentialization of a wider range of sexual and gendered subject positions, and as the objectification regime is disessentialized, it is also defanged and declawed. (Here, kitty kitty…)

          The redistribution of objectification is a spontaneous and in retrospect inevitable consequence of a modern, sexualized, and (if I may) “post-feminist” media environment, and is a radically disessentializing dynamic that by its very nature alters the operation and meanings of sexuality, and of gender, their representations, and their relationships to and interactions with each other and the rest of the culture. Again, much of this is feminism’s doing, whether directly or indirectly. Yay feminism.

          For women, and for men as well, gender disessentialization is inherently liberatory and gender-equalizing, with sex and sexuality (normative as well as non) being de-stigmatized along with their modes of expression. (Much the same can be said for the process of cultural sexualization, a positive thing: Anything that advances the normalization of nonreproductive sexuality is inherently disessentializing, a progressive destabilization, which does not mean there cannot be problematic aspects in any given instance. None of this happens in a perfectly straight line.)

          All representation objectifies — that is what representation is. The classic feminist view that sexual objectification is inherently problematic starts a long, slow fade as the “objectified” gender role becomes disessentialized and is no longer assigned, by default, as an exclusive obligation, to women. Take away the gender essentialized attribution, and “objectification” as an issue withers and dies. These processes are increasingly “out of spec” to the classic objectification theory we’ve all come to know and that feminism has been leaning on for generations.

          The inability of second wave representation theory to fully account for these processes leaves any feminism based on it unable to clearly see and respond to the world it seeks to change, and so its ability to directly influence if not guide those changes is compromised, as is its ability to fully recognize and build on the changes its own substantial influence has already brought about. As a feminist, I find this assessment both encouraging and optimistic.

          The enemy of gender equality is gender essentialism, so feminist theory cannot be too sensitive to it. Unfortunately, feminist representation theory that predates both feminist influence, and the ongoing revolution in the means and modes of representation, is by definition not up to the task it was originally devised for.

          Objectification theory needs to be retheorized.

        2. EG
          EG April 22, 2013 at 5:57 pm |

          The problem is, it’s still not clear to me which theories–which bodies of texts–you’re referring to. You name something called “objectification theory,” and describe it as being “objectification is bad.” That’s a simplistic and inaccurate assessment of second-wave feminist theory on objectification. It’s easy to mischaracterize something you disagree with like that; I do it all the time (ask me about deconstruction sometime). It’s probably easy to find feminists who would espouse such a simplistic position. But when you say “theory” you’re referring to complex thought and writing, and then I want to know what actual essays/books/articles you’re thinking of.

          As to the specific argument…I’m not convinced that the advent of internet social media is some kind of seismic shift. It was a weird blip for straight white men not to care about their appearance; they did for much of prior history. But the gender differential was always tilted, and I don’t accept your hand-waving of that away.

        3. Nico
          Nico April 25, 2013 at 8:09 pm |

          But when you say “theory” you’re referring to complex thought and writing, and then I want to know what actual essays/books/articles you’re thinking of.

          Would that be for extra credits? I’m sorry, but I respectfully decline the assignment.

          My interest in feminism is less as a body of academic theoretical work (in which I have been swimming it sometimes seems forever) than as a popular movement for gender equality (the desire for which is the basis of my feminism), and in whether the average or general or consensus popular perception of the movement, what it stands for and believes in, helps or hinders that goal (motivated by the fact that on some basic levels progress towards that goal has stalled and/or reversed.) From that perspective, what matters is the everyday view of feminism, simplistic as that will inevitably be.

          Proper “bodies of texts” don’t matter. When “objectification theory” hits the street — where it’s been bouncing along for decades — it invariably gets translated into “sexualization,” and the idea of treating someone as a “sex object” (understood as a “bad thing,” first, because of the default sense of sex as somehow bad, and second, because several decades of popular feminism have established that term as one of disapproval, effectively the inverse of “sex symbol”), and this effectively puts the thing called “feminism” in perceived and at times actual conflict with common representations of sexuality that by and large are desired and enjoyed, culture-wide, including by those who deny their enjoyment, to others if not to themselves, at least until they’re caught looking (anti-porn is porn for anti-porners.) What formal theory actually says about this things matters very little when, er, the rubber hits the road.

          It’s that popular understanding of “objectification” — with which “sexualization” is conflated if not effectively synonymous — that leads even (or perhaps especially?) feminists themselves to regularly compose contorted justifications-cum-apologies for their enjoyment of the tools of objectisexualificazation as vaguely designated by pop feminism: makeup, fashion, porn, marginal sexualities, and so on — all of which at other times can get the nod of approval from a feminism that in the end just seems kind of slippery.

          Please don’t get me wrong: I do appreciate the difference between a more nuanced academic understanding of sexual objectification and the popular understanding I’ve just outlined, but I discount its practical relevance at this point. Again, my interest is not in theoretical academicisms but in practical politics and culture-moving towards specific ends. The two aren’t inherently antithetical, at least I don’t think they need be, but as the saga has played out over the years, they do seem to have diverged. Relying on a more technically precise understanding of a term or an idea when assessing how it plays out in the real world is a formula for political self-deception and failure. (For comparison: A recent survey on feminist self-identification among 2012 voters, sponsored by the Feminist Majority Foundation and Ms. magazine, showed a substantial boost in self-identification after — are you ready for this? — voters were read a vanilla dictionary definition of feminism. Well, ok, yeah, but how much of that sticks after the respondents hang up the phone, and they next encounter F in the wild? I’ve written about this embarrassing survey here.)

          As to the specific argument…I’m not convinced that the advent of internet social media is some kind of seismic shift.

          But I’m not talking about “the advent of internet social media” as a “seismic shift” (and those were not my words.) I’m talking about changes in media — and so in the representational regime — that predate Twitter and Facebook (and even Feministe ;)) by several decades: Second wave feminism emerged in the same period as the boomer driven, consumer financed, hyper-massification of media and the escalated sexualization of everyday culture, all of those things being not merely products of contemporary circumstances but also having mutual causality. Although 2wf analyzed the culture it found, and its history, and sought to alter its course — which it did in crucial and indeed “seismic” ways — neither the exponential cultural sexualization, with its profound consequences for gender relations, nor the practical consequences of feminist influence, nor the globalized and digitized world in which this would all play out, were on its radar. (Not even the clairvoyant brilliance of a Shulamith Firestone, then mostly ignored and today disappeared, could get that shit right.)

          I’m not sure I’m quite following you here when you say….

          It was a weird blip for straight white men not to care about their appearance; they did for much of prior history. But the gender differential was always tilted, and I don’t accept your hand-waving of that away.

          …but I’ll have a guess… forgive me if I get this wrong….

          The “weird blip” in SWM *not* caring about their appearance I’m guessing refers to the period before recent developments wrt what gets called male “objectification” (is that what you mean by “caring about their appearance”?), which only appears new in contrast to that prior period (the late 1900s?), because prior to THAT they had always cared about their appearance…?

          If I have that right, I’m curious what you think accounts for that blip, or exactly where you locate it, and what it actually looked like. If I have that wrong, I do wonder what you meant. In any case….

          Even if I don’t have that entirely right, you’re still correct that “the gender differential was always tilted.” Of course the gender imbalance was and remains tilted. I’m not waving that away. I am however saying that the stasis has been broken, that there are clear cracks in the facade if not in the foundation — or has 50 years of feminism accomplished nothing? (It will not take 5000 years to undo 5000 years of “patriarchy.”)

          I dunno. When arguments that something has always been a certain way are used to deny or even to minimize changes to the alwaysbeen, they reflect doubt on the realization of those changes we want to bring about.

          I sometimes think feminism has developed a weird vested interest in its own failure, and in denying its own power, even to itself.

    5. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
      The Kittehs' Unpaid Help April 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm |

      I’m losing track of what you’re on about, seriously. Okay, so some places are very strongly gender-normed – but some aren’t. I’m fifty years old and have never in my life had anyone doing any of that shit about you-should-wear-makeup or you-should-shave or you-should-wear-a-bra/skirt. I’ve worked in all sorts of industries, not high-end corporate (thank Ceiling Cat) but in many public service departments. Only time I’ve ever had any questioning about my presentation was when a manager got twitchy about my Gary Oldman Dracula glasses – and that was only for when I was on a foyer information counter at a museum. Said manager had no problem with my silver Goth rings and earrings, even if they did look odd with the uniform. I daresay you’ll think none of that counts because I’m presenting as female, but I’m pointing out that I’ve worked in places where there were distinct dress codes, where I did not present the full skirt-makeup-etc stereotype, and I’ve never had any trouble about it. Is my experience less valid than yours? Does working in very ordinary, low-level admin and public service mean I live in an ivory tower? Sure, I have the privileges of being white in a predominantly white country, and being cis, but I’m a bit over this mental policing and talking as if only your opinions, experiences and beliefs count.

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