Modern feminist discourse has struggled with a certain dilemma: the paradoxes of makeup and fashion. These two topics pose questions from both viewpoints. One may ask: are we meant to support makeup as an industry and hobby, to take pride in our skillfully groomed brows and pretty dresses that make us feel more beautiful? Or are our cultural notions of beauty something to fight against — another means of control, forcing us to focus more on appearances than we should?
This problem of beauty and feminism began decades ago, during the second-wave feminism of the 1960s and 1970s. Simone de Beauvoir’s famous feminist philosophical text, “The Second Sex,” stated “when [a woman] has once accepted her vocation as sexual object, she enjoys adorning herself.” De Beauvoir’s book laid the foundation for much of the second-wave feminist movement; and as such, many feminists began to push for the eschewing of makeup and beauty practices. They believed that any personal decorations — whether they be makeup, dressy clothing or jewelry — were only forms of subjugation and oppression, perpetrated by a patriarchal society that valued women solely for their beauty and sex appeal.
De Beauvoir’s quote and the push of second-wave feminism suggested that women only adorned themselves through makeup and beauty practices due to a sort of societal pressure. Even when a person believed they wore makeup for themselves and not to please others, they were simply brainwashed into internalizing and accepting the role society expected of them. I do not believe this to be true — women are able to make conscious choices for themselves regarding their personal appearance and are not strictly controlled by the views of other people.
I identify as a feminist. However, I enjoy dressing up and wearing makeup from time to time. I do not believe my feminist views and my interest in makeup and fashion are at odds with one another; I am happy to see this strict anti-makeup and anti-beauty ideology waning since its peak in the 1960s and 1970s. While there are continuing societal pressures for women to look a certain way and fit idealized beauty standards, these pressures are not derived from the acts of wearing makeup or dressy clothes. Such beauty practices inherently allow self-expression and self-empowerment. Instead of criticizing those who wear makeup, feminism celebrates all appearances and alternatively addresses the sources of cultural beauty standards, primarily found in mainstream media.
Though many would disagree with my viewpoint and instead align with those of Beauvoir and second-wave feminism, it is important to dispel the idea that you cannot be a feminist if you wear makeup. I don’t think it’s a crime to embrace feminine beauty if that is what makes you feel most happy in your own skin. Furthermore, if you are a woman and feel more comfortable forgoing common beauty practices like makeup, more power to you! What should matter in modern feminism is the equal opportunity for all people to love how they look and empower themselves by being as comfortable in their body as they can be.