Makeup: A Feminist Symbol

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Help us reverse women's narrative

Makeup is fun. It can be a hobby or a job. It can be something you dabble in once in a while or something that you focus on daily. And no matter which of these levels of makeup lover you fall into, there is nothing to be ashamed of. Wearing makeup is not something to be hidden, but to be celebrated.

For what seems like ages, wearing makeup and loving it has been looked down upon by society. While women are held up to this impossible beauty standard, we are also told we are wearing “too much” makeup. And something that seems to be popular yet misguided is the idea that women who do not wear makeup are somewhat more committed feminists than the rest of us. And that is not to criticize those women who forgo makeup, it is not their fault, but society’s.

Yes, sometimes makeup is used to cover up a zit or hide dark circles, but mostly, it is used to amp up a woman’s confidence. There is something about grooming your brows, swiping on mascara, and throwing on a red lip that perks you up and makes you feel powerful.

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Photo via Nasty Woman Lip gloss

Makeup is not a means to conceal yourself or impress guys. It is a feminist symbol, because we say so. We define what makeup does for us. No woman owns 30 shades of lipstick or collects eyeshadow palettes to impress someone else. The love of makeup is ours. We are drawn into the colors that excite us and anticipate new makeup launches the same way others look forward to an artist’s new album.

Loving makeup has this stigma that means you must be vein, shallow, and superficial. When in fact, loving makeup is a passion just like art or fashion. It is a way for women and men to redefine themselves in whichever way they want. It is applying a lip color that makes you smile when you look into the mirror. It is seeing your eyes get brighter and skin look more radiant. And the fact it is still seen as something that could never be a symbol for feminism is astonishing, especially since feminism means wanting equality, not hating cosmetics.

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Photo cover Monogram Meredith

In a recent YouTube video, beauty guru Tati Westbrook got ready with none other than actress, mother, and entrepreneur, Drew Barrymore. They chatted about her company, Flower Beauty and discussed what makeup means to them. Barrymore said, “What I love about makeup is that it takes away the insecurities out of your mind so it makes room for more interesting and important thoughts…” she continued on by saying, “And you’re all of a sudden working more like a badass from your own mind.” Then as they started to talk about being on set she said, “What I really noticed in that makeup trailer… over the course of an hour they would get these rollers put in their hair and the contour and the lashes and you would see their posture change. They would walk out with this confidence and elegance and grace.” This is what makeup does for women. This is what makes makeup a feminist symbol.


And it is not about feeling bad or less confident when you are barefaced, but rather it is a boost that is somehow indescribable. The same way you would feel more confident in a suit or dress at an important meeting than wearing your pajamas. Or how you feel with a fresh haircut versus split ends and frizz. These things don’t take away from how you feel without them, they just add something to you. It is not about validation from others, but feeling it within yourself and makeup does that.

When you were a little girl and watched your sister or mother putting on her makeup and begged for some blush or lipstick, it was not to look older or even to look like her. It was because you saw this moment, this process, where she sat up taller and felt more beautiful and you wanted to know how that felt, even if you weren’t aware of it at the time.

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Photo via RedBubble

And this is not just an American idea. Beauty is connected across cultures. All over the world, makeup is used in different ways to symbolize power, strength, and individuality. It is something to be proud of not ashamed of. We all might love a natural makeup look, but makeup should not be a dirty secret. It is something that can give us the power we need to make real change in the world whenever we want it to. Of course it is not a necessity, but for those makeup enthusiasts, it sure does make one hell of a difference in our self-esteem.


Cover via WWD