Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Final Word:* makeup UPDATED

Everything there is to say about makeup. Everything! (Did I miss anything?)

-Yes, heterosexual men, whether or not women wear makeup is all about you. So, now that that's out of the way: There are men who prefer women not in makeup. This is on the one hand good to know (some women really are dolling-up to attract men, and could save time/money), and on the other, much larger hand offensive (who says the makeup is to please men generally/you in particular, Mr. Presumptuous?). Also offensive because of the implication: this man wants a naturally beautiful woman, and considers artifice deceptive, perhaps for some primal reason having to do with biological children he's theoretically having with this woman. (Like I said in 2009, 2010, like Amanda Marcotte now says. See Resolution #4.)

-And then there's the small matter of, men don't notice makeup unless it's really garish. There's on the one hand fuchsia lipstick, on the other concealer. It's not that concealer is invisible, so much as that we're so used to seeing women in makeup that up to a certain threshold, it's not really noticed, even by other women. A woman who usually wears concealer, but skips it one day, will look not so much barefaced as tired or blotchy.

-As much as some would like to believe it, the world isn't entirely made up of men who find makeup revolting, and women who'd look better to men if barefaced. Some women are going around doing the unthinkable, intentionally and successfully attracting more men than they would otherwise on account of carefully-applied face-paint. Sometimes, makeup works, in the most banal possible sense.

-On the one hand, makeup's expensive. This is money that women are spending, and men are not. Unfair! On the other, if you, dude, aren't much to look at, there's not a heck of a lot you can do about it. The gym doesn't change your face. Eyeliner, however, does just that. Sucks for men, kind of, that this isn't a socially-acceptable option.

-Makeup does not need to take very much time. So arguments about oh, how terrible, women need to wake up an hour before men do, these are not so convincing. Of course, if we're including hair... But a woman can go out looking plenty made up, and this can turn out to have taken less than one minute.

-Some women would look better in less, or different, makeup. Others would look better with a bit of lipstick on. As much as we might want it so, we wouldn't all look better without makeup. Not wearing it sometimes means living with looking worse.

-Effort is sometimes appreciated even if it's not improving, per se, someone's looks - thus the appeal of lipstick (worn by the same woman) that makes the lips lighter or darker. Or: nail-painting. A woman with red nails isn't correcting for the fact that her nails aren't naturally red. Artifice in and of itself reads as pretty, feminine, whatever.

-Virtually no woman wants to identify as so shallow and/or ugly as to need a lot of makeup, so you'll hear about a low-maintenance routine that involves 'just' primer, toner, tinted moisturizer, taupe shadow, lip tint, and of course mascara. And some blush, maybe, but only on special occasions. Keeping it simple. (Even Marcotte takes the time to mention that she doesn't always wear makeup. The pressure to be naturally beautiful runs deep.) Women who don't wear foundation, especially, will claim to not wear makeup, this being, for reasons I don't entirely understand, where the consensus is that a line should be drawn.

-There are certain instances when not wearing makeup indicates a problem: a guy drawn to doing so, but held back because of societal homophobia, transphobia, etc. A woman who did wear makeup, but has stopped, and has, coincidentally, also lost interest in life more generally. Extrapolating from these unusual cases, we might infer that there are well-adjusted, as well as cisgender, women who actually like wearing makeup. Not to mention, there are women who wear 'too much' makeup - too much to be widely thought desirable, hirable. It's not all the patriarchy.

-'Normal' varies by subculture. You may have lucked/maneuvered into one where women really do have a hygiene-only approach. You are, however, the exception.

-Yet one also doesn't want to see proliferation of what's necessary. If, baseline, to leave the house, a woman thinks she needs to spend three hours primping and use $50 worth of product, or to have cosmetic surgery, then yes, we can point to a problem with her as an individual or with life for women in her subculture more generally. How to stem the proliferation without falling into the natural-beauty trap remains a mystery.

-Makeup is a set of products sold in a capitalist society. Companies use marketing, CEOs want you to buy their goods. If you want to be a good hippie, you kind of can't use makeup, even the dubious stuff sold at Whole Foods.

-Makeup is made by workers not as well-compensated as you are, Western office-worker. It's made out of chemicals you might not want to consume in lab-rat quantities, and all those plastic containers, well, that can't be good - landfills, BPA, and all that. It's consumed (by silly, silly women, at that), it's not essential, so it's unhealthy and unethical. Or so we're meant to believe - the medical and the moral get a bit blurry. Do women who just use soap actually live longer than those who wear makeup, parabens and all that? Or do we consider artifice decadent, and romanticize the healthy flush of the unpainted woman?

-Oh, and look what I didn't do in this post: go into which makeup I personally do and don't use. This is information you could figure out elsewhere on WWPD, but having established that there's no neutral way to talk about this, no way not to phrase it as 'I only use this and that, and totally go bare-faced some of the time, because I'm so naturally delightful', I'm going to hold off adding any of the personal to this post. All I'll say, for readers requiring a personal hook, is that I've got one of these, and it's not empty.

*A new series for 2013, in which I exhaust a topic. Or my readers. Or both.

UPDATES

-Autumn Whitefield-Madrano has a great round-up of responses to the NYT "Room For Debate," and I promise I don't only say that because mine's one of them.

-Meanwhile, Into The Gloss knows when it's summoned, and responds to the "Room For Debate" as well, sort of. I say "sort of" because the post is anchored by the following message: "Saying makeup is anti-feminist is borderline crazy. In our book, being a feminist means supporting women, no matter what they look like or what they want to do. (A resounding “You Go, Girl!” here, please, thanks)." Also because the post ends with a link to where you can purchase "Tom Ford's four-piece Lip Color Boxed Set," for a mere $192. This was such a missed opportunity for them to bring back Edith Zimmerman.

3 comments:

caryatis said...

That makeup organizer is fantastic. Maybe I'll have to stop making fun of the Container Store.

Phoebe said...

It is kind of amazing. But it's also the only thing of much use I've ever seen/gotten there.

caryatis said...

Maybe I will get it, and try to make all my cosmetics fit in it, thus answering the eternal question of "am I hoarding too much makeup I never use?"